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Gerald Young, Ph.D.
Gerald Young Ph.D.

By Teenagers

Raising Parents Naturally

We have a different concept of time than my parents. They say "Soon," but mean "Now;" and we say "Later," but mean "Never," or so it seems to them. What we are really saying is "Chill," because what they are asking us to do will get done once it matters. We've got a lot to worry about like, "Will she like me this way? What will he think if I dress like that?" We've got a lot of concerns that parents just don't get, so you can understant how messy rooms and late homework just don't seem as important to us as they do to our parents.

There is no easy solution finding your way as a teenager. We are the between generation, no longer children but not yet adults. We still want to be taken care of like children. But we know that the adult world is looming with its demands and responsibilities. We are still trying to find ourselves and to define who we are, what we like best, which school subjects that we like, what job or career is best for us, who are our real friends, how to get that girl or guy as our partner, how to look good, how to improve our bodies, how to spend our free time, and how to earn some money.

Our social life is everything to us. It builds our self-esteem. It's not that we forget our parents. They should understand that we have other priorities now. Facebook, texting, parties, clubs, friends—being social is a lot of work.

When we get really confused though, we do turn back to our parents. We don't tell our friends that—they'll think we're tools—but it's true. Our parents mean something to us, they teach us right and wrong. If they knew how to dress like us and liked our music, we'd ask them about those things, too. But, hey, there are limits.

Speaking of limits, we need fair limits. Curfews are lame. Our parents are afraid that we'll try drugs, join gangs, get pregnant, and not think of our future. Yes, we are the Now generation, but we do want a good future, too. If our parents trusted us, now that we are teenagers, eg. young adults, that would be better. If they explained their fears, instead of saying something like, "You have to be home at this hour, or else!" that would be better. If you ask the right way, give directions without imposing, tell us why, and have some confidence in us, that would be better.

Our brains are made to learn. The human brain is full of connections called synapses. Our brains have 40% more synapses than our parents' that our brains have to organize over the course of our maturation. Parents think we are scatter-brained, but we are really just scattering our synapses so we can learn more, be creative, ask questions, find answers, and become better people. The teenage period is just a phase, and we get over it. So try not to take it personally

We wish parents were our partners in growth, instead of sometimes acting like barriers. Here are some good pointers.

1. Be there for us, but not always. Leave us some space, some independence, some free time, some dream moments. We are seeking our identities, and will try out many roles, both personal and vocational, but also in other areas. We might end up with different lifelines or paths than you, but they will be our paths and we will follow them better if we are allowed to choose them. But you can keep advising us (without nagging, please), too.

2. Give us some responsibility for ourselves, but not too much. Some of us have to do it all. They take care of their little sisters or brothers, cook, clean, work, and have no time to study. That's too much. We are adults in training—we need free time for ourselves to chill (and organize those synapses we mentioned earlier), but we also need to be prepared for when the training wheels come off.

3. Help us, don't hate us. It is your responsibility to be the better man/woman. When we yell don't yell back. If we get into fights at school don't hit us to retaliate. We will learn to copy your actions, sometimes in spite of ourselves. What you learned from your parents does not have to be repeated on us (but don't overcompensate, that's just as bad). Instead, be flexible—adjust your thinking if need be. Its really simple, don't do anything you wouldn't want us doing when we're adults.

4. Love us, don't leave us. Learn to like our style, and maybe we'll learn to like yours. Are we too bohemian or are you too straight-edge? Find out why we do what we do. If we get frustrated and react, do not reject us. Continue to be a part of our lives. Help us through the worst, no matter what. The home is where we belong all our lives, so keep it open to us.

Good luck.

About the Author
Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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