Why they're not as bad as you may think.
Posted November 13, 2019 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Living with teenagers? Are they making your life miserable? It’s especially disheartening when you remember how sweet and wonderful they were just a few short years ago. Now they’re often rude and downright irresponsible. Whether it’s the defiant behavior, constant arguing, or a complete disrespect for family rules, it seems like overnight your dream child has turned into a nightmare.
For a lot of parents, this can seem like a sign that something is very wrong with their offspring. After all, they no longer want to spend time with you or the family, they no longer listen, and they often seem to lack basic respect. While it may seem that your teenager has turned to the dark side during these years, that isn’t necessarily true. A certain amount of rebellion is normal for your child’s development and ultimately, can lead to an emotionally healthier child.
It may be a hard pill to swallow, but teenagers trying to establish their own identity often start to break away from their family norms and explore their own feelings and sense of community. That’s why they want to hang out with friends instead of you. That’s why they suddenly have their own musical tastes and views of the world. This is actually healthy development. If teenagers don’t start to break away and develop their own identity, it can stifle their emotional growth and cause them to stay too comfortable in their home environment. The truth is, you want them to become somewhat dissatisfied in your home so they start to develop their own independent identities that prepare them to eventually live on their own.
Of course, this doesn’t make them any easier to deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, by having a better understanding of your teenager’s emotional development, you will hopefully see that they haven’t turned into monsters; they’re just doing what’s developmentally necessary for them to grow into healthy adults. While this knowledge may not be a lot of comfort in the moment, your understanding of their emotional growth can help you get through these years.
The good news is that even when they are rebelling and pushing against the boundaries you’ve set for them, they still understand those boundaries. As a result, they may complain about your rules, but if you’ve been consistent with them, they will still know what you expect and hopefully still live within it. By continuing to parent your child, even when they say they no longer need your parenting, you are giving them a road map to push against, which can help to keep them somewhat within the boundaries you’ve established.
Teenagers may say they don’t listen, but they do. By maintaining the expectations and rules of behavior in your household, whether it’s a curfew time, or making sure they are doing their homework before going out, you are establishing positive patterns of behavior that help to keep your teenagers safe. The key is being consistent. If they exhibit irresponsible behavior and you punish them, you must be consistent in that punishment. If you say they’re grounded for a week, then it’s important they’re actually grounded for a week. If after two days you rescind the punishment, it won’t be long before your adolescent realizes that they can do what they want because they can get around the consequences of their actions. This becomes potentially dangerous when teenagers don’t know where their limits are, as this can cause them to feel out of control and unsafe. A teenager without a sense of limits can more easily fall into reckless behavior, such as using drugs or alcohol.
As your child gets older and shows more control over his or her behavior, you can adjust your rules and regulations to be more appropriate to their age. The key to helping teenagers navigate these difficult years is to understand the changes they’re going through and maintain your perspective when they start to break away and create their own identities. Even when it looks like they no longer need you for guidance, the truth is, they need you now as much as ever. By understanding what they’re going through, you can help them navigate this important time in their lives as they transition from their childhood into becoming emotionally healthy adults.