I recently facilitated a rap session with a group of teens and young adults ages 16 to 19. They identified one of their main stressors as their parents’ unintentional oppressive tendencies. They were frustrated with the dictatorship parenting style in their homes and stressed its ineffectiveness. Although well intentioned, certain parenting approaches can unknowingly trigger depression, rebellion, and resentment in teens. When I asked the group to share what they considered to be the driving forces behind their parents’ militant rule and asked for solutions, they noted these four points below:
The “that’s how I was raised” and “do it because I said so” parenting approach ruins many relationships between parents and their children. Some parents seldom enforce the ‘old ways’ without explaining the ‘why.’ Don’t underestimate your children’s intelligence; facilitate an open dialogue about your culture and make a conscious effort to learn about the culture your teen is exposed to outside of your home so you won’t assume and can see things from your teen’s point of view.
2. Past Experience
While experiences teach invaluable lessons, they can also limit growth and destroy trust if the lessons are inappropriately misapplied. Model and emphasize the importance of trust and respect of perspectives by listening, being open and real. Train your teen how to think! Talk about your experiences both good and bad. Solicit your teen’s feedback and empower them to make the right choices. Sometimes your teen’s tone can come off as disrespect, but their mindset is not to be disrespectful when they ask why.
3. Fear and Ignorance
It’s good to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, but take time to educate yourself. Take time to learn about your teen. Don’t try to be cool, admit when you’re wrong, ask questions and listen. If you are humble enough, your teen will educate you on trends. If you are purposeful about learning what’s relevant to your teen and validating their concerns no matter how small, your teen will more inclined to cooperate and share.
4. Lack of relationship
Discipline cannot be enforced where there’s no relationship. “Don’t misuse your parental power.” Don’t ask your teen for their input and then interrupt mid-sentence to say what you want to happen. Be intentional about making time for each other. Spending time doesn’t mean you dictating the day’s events or designating the day for chores. It means communicating with each other, learning about shared interests and doing something fun. Center activities around your teen’s preference even if you don’t like what they suggest. Speak less and listen more! Grow with your teen, adjust your approach as they grow. Teens tend to be more corporative when they see that their input matters. As embarrassing as it is, doesn’t be afraid to admit when you mess up and apologize. I have had conversations with parents who believe that respect is one-sided. Show your teens respect, set boundaries with them and maintain an open dialogue. Teach your teen how to think and be intentional about recognizing their efforts. Make a pact to hold each other accountable, and correct with love and respect. Don’t forget that you are raising your teen to be an adult, not a child.
There are no perfect parents, we will mess up, we will feel overwhelmed, and some days we may not even want to be parents. We are humans, and parenting can be very challenging especially when life throws us curve balls. Seek support for yourself; your wellbeing is important too.