When your child was younger, he or she routinely looked to you for answers or assistance, from learning to tie his shoes to help with homework. That made you feel needed and loved — popular with your own child. Then everything changed: You parent a teen now who is not keen on all your rules.
Adolescents naturally are or want to be more independent. They struggle to form their own identity and be self-governing. In different ways, most will push against parents’ rules — often wanting to take risks or engage in behaviors that parents view as chancy or dangerous. To make a parent’s life more difficult, most adolescents will try to push the limits and crush a parent’s resolve.
Teenagers have the language proficiency to make earnest, plausible cases for what they want. And, their moody, obstreperous behavior can wear you down. However, being a parent is about providing solid guidance; it is not about winning a popularity contest with your child. Holding your position reduces the chances of feeling coerced or manipulated and will in some situations keep your teen safe.
5 situations calling for ‘parent privilege’:
Teens will try a mix of promises and persistent badgering to have their way. During the teen years, saying no becomes more difficult — and at the same time, more essential.
Here are five confrontations you are likely to have with your teen. Each includes an explanation of a typical teenage request, some facts about what might be going on, and how a parent can respond. There’s also an alert that provides a rationale or words of caution so you will be prepared for similar “pushback” from your teenager. You will be armed and ready to take a firm stance.
1. “Can Kara and I have a beer when she comes over?”
Before her friend arrives, your teenager presses: “Kara’s parents let us have beer when we are at her house. Please? Kara and I will share one.”
What’s Going on Here: Your teen is on the cusp of adulthood. Other parents may allow their teenagers to drink at home as long as they are not driving, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
Response: “I have no say in what Kara’s parents do, but I will not serve alcohol to your friends who are still minors.”
Alert: Feel good that your teenager is being straightforward with you. Don’t overreact to learning that she drinks beer at her friend’s home, but be clear. Restate your feelings about alcohol and drug use. Teen brains are still developing. A recent study indicates, “even drinking that is not considered excessive has adverse effects on young people, both on their metabolism and brain grey matter volume.”
2. “Billy in my Bio class asked me to a party on Saturday night.”
Perhaps your answer has already been “no.” You face receive anger. Your child may respond with something along the lines of, “You are so not being fair. You make my life so miserable.” Expect a serious amount of sulking and perhaps some door slamming.
What’s Going on Here: Your child wants to take someone out on a date or accept a date, but you believe he or she is too young. It breaks the rule you and your spouse made clear a few years ago that dating is not an option until a certain age.
Response: “I am sorry you feel that way. I realize how important this girl/boy is to you, but making sure you are mature enough and ready for dating is my responsibility. When you are a parent, you will be able to make the rules.”
Alert: Parents are safe targets for teen outbursts. Since teenagers recognize parents and siblings as constants in their lives, they believe they can get away with being rude or belligerent. They use approaches they would not dare try with friends or other adults.
3. “Dad, I can’t pay those data charges. You’re joking, right?”
What’s Going on Here: You have a family data plan, and you warned your teen well in advance that he was dangerously close to using up his allotted data. You told him that he would have to pay the extra charges with money he earned during the summer.
Response: “No, I am not kidding. You had ample notice, and you chose to ignore it.”
Alert: Holding teens accountable is good money-management training. Having to pay with his own money will probably curtail his or her data usage going forward.
4. “Mom, you’re so conservative. All the girls are wearing short shorts and crop tops. It’s normal.”
What’s Going on Here: You cringe at the thought of your teenager attending a school dance or any social gathering in the outfit she has on. You think it shouldn’t leave her bedroom. You thought you were fairly liberal, but in your opinion this outfit is way too revealing.
Response: “I know you think what you have on is attractive, and it may be what all the girls are wearing, but I can’t let you go out dressed like that.”
Alert: It’s fine for teens to argue with parents as they “try on” new identities. Pick and choose your battles carefully. Be leery of giving in to avoid an argument or to make your teen think you are wonderful.
5. “Can I spend the night at Tommy’s?”
What’s Going on Here: Your son wants to spend the night at a friend’s house, but you have only met Tommy once and his parents never. That’s sufficient to prompt your answer.
Response: “No, your friend can sleep here if he likes.” If your child pleads, add, “What part of no don’t you understand?”
Alert: Follow your internal warnings. Parents don’t always have to justify their nos. It’s your prerogative to be adamant, even testy. File under “parental right.”