The main task of adolescents in our culture is to become psychologically independent of their parents. He is expected to cast aside the dependent relationship of childhood and gain control of his life. This process is characterized by rebellion, defiance, discontent, turmoil, restlessness and ambivalence. Emotions usually run high and mood swings are common. Under the best circumstances, it is not uncommon for this stage to last four to six years.
The following guidelines may help you and your teenager through this difficult period:
Treat your teenager as an adult friend. Treat her the way you would like her to treat you when she is grown up. The goal is mutual respect, support and having fun together. Strive for relaxed, casual conversations during shared activities such as cycling, hiking, shopping, playing catch, driving, cooking, working and especially at mealtime. However, friendship with your teenager doesn’t mean changing your own behavior or values in an attempt to be popular with her. Use praise and trust to help build her self–esteem. Recognize and validate her feelings by listening carefully and making non–judgmental comments.
Avoid criticism about “No win” topics. Most negative parent–adolescent relationships develop because parents criticize their teenagers too much. A great deal of the teen’s objectionable behavior merely reflects his desire to conform to the current tastes of his peer group. So just back off, as your teenager would say. Try to avoid criticizing clothing, hairstyles, makeup, music, friends, recreational interests, room decorations, use of free time, use of money, speech, posture and philosophy. Intervene only if your teenager’s behavior is harmful, illegal or infringes on your rights. The more you talk about strange and untraditional behaviors, the longer they will last.
Let society’s rules and consequences teach responsibility outside the home. Your teenager must learn from trial and error. As she experiments, she will learn to take responsibility for her decisions and actions. Your curfew laws will help control late hours. Clarify the house rules and consequences of breaking them. You have the right and the responsibility to make these rules. Give space to a teenager who is in a bad mood. When your teenager is in a bad mood, she generally won’t want to talk about it with you. If teens want to discuss a problem with anybody, it is usually a close friend. In general, it is advisable to give your teen a lot of space and privacy at such times. This is a poor time to talk to her about any topic, pleasant or otherwise.
Use “I” messages for rudeness. Some talking back is normal. We want our teenagers to express their anger through talking and to challenge our opinions in a logical way. We need to listen. Expect your teenager to present his case passionately, even unreasonably. Make your statement in as non–angry a way as possible, even though you may be legitimately angry. If your adolescent continues to make hostile, unpleasant remarks, you should leave the room. Don’t get into a shouting match with him or her because this type of behavior is unacceptable. What you are trying to teach is that everyone has the right to disagree and even to express anger but that screaming and rude conversation are not allowed in your house.