Teen Conflict

Erin a fifteen-year-old honor student had always been very obedient, always doing just what she was told. The perfect child from her parent’s perspective.

Now in high school she seems different than before. Her parents began to notice changes in her behavior, she began talking back and presents a disrespectful attitude. She has new friends, many of which her parents didn’t know. Recently in one episode, her mother told her she couldn’t go with friends when they asked her to come over. Erin became outraged and screamed at her mother. Her mother was shocked; she had never heard her talk like that before. She grounded Erin and it was several days before mother and daughter began speaking again.

Recently Erin went out with her new friends and she was to be home at 11:00 p.m. She arrived at midnight, which involved another shouting match between parents and daughter. Nothing seemed to improve; in fact, Erin’s grades began to drop. On some days Erin refused to get up, she would pull the covers over her head and tell mom she wasn’t going to school. Mom felt helpless to make her get up, go to school or return to her former honor roll ways.

What’s a parent to do? First of all, it is important for all parents to understand that we like children to obey but the goal of parenting is not conformity at all costs. At certain points parents must shift from teaching what to think, to teaching children how to think. In this situation Erin was ill equipped to make choices as her life expanded. She needed to be making smaller choices as she grew; making bigger choices is merely the next step in her process of growth.

Sometimes parents ask, “Isn’t rebellion a normal state in the teen years?” I frequently say no, that a push for independence is normal in adolescence but not rebellion.

Parents in this illustration must remain calm, secure and loving while holding Erin accountable for her behavior (a tough attitude to convey during troubled times). They must back up their expectations with actions that both requires and supports an effective response from the child, while giving her periodic opportunities to show her effective choice making. They must applaud every effective response by Erin and pull in the rope on her acting out. Parent’s attitude must convey a belief in her beyond what she may deserve on a given day. The journey may be trying, yet the rewards in effective outcome for a child’s life can be important to restoring family enjoyment.

To learn more about the effective ways to handle situations with your children you may wish to contact our office for a consultation.

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