If you look up resistance and rebellion in the dictionary, you might find a picture of a teenager. Teenage years are very challenging. Our children transition from childhood to young adulthood and seek their independence.
As Mark Twain advised: “When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knothole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.”
That is not the approach I’d recommend, no matter how much you may feel like it sometimes. The Conscious Parenting Revolution seeks to guide your teen parenting without any barrels!
Your relationship with your teen is no doubt struggling right now due to pandemic restrictions. As your kids are seeking their independence, it’s taken away from them. You’re all stuck together under one roof. They feel like they are being punished by being permanently ‘grounded.’
According to research by child psychologist Dr. Louise Porter, 75% of family disruptions result from the same three R’s. Retaliation, rebellion, and resistance. Eliminate them, and you are getting rid of 3 out of 4 of your problems.
One thing to keep in mind is not to blame yourself as a perceived failure. You’re seeking improvement, not perfection, in your relationship with your teen. You can’t expect not to butt heads, but you can find ideas on how to manage it when it does happen.
You may think you’re helping your child by steering their choices. As they grow into young adults, it’s a challenging path to tread. They react with defiance and retaliation, especially when you show your disapproval.
It’s like they are thinking: “If you’re going to criticize me all the time, I’ll give you a reason to criticize me. I will show you, that you can’t control me!”
This mutinous opposition is simplified, as it’s normal during this developmental phase. Your teen wants to assert their autonomy by resisting your parental control.
What most parents don’t realize is that if they gave up the controlling form of discipline and used The Guidance Approach instead they would retain influence during the teen years.
Experts in the field view a certain amount of rebelliousness as healthy. Your child’s emotional growth depends on their ability to be their own person. It’s when that behavior is so extreme that it can destabilize the household that it becomes problematic to everyone involved.
If your child has impulsive – and counter-productive – behaviors, they are likely to interfere with their healthy development unless critical parents can begin responding to their children differently.
Their errant conduct could include such self-damaging activities as being truant from school (not while schools are closed), or refusing to do their on-line schoolwork or homework.
They may be influenced by badly behaved peers or join gangs. It would not be unusual for those behaviors to stretch to experimenting with drugs or smoking cigarettes or becoming sexually promiscuous. We know that the need to belong is so strong that if people don’t have that sense of belonging in their home, they will seek it out other places.
For well-intentioned parents determined to raise their child in an authoritarian manner, possibly similar to how they were brought up, their parenting style is highly resistant to change. No doubt, you see yourself as setting (idealistic) standards that will best serve your child’s welfare, both in the present and future.
Don’t forget to them when they do something right. It might be as simple as thanking them for taking the initiative to clean their room – and be careful it doesn’t sound sarcastic!
We parents must adjust and drop the “My little baby” way of thinking. Failing to give your kids the room they need to grow can cause them to act out in more destructive ways.
However, inadvertently, what you may see as constructive and educational mentoring (vs. criticizing) can result in the child’s concluding that they must not be good enough and that something is basically wrong with them. They could feel that they’ll never be able to measure up to parental expectations.
It can end up being destructive of building a child’s confidence and self-esteem and lead to feelings of rejection, hopelessness and abandonment that lead them to engage in self-sabotaging behavior.
As Carl E. Pickhardt notes filial rebellion can, ironically, prompt children “to rebel against their own self-interests,” turning away from activities and relationships previously linked to their self-esteem. They can engage in behaviors at once self-defeating and self-destructive. At its worst, these self-sabotaging acts can include purposely hurting themselves.
If you start with the assumption that your teen will make bad choices, you may implement restrictions that make them feel punished for merely coming into adulthood.
That’s not to say that you should have no boundaries, but you may want to decide in advance which hills you are ready to die on, and in which areas you have more room for flexibility.
One small act of rebellion doesn’t immediately mean your child is going to self-harm. But you can be conscious of our parenting style to prevent a pattern emerging.
Implementing A Guidance Approach to Parenting flips Teenage rebellion on its head. You create a family system that fosters open communication when you eliminate rewards and punishments.
You strengthen the foundation by teaching everyone the vocabulary to speak about their perspectives in the language of feelings and needs. You model collaborative problem solving over the years, taking everyone’s needs into account.
This means that choices are made in concert, therefore no resentment flows are created. In this atmosphere teen years are completely different to those kids who grow up in families using power, control, fear and dependency.
How Can You Tell Whether Your Teen Is going Through A Healthy Or Unhealthy Rebellion?
The key is open communication between you and your teen. Take an active interest and try to understand their world.
It would help if you were open to their feedback. This may mean hearing some things about yourself, which are unpleasant or uncomfortable.
Take your teen seriously when they say they don’t want you coming into their room without knocking.
Don’t be defensive and accept that on occasion, you may hurt your kids even though that’s far from your intention. Their healthy rebellion forces you to let go and let your child develop.
You can look to do fun things together and make sure you attend their activities and show interest. Teens don’t need less of you during those years, but more.
Provide a safe environment for your teen to take risks and grow. So they have a safe landing place if they fail.
Seeking to withhold your forgiveness, encouragement, or acceptance is unhealthy in any situation.
You can change your perspective on how you view your teen’s rebellion. The opposite of rebellion would be the desire to stay at home and take responsibility for their life. Remember that mistakes and failure play a critical role in their learning process.
Unhealthy rebellion takes place in the context of closed communication channels.
Features of an unhealthy rebellion are sudden, extreme expressions of independence. Defiant outbursts are frequent alongside explosive anger. It can lead to a mutual lack of trust and increased resentment—rebellion snowballs when anger and withdrawal build up between you and your teen.
Unhealthy rebellion is damaging to all parties involved. Instead of leading to positive growth, it delays maturity.
You can look to teach problem-solving skills to your child. And discuss other ways you could have approached the issues.
Be ready – dependable in any aspect of life – but don’t just wing it. Plan out in advance what you’re going to say to your teen and deliver your message in a simple, clear, and calm manner.
You need to BE the change you want to see in your child.
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.