I got absolutely no sympathy from my mother whenever I complained about her grandchildren. She would remind me with a smug grin that I was even worse. "You were a hundred times worse, Jac," she would say cheerily.
Which leads me to think, teenage rebellion is a rite of passage. Children become teenagers before they become adults, and thus, the teenage years are a staging post where they push the boundaries and explore who they really are (rather than extensions of their parents). When teenagers rebel against your house rules, they are testing how far they can go and what they can get away with. Clamp them down too much and they fail to develop their own personalities. Give them too much liberty and they become unlikeable, obnoxious adults.
My feisty and headstrong sixteen year old, G, who has strong views on everything is surprisingly easy to deal with. For someone who claims to run her own life, she is surprisingly compliant with our house rules. For example, a few months ago, her whole year group was going out to the notorious party town of Patong to celebrate the end of the year-end exams. Our curfew was midnight. "But the party hardly starts then," she protested half-heartedly. True. They were meeting up at 11pm. Her friend's mother offered to accompany the girls and took out a hotel room in the middle of town. G asked if she could stay over. No. Of course. "Why?" She demanded. "I just want to know."
And really, that was the end of our unpleasantness. I think a lot of it is down to establishing good communication between you and your teen. Recently, a mother issued her daughter 'rap sheet' which the daughter posted online and it went viral:
You can read the story here.
These are my six tried and tested strategies for coping with teenage rebellion:
- It starts long before then. It starts when your children were small enough to listen unquestioningly to your words. That is when you lay down the foundations of how your home is run and how your family life is lived. And what you find acceptable or not acceptable. For me, rudeness is never acceptable, so even when we are disagreeing, everyone must do so with respect for each other.
- Build a good communication platform. Talk often to your teenagers. Show them that you are a good guy who sometimes have to play bad cop because that's your job as a parent.
- Don't have too many rules. Have a few key ones that are non-negotiable. This means that you don't exhaust yourself and use up your merits over inconsequential battles.
- When rules need to be broken, come to a reasonable agreement. Because as parents, don't be too arrogant about learning, too. It is never that simple and nor is parenting black-and-white. Be prepared to discuss and negotiate.
- Don't expect to solve everything with one conversation. Be prepared to park the matter and return to it later.
- Do your best to create a happy family home (and that means you yourself being happy too). A happy teenager would be more likely to cooperate with you.
First published in www.raisinghappystrongkids.com