Parents and Teenagers: The Biggest Love Hate Relationship of Them All

In my experience in working with both parents and adolescents over the years, I have noticed one big dynamic problem in the relationship: the parents appear confused and disrespected, and the teenage child claims their parents never listen and are “stupid.” It looks different for every family, but these attitudes are in all families to some degree.

 The question that I get from parents are, “Why won’t my teenager just be good and listen to what I have to say?” It’s true, parents do a lot of work, parents provide their kids with food, shelter, clothing, emotional support, and a lot of other important things that your child could not get on their own at the moment. It can be frustrating to deal with someone who thinks that they are smarter than you.

 But parents, there is one important ordeal to remember: your child is growing up. They are attempting to find their independence, find out who they are, and define their self. During these formative years in seeking independence, often, your child is attempting to see the world through a new lens, their own.

 From teenagers, the question I usually get is, “Why won’t my mom and dad understand that I can do this on my own, and I don’t need them anymore?” It’s true; teenagers are beginning to grow in their experience and seek independence. Teenagers are navigating through life receiving more responsibility, striving for their thoughts, an identity of their own.

But teenagers, there is one important factor in the equation: your parents have experienced this before, and they are still learning life. They helped you to walk, talk, go to the bathroom, and everything in between. Without parents or caretakers, you may not be where you are today. And remember, they are human just like you. Parenthood, much like childhood is a growth and learning process. They are learning how to work with you, just like you are learning more about yourself.

 So, how do we go about this relationship a little easier? Parents, listen to your child and talk to them. And also realize that it’s okay for you to make mistakes. Being a role model for your child goes beyond looking perfect, it’s about how you handle your failures as well. Teens, your parents are not perfect, but they are certainly trying their hardest to provide an example to you. Just like you want your parents to listen to you, do not dismiss your parent’s words. Just like you, they are learning and growing into something and are on this journey with you. Give them just a little mercy.

 Remember to take the time to listen to one another. Both teens and parent can learn from this lesson. When you attempt to “fix” or compete, conflict only increases. But when you take the time to listen, you can begin to see the human side and develop the best outcomes.

A harsh truth in this world is that failure is inevitable to anyone. It is important that we set great examples for how to build a path to success, but it’s just as important to set great examples of how to handle failure in the path of success.

Written by Jasper Gates, M.A., LPC Intern