I know what some of you parents might be thinking: Having a teen in your household can be difficult. Well, you’re right. I know this for a fact… because I am one!
Teenagers are often stereotyped as whiny and annoying with a tendency to snatch up as much independence as possible at the youngest age possible. And sometimes, that can be true! Even “tweenagers” (around 11 or 12 years old) can be seen in the same mostly negative light – not to mention the media, movies, and TV that almost always portray them in a negative perspective.
So, as a teen myself, let me give you a little bit of the “behind-the-curtain” of what goes on behind the average teen’s mind, then I’ll give you the solutions to the problems those may cause. And lastly, I’ll give you tips on how you can foster a great relationship with your teen.
- Teens Want to Feel in Control (Not of You, But of Themselves).
By “in control,” I don’t mean in control of the whole household, or even in control of you. They oftentimes just want to feel in control of themselves – to have more independence to make life choices and decisions about themselves.
Here’s the “science” of why teenagers are often yearning for more independence, wanting more privacy, and seemingly drawing further and further away from their parents.
According to Psychology Today, “[Independence] is one of the most important contributors to both success and happiness. Believing that we can influence our own lives (through our own efforts) predicts practically all of the positive outcomes that we want for our children.”
What it’s saying is true, in a way. Teens like to feel independent and feel they’re in control of their lives – and don’t we all? It’s sometimes comforting to know we can control our lives with our decisions.
Here’s the problem with that, though. Teenagers often want to make decisions that are not the best, or that aren’t healthy for them in the long run. Even a well-known pediatrician, James Chattra, said that “about half of the ‘thinking’ neurons in certain regions of the [teenager’s] brain are literally ‘wiped out.’” That shows that teenagers frequently feel before thinking.
So what’s the solution? Well, a very important thing to remember is that it is, in fact, healthy for teenagers to gain more independence as they age. However, here’s the most important part: You must also make sure you still keep authority as a parent. If they want to do something that is okay for them to do, let them make that decision on their own and watch as they feel happy that they made that choice on their own. If there’s something they should not do, though, it is important to make sure they know you still hold authority.
An important part in establishing authority is making sure they know not to hide things from you. Why? Because when things are open, honest, and transparent in a relationship, then trust is established.
I was led to talk about this because of an experience an Instagram acquaintance of mine went through.
Someone I know on Instagram – let’s call her Larissa – had an account for what is called “Bookstagram”, which is essentially the side of Instagram for all readers, writers, and overall book lovers. However, Larissa was extremely upset one day, posting on her Instagram Story that she was very stressed as an ex-friend of hers threatened to “tell her parents” about her account, implying that her parents hadn’t already known about the existence of this account. I was very intrigued by this and decided to ask her why it would be bad if her parents. After all, its content wasn’t terrible, and it was honestly a great account with a great aesthetic (that is, a collection of posts organized in a colorful or aesthetically pleasing way).
Larissa responded to me, saying that her parents are “super strict” and that they don’t allow her to post her face – even though plenty of her Instagram Reels had her face in it – and that they “would kill her if they found out”.
In that moment, I couldn’t even describe my emotions. As someone who has always had a close relationship with my parents, I felt so shocked that there would be such a level of secrecy between them. But unfortunately, that kind of secrecy is all too common.
When your teens feel like they have to hide something from you, it causes a rift in the relationship. So how do you start ensuring that your teens have a good foundation and can copy what you’re doing? One tip is to make sure that you are being open and honest with your teens. If they see that, they feel even more free to be open and honest with you.
- Teens Want to Express Emotions (But it Often Turns Into a Volcano of Drama).
Have you ever seen the calm-headed teen on TV that coolly works their way through an argument without erupting into a volcano of emotions?
Yeah, me neither.
I do admit, most of the media these days focus on teenagers who cause drama with their emotions – and some parents might claim that the same emotional volcano erupts in their homes also. The difference between TV and real life is that in real life, we can help teens so they can calmly, coolly express how they’re feeling.
And in theory, it is very healthy for teens to express their emotions, because if they don’t, studies have shown it is bad to keep your emotions bottled up inside. As Audrey S. Park (a freelance writer with Peaceful Dumpling) put it, “Your pent-up feelings can manifest themselves in escapist behavior (like excessive drinking), physical and mental illnesses, and can potentially even shorten your lifespan.”
In short – bottling is bad.
Obviously, bottling up feelings is definitely not recommended for your teen, but neither is exploding emotions all over the house.
The first word most people might think of when they think of these sorts of emocanos (that’s my newly-invented term for emotional volcanos) is “hormones.” Even one day, at the Barnes & Noble bookstore, I saw a magazine with the headline of How a Teenager’s Brain Works. I was curious to see what this big-name brand thought about the inner workings of my brain – or at least the average brain of my age group – so I picked it up and flipped through a few pages.
As I read on, the magazine talked about the brain and a few scientific reasons why teenagers are often whiny and have attitudes: They blamed it all on hormones. It had nothing whatsoever to do with good parenting, good parent-teen relationships, or anything of the sort – it was all focused on hormones. I continued to read in awe as I saw bad attitudes, whiny speech, and irritated retorts all justified by little chemicals in the brain.
I always knew hormones had a big impact on the behavior of teens, especially as they grew and matured from children to adolescents to adults, but thanks to my amazing relationship with my parents and the years of being well-taught and well-trained, I knew outward reactions were a separate topic entirely, and they had absolutely nothing to do with hormones.
Self-control spans much, much further than the realm of decision-making. Self-control is also learning to control what to say and when to say it. As my parents, Mike and Trisha Fox, who are marriage coaches with Your Marriage Coaches, often explain in their marriage workshops, “Communication is what you say, how you say it, when you say it, and where you say it.”
So, here’s the solution: Teach your teen about what self-control really means (even, perhaps, tell them to look up Scriptures like Proverbs 16:12), and explain about how important it is. It is your job as a parent to help them learn self-control, but it is also their job to use that teaching to rock their lives.
- Teens Still Want to Have Closeness With Their Families (Even if it Doesn’t Seem Like It).
Sometimes as teens grow older and more mature, they give the impression that because they want to be so independent, they don’t want to have any part in going out with their families or being with their families in general. While it might not seem like it, most teens still do want to hang out with their families. It’s just that they want to establish their own identities and oftentimes like to hang out with people their age.
The problem is, it doesn’t make the parents feel close when their teenagers seem to be avoiding family outings or hangouts every chance they get. So how can we solve this?
One thing I’ve picked up from many different sources is to condone hanging out with friends your teen’s age – so long as the friends are healthy influences, of course, not negative influences – and to encourage it, but also encourage family outings as well and stress the importance of “family first,” which is a vital key.
So, there you have it – three of the most common problems associated with adolescents; but with these solutions, those problems will be dealt with so much easier.
One of the biggest tips I also want to give you is to encourage your teen to pursue their dreams and do what they aspire to do; nudge them and lead them up to a certain point until you know they can handle it on their own. If they’re showing interest in a certain subject or career, then nurture that passion and encourage them to rock whatever it is that they love doing. It will benefit both you and your teen, and will, among other things, help to foster a healthy relationship.
Above all, be calm when dealing with issues, be authoritative when dealing with authority, and be there when your teen is dealing with everyday life – and you will rock the arduous journey called parenting.
You Rock, Dream Big, and You Got This!
– Arianna Fox, 14-Year-Old Girlpreneur, Bestselling Triple Author, Keynote Speaker, Voiceover Talent, Actress, and Teen Influencer
@afoxauthor on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (Arianna Fox on LinkedIn and YouTube)