Why is Your Teenager Arguing With You?
It’s inevitable that parents and their teenagers will argue at some point. As our children enter their teenage years, they want more freedom and can begin to rebel against rules and expectations they once accepted without hesitation. Parenting during our children’s teenage years can be tough. We experience a subtle shift from having a child that generally looks to us as their source of knowledge and guidance who then, more and more, starts to follow influences from their peers. At the same time that it is difficult for us to manage this shift in a relationship, it is important to remember that it is undeniably tough being a teenager and having to navigate social situations and through endless peer pressure.
While some friction and arguing with your teen is totally normal; constant arguing can be concerning for a parent who doesn’t understand what’s going wrong or how to help. Often, as parents, we can be too overbearing on our teenage children without always realising this. It may come from a loving place and being concerned about their futures, their safety and who they are choosing to spend their free time with. However, too much tight control on a teen can have an adverse effect – we need to develop a trusting and open relationship with them. If your teenager feels trapped and pressured, they are more likely to lash out leaving you feeling unwanted, unloved and confused.
Read on if you think that perhaps your parenting is too much at times and want to learn what you can do to make yourself and your child more comfortable during these critical developmental years. Recognising you need to change is an essential first step, so understanding how you are impacting your teenager’s mental health can help push this realisation to the forefront.
You are a Helicopter Parent
This might not be very comfortable to read, but, if you are controlling your child’s life too much and pressuring them on various subjects, like their future, you can be defined as a helicopter parent. You hover around them all the time, try to help them too much with their everyday tasks, and ultimately prevent them from having the freedom they need to find their own feet at this age. You might think what you are doing is for the best. Perhaps you think your teen needs to be protected because you still see them as a child who needs to be told what to do rather than to think for themselves. Having a ‘helicopter’ parent can place a considerable amount of stress on your teenager. They will feel trapped and under constant pressure to live up to your expectations. The reality is, they probably don’t want to fight with you, but the constant control is so overbearing that they need to speak out in the only way they can which can come out as arguing.
By being scared of them going out, leaving home or even going to university, you can prevent them from creating the right social connections with people who will have a significant impact on their life in future years and possibly even decades. Friendships and memories are forged during teenage years and preventing their freedom can limit the skills they need in the future for creating relationships and involving themselves in necessary social situations like job interviews.
You Need to Back Off
If you read the section above and thought ‘that could be me’, that is a very positive first step. By accepting that it actually could be you, rather than just all them causing friction, you can start to learn how you can back off to improve your relationship with your teenager. You can take steps to release the stress from your child and let them mold their own future. Backing off and giving your teenager more freedom is the best first move. Whether it is saying ‘yes’ more when they want to go out with their friends to the cinema or a party, it can make a huge impact on your relationship. They will start to recognise that you are allowing them more control over their social lives and can be thankful for it, resulting in fewer arguments. You can apply a reasonable curfew, but make sure you don’t restrict them too much. They are young adults, and in a group, and can look after themselves (but asking for a text to say they are fine is an ok request).
Trust is hugely important when it comes to rebuilding a healthy relationship with your teenager. It’s important to have open conversations where your teenager can talk to you about difficult problems without fear of judgement. Try to start conversations by asking open questions rather than just laying down more rules. You could try by beginning sentences with ‘I wonder if’, ‘I worry about’ ‘Have you ever thought about’, ‘It could be a good idea if…’. Listening and talking are essential for a healthy, trusting parent-teenager relationship.
Concerning their future, pressuring them too much on grades and university can damage their mental health considerably. If they are getting grades, you don’t deem good enough even though they are passing their classes, it can make them feel bad about themselves even when they are trying their hardest. Praise your child for their hard work rather than condemning them for the results. Let them choose what university they want to go to, even if it is far away, or let them consider other pathways like apprenticeships. Remember you are there to guide and facilitate their future happiness, not to dictate it.
Consider What They Want
Your child might not want to be an accountant just because they will earn good money or go to the local university because it means they are close to home. You might hide this with ‘ease of access’, and ‘I can do your laundry’ persuasive promises, but in reality, your child probably knows it’s because you don’t want to let go of control. Your teenager’s future is theirs to shape and therefore you have to consider what they want. If they’re going to enter a career you don’t see as beneficial it is ok to have a calm conversation with them expressing your concerns, but the final decision is up to them, and you can’t unfairly pressure them out their dreams. Make sure you consider the way you are speaking and what you are saying to your child and how this could impact the way they view themselves and their future.
Try Therapy to Understand Your Concerns
For some parents, it might be tough to let go of control because it has roots in an innate feeling or concern that you need help addressing. Seeking help from a therapist here can be hugely beneficial as they provide the environment you need to be open and honest about your concerns. Whether it is something private or embarrassing that fuels you to be so overbearing, you don’t need to fear being honest with your therapist as nothing leaves the room, and they have experience dealing with these situations.
A therapist is an outsider to the situation and will be honest with their own opinions about how you are handling your child becoming a teenager and ‘flying the nest’ in the future. They will tell you what they think is causing the arguments and advise on how you can relinquish control without feeling completely lost. You can even invite your child to the therapy and have a group session so you can understand the impact you are having on their mental health, which will hopefully motivate you to change. With a safe environment surrounding you both, coming to a compromise or conclusion surrounding the issues should be much more natural.
Don’t be a helicopter parent who makes their child feel self-hate, upset and pressure, resulting in constant arguments. Teenage years are so crucial in the development of your child’s personality and future – you need to be supportive, not controlling. For the benefit of both your child and yourself, please feel free to learn more about my services and contact me today.