Teens almost without exception – despite their seeming demands for independence – don’t want hands-off parenting! They consistently say they would complain and resist parental discipline and boundaries. but deep down recognise that it is exactly what they need. They know they need a loving and firm adult to be in charge—a parent who doesn’t use their authority to “show who’s boss” but to train kids to be in charge of their own lives in just a few short years.
As one teen put it, “I have friends at school; I need parents!”
Teens often acknowledge that having a close relationship with their parents is great. However, this also goes alongside the belief that friendship should never be the primary goal of parenting. Instead, teens believe that while they remain under their parents’ authority, they expect wisdom, guidance, and discipline to help them become wonderful people whom their parents will want to be friends with for the rest of their lives.
So here are four basic truths about what teens want from their parents
1 Teens see your taking charge as a form of love and security.
Even when we know we need to take charge as parents, we sometimes feel uncomfortable exercising authority—or we just get fed up with the resulting drama and tantrums.
It often seems easier to simply let things go. But the teens we interviewed said it’s our job to be the bad guy. And when parents sidestep that role, kids feel insecure and even uncared for. Teens sometimes think along these lines –even if they never tell their parents:
“I can’t believe my parents give me a curfew but don’t enforce it. It makes me feel like they don’t really care…”
“My dad isn’t a father figure. He tries to be my friend more than my dad. So I can get anything out of him.”
You will probably never hear your kids admit that they appreciate your discipline. So when you hear complaining instead, remember these words from one representative boy
“Yeah, I slam the door when I’m punished, and I’ll mutter something under my breath. I’m mad at the moment, but I know even then that they’re doing it for me and for my good.”
2: If you aren’t in charge, your kids will lose respect for you and discount your authority.
In our interviews and surveys, teens repeatedly admitted that they respect parents who take charge and they disrespect parents who don’t. Again here are two representative comments:
“Parents always give in. They say, ‘You’re grounded,’ and then they forget, and we kids don’t take them seriously. We laugh behind their backs.”
“Parents these days have stopped taking responsibility. They’re too busy, and they’re just hoping things will work out okay without them. I hope I’m not like that as a dad.”
It’s a misguided approach when parents try to build a relationship with their children by being a bit lax – it almost certainly causes more harm than good!
3: Even “good teens” need watchful attention and discipline.
Another reason we may not be taking charge is that we simply don’t think we need to. So many kids look good on the outside—and may even be responsible in most cases. But as we discovered, even good kids sometimes make really bad choices.
An amazing 93 percent said they were “good teens.”
Nearly all teens admitted to doing several stupid things at least once. Lying was, unfortunately, nearly universal, and cheating was pretty close. But of those who identified themselves as “good kids,” 46 percent also confessed to having done more than just experiment with trouble.
Specifically, that 46-percent group admitted to committing one or more of the following offenses three or more times: drinking, using drugs, wild partying, sneaking out or stealing, among other things.
Approximately half of all “good kids” are not repeating their worst offenses. But since half aren’t, we need to be watchful. It’s time to wake up to the fact that our own children may be numbered among the good kids experimenting with trouble.
Please hear us: when we identify negative behaviours common among teens today, we are not implying that parents should accept them simply because they’re so widespread. We do, however, strongly believe that as we get wise to the reality of what’s “normal” in our kids’ world, we’ll be more prepared to help them choose a much better path.
4: Teens appreciate rules more when they understand the reason behind them.
As kids explained their respect for parents who take charge, there was one clear theme that emerged in that parents have to be willing to explain why the rules and boundaries exist and not appear arbitrary. This then enables the teens to understand the reasons for themselves and understand that it is not their parents trying to control them for no reason.
This approach is not advocated for younger children
So to summarise teens are looking for parents, who enforce reasonable discipline (with explanation), are watchful and attentive and take charge. There is nothing wrong with a friendly relationship with parents, but teens are not looking for more friends.
© 2016 by Richard Horton (Omega Support Services)
The pre-reading tasks in this exercise are divided into two sections. Please answer the questions in the relevant section for you, either teenager or adult. If time allows answer both sets and try to see things from the perspective of the other group.
1. What do expect from your parents?
2. Is it possible for a parent to be a parent and a friend? Or is it more important for a parent to be a friend or to be somebody who sets and enforces the rules? Explain your answer.
3. How much freedom should teenagers have? Give some examples to help explain your answer.
4. Why do parents set rules and why are they important?.
5. Is it acceptable to be punished for breaking the rules? What punishments do you consider to be fair / unfair?
1. What do you think your teenagers expect from their parents?
2. What is a parent’s role concerning their children? Create a list and put them in order of priority.
3. Are rules for teenagers important? Explain why (not).
4. What kind of punishments are appropriate and inappropriate for teenagers who break the rules? Create a Do and Do not list.
5. Is it important for teenagers to understand why the rules exist?
Now read the text and explain what the following words/phrases mean.
- hand’s off parenting (Paragraph 1)
- deep down (Paragraph 1)
- loving but firm (Paragraph 1)
- primary goal of parenting (Paragraph 3)
- tantrums (Paragraph 5)
- sidestep (Paragraph 5)
- curfew (Paragraph 6)
- can get anything out of him (Paragraph 7)
- mutter (Paragraph 9)
- to give in (Paragraph 12)
- grounded (Paragraph 12)
- a bit lax (Paragraph 14)
- sneaking out (Paragraph 18)
- widespread (Paragraph 20)
- to appear arbitary (Paragraph 23)
- is not advocated (Paragraph 24)
1. Do you agree that teenagers need parents and not another friend? Explain your answer.
2. Do rules restrict or add to a sense of love and security?
3. Some families create contracts between parents and teenagers. Is this a good approach in setting rules within a family? Why (not)?
4. Why do some teenagers go ‘off the rails’ and what can parents do when their teenager is out of control?
5. Some argue for a tough love approach to parenting while others advocate a more liberal approach. What does each of these terms mean? What is your opinion on these two approaches?
* You need to prepare these questions for conversation during your next online / face-to-face session with your tutor.
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