Q: Can you offer any insight as to why my 13-year-old daughter has become so contrary about everything? She often seems eager to distance herself from me. I’m not a controlling parent, but it’s tough to see how she’s acting all of a sudden.
A: We understand where you’re coming from. Commenting on the struggle parents experience during the teen years, psychologist and best-selling author Dr. John Townsend, nails the issue when he says it’s “because we’re needed the most and wanted the least.”
Our teenagers need us as much as ever during this turbulent period, but they typically don’t want us interfering in their lives. It’s a necessary and healthy tension, but one which inevitably leads to conflict.
That’s a huge reason why this season is often rough for parents. Understanding that your teen probably isn’t trying to make your home miserable may help diffuse some of the emotion. But even then, behavioural challenges must still be addressed.
In advising parents how to channel their child’s misdirected energy toward more productive outcomes, Townsend suggests four pillars to help guide our interactions with our teenagers:
The first is love. No matter what behaviour they choose, children need to know their parents love them unconditionally.
The second is truth. Families must speak truth to one another kindly. Even if they disagree vigorously on certain subjects, they can, and should, do so respectfully.
The third is freedom. Parents don’t “give” freedom to their teens. Teens can choose whether to obey or disobey the rules. But …
The flip side to the third pillar is the fourth: consequences. In the same way that teenagers have the freedom to choose their own behaviour, they also choose — and must be allowed to experience — the consequences that go with it.
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