Teenage Power Struggle

I see young parents full of love and joy with their baby, and then, not even many years later, I see the same parents full of fear trying to control a resistant teenager, where family life has deteriorated into a power struggle that ruins everyone’s mood, and the adolescent can't wait to get away. It doesn't make sense.

When dealing with a smart teenager, you can safely assume that she knows right from wrong. If you can remain the loving parent you were when she was a baby – where you had limitless confidence in her ability to grow strong, learn what she needs to know, and master the tasks before her – you’re on your way. She will have to prevail through this stormy time, find her orientation and her place in life. You cannot do that for her.

Developmentally, this is the time when adolescents move on from parental dominance and respond to peer pressure – in other words, your influence is waning dramatically (sorry), while she goes through this highly competitive and challenging phase. Whatever you have done with your teenage child so far is somewhat set in stone, so to speak - child rearing is over. Hopefully she is able to come to you with questions, concerns, and issues. She needs your support as she tries to find her own way and begins to live her truth. She needs a friendly and safe haven to come home to – not more stress and pressure.

If she does something that appears wrong in your eyes, she has made that choice because something is more important to her – and life itself presents her with consequences to her actions. Life can be hard in adolescence – she wants to be free, but she is still dependent. Things can get intense when one is flooded with hormones. Schoolwork and household chores are not necessarily at the top of her priority list…

It may at times feel important to impose your life style and your will on her – and so you may feel tempted to engage in fighting a losing battle…. Pressure adds more stress to her already stressful teenage life – she will feel that you lack insight and compassion. If you insist on trying to maintain control, you interfere with her ease and happiness. She will resent you for that. If she is emotionally healthy she will stand up for herself - resist and fight you. You will lose her respect and trust and force her to hide things and withdraw from you. I never recommend getting into a power struggle with a teenager. Nobody gains anything from it. You cannot win - time is on her side.

You may want to consider that punishment creates resentments... It tends to intensify your child’s defiance and increase distance. She may respond by becoming secretive and deceitful, while seeking solace with problematic peers. Personally, I don’t believe in punishment. I prefer keeping the communication lines open at all times.

Talk to her, listen, and TRY TO UNDERSTAND! You are a role model for relationships. If you succeed in establishing a relationship based on respect, kindness, and TLC, this will benefit everyone throughout life, and that’s what she’ll look for in a friend and potential life partner. If she is more familiar with power struggles and fighting, she’ll tend to reenact that. Either way she will tend to repeat the style you have shown her.

Remember the difficulties you had with your own parents’ strategies, so you don’t repeat all their mistakes. Get some reassurance and support while you deal with irritations and worries - as you have to give up control over your baby’s wellbeing and safety….

This is the time to let go. Believe in her – so your teenager won’t be too insecure to live her truth and find her place in life. She is stretching her wings, getting ready to fly. Let her follow her heart! Stand back as she learns to move at her own pace! Give her permission to make mistakes! Watch and smile as she practices for take-off. Please don’t try to cut her wings now!