I think it’s a common misconception that the teenage years are necessarily ones of rebellion and turmoil. In fact, I believe it’s possible for parents and their children to develop a warm, intimate relationship based on mutual love and respect. Rifts do not need to exist in families, even during the teenage years.
Certainly there is a ‘stress and strain’ of adolescence as children struggle with their physical changes, their emerging sexuality, their new social demands, and so on. But the root cause of conflict between parents and children has nothing to do with these changes. The root cause is the way in which parents almost universally apply their power over their kids, and it’s this power against which adolescents rebel. From an early age, most parents use some system of rewards and punishments to control their kids’ behavior. As kids grow into teenagers, they become more immune to the threats of punishments, and they acquire enough strength and resources to satisfy their own needs. The parent continues to try to exercise power, and it’s this power against which the teenager rebels.
The reason it seems universal that nearly every teenager will rebel is because of the near-universal way in which parents misuse their power!
What if there were a way to raise kids – even from an early age – that did not misuse parental power? What if there were a way to sidestep using rewards and punishments, while still effectively influencing our kids’ behavior? What if there were a way to nurture a relationship with our children based on trust and mutual respect, even while the child is small and young and immature?
I’m convinced this is possible. And I’m committed to doing my best as a parent to realize a relationship with my kids that is supportive rather than contentious. I’m learning about effective techniques through books like Parent Effectiveness Training and Brave Parenting and Parenting With Love and Logic. These resources and others are like them signposts along the path, helping me discover and practice new skills. The work is not easy; I often feel like I fail more than I succeed. It requires adopting a different mindset.
Time will tell, of course, if there is a payoff. There is no question my kids will find their own trouble to get into. My hope is when the day comes they find themselves in over their head, they feel safe calling me or their mom for help. My hope is we can navigate the teenage years as a connected and loving support system, working through the issues together. After all, we are all changing.