Barrington H. Brennen
Do parents have the right to
know where their teenagers are going on Saturday nights? Do parents have
the authority and power to stop their teenagers from going out to a place
they do not want them to go? The simple answer is yes.
However, it is imperative that we understand that the acceptance and respect
of the authority of parents by teenagers depend whether or not their parents
provided the proper management when their children were infants and
toddlers. Were the parents punitive without reason? Did the parents’ style
of management encourage rebellion and disrespect? Perhaps the most important
question would be: Did the parents provide proper age-appropriate
boundaries, structure, and rules that would solicit a respectful response
from their children and at the same time teach self-government? The answer
to these questions would determine how weak or powerful the parents are in
“controlling” their teenagers. Another good question would be: Do dependents
teenagers have a right not to tell their parents what their plans are on a
Saturday night? The answer is clearly no.
Parents, you are by virtue of
being parents, the CEOs of all of your dependent children including the
teenagers. If you never really were the CEOs of your teenagers before they
were teens it is very difficult to “take over” their lives now. It will be a
painful struggle to try and “boss” your teens now if they never were taught
how to be their own boss. You need a strategy “take over” as wise,
transformational managers of your energetic, adventurous teenagers.
Conducting a “military coup” will not work. In fact it will make things
WHO ARE DEPENDENT CHILDREN?
Who are dependent children? All children from
birth to the beginning of adulthood are dependent children. All children who
are being supervised and are depending on adults to provide the basic
necessities of life (food, shelter, education, security, nurture, etc.), are
dependent children. Notice I did not say from birth to age eighteen. It is a
mistake for parents to
One of the ways parents set up their children for trouble
when they become teens is by stating to them that “when they
get 18 they could do what that want to do.” In most cases
this is a lie.
teach their children that by the age of
eighteen they will automatically be able to control themselves and become
self-sufficient, all wise, all-knowing adults. One of the ways parents set
up their children for trouble when they become teens is by stating to them
that “when they get 18 they could do what that want to do.” In most cases
this is a lie. These are words that parents should never say. The ultimate
goal of parenting is for parents to teach their children self-government and
not teach that adulthood is a “door” that opens automatically at the age of
eighteen. For some teenagers, when the “door” of adulthood is opened it
sucks them through like a vacuum cleaner, leaving them confused and throwing
them wildly around the “bucket” of life. For other teenagers, age 18, the
legal age of maturity, passes by almost unnoticed and without rebellion.
They were gradually getting ready for an independent life long before that.
HARNESSING THEIR ENERGY
Parents, if your teenagers are rebellious or you
have not been able to have them respect your wishes, here are a few things
you can do. Do not attempt to take over their lives. They will not listen.
Suspend rules (without telling them so) and focus or building a relationship
with them. Remember, rules without relationship breeds chaos. Start
listening to them. Make it a point to say something positive every day.
Compliment them on something they are doing or how they are dressed, etc.
Take them (one at a time) on a date to some place they will enjoy. Watch a
favorite movie with them. Play games with them. Make sure you touch them
each day. If you have not hugged in a while do not attempt it now. They will
push you away. Start my touching their shoulders, hands, or give a pat on
the back, etc. Do these simple things until it becomes comfortable to both
of you. Have times when you share your life story.
The goal is to win their confidence and respect.
After you would have done this then you would be able to sit down and
discuss how they should manage their lives. When you are setting rules, get
their input. Include them in the decision making. Your goal as parent is to
let them know that their social life will always be supervised by you, the
Remember parents, moving from childhood to adulthood is a gradual process
and not an automatic change brought on by a act of parliament (age of
maturity). Emotionally and physiologically, adulthood does not really begin
until the early twenties. However, you goal as a parent is to so teach your
child in such a way that by the late teens your child would be a
responsible, critical thinking young adult, capable of making life-long
decisions with no regrets.
Where will your teenager be on Saturday night?
Why not you and your teenager decide on that together.
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Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your
questions or comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-242-327 1980 or write to
P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit