As an adolescent psychotherapist one of the major issues I deal with is respect. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and parents feel dissected by their teenagers. At this time of year with high school beginning many teenagers believe they are entitled to more respect because they are now high school students. They feel they should be allowed to make more of their own decisions and that their parents do not need to know everything about their friends or activities.
This article is somewhat different from the ones I usually write. While it is helpful for parents, I am directing a great deal of it towards teenagers.
Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you have graduated from middle school or you are attending high school doesn’t mean you are in charge of or that you are ready to handle all aspects of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There are still a number of life experiences for you to learn from and until you do, your parents are responsible for and probably need to help you.
A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 years old you can do as you like. This is the case if you are in a situation where you can financially support yourself and provide for all your needs. If you are still financially dependent on your parents, even though you are 18, your parents do have a right to set certain rules that you need to follow.
Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are legally responsible for the damage and the costs to repair the damage. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall. These are just a few examples that your parents have being your parent.
You may think that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do in life. Even if they give you permission to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18.
As I started off as a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis, doing your homework, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or drugs. For teenagers who have graduated high school you may feel the above guidelines do not apply to you. However, if you parents are assisting to pay for college, your living expenses and such things as your health insurance, the guidelines apply to you too. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.
Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.
Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because you graduated high school. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.
Parents while your teenagers have a lot to learn and do need to demonstrate they can handle responsibility, you need to give them opportunities to earn your respect. You have to have faith in your teenager and say yes sometimes even when you have doubts. Obviously you start by saying yes to the little request and allow them to earn your respect. Also if you have doubts or concerns talk to your teenager about high school or college. If you have open minded conversations with your teenager, they will respect and trust you. This provides a situation where you and your teen can have open, honest conversations in the good and bad times. It can help you develop a closer relationship with your teen and you can assist your teenager in becoming a responsible young adult you can be proud of.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating adolescents and children. To learn more about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.