Relationships with parents - working it out
relationships; parents; positive; rules; communication; conflict; grounded; abuse;
As you grow up your relationship with your parents starts to change. You're growing into a young man or woman and your parents are also growing older. They still care for you but are probably having as much difficulty as you are in adapting to your changing relationship.
- You are no longer totally dependent on them and you are wanting to become even more independent.
- They are still responsible for your welfare and are trying to use their experience to guide you.
As a result there is often conflict.
How you all handle this conflict is really important. Your parents will always be your parents so work hard to communicate and be prepared to compromise.
a positive relationship with your parents
Here are a few tips to maintain a positive relationship with the people who love you most in all the world.
- Be respectful when discussing any areas of disagreement.
- Be willing to listen to your parent's view.
- Stay calm.
- Be non-blaming, don't accuse.
- Stick to the issue - don't get side tracked into other areas.
- Use a team approach to working out problems - work at it together, think about what you both want in common and work out together how you can get there.
- Use a problem solving model like this one:
- Decide together exactly what the problem is.
- Brainstorm the possible solutions - be open and creative.
- Think out the consequences of each possible solution.
- Choose one idea and do it.
- Did it work? If so, congratulate yourself and each other. If not, go back to step 2 and try another idea.
Try out the above ideas but it's hard to learn conflict resolution and problem solving just by reading it. See if someone can help you out face to face. It may be your school counsellor, community health worker or there may be groups running in your local area that can help. These tools can be used in any conflict situation, not just with your parents. You could try some ideas and tips from our topic Conflict and negotiation.
There are rules at school, in the workplace, at home and in society. There are written rules and unwritten rules. They all have a purpose - to allow everyone to live together in harmony and to protect everyone's rights.
Some examples are:
- It is against the law for someone to hit you and injure you. That is an assault. Having that law protects you and keeps the peace.
- At school, you're expected to be quiet in the classroom when working - this protects the rights of all students to learn.
- At home your parents may want to know details about where you're going and with whom, and give you a time to be home. This isn't just to invade your privacy and give you a hard time. This is so they can do their job of trying to keep you safe.
"There seem to be different rules for different people, for example for girls and boys. This leads to conflict." Year 8 student
You're probably right. Although it is not fair, it's a reflection of the world around us. There are double standards out there for boys and girls. Traditionally there have been different roles for women and men, and although things are changing, many of the old ways still remain and this varies from culture to culture.
It's OK to question this - talk to your parents calmly about how you feel, and listen to their point of view also. Although both young women and young men are at risk of being sexually harassed or abused, a major reason parents protect their girls more and are stricter with them is because of the greater risk of sexual harassment or abuse.
"What can you do when you are in trouble with your parents like getting grounded?" 14 year old student.
Spend some time thinking about what happened.
- Why were you grounded? Be fair now - saying "I got grounded because I got caught" isn't really the reason, is it?
- Did you learn anything from the incident that led to you being grounded?
- Was there any time during the incident that you could have done things differently to avoid the situation getting out of hand?
- What could you have done differently so that things would have turned out better?
If you still don't think the grounding is fair, try talking to your parents about it. If you do this you need to remember the tips for sorting out disagreements (as above); things like being respectful, staying calm and sticking to the point. You could try it this way.
- Point out to your parents what you have learnt.
- Ask how you could show them that you are responsible or have learnt from your mistakes.
- Tell them why you think the grounding is unfair or should be shortened or changed.
- Listen to what they have to say.
One of the most important skills in communication is listening. How hard can that be? Well, if you listen properly it can be almost exhausting! It can also be a precious gift you give to another person. If your parents feel properly listened to, they feel understood and cared about, and they are much more likely to listen to you too.
Listening, really listening, involves several aspects.
- Listen to the meaning, not just the words. To show you understand the meaning, you may want to repeat back what you thought you heard your parents tell you but in your own words. Don't get discouraged if they say, "No, no, what I am saying is…" because this means they want you to understand and you're getting there.
- Try and imagine yourself in your parent's position - this can help you understand better.
- Don't butt in. It takes attention away from the other person and puts the focus on you.
- Your body language is important too in showing that you're listening. Face the person. If you look out the window or doodle on paper or look at your watch or at other people, they'll feel you're not really listening. Let them know you're still listening by doing things like nodding and saying words that show you are listening, like, "yes", "uhuh" or "go on".
Communicating well means telling each other what you think - the 'good' and the 'not so good', but doing it in a non-blaming way if it's the 'not so good'.
"My parents are a bit over-protective and they don't let me do stuff other kids do. Should I say something to them?" Year 8 student
Yes, it would be a good idea to talk to them. Let them know how you are feeling. You could discuss some of the things other young people are doing that you think are OK, but that you're not allowed to do. Then listen to your parents and try and understand where they're coming from. Ask them what you could do to convince them you could manage the situation you would be in. You're right - communication is the key to working this out.
allowed to …
"What do you do when you are not allowed to do something you want to do?"
Year 8 student
Again, this is about talking to your parents about what you want to do and having good reasons as to why you should be able to do that. You need to reassure them that what you're doing is safe or OK and show them how you know it's safe or OK. Now it's your turn to listen to what they have to say. If you've explained your side clearly and calmly and lessened their worries, they might be prepared to change their minds. However, be prepared for them to have good reason for you not to do whatever it is - it's OK to respectfully ask them to explain this to you if you don't know why.
If your parents are 'cluey', be prepared for them to ring your friends' parents to check up on what you say they allow your friends to do. Being absolutely truthful about this will get you ‘brownie points' with your parents!
If you are still 'not allowed' to do all of what you want, see if there can be a compromise. For example, can you go somewhere if they drop you off and pick you up at a certain time, even though you would like to go there in your friend’s car and come home later?
Sometimes there will be situations when your parents refuse to negotiate. It can be hard to acept right now but when you become an adult you will find yourself saying 'Not negotiable" too! Why? Because parents love their kids and want to keep them safe.
The good news is that all the studies indicate that generally things settle down when people are about 18. What researchers can't agree on is why this gets better.
- Some say it's because your parents have finally begun to see you as the young adult you are.
- Some say it's because you've worked through all the tough growth in your thinking and emotions and your physical changes.
- Others again, say it's just because many young people move out of home around eighteen and get away from their parents!
As you move through adolescence and into young adulthood, your relationships with your parents seem to get better. Parents can be some of your best supports, supporting you through the good times and the bad.
Note: Some young people may have parents who act in an abusive way, rather than simply being strict. If this is the case for you, seek advice. Your local child welfare agency can offer advice and/or assistance. You can phone anonymously for advice if this would be more helpful.
It is also important to remember that it is not OK for young people to be abusive to parents. Being abusive won't convince them you are right - it is more likely to have the opposite effect.
- Child Abuse Report Line, Tel: 13 1478 (24 hours, 7days).
- The Second Story Youth Health Service Youth Healthline Tel: 1300 13 17 19,
- Shop Front Youth Health and Information Service, Tel: (08) 8281 1775.
- School counsellors.
- Community Health Centres.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).