CONSIDER THIS IMAGINARY SITUATION.
It’s six o’clock on a Friday night, and 17-year-old Jim is dashing toward the front door. “See you later!” he calls out to his parents, hoping they’ll forget to ask the inevitable question.
He should have known better.
“What time will you be back, Jimmy?” his mom asks.
Jim stops in his tracks. “Um . . . uh . . . ,” he stammers, “no need to wait up for me, OK?” Jim swings open the door and nearly makes his escape. But then his dad calls out, “Hold it, James!”
Again, Jim freezes, and then he hears his dad’s stern voice: “You know the rule. Ten o’clock sharp—and no exceptions!”
“Aw, Dad,” Jim groans as he turns toward his father, “do you know how embarrassing it is to tell my friends that I have to be home so early?”
Dad shows no mercy. “Ten o’clock sharp,” he repeats, “and no exceptions!”
PERHAPS you’ve been in a similar plight. Whether the issue was your curfew, your music, your friends, or your clothes, your parents laid down the law, and they just wouldn’t budge. For example:
“After he married my mom, my stepdad cracked down on every kind of music I enjoyed. I ended up having to throw out all my CDs!”—Brandon.*
“My mom criticizes me for not having friends. But then when I ask her if I can hang out with someone, she says no because she doesn’t know that person. It’s so frustrating!”—Carol.
“My dad and stepmom won’t let me wear a T-shirt unless it’s a size too big. And my dad insists that shorts are too short if they’re above the knee!”—Serena.
What can you do if you and your parents don’t see eye to eye? Could you discuss the issue with them? “My parents usually don’t want to listen,” says Joanne, 17. Amy, 15, says, “When I feel that my parents don’t understand me, I just keep my mouth shut.”
But don’t give up so quickly! Your parents may be more willing to listen than you think.
You may feel that your parents aren’t as reasonable as God. And admittedly there’s a big difference between Moses’ talking to Jehovah about the fate of an entire nation and your talking to Dad or Mom about staying out a little late. Still, there’s a principle in common:
If you have a legitimate point to make, people in authority—in this case, your parents—might be willing to hear you out.
The secret to success is how you present your case! The following steps will help you to do so more effectively:
Identify the problem. Below, write the issue that you and your parents can’t seem to agree on.
Identify the feeling. Below, write a word that describes how your parents’ stand on the issue makes you feel—whether hurt, sad, embarrassed, distrusted, or other. (Example: In the scenario that opened this article, Jim indicates that his parents’ strict curfew leaves him feeling embarrassed in front of his friends.)
Think like a parent. Imagine that you have a teenager who is facing the same issue that you named in Step 1. Assuming the role of a parent, what would be your biggest concern, and why? (Example: In the opening scenario, Jim’s parents might feel fear for Jim’s safety.)
Reassess the issue. Answer the following questions:
What merit can you see in your parents’ point of view?
What can you do to address their concerns?
Discuss the matter with your parents and brainstorm solutions. By applying the steps outlined above—and considering the suggestions in the box “Communication Tips”—you might find that you can communicate with your parents on a more mature level. Kellie enjoys that kind of relationship with her dad and mom. “Arguing gets you nowhere, plus you’re guaranteed to lose,” she says. “My secret is to talk it out with my parents. We almost always meet each other in the middle so that all of us are satisfied.”
Some names in this article have been changed.