Teenage children, 5 straight to parents

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The entry into adolescence of the child often causes a certain discomfort in the parents: the sweet and shy child of yesterday is transforming (suddenly, according to the mother!) Into a different boy, sometimes grumpy and incomprehensible. This phase of growth (inevitably) brings with it conflicts, tiring relationships and discussions for the conquest of 'new rights' and greater autonomy.

Read also: Adolescence: what it is and when it starts

In this article


  • How can a parent best cope with this period of child rearing?
  • Play tug of war with your child
  • Don't give in to all requests. We must negotiate
  • Stiff, protective or friendly parent? It depends on the cases
  • The parent has to 'filter' the requests
  • Each problem must be carefully evaluated

How can a parent best cope with this period of child rearing?

There is probably no magic and absolute recipe ... But it is useful to reflect on some general principles - valid for every aspect of a teenager's life - that can help a parent to orient himself in his daily practice.

Here are five tips from, doctor and psychotherapist, researcher at the University of our city, author of several books for parents including This house is not a hotel! (Feltrinelli), as well as the father of four children.

1) Play tug of war with your child

The image of the tug-of-war game may well represent, in all its facets, secondly, the parent-child relationship in the 'turbulent' years of adolescence.

This metaphor, in fact, can help the parent (mom or dad is the same!) To reflect on his attitude and on how to behave with his growing child.

When the young child prefers to be on the same side as the adult, as a 'team' - he does not pull the rope - he rather seeks an ally in the parent to face his daily life.

With the entrance to the middle school, however, the boy passes to the other side of the field, begins to pull the rope to let the adult enter its territory. At this point, a balance must be found between the players: here is the real fatigue of the parent who should pull the rope with a well-weighted force for each individual situation.

  • The strong parent who always pulls on his side. With a powerful tug, any adult can win this game (quite easily) but this is not the best approach.

"The powerful parent who always tends to pull the rope on his side - says Pellai - thus obliges the child to be only obedient, never lets him play his game and, therefore, not even grow up. To such behavior (i classics: 'No, why not and that's it!'; 'Here I am in charge!'; 'We don't really talk about it!') part of the adult, the child reacts by brooding, little by little, anger and hostility. , rules and stakes, the boy is unable to have experiences (necessary to grow) and he does not build adequate emotional muscles ", says the development age expert.

"The world is full of men and women who, as teenagers, were forced to live like puppets, dominated by the intrusive presence of mothers and fathers for whom nothing was negotiable, capable only of making their children do what made them calm" , adds Pellai, quoting the book where he explains his tug-of-war metaphor (From father to daughter. The letter that every father would like to write, the words that every daughter should read, San Paolo Edizioni).

  • The parent who releases the rope (immediately). If always pulling hard on the rope is not good, just as incorrect is the opposite attitude on the part of the adult: let go immediately. In this way, the child pulls and finds himself in disarray because there is no one on the other side to play with him. In short, he wins without effort.

Consequently, according to Pellai, the adolescent gets freedom all in one fell swoop, without having conquered it step by step (by pulling the rope a little). This is dangerous because he is not ready to handle it.

"Some children try to make their parents understand that perhaps it would be appropriate to put a limit, to insert, from time to time, some exceptions to the rule of absolute freedom". Generally, the adult who has let go of the rope in this way does not accept the child's request for help (who somehow asks for attention and would like to be 'blocked'). And, not surprisingly, - based on the psychotherapist's experience - when their child's problems become serious, these parents say they never noticed anything.

  • The third way: pull the rope when needed. "A child needs a parent present who knows how to 'stay in the game' and understands when he throws because he is facing an evolutionary challenge, "says the doctor.

In other words, for Pellai, the parent should be available to play the game with the child, calibrating the strength with which he pulls the rope, throughout his adolescence (which has no well-defined beginning and end).

Of course, such an approach can be tiring for the adult - as Pellai himself admits - because it requires attention and energy and the ability to get involved. This game changes in front of the parent every day, but helps address all aspects of a 10-18 year old's life.

If the child is about to let go, the parent must encourage him to pull a little, when instead he pulls too much, it is important for the adult to exert the same force (avoiding that the child pulls everything on his own and goes into danger or problems ). "In short, sometimes it takes an equal and opposite force, sometimes you pull a little more, in other cases, much less, based on the individual situation" - explains the psychotherapist.

2) Don't give in to all requests. We need to negotiate

Every adolescent should negotiate (and therefore, confront, and discuss) his achievements with the adult. If the parent gives in to any kind of request and gives everything immediately at 15, without setting any stakes, there will be no way to do it later.

"If, for example, our daughter (or son) who has always come with you on vacation, asks 14 years to go alone with her boyfriend, we need to be careful. The reason is simple: our first total yes on the holiday issue. at this age, he will lay the foundations whereby at 16 he will have nothing more to negotiate, "says the psychotherapist.

In this case, mum and dad can go out to meet their daughter, proposing alternative and somewhat 'creative' solutions that, however, place a clear barrier to the original request. How?

One idea, for example, is to invite the boy on holiday together with the family for a week, then leaving the 'sweethearts' a certain freedom of maneuver (such as going out alone in the evening to take a walk, eat a pizza or dance with others. friends).

Even having the daughter go with the boy and his parents a few days could be a good compromise. And again, a possible alternative is to allow the daughter to participate in a school trip (where, of course, the parents are not there but the teachers are!) With the boy in question.

Basically, in the phase between 12-15 years, it is very important that there is the 'space' to talk, discuss, negotiate, in fact, every request with the parent.

"In this age group, the boy wants everything at once, often on the basis that 'others have it and everyone does it.' Granted that this is not the case at all, this way excludes bargaining with the adult. When the adolescent gets something just by imitating friends or by the solicitations of consumption, the parent has completely lost his role. The educational project has become a consumer project, "he explains.

3) Rigid, protective or friendly parent? It depends on the cases

The parent's attitude towards the child should change according to the situation or problem to be faced. An approach that is always rigid, just protective or too friendly does not lend itself well to every different moment in a teenager's life, according to Pellai.

In short, the parent should strive to have a 'mobile' approach. With this further image of 'movement' (such as that of a tightrope game), the psychotherapist essentially reiterates the importance of avoiding total 'rigidity'.

"Let's think about the idea of ​​standing in front, next to and behind our child; it all depends on the situation and must be evaluated carefully. It is important, for example, to stand in front of the little boy to protect him from the dangers that must be clear for the adult. In this position, the parent marks the path a little, says 'no' and represents a compass for the child. Sometimes, however, it is preferable to be next to the child: a friendly approach, from time to time, is very useful, but it doesn't have to be all the time and every occasion. It is also necessary, in some cases, for the parent to stand behind the child and give him a push ... Maybe, because he doesn't feel up to it or doesn't have the strength to explore. In this way, progress increases more and more, this means becoming great ", says the expert.

Unfortunately, the fatigued adult tends to adopt only one position among those described above and this never helps the relationship and the growth of the child.

"The effective parent is able to hold these three positions well when needed according to the individual situation. The adolescent must recognize that the parent is on a level above his / her own and, at the same time, the adult must listen and see the reasons of the son. This is part of a broader educational project. It is not a right, for example, for the boy to go to a concert and stay very late every Saturday evening, but one can discuss together and evaluate the individual case with serenity. In other words, it is the logic of the tug-of-war, as long as the child is competent "- he concludes.

4) The parent has to 'filter' requests

Faced with the 'new' needs and the increasingly pressing demands of the child (regardless of whether they are linked to concrete objects, permits, things to do ...), the adult must have a containment function, according to the expert. .

"Everything must pass through the parent who is a sort of 'filter': this is part of the educational project - says the doctor and psychotherapist. In this way, the child perceives that his interlocutor is present, he does not 'give up' everything. it must be discussed and analyzed together. In short, the reference adult is significant and, consequently, requests must be addressed to him ".

A concrete and fairly typical example? Your child wants to celebrate his 14th birthday without adults nearby and asks you to move to the beach house 200 km away for the weekend ...

In such a case, second, the adult should negotiate the request (as on any other occasion) with the adolescent. This means planning the party together and giving clear rules, promising, for example, to go, during the party, to the house of close friends (and not to the sea at 200 km!).

"In this way, the adult can enter the house once, during the party, to greet - explains the psychotherapist - thus verifying that everything is in order. In this way, the parent performs the 'filter' function of which a 14-year-old probably needs. "

In other words, it is important that the family does not 'obey' (by going to the beach), as the parent must be able to monitor the presence of tobacco, alcohol (and any joints) at the party.

"I saw the greatest damage in similar situations in parties of 14-year-olds who had received permission for total self-management and, of course, were unable to manage themselves well because they were not ready" - he says.

  • Another example: technology. Another typical case, where it is essential for the parent to act as a 'filter' is the relationship between adolescent and technology. No matter what hi-tech tool or digital content and service, the child wants to use ... Whether it's a classic PC or notebook connected to the Internet, or the latest touchscreen devices such as tablets and smartphone phones, the adult should have a clear idea on the possible (and correct from an educational point of view) use by the child.

5) Each problem must be carefully evaluated

Every situation or problem in the adolescent's life requires careful evaluation by the adult, concludes Pellai. Furthermore, regardless of the specific issue itself, it is helpful to have in mind a set of principles that should inspire the daily practice of parenting. Here, according to Pellai, which ones principles should guide the parent of a teenager.

  •  Even if a child seems indifferent, what his mum and dad say or do matters a lot to him.
  •  A teenage child needs a parent who continues to be a father and mother, not a friend.
  •  Faced with changes in the child, the adult must change his way of being, of being a parent.
  •  Consider your child's changes as signs that he is gaining autonomy.
  •  Accept your child's new requests without labeling them as pretexts to distance themselves from you: even through new experiences, the adolescent finds his place in the world.
  •  When your child achieves a good result, say it clearly with phrases like: 'I'm proud of you!'.
  •  If you are exasperated, do not get into furious arguments, let the night pass and tell your child what you have decided (any sanctions, punishments) the next day.
  •  Never give permissions that seem excessive for your child: freedom must not be given as a whole but must be conquered through gradual steps.
  •  Avoid constant moral blackmail ('This will give me a heart attack!'), Or being bossy, always playing arm wrestling over everything. This way of behaving transforms growth into a struggle without borders and undermines the esteem of the adolescent.
  Read also: Sos homework, advice to parents

Questions and answers

Parents and adolescent children: is it right not to give in to children's requests and to negotiate? 

Absolutely yes. Every adolescent should negotiate her achievements with the adult. If the parent gives in to any kind of request from the 15-year-old, there will be no way to do it later.

How should a parent behave towards the adolescent? 

The parent should strive to have a 'mobile' approach and be protective, friendly or rigid in relation to each case.

Is it right for a parent to treat their adolescent child as a friend? 

No, because everything has to go through the parent who is a sort of 'filter'. In this way, the boy perceives that his interlocutor is present, he does not 'give up', everything must be discussed and analyzed together.

  • teens
  • advice to parents
  • arrival adolescence
  • 3-5 children years
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