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Terra's Past Letters

 

Parents:
"My parents don't think I know how to make good decisions."

Hey Terra,

My parents are very unreasonable. I am 16 and I have made a few mistakes in my lifetime, but ever since I feel like my parents do not trust that I won't make those mistakes again. It has gotten quite hard for me and my mom to talk in a friendly manner. We always seem to be in a fight about something silly. I sincerely just do not understand. I have tried so many times but every time I tell my parents good reasons of why I should be able to do something they just don't listen. I have a great social life, and now I feel like they want to take that away. They only want me to have one sleepover each weekend. I do not understand this at all. They might not trust me but I am a great person. I can make the right decisions. And now with this whole "one night" thing I can't hang with friends tomorrow night and the next night for a dance! There is no point. My mom says I would just come home and sleep. Sleep!? While my friends are out enjoying themselves having these great deep conversations? And I get to sleep. It doesn't make sense. Help me please with my relationship...

Thanks

Unfair

 

Dear Unfair,

Sorry you and your parents don't seem to be getting along well at the moment. It's tough when you get to a certain age and you feel so certain that you have all the information and experience you need to make good decisions and to live your own life. And yet, there are your parents still making decisions for you. Of course that can be frustrating. I understand.

On the other side of this disagreement (and there's always "another" side to any conflict) your parents have an awesome responsibility to keep you safe. Many times I talk to teens and they say either "My parents are too strict." OR "My parents don't care." Maybe it's difficult for parents to show that they care without having their kids feel like they are "unreasonable."

You say that you tell your parent "good reasons" why you should get to do what you want. But I'm wondering if you know their "good reasons" for the rules they have and the restrictions they place on you. If you don't understand why, for example, they only want you to have "one sleepover each weekend" then their rules don't make any sense.

My suggestion is that you and your parents have a conversation about this. Choose a time when no one is rushing around trying to do a million things at once. Say to them: "Mom, Dad I'd like to talk to you about something important." (That will get their attention.) Then in a calm and mature tone (without yelling or blaming) tell them that you feel like you're ready for more independence. Tell them that you understand that independence requires more responsibility on your part and that you're ready for it. Tell them that they've done a wonderful job teaching you right from wrong and that you feel good about your ability to use good judgment when you're on your own. Tell them specifically what you'd like to be allowed to do. (For example, hang out with your friends tonight and go to the dance the next night.) Ask them if that would be ok with them. Then LISTEN to what they have to say. If they're worried about not knowing where you are, or who you're with or what you're doing (normal and reasonable parental concerns) then calmly and respectfully address those concerns. If, for example, they say "We don't know who you'll be with." Then you say: "I'm happy to tell you the names of all the friends that I'll be with. You can call their parents and check with them." The idea here is to be open with your parents so that they feel safe when you're not with them. If you show them that you have nothing to hide (because you're not doing anything that they wouldn't approve of) you are much more likely to get their approval for more independence.

On the other hand, if you act rude and resentful about their concerns, they are more likely to think: "She really is still too immature to be granted more independence."

See what I mean?

Oh, and one other thing, if you get to do what you want, make sure that you are where you say you'll be and that you follow your parents' rules. That's the way to build trust and to continue growing toward independence. If you break their trust, they will pull you back in.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Terra

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