accept their morals, marry the "right kind" of person, get an education and
"good" job, have children, etc. They may be very hurt if the son/daughter
wants to go another direction.
In the final stages, when the parent-teenager conflict becomes bitter,
usually it is a power struggle between controlling parents and a resisting
young person. The conflict becomes a "win-lose" situation where no
compromises are possible and someone must lose. The more dominating,
controlling parents (who tend to produce insecure, resentful but independent
teenagers) don't like to lose and struggle hard for continued control. The
teenager can almost always win these conflicts eventually, however, by just
not telling the parent what he/she is doing or by being passive-aggressive
(forgetful, helpless, ineffective) or by running away.
How to resolve parent-young adult conflicts
When the rebelling young person is 16 or 17, the parents have to accept
reality that they have lost much of their control--they can't watch the son or
daughter all the time. The child is on his/her own. The parent can still help
the young person make decisions by sharing their wisdom (if it is requested).
Both parents and young persons could attempt to control their anger (see
near the end of this chapter and chapter 12) and adopt good communication
skills: "I" statements, empathy responses, and self-disclosure (chapter 13).
Both could develop positive attitudes. Teenagers can realize that parents
don't universally go from "wise" to "stupid" as they themselves age from 12
to 17. The young person can also realize that responsibility comes with
freedom; if you are old enough to declare your independence and make your
own decisions, you are old enough to accept the consequences
(meaning=don't expect your parents to get you out of trouble or to pay for
whatever you want). Parents can remind themselves that making mistakes is
part of growing up; we all learn from our mistakes, including drinking and
getting sick, getting pregnant, being rejected, dropping out of school, being
Young adults, like all of us, need support and love when they are "down."
Give it. Avoid criticism, anger, rejection, and, the parental favorite, you-
should-have-listened-to-me comments. When they are hurting, show love and
concern--but don't rush in to rescue them, let them deal with the problems
they made for themselves. Farmer (1989) provides help to parents trying to
be caring, loving, and at peace with their teenagers. As we will see in
chapters 8 and 9, there are also three especially good general self-help books
for parents and teens: Ginott (1969), Elkind (1984), and Steinberg & Levine
(1990). Straus (1994), writing more for clinicians, focuses on understanding
the violence in the lives of teenagers, both the abuse to them and their
striking out at others.
Several recent writers deal with withdrawn, critical, argumentative, sarcastic,
manipulative teenagers who wear down their worried, overly giving,
permissive, now over-whelmed, and out-of-control parents. Edgette (2002)
offers good advice about avoiding final conflicts, violence, and endless
arguments (e.g. when the teenager will not admit being wrong or that they
need help because they are busy proving their independence). She suggests