Honest Advice to Teens About Getting What You Want

As a therapist who works with many teenagers and their families, there’s one thing I can say about teenagers: you know how to push your parents’ buttons. Instinctively, it seems, you come with an arsenal of tools to get what you want, avoid getting into trouble, or cause your parents to blow a fuse out of frustration. And for what, a short-term gain perhaps? A sense of control for manipulating your parents?

Then throw on top of that raising your voice, slamming the door, and throwing a tantrum – you’ve only made matters worse. Even if you wear your parents down and get your way, you still lose. You lose their respect and their trust, and demonstrate your own immaturity—factors that will likely undermine your chances at a later date. So let’s consider a more effective approach!

Think about what it is your parents need from you. I know you know, I’ve worked with enough of you to know that you know! It’s trust; and if you want to be trusted, show that you are trustworthy. The question then is how does one show trustworthiness?

Make wise decisions

To be trustworthy, people need to make good (or at least better) decisions. Teens often push the limits as they explore them, causing stress and tension for everyone involved. This often makes a challenge out of the normal concerns that parents already have trusting their teen. A phone call and checking in goes a long way toward demonstrating your maturity and respect for parents. Trust is built when wisdom is demonstrated.

Honor Commitments

There are things you want to do and things you have to do. Planning ahead will help you accomplish what you have to do so you'll have time and trust to do what you want to. If you can work out your transportation, if you can get home by your curfew, if you can promise that adults are present, if you can get your homework and chores done first, then "Yes, you may” comes a whole lot easier. If you can answer parental concerns, they will give you more freedom!

Take Responsibility

Choose to be proactive if you want to go places and earn perks from your parents. Don't wait to be nagged before doing chores around the house. The little things add up. Making your bed and keeping your room tidy goes a long way, and you may be surprised how your actions improve your parents' attitude toward you.

Accept No for an Answer

Learn to accept a “no” every once in a while (”no’s” are a part of real life for adults too, by the way) and communicate often with your parents about what is going on in your life. Most times it’s rather painless. It is an exercise in maturity to be okay without things going our way.

I believe that there are many more ways of getting to “no” than there are for getting to a “yes”. These few simple steps can make a world of difference in your ability to getting to “yes” - a yes for both you and your parents. You might be surprised how many times you will hear: "Yes. Have a good time and be safe."

Remember Ephesians 6:1-3 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise."

About the author — Gregory Rodriguez, MA, LCPC

Gregory Rodriguez is an Illinois Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Chicago Christian Counseling Center. His expertise includes helping individuals dealing with depression, anxiety, sexuality concerns, life transitions, parenting, marriage, family (particularly with teens) and couples counseling. His passion is working with men and their families for more effective fathering/parenting.

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