shut out

5 Reasons You Are Being Shut Out By Your Teenager

Many years ago, I met weekly with a group of teenage guys. We would meet for breakfast to talk about life, struggles, faith, and relationships. When a couple of the guys in the group got into a fistfight playing basketball, I gathered everyone to discuss it. My goal was to get all of our issues on the table so that type of thing never happened again. It was a long and difficult meeting. I handed out some regrettable and harsh reprimands. However, I thought we left in a good place, but would eventually learn otherwise. The next time I saw them was at a game. When I said, “Hello,” they just kept on walking past me. Many attempts to initiate were met with silence. I was being shut out.

Being shut out by a teenager is a painful experience. Are you getting one word answers and blank stares when you attempt conversation? Is your teenager giving you the cold shoulder? Do you want to know why? Here are 5 reasons you are being shut out by your teenager.

1. They are feeling pressured.

Teenagers today are under more stress than we ever experienced. The expectations placed on them to perform are through the roof. Teens are weighed down by never-ending sports schedules, three-hour nightly homework and studying, forced advanced placement classes, performing arts, community service hours, and holding down part-time jobs. Add to that the social pressures and the awkward changes of adolescence. Teenagers are getting pressure from every area of their life. It’s a lonely feeling. If your teenager sees you as another pressure point rather than an ally, they’ll shut their door and seek refuge.

Advice: Show them empathy regarding the pressure they are under. Do your best to understand it. If they are failing in school, use phrases such as “How can I help you?” or “What can we do about this?” so they know you are there for support. Reduce the amount of activities. They won’t want to so you may have to give them activity choices to cut and set boundaries for their own welfare.   

If your teen sees you as a pressure point rather than an ally, they'll shut the door and seek refuge. Click To Tweet

2. They feel misunderstood.

They have been marginalized. Everyone tells them what to do while giving them little respect. A consistent complaint I heard from teenagers while in their world was that adults didn’t listen to them. They felt like no one understood them nor took the time to get to know them. Many times, adults assume they understand teenagers because they were once one. It’s a poor and dangerous assumption. Not only is each person unique, but the world has changed.

Advice: Assume you know nothing. Gain as much intel as you can. Ask a lot of questions and resist the temptation of telling them what to do. Talk to their friends if they are over. If they start giving you cold one- word answers, back off. They probably feel interrogated. It just means you have to take it slower.   

3. They are tired of being micromanaged.

As adults, we feel like we are just trying to save them from all of our mistakes. So when they do something wrong, we are quick to correct. They see it as constant criticism and feel suffocated. This is exacerbated by the fact that they are already naturally looking to separate from their parents. Sometimes it makes them feel like they can never do anything right in your eyes.

Advice: Let them make some mistakes without criticizing. Give them room to breathe. For every criticism, give them several things about them that make you proud. 

4. They feel as though you haven’t followed through.

It is a huge let down when promises are made and not kept. When it becomes a pattern, you become untrustworthy and undependable. It hurts and they put up walls to protect themselves from the constant let down.

Advice: Apologize for past let downs. Moving forward keep your promises. Always follow-through. Win them back one kept promise at a time.

5. They feel like you cause instability.

The teenage years bring so many changes it is unsettling. The range of changes covers a broad spectrum from the body to feelings and friendships. They feel a lot of instability, internally and externally. If their home is a place of heaviness and stress, they will desire to be somewhere else. This is not meant to be an indictment; it’s just the unfortunate reality. The things that cause instability at home would be marital difficulty, substance abuse, anger issues, and physical or emotional abuse.

Advice: Do your best to make the home a stable place. Most of these issues can be avoided. If there is abuse, seek professional help. Marital difficulty can be hard to avoid. Seek counseling to help navigate the waters.   

Sound Off

Why do you think teenagers shut out adults?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • Corey Sanderson

    I read this stuff about so busy and so much pressure and I am always curious about what they are busy with. What pressure? I see too much coddling and these kids are so spoiled they have no idea how much free time they have. Anyone have any idea what this busy and pressure stuff is really about?

    • BJ_Foster

      In the time I spent with teenagers over the last fifteen years I saw very little free time. Much less than I ever had and I played two sports. Jacob summed up well what I saw. Although he didn’t even mention the mandatory service hours that many schools also require these days. Check out a book called Hurt by Chap Clarke if you want your question answered further.

  • Jacob

    With all due respect Mr. Sanderson. We are not all coddled by our parents. Perhaps, this phenomenon occurs rather frequently in your neighborhood which would be rather alarming. But that is not the case in my own personal story, I would be at school from 8:00am-3:00pm Monday-Friday spending in total 35 hours in school alone. Also chalk up the roughly 2 hours a day Mon-Fri to do homework would bring the total to 45 hours a week. More than what is recognized in the U.S. as a full-time job. But, I am not done yet, after calculating the amount of time at school I then added the hours for my extra curricular. Which was necessary in order to graduate from La Salle High School in good standing. Our band (the Pride of LaSalle) managed to average about 5.5 hours year round (7 in marching band season & 4 in concert band season.) in practice. Bringing the total (so far) up to 50.5 hours a week. Then throwing in the 10-12 hours a week I worked as a cook/dishwasher would bring up the total from anywhere North of 60.5 hours a week to just shy of 62.5 hours weekly. As we can see by the numbers from my own personal experience I would humbly contest that these teenagers are working more than full-time in their lives and as a result are feeling significant pressure. Not being coddled and or spoiled as you so aptly put it.

    • Christine Eby Miller

      And if you have AP classes the amount if homework is at least doubled.

    • Scott Smyth

      I read the article…where does the author say (or imply) that teenagers are being coddled and spoiled these days?

  • NukeWaste

    You havent been in any classroom in a long time. Homework is non-existant. AP classes are dumbed down so that more kids will take them. Grades are argued constantly. Volunteering (working for free) We did this 30 years ago. Very few of my students (last 10 years) did anything for free. They mostly did low skilled work for minimum wage and slept in class. Do your first 2 years at a Community College and you can dispense with most of this crap.
    I don’t know where you are going to school, Jacob. But it isn’t here!

    • BJ_Foster

      Interesting. That hasn’t been my experience in working with teenagers over the last 15 years in multiple states. Many of my colleagues doing similar work with teens across the country reported the same. You must have seen something different where you teach.

  • Darrell G. Walton

    A lot of the problem is rooted in what and how our society of today institutes to purposely destroy the family.

    Culturally and legislatively children in general have been given “rights” as to supersede parents right to raise their kids as they see fit.

    With that programmed into them from outside and what we allow of that into our homes via media etc., parents are the enemy they and their peer groups are to be skeptical of.

    If a parent doesn’t baby and coddle, or negotiate, everything of their tender little snowflake’s nurturing, mores, values, as to turn the reigns of their raising to the “cool” worldly status quo, it gets declared amongst the several catorgories as abuse.

    All the things that parents are impeded in the nurturing of the hard things when it comes to authority and respect these days as these kids coming into the workforce are turning into an emotional minefield dealing with their tantrums and immaturities when they aren’t given their choice or way on the job.

    We need to fight, prevent or deprogram the world significantly before the right things parents need to nurture their kids can be effective as to build them into strong men and women that don’t have to be coddled and seek to be confident by lessons learned in all they do.

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing I do that you wish I didn’t?”

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing I do that you wish I didn’t?”

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