A couple weeks ago, my wife and I were trying to get everyone into the car so we wouldn’t be late. Suddenly, I realized my 16-year-old daughter was still in the house. I found her in her room, still trying to decide which shirt to wear. I quickly explained that either option is fine and that we were going to be late. Without warning, she started crying, still unable to decide on a shirt. In moments like that, most of us wonder why teenagers act the way they do.
Adolescent behaviors can be very frustrating for parents. But if we keep in mind that these behaviors are part of our kids’ natural psychological development, we more easily can help them get through this stage as smoothly as possible. We may never totally understand why teenagers act the way they do. And as challenging as it can be to deal with frustrations, here are four frustrating traits that your teen should have.
Adolescents will argue about anything.
Adolescents’ cognitive abilities develop at different rates. Many teens have developed the ability to form an argument to support their opinion, but they have not fully developed the ability to view the world from other perspectives. This leads to frustration when our kids argue with us constantly yet don’t appear to listen. As frustrating as it may be, this is natural. Developing an argument is a skill necessary for adult life—a skill teens need to practice. They also need to continue to develop the ability to see other points of view.
How you can help the situation: Set rules of engagement. Encourage your kids to think about an opinion before stating it, to be respectful while expressing an opinion, and to listen to the other side with an open mind.
Adolescents find it very difficult to make decisions.
Our adolescent children have reached the stage where they have the ability to imagine hypothetical situations. This leads to idealized thoughts. When they are faced with a question, they believe there is an ideal answer. This leads to indecision as they constantly worry about making the wrong choices. To deal with this fear, they will often avoid making decisions.
How you can help the situation: Don’t get frustrated when teens struggle to make small decisions. Even a simple decision may cause teens more anxiety than we think it should. Help guide them with the big questions. Let them know you are available if they want to talk and be willing to listen and support them when they do.
Adolescents begin to see flaws in adults.Be willing to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and that your kids are starting to realize it.
Another effect of adolescents having idealized thoughts is their realization that we, their parents, are not the ideal parents. If we think back to when we were in school, we can probably find many more flaws with our high school teachers than our elementary teachers. When we were young, we trusted adults and assumed they were always right. When we became adolescents, we started to realize that everyone is fallible and everyone has flaws. When our children become adolescents, they begin to realize we aren’t perfect—and they are right.
How you can help the situation: Don’t take it personally. Be willing to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and that your kids are starting to realize it. But at the same time, keep striving to be the best you can be.
Adolescents rationalize their mistakes.
As the adolescent mind matures, teens begin to develop the ability to engage in abstract thought. When something goes wrong in a teen’s life, he or she is now able to think of various reasons why it happened. When they combine this with their need to maintain positive self-esteem, they will blame their mistakes on any of the many alternative reasons they can conceive to avoid admitting fault.
How you can help the situation: When your adolescent tries to blame the teacher for a bad test grade, a sibling for making him or her late, or homework for causing him or her to forget to take out the trash, assure your teen that everyone makes mistakes. But also remind your teen it’s important to accept responsibility and learn from the mistake.
Sound off: What would you say to a fellow dad who complains about why teenagers act the way they do?
Huddle up with your teen and ask, “What is the hardest decision you’ve recently had to make?”