When Teens Make Parents Feel Guilty

Many teens are talented at making their parents feel guilty. Their protests over your actions can be endless… “I have the earliest curfew.” “None of my friends have to stay home for family movie night on Fridays.” “You are invading my privacy when you look at my cell phone!” It can make a parent doubt every move they make. Teens know how to push their parents’ buttons in order to get what they want or avoid getting into trouble. These tactics are meant to throw you off balance and feel uncertain. Regardless of how your teen acts or what they say, it’s okay for you to make family rules that fit with your values. Do not let your teen make you feel bad about taking your job as parent seriously.

It’s a balancing act, as with many aspects of parenting. For example, you want to allow your teen to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, but not in situations that are dangerous to their safety. Finding that balance is difficult. You must allow your teen more decision-making, privacy, and responsibilities, but not at the expense of your own wellness or the overall happiness of the entire family.

To help guide you on the right path, here are some explanations of a parent’s rights and responsibilities when raising an adolescent:

Parental Responsibilities

As a parent, you have the following responsibilities to your teen:

To provide necessities. Every teen is entitled to food, clothing, shelter, safety, supervision, medical care, and education. It is your job to keep your teen safe, whether that’s mentally or physically.

To correct and guide your children. When your teen reaches adolescence, you become a life coach. It is your responsibility to provide advice, resources, and suggestions for achieving a fulfilling life and becoming a responsible adult. You also have the responsibility of disciplining your teen when they veer off course. But how you express your guidance makes all the difference in how a teen receives it. Avoid blaming, criticizing, name-calling, lecturing or yelling when correcting them.

The responsibility to set and enforce rules. Parents must establish house and family rules that fit within their values. While it is a good idea for parents to consult teens in setting rules, the parents are the final authority. Examples of rules that need to be established are curfews, zero tolerance for illegal substance use, who can be a guest in your home and when, and who is responsible for which household chores. Along with the right to set rules is the responsibility to enforce them with consistent consequences. No parent should feel guilty for taking away privileges when a teen has knowingly broken a rule.

The responsibility to say no. If a parent believes that something is not safe for their teen, they have a responsibility to say no, even if their teen announces that they are the worst parent in the world. While it’s a good idea for parents to explain their reasoning to their children in an attempt to get them to understand, realize that along the way, this can become your teen’s primary form of manipulating you. They can over-negotiate until you feel too tired to say no anymore, or you may give in to gain your child’s approval or acceptance. Explain once and then stand by your “no” without guilt.

The responsibility to demonstrate love. While you should avoid embarrassing your teen (such as giving your teen a huge hug in front of their friends), letting your teen know on a daily basis that you care is important. It can be a simple text message during the day or a kind word of praise over dinner or taking the time to listen to their issues seriously, but your teen should feel your love. Things that parents sometimes use to express love, but actually do NOT demonstrate care, are material indulgence, leniency, low expectations, and over-protection.

Parental Rights

While parents have many important responsibilities, they also have rights. If not checked, teens can begin to treat their parents as a doormat. Regardless of what your teen says, you are entitled to the following:

To be treated with respect. Parents, siblings, and family members should be treated with respect. This means that everyone should act in a way that demonstrates they care about others’ feelings and well-being. Parents should role model values such as honesty and courtesy, while avoiding behaviors such as calling people names, yelling, putting down others’ ideas, or taking actions to hurt someone’s feelings, possessions, or physical body. Teens should be expected to follow these same values and parents should enforce them. Although teens should be encouraged to voice their opinions, they should respect a parent’s final decision in any matter.

To be given information. Parents should ask questions and expect that they will be answered truthfully. Parents have the right to know where their teenagers are, who they are with and what they are doing. While teens do not have to go into details about private matters, like their thoughts about their date, they do have to let parents know things like the location of the party they will be attending and who is chaperoning the party. Parents also have the right to verify their children’s whereabouts, such as calling host parents of parties or overnight stays.

To talk with anyone involved in your teen’s life. Parents can consult with anyone who influences their child. This can include teachers, coaches, youth group ministers, doctors, friends, and parents of friends. Parents also have a right to monitor their teen’s school life.

To promote family unity. Parents must protect the family, and part of that, is to create harmony among its members. To build strong bonds and relationships, parents have a right to expect their children to share meals as a family as well as participate in family outings, traditions, vacations, and family meetings.

To monitor technology. Parents need to keep their teens safe online. The internet poses many safety concerns ranging from cyberbullying to sexual predators. Whether it’s through a laptop, tablet or cell phone, parents must monitor their children’s online activity. Teens may protest that you are invading their privacy by following them on Instagram, but that’s the point… anyone can see their posts, so parents should be just as aware of their teen’s posts as anyone else is.

To make mistakes and change their minds. No one is perfect, and mistakes happen. Instead of feeling guilty about mistakes or trying to hide them, parents should role model how to shift a mistake into a life lesson. When parents make mistakes, they should: admit they’ve made an error or a poor decision; apologize to anyone they may have hurt, including their teen; and forgive themselves for the mistake and its consequences. When you apologize and receive forgiveness, you model a vital life skill for your teen and move from a bad situation to a more hopeful place.

Final Thoughts…

You have rights as a parent and a responsibility to ensure your teen is safe and becomes a responsible and productive adult. Don’t allow your teen to manipulate you into doubting your decisions. Stick to your values and follow the tips above and rest assured that you are performing your role well!

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