Worries Parents Have About Their Teens
Children should be raised with patience and supportive guidance.
Posted December 11, 2022 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- When teenagers act selfishly, they are reprising their role as a younger child.
- Emotions are regulated in part by the frontal lobe, which does not mature until the mid-20s.
- It is helpful when both the parents and teens remain patient with the maturation process.
This post discusses some common worries that parents express about their teens, which can be addressed in part through the recognition that the teens are only in the midst of their rapid developmental process. A previous post discussed common worries that teens have about themselves, which can be addressed similarly.
My child is selfish
Teenagers often act selfishly and do not appear to take other people’s feelings into account, to the chagrin of their parents. During therapy sessions, I explain to the parents and their teens that in early childhood, adults build the world for their children and meet their needs. From the young children’s perspective, the world exists to respond to their needs.
That begins to change in adolescence when children need to learn to adjust their expectations, start to meet their own needs, and learn to respond to the needs of others.
Since teenagers are on the journey between infancy and adulthood, when they act selfishly, they are reprising their role as a younger child. I suggest that teens should understand and embrace the course of their life journey, and that they and their parents remain patient as the teens work their way toward a more altruistic adulthood.
Parents can help their teenagers to move beyond selfishness by acting as good role models, including by helping others through being good neighbors, being supportive friends to their peers, helping within their communities, and engaging in charitable activities.
Parents can also help by teaching their children to think about how other people might feel, and about application of the golden rule, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
My child repeatedly disregards our instructions
Parents often become exasperated when their teens repeatedly break family rules, are disrespectful, fail to take care of personal hygiene, or refuse to participate in completing chores as a member of the household.
The parents wonder and worry why their intelligent children do not choose to improve their behavior, and often become belligerent when their parents attempt to engage them in a conversation about how their behavior might improve.
I remind parents and teens about how children learn to walk as toddlers. They walk or run a few steps, fall down, get up, and repeat the process many, many times until they master walking easily. When they become teenagers, children often become clumsier, as their brains need time to adjust to dealing with longer and larger extremities. In time, they figure it out.
I suggest that an analogous process is taking place with behavior during adolescence. Teens need to be reminded how to improve, fail to do so, and start again repeatedly until finally they will master being responsible for their actions. Once again, the key is for both the parents and teens to remain patient with the maturational process.
To help teenagers become more cooperative, it is important for parents to discuss with their children how the situation might be improved. The teenager's point of view should be listened to carefully and treated with respect to secure their buy-in. When teenagers believe strongly in a less-than-ideal solution for a non-critical issue, parents should allow that solution to be implemented so that their teens can learn from their own mistakes.
Many teenagers dislike being told what to do at unpredictable times during the day. They become much more cooperative when given a checklist of tasks that need to be completed throughout the day, which they can accomplish at their own pace.
My child often acts thoughtlessly
Teens are well known for making impulsive, careless decisions, which are often spurred by encouragement from their friends. Many teens sometimes regret their choices, but at other times defend strongly that they made the right choice for themselves.
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Notably, when I have had the opportunity to speak with the subconscious of teens who insist they were correct in their actions, sometimes their subconscious states that the teens made the wrong choice.
I remind teens and their parents that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s. That part of the brain plays a major role in impulse control, emotional regulation, and well as decision-making (Arain, 2013). Thus, the lack of a fully functional frontal lobe leads to teens’ predilection to impulsively make the wrong choice, given the excitement of being in a group, and while not paying attention to their knowledge about the consequences of their decision.
I explain to teens that they should keep in mind the fact that they are poor at making good choices in the spur of the moment, and thus should give themselves sufficient time to think things out before acting. By so doing, teens can learn how to act more responsibly. I reassure teens and their parents that as the teens mature, their decision-making abilities will improve significantly.
As an aside, I believe that teens who demonstrate immature decision-making abilities should be encouraged to postpone learning how to drive because of the extreme danger of making a wrong decision while driving.
Parents play an important role in helping their children become happy and secure adults by providing guidance and acting as good role models, while remaining patient and supportive as their teens go through the rapid changes associated with adolescence.
Arain, Mariam, et al. 2013. “Maturation of the adolescent brain.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 9:449–461.
More information about the subconscious and its use in helping teenagers is available in the 2021 book "Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center," by Ran D. Anbar. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.