“Why Must My Daughter Go Against Everything I’ve Taught Her?”


From a recent discussion with a struggling parent of a teen daughter:

  • I taught her to dress modestly. She goes to school and rolls up her skirt at the waist to make it shorter.
  • I taught her not to gossip. She is involved in hurtful, hateful conversations with her friends on Snapchat about other girls.
  • I taught her to be honest and open. She is sneaky and dishonest with me.
  • I taught her to be patient and kind. She is cruel and impatient with me.

“I know that teens go through rebellious stages. But our family has always been so close and loving. I didn’t expect it to be this hard. When she rejects everything we taught her, it makes me feel like I have done something wrong raising her. And it also makes me angry with her. Doesn’t she appreciate how good she has it, being born into this family?”

Parenting teenagers is difficult, especially when they don’t accept our lessons and adopt our values. Some teens need to push back, even though they have good relationships with their parents. For some, going against what parents taught them is part of how they grow. Teens may even need to make the exact mistakes we warned them against in order to truly understand the lesson.

Adolescence is a time to prepare for adulthood. The entire stage is about exploration, and hopefully that exploration happens under the supervision of parents. But some teens don’t want to be supervised; they want to sit in the driver’s seat of life go out on their own. Teens often feel a strong impulse to figure things out for themselves, and being told what to do or believe by parents just doesn’t fill the need to find their own way.

As teens become more aware with age, they don’t simply take our word for things anymore. They want to explore the world and test it out for themselves. They don’t believe us. As their own minds come fully online, they want to gain experience and form opinions of their own, rather than adopt ours without question.

Parents want to just tell their kids how the world works. We are experienced, and we want them to learn by being told what we know. But it just doesn’t work that way, and it can be maddening.

For the parent of a teen who needs to defy the rules or do things her way:

1.     Stop trying to convince her to see things your way. It will backfire.

2.     Make the rules. Enforce the rules.

3.     Let the rules be her teacher if she won’t listen to you.

4.     Talk to someone who has been there, so you can hear that it turns out okay.

5.     Remind yourself that this too shall pass.

Posted on April 2, 2018 .