lynde asks: How do I get what I want from my parents without being disrespectful?
Hi Lynde –
This is a great question, one which teens have been struggling with for centuries. And that’s because the teen years are, by definition, a time when humans begin to develop in ways that go against their parents. By that, do I mean that they have to rebel against their parents’ authority and values? Well, lots of the time, yes!
Think of it as the opposite of weaning. You’ll see puppies or kittens whose mothers are very happy to let them nurse on them. But eventually the little folks get bigger (and start to get sharp teeth!), and the mother has to tell them “No, you can’t eat here anymore!” Usually that involves pushing her young away, or even nipping at them. They have to learn to eat in other ways.
Well, there comes a point when a human is a teenager when they sort of have to wean their parents! In order to become true adults, they have to push their parents away, defy their authority, make up their own minds for themselves about things.
Now if the parents are closed-minded, unfair, or even kind of stupid, it’s easy for the teen to know what to rebel against. But what if the parents are thoughtful, considerate, really great people? How in the world can you rebel against that, without making yourself a bad person?!
Well, there are a lot of ways. For example, the worldwide music industry thrives on the fact that teens will start listening to music their parents don’t like. It’s very common for teenagers to choose different political parties to those their parents support. Adolescents will often become more concerned with morality, to the point that they feel their parents (who might be perfectly good, moral people) aren’t moral enough in their eyes.
But then we get to your question. If you want something that the parent doesn’t want you to have, how can you get it without being disrespectful? Well, my answer is… you probably can’t. But what’s funny is, that’s a good thing!
You see, you have to show a little disrespect for your parents! That’s part of that “weaning” I was talking about. You need to be able to express to them that you have the Right to want this thing, and that it doesn’t matter if they don’t like it. And that that fact actually proves that you’re becoming your own person, which means they’ve been successes as parents – far more than the other parent whose kids aren’t strong or daring enough to confront them! (I know, it’s complicated!).
Now I’ve been making an assumption here, that the reason you weren’t getting what you wanted is that your parents didn’t agree with it. But if the problem is that they simply can’t afford it, that’s another issue, and you really need to find another way of getting it. Let’s say you want a car and your parents say they can’t afford to get you one. Well, what if you got a job after school, and saved up enough to pay for half of a car, and pay all your own fuel and repair and insurance costs? Well, then they very well might chip in to give you enough to pay the rest of the cost of the car, because they’d be so impressed with what you’ve done.
Are you noticing a pattern, Lynde? The trick is to make your parents feel good about what you’re doing, and about giving you what you want. Sit down with them, tell them in a mature way why you want it, listen to their concerns, and answer them. If you can do that, most likely you’ll make them so happy they’ll do whatever they can for you.
Even though, in a way, you’re behaving with some disrespect. But this sort is actually pleasing to most parents. Whereas whining, screaming, insulting, yelling, and smashing things really aren’t!