Should parents treat teenagers like adults or children?

Cheeky asks: I’m 19 and I have a boyfriend whom currently I’ve been having problems with when it comes to my mom. Mom is always on our nerves and doesn’t want us together so she is kinda trying to destroy our relationship. She doesn’t want to accept that I’m a grown-up now and that I have a say when it comes to anything that I do. She treats me as if I’m a 10-year-old and I don’t like that at all. I just want to live a normal life whereby they consider my opinion and choices too. What should I do to make Mom accept the fact that I really do love him and that I’m now grown up, because it’s really stressing me up?

Hi Cheeky –

Okay, I’m going to take BOTH sides of this one.  Sorry, but that’s what we dogs are like – we like everyone!


First of all, of course you’re right.  You have a relationship that’s just right for you right now, and your mom is trying to get in the way of it, treating you like a child.  She’s missing the fact that you need to grow in order to learn from experience.  I’ll guess she’s hoping you get married someday.  Well, wouldn’t she prefer you know some things about boys and yourself before you make that giant commitment?  Wouldn’t she want you to be more sophisticated than you were at age ten?

So yes, she should give you the space to have this relationship.


But Second… while you feel you’re fully grown, you’re still young.  Your brain will be developing for another five years or so.  You are at a glorious stage of life, full of passions and excitement, which can lead you into some not-so-great places.  And you will change over the next ten years.  Possibly a lot.


So where does that leave us?  I’d say that your mom is doing what she thinks is best, and her intentions are great, but she just needs to give you more space.


When my human friend Handsome brought me home from the pound, I wanted to play with every dog I could.  But our veterinarian told him to wait till I was six months old, because I was too susceptible to some diseases.  So I didn’t get to play with any  dogs for a few months!  Then I got old enough, and he took me to a dog park, and I went NUTS.  So excited, chasing other dogs to play with them…   and I got nothing but rejected.  No dogs would play with me at all.  It was really painful.

But Handsome kept bringing me back to the park, and over time I learned the right ways to behave, so that dogs would play with me.  And it became my favorite place in the world, and I became very popular there.

So imagine if Handsome had said no, there are diseases and mean dogs, so he never took me there at all.  Or if, when I had a bad time, he never brought me back.   My life would be so much worse!

But also imagine if he’d said “forget that vet, go play,” and sent me outside to find other dogs.  I might have gotten some diseases… or beaten up, or run over by a car!

His job was to “thread the needle,” to do just enough and not too much.


That’s your mom’s job too.


To keep you safe, to be there for you, to advise you… and to give you the space to grow, to make your mistakes, to find your strengths.


If you’d asked me how to get your mother to let the two of you marry, I’d be telling you to listen to her, as she knows about how humans change in their twenties.  But it sounds like you just want to be able to enjoy your time with your boyfriend.  And parents who get in the way of that usually find their kids either leaving them behind, or over-rebelling to a self-destructive degree, or both.


So my suggestion is to sit her down and talk with her.  Tell her (even if it’s not totally true!) that you want and value her advice.  And that you’re not making any permanent, unchangeable decisions right now.

But that you need to live your life.  And at this moment, that includes this boyfriend.


And see what she says.  I’ll guess that she’ll be very happy to see you acting this way.  In fact, it’ll help her adjust to the idea that you’re not a ten-year-old!  And hopefully she’ll understand.


If she doesn’t, let me know, and we can move on from there.  But for now, I think this is the best thing to do.



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