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Adolescents and Power Struggles at Home

Family life is not always predictable or stable even during the best of circumstances. The issues of power, authority, and responsibility are constantly shifting, especially when the household includes an adolescent. It’s impossible to eliminate all the potential for conflict. When conflicts occur (because they will eventually) within your family, perhaps some of the following ideas may help.

Making – and Breaking – the Rules

~ Keeping expectations realistic. It’s important to have rules in the household. Rules are made and repeated. When they are broken, confront that person. You must be realistic and understand that rules will sometimes be broken. Threats don’t work and physical control is not possible. Confronting is the best way we have to teach rules. When you confront your adolescent, you are reminding him or her of what’s “right,” whether she chooses to listen or not. Step 1: State clearly that he or she has broken a rule. Step 2: State that breaking a rule is not OK. Step 3: State that the rule is still in effect. Then, follow through with consequences – time after time. Always make the consequences fair and fitting.

~ Disobedience does not mean anarchy. It is simply disobedience, which is “normal” from an adolescent who is attempting to define his or her own self. An adolescent doesn’t want to overthrow the parental power system, he or she just wants to challenge it. Adolescents want and needs your rules, sometimes for no other reason than just to test them and you! Remember that communication is key. Let your adolescent know that you are there to listen to his or her concerns. Be adaptable enough to make new rules if the ones you have don’t serve you both well.

~ Respect your adolescents’ right to say what he or she has to say. Even if your adolescent is being hostile, irrational, or nonsensical, don’t interrupt or stop he or she from expressing him or herself. If you are in the midst of an argument and you really just want to say, “No!” consider pushing through that temptation to gather some useful insights. You might say something like, “Tell me why this is so important to you,” or “What is it that you really want?”

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