How to tackle strict parents

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 12:00am

Being a teenager is tough enough without having to deal with all sorts of different rules that just seem to cramp your style.

We understand how difficult it is to deal with discipline issues involving parents - especially when you don't see eye to eye on what's fair or reasonable. The situation can seem even more stressful when you feel that your parents are too strict.

First of all, it's important to remember that being a parent isn't easy. I know it looks simple - I thought that my mother and father had an easy job because they got to do whatever they wanted to do, while I had to simply follow the rules.

Yet honestly? It's not easy to raise children, so try to keep that in mind before flying off the handle and blaming your parents for making your life miserable.

A parent's role is to keep you safe and healthy, while - at the same time - providing you with opportunities to reach your full potential. Naturally, they want to make sure that you live the best life that you can and so sometimes you're not going to agree on the best way to do this.

So what's the smart way of dealing with a situation that you feel is too strict and unfair?

First, take some time to calm down and reflect on your own behaviour. Have you done or said something that has angered or upset your parents? Could you have acted differently? Perhaps there's a better way for you to behave - can you compromise and take any action that might change your environment to make it a more positive one that works for everyone?

Next, consider how to approach your parents. Many teenagers are too afraid to sit down and have a serious conversation with adults, but if you prepare well and keep your emotions under control, you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

If one of your parents is less likely to want to have a discussion, then quietly ask your other parent if he or she could help you to arrange it. Whatever happens, remain calm and do not become angry or confrontational.

In some households, teenagers might not be able to speak freely to their parents. Even if you can, another option is to seek outside help from a trusted grown-up who has your and your family's best interests at heart. This could be a school counsellor, a teacher or a family friend. Explain the situation to them and ask if they would be willing to be a mediator if necessary.

Be prepared to meet in the middle. If your parents want you to return home by 9pm at the weekend, then show that you are mature and responsible by accepting this curfew. After a few weeks or months, point out that you have been following the rules and would like to know if you can re-negotiate a slightly extended time with which your parents are still comfortable.

Meeting in the middle also means doing your homework on the issue. Think about and write down what is bothering you most: the rules that you feel are unfair and why; the reasons you consider these rules unfair; how you are prepared to behave in order to foster your parents' trust in you and how you can contribute more to both chores and general contentment in the household.

At first, you might find that your parents are unwilling to meet you half way, especially if you have not respected their rules in the past. Empty promises are the fastest way to a negative situation, so by showing your mother and father that you really are serious, there is more of a chance that they will listen to you.

How can you demonstrate your commitment to being a more positive contributor to the family? You could ask your parents what they would like you to do, or offer to take on additional responsibilities within the home. Most importantly, follow through on what you're doing - don't be enthusiastic for a day or two and then give up because you're bored or feeling lazy.

Above all, the golden rule of thumb is not to 'throw your toys out of the pram'. This means not whining, running away, throwing or hitting things, slamming doors - generally acting immaturely. It's fine to express your feelings - but in a mature way, not like a spoilt child. When you feel your temper is reaching boiling point, find ways to let off steam, such as taking a long run, or punching a pillow.

It takes time to show your parents that you are mature enough to be trusted. Sometimes, though, they will refuse to see your side and will continue to be strict. Simply do your best to show your willingness to compromise and create a better environment for you all.

If nothing changes and you are feeling that you cannot cope, speak to an adult whom you trust - don't battle alone.