It’s Saturday evening and all your friends have gone to an all-night beach party at the end of exams, but you are sulking in your darkened bedroom, because your parents would not let you go. The scene was spectacular, you screamed at each other and it all ended with lots of tears and slammed doors. But still no party.
You lie there convinced that they must be the worst and most unreasonable parents on earth. And right now, that’s certainly what it feels like.
Are there things you can do to reduce the fighting and get them to listen to what you have to say before they bluntly refuse to let you do something you really would like to?
Parents, quite rightly, see the world as a scary place. Newspapers report on drugs, teenage pregnancies, rapes and abductions regularly. Parents are scared that one of these things could happen to you and therefore they sometimes look like professional spoilsports. If you want to try and find out what they feel, remember what you felt like and what you were thinking when your cat or dog went missing for a day or two?
Handling your parents in a mature way
Accept that they are just people. They also have their moods, limited funds and who can sometimes be unreasonable, just like you can be sometimes.
Try and discuss the rules. But try not to get involved in a shouting match. If you cannot do this, write them a letter in which you state your case. Make sure the letter does not have a demanding or accusing tone, in which case it will get you nowhere. It should contain no threats – these are a sign of immaturity.
Listen to what they say.And don't interrupt them. Summarise to them what they have said, for example, “So the reasons you don’t want me to go to the party are that there will be no adult supervision and there will be alcohol on sale.” In this way they know that you have listened, not merely waited to talk.
Choose your time carefully. When your mom comes in from work, all stressed out and carrying endless shopping bags, it is not the time for you to ask for a new pair of jeans.
State your reasons carefully. Say clearly why you want something or go somewhere. “Everyone’s got new jeans” or “Angie’s mother said she could go” are not good reasons. The first one, because in most households, new jeans for you would mean someone else could be losing out on something and the second one, because your mother might react badly if she feels you are playing her up against someone else’s mother.
Prove to them that you are trustworthy. If you promise to be home by 10 pm, make sure that you are. Next time they will be more inclined to let you go.
Bring your friends home. In this way your parents can get to know them personally rather than just mere names that get mentioned. If they like them, they will be more inclined to let you go out with them.
Keep your phone switched on.If you are lucky enough to have a cellphone or a pager, keep it switched on, so they can contact you if they are worried. Always carry a phonecard for a public telephone with you.
Earn your pocket money. If you have done all the ironing, washed the car and scrubbed the garage floor, they might react more positively to your request for money or permission to go somewhere.
Don't lose control.Remember that shouting and screaming never got anyone anywhere. You might feel like screaming blue murder and you might have every right to do so, but doing so reduces your chances of getting what you want. Hanging around with a lower lip dangling on the floor will also raise rather than lower the emotional temperatures in the home.
Accept it when they say no. Be as pleasant as you can about it, which will quite possibly make them feel a lot more guilty than when you performed like a demented rockstar. A performance like this will make them feel their authority is being challenged and they might become even stricter than before.
Earn some cash elsewhere. Try and earn some money outside of the home so that you can have a measure of independence. Your parents will also respect you for it and might tend to be a bit more lenient as they will see you acting responsibly in the job that you are doing.
Acknowledge you parents’ fears. If they are scared that you will fall pregnant, get someone pregnant, get HIV, go on drugs, get involved with the wrong boy or girl or get your heart broken, tell them that you can understand why they feel this way. There is no point in denying the reality of these things. This will only make them think that you are not aware of the dangers that lurk out there, and need to protect you even further. Promise them that you will leave a party if there are things happening that don’t make you feel comfortable.
Sometimes parents are unreasonable. Such as when they inflict age-inappropriate rules. To expect a seventeen-year-old to sit at home all weekend, is unreasonable. It is sometimes difficult for parents to accept that their children are growing up. And the thought terrifies them. Speak to another family member or friend of your parents if you feel the rules imposed on you are ridiculous. If they feel that way too, get them to speak to your parents on your behalf.
Avoid sweeping statements.If you are having a discussion, never make personal attacks or sweeping statements, such as ‘You never let me do anything’, or ‘What did I do to deserve a father like you?’ You will only get parents’ backs up and they will not make concessions to you if you behave in this manner.
Plan to move out. This should only be resorted to if things are really intolerable and when you have finished school. This you can only do if you earn money of your own, so getting some form of employment will be essential. Life is expensive out there, as you will see when you have to start paying for rent, electricity and food yourself, but sometimes the freedom it brings, is worth making sacrifices for.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)