Managing Rebellious Teenagers - Tips for Single Parents
It is all too easy for single parents to let guilt cloud their judgement when teenagers start becoming rebellious. If you end up blaming yourself for unacceptable (if tiresomely normal) adolescent behaviour, you could easily end up making it worse. Thoughts like “She’s really missing having a mum around now,” or “I let them go through so much turmoil when I was with their dad” or “He’s not coping with me being back on the dating scene” may apparently explain (and excuse) everything, but they solve nothing.
The great psychologist Donald Winnicott actively discouraged parents, whether singles or couples, from trying to be perfect or make everything completely alright. He knew this was impossible. For Winnicott, being a “good enough” parent was, well, good enough. That means being kind to yourself. It also be means being resilient – something that becomes easier when you stop beating yourself up.
Teenagers do not need harsh, rigid parenting or soft, blancmange-like permissiveness – they need resilience. Letting them push you to the point where you either retaliate furiously or collapse in a heap will do no good. It is not only normal, it is necessary for teenagers to start testing the boundaries. This is how they work out where they stand and how much independence they can handle. Behaviourally, they are renegotiating the rule book – the “coming in” times and “bedtimes” of earlier childhood no longer fit.
However, you do have to be prepared to negotiate. If your teen wants to stay out later, but came home after midnight on Saturday after promising to be back before 9.00pm, you have a bargaining chip. Be prepared to move a little. Agree on 9.30pm, perhaps, but on condition that you know where he or she is and with whom. Also, make it clear that if they are late, you will be coming to get them. Embarrassment can be a great deterrent.