There's no shortage of conflict between teens and adults.
When it comes down to it, the majority of our interactions with teens are about conflict, specifically conflicting priorities.
We just returned from a few days of a family vacation, and, looking back, there were a few good moments to be sure. If I'm honest, though, those were the rare moments when all of our priorities were aligned. In other words, everyone got what they wanted. We saw a movie together—a movie everyone wanted to see. We had a fancy dinner one night—at a restaurant everyone likes. But, the rest of the time? Filled with conflict.
What, then, do kids want? Primarily, they want to make independent choices. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. As annoying as that can be, it's helpful to remember how critical that desire is for them from a developmental perspective. They need to learn how to govern their life for themselves, and deep inside they're driven towards independence.
There are a few problems with that, however:
Now, it's also important to take a look in the mirror, too. If I were totally transparent, I'd admit that I like to be in charge, too. I am fiercely independent, I have a lot going on, and I want all of our kids to get with my program. When it comes to clashing priorities, that's typically where the problem lies.
There's another level to it, though. When I see my kids make choices that I disagree with or don't understand, it triggers my anxiety. I worry if they'll ever take responsibility for themselves. I worry if they're getting lapped by their peers. I worry if they'll become pushovers or wallflowers. I worry if they'll ever become thoughtful and respectful. It's anxiety, plain and simple. And every time I choose to act out of my anxiety rather than take a step back and a deep breath, I make the conflict worse.
Clashing priorities with our kids is annoying, but it's part of the deal. Through conflict we both learn how to be in a family, stay committed to each other, and work through problems to find solutions that work for everyone. We learn to give and take, surrender when we need to, and own our desires, too. In other words, it's training for life.
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For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.
They're uncommon sense ideas, really.
Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).