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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Teens and Parents: A Real Life Battle

Written by  Efrat Hakak

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A teenager is old enough to want to make her own decisions.
A parent knows that a teenager is old enough to really screw up her life.

We received a letter from a 15-year-old girl describing a familiar situation:

Julie wants to buy a car with money given to her by her grandparents. Her parents have forbidden her, claiming that it's too dangerous. Using the old parental formula, "as long as you live under our roof," they are asserting their power, while Julie characteristically believes herself a responsible adult, and her parents overprotective. "It's MY money, not yours," cries the teenager.

"My money, my life, my decision..."
"But it's my house, and you're my child..."

It's almost a cliche?: Teenage independence versus parental control.
Parental fears of teenage recklessness versus teenage plea for trust.
A child's need for freedom versus a parent's desire to protect.

So what can a girl/guy do?

Do you convince your parents through logic and reason that you are responsible? Is that even possible?

Do you openly rebel? You might as well be irresponsible, if you aren't benefiting from being responsible!

Do you accept your parent's dictates and pray for your eighteenth birthday? At least you don't have to pay for room and board yet.

We asked two WholeFamily advisors to explore this question.

Erin, a teenager herself, optimistically believes that a 15-year-old can persuade her parents through patience and common sense. Eventually a teenager can overcome her parent's fears, if they are indeed unreasonable. Erin offers a number of suggestions to accomplish this goal.

Do you convince your parents through logic and reason that you are responsible? Is that even possible?

Susan, a family counselor, and herself a seasoned mom, comments practically: "The bottom line is that they are the parents and you are their child." She emphasizes the positive aspects of parental control, even when it seems to cross the line into dictatorial behavior. A parent who worries is a parent who cares. And eventually, the benefits of parents' love will outweigh the harm caused by their authoritarian manner.

Read Erin's and Susan's answers below, and tell us what you think:


First of all, have you completely thought this over? It's one of the most major spending purchases anyone makes. Is there something in the future, (like continuing education, college/tech school) about which you are going to say to yourself "Duh! I can't afford it now and I really want to go, if only I hadn't bought that car!" I'm sure you've already thought about that, but just checking.

Maybe your parents had some expectations about what they wanted you to use the money for (college is the main thing that comes to mind) and you caught them off guard with wanting to buy a car. Maybe you need to talk with them and see if that's where they are coming from.

Now, with that said, here are some tips on getting them to come around to your point of view:

If your grandparents are still living, talk with them about this, and tell them how much you would really like to use their gift to you for a car, and can they help you talk to your parents? If they are no longer living, do you have an aunt or an uncle who might see things from your perspective and can help you get through to your parents?

With more independence comes more risks, and I'm sure that's a main factor in your parents concern. Although it's no fun, you may have to do some extra driving with them to 'prove' that yes, you really do know how to drive a car. Once they get more used to you driving, they will most likely ease back on not letting you drive without them.

Offer to drive anywhere and everywhere! If they are going to the store, volunteer to drive. If they need to go to the post office, volunteer. This will especially be good when they seem to have too many things to do, and are complaining about having to drive somewhere. You could then offer to drive, and maybe even throw in a cheerful comment like "When (or If) I get my car, I'll be able to help you guys out. Then you'll have more time to relax with less errands." Be careful how you say this though. Don't use it to provoke an argument.

Mostly, I think your parents will just need some time to adjust to the fact that you are driving, and need time to see that you are a safe driver. When teens get their license it tends to freak parents out at first; it is a big responsibility, and there are a lot of scary stats out there. Be a little patient, and I bet they will ease up on your restrictions quicker than even they think they will right now. Let the fear wear off a bit.


How cool that your grandparents gave you this money. It sounds to me like you are "stuck" in a family of people that care a lot about you.

I'll bet when your parents said you could spend this money they were not thinking this far ahead. Nevertheless, it doesn't seem fair, does it?

You may have already found out that life isn't always fair, and how one deals with that determines a person's maturity

It is hard when people don't take you seriously. Do they never listen to you? Do they take you seriously sometimes? I know that when I really want something and those closest to me are not giving me what I so badly want, I feel like they just don't understand. That they are just not listening. The thing I have learned, however, is that I'm not listening either. I don't want to hear what they have to say, because it means I might not get what I want, and I really, really want it.

So the bottom line is, you are 15 and cannot drive or buy a car until your parents give their permission. So what can you do? Well, you can prove to them that you are mature enough to drive by being mature. This is the hard part. It would be nice if we could just wake up tomorrow and be mature, but experience and change are they only way to get there.

Why don't you get them both together, ask them to listen until you are finished and then listen to them. Now comes the really hard part. Remember you want them to begin to trust that you are mature enough to handle this huge responsibility. You listen to what they are saying and you smile and say "OK". For now, just know that proving your maturity is probably going to be the only way you are going to change their thinking.

Remember that they have the responsibility of keeping you safe and alive until you are at the very least eighteen years old and they seem to be taking the responsibility very seriously. This may not sound so good to you now, but not all kids are that lucky. Some parents don't care enough to go through this hassle with their kids. It would be easier for them in the short run to say, "Sure it's your money, whatever you want" and they can't, because they do love you.

The bottom line is that they are the parents and you are their child. They do have the power, and if they continue to be your parents and not your friend, you will grow up to be a happy, mature woman.

Last modified on Sunday, 08 May 2011 10:41
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