The role of adolescent consent in parenting

Kristen and I now officially see the precipise on our horizon.

Megan, our oldest child, turned 10 yesterday. Within a few years we will be in the thick of adolescence. (And all of the parents I’ve worked with over the years will simple laugh. Not a polite giggle. An evil laugh because now I will know the terror they have gone through!)

OK, not quite that dramatic. But change is definitely on the horizon for our family. And we know we’ll have to adjust our parenting skills as Megan enters into this new developmental stage.

I recently read an article in Psychology Today that gives a high-level look at how parenting needs to adjust as you shift from having “a kid” to having “an emerging adolescent.”

Thus, offensive though it may feel, the resistant adolescent’s words of advice to his parent have a ring of truth: “Get used to it!” Come the teenage years, compliance with parental authority is less automatic. This is why it’s easier to parent the dependent-minded child than it is the independent-minded adolescent. The harder “half” of parenting comes last.

The formula for obedience to parental authority is simply this: command + consent = compliance. Parental authority is not automatic or absolute. It is not a matter of parents being able to control adolescent choices; it’s a matter of controlling their own choices in ways that allow them assert influence. And this takes work, working for consent.

Consent can be secured by a variety of parental approaches – declaring your need for cooperation, making a serious and firm request, attaching consequences to compliance or noncompliance, repeated insistence to show you mean business, explaining reasons that are persuasive, negotiating a deal to get what you want.

Read the rest

I think it’s important for us to focus on the long-term goal. We want our kids to develop into strong, independent adults. In their relationships, we want them to have healthy, happy, and simple adult relationships.

So, as we enter the precipice of the next 10 years, we are going to try to keep a long-lens on things. We know in the granular, day-to-day grind, that won’t be easy. And as soon as I wrote that down and looked back at it my youth pastor self said to my parent self, “Uh huh.”

Parents of adolescents: Is the Psychology Today article on-point? Or do you just try to muscle your authority over your children through middle/high school?

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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