When Teens Criticize Parents

Q: I feel so devastated when my teenage daughter criticizes me. What can I do to make her understand that this hurts?

A: Yes, it does hurt. I know; I’ve been there. I found that telling our daughter exactly how I felt when she criticized me — the lump in my throat, the hidden tears, the inner churnings — really helped cut down on those remarks. Find some private time to do this, but tell your teen calmly, without drama or an emotional outburst. Just describe how you feel, and explain that adults and parents are not immune to having hurt feelings.
Nearly all teens become critical of their parents, usually about the time that they are assessing and questioning their parents’ values. Sometimes they will treat their parents differently than other adults, criticizing the way they dress, style their hair, chew their food, smile, walk and so on.

It is hard, but try to take this in stride with as much humor as you can muster. If they call you “weird”, thank them and tell them that one definition of weird is “awesome.” To protect your own esteem while you are building theirs, think back and try to understand what they are going through.

Another reason many teens criticize is a lack of confidence. Although they want to be grown-up and independent, some teens are scared of the adult responsibilities they see you handling with apparent ease. They don’t know that it’s not as easy as it looks.

When they point out your flaws, they feel less inferior. Think about it: Most teens have never had to make totally independent decisions, and the thought of doing this all of the time and being responsible for the consequences of each decision can be terrifying.

They don’t know that making day-to-day adult decisions takes experience, practice and learning from one’s mistakes. They don’t know that you learn to do it gradually, not all at once. They did not know you as a teenager, when you were a “beginner” adult. They may not be able to picture the teen you once were — goofing up sometimes and being unsure sometimes — like they are now.

You can try to tell them about those years if they will listen, or you can just be patient, letting them know how you feel when things get tough. Eventually, teens do come to realize that we all share the same humanness. They begin to believe that they can handle growing up, just like you did. That’s when they will stop labeling you as a weird parent and start treating you as a person and friend.