RGC Newsletter: Parenting Adolescents

Parenting an adolescent is extremely difficult. Adolescents are moody, irritable, defiant, stubborn – all in all, very challenging! It is important to understand that a lot of your teen’s behavior is due to the developmental stages and changes that s/he has to go through as a teenager, and that this is both necessary and unavoidable.  Some of the changes that occur include physical (puberty and growth spurts), cognitive (more advanced higher order and abstract thinking) and psychological (I see myself as an independent being). It is helpful to think of adolescence as a passing phase, similar to the metamorphosis that a caterpillar has to undergo in order to become a beautiful butterfly. Also, do keep in mind that this phase will end at some point, so keep looking forward to the future when your teen becomes a fully mature young adult. In the meantime, we have a few tips that might help you through this trying period.


  1. Try your best not to take things too personally
    Remember this and repeat often: it is not personal. It is part of adolescence. This is normal psychological development.  At some point, adolescence ends, and your teen will move on to the next stage of development – young adulthood. During adolescence, they will have learnt how to function independently from you, via the “parental allergy” they develop which leads them to keep their distance from you. Interestingly, there are gender differences to this. Boys tend to just absent themselves by being out of the house, or in their room behind closed doors, or by being as uncommunicative as possible and giving one-word answers. Girls tend to remind you as often as possible of their growing independence by disagreeing with you and criticizing you, either to your face or behind your back. As much as this behaviour is very difficult for parents to deal with, the temporary allergy helps them to grow into productive citizens. Once they are young adults, they will find that parents no longer infringe on their psychological independence, and they suddenly become nice and friendly to you again. The best thing you can do is treat adolescence as a passing cold or illness, and to let it run its course, and in the meantime try and reduce the symptoms by following points 2 and 3.

  2. Pause and disengage

    Have you ever had your teen talk back to you and argue, especially when he or she is not getting their way on something? It is very common for your teen to say anything or do anything to try and get you to change your mind, and go on and on forever, to the point of following you to another room and continuing to plead with you. They do not know how to let go, and are seemingly stuck – they never give up. If we say no, it unleashes such unpleasant words and emotions from your teen over such a long extended period that it completely drains your time and energy. The wisest thing to do in most situations when interacting with your teens is to say what you have to say, do what you have to do, and then disengage as soon as you can– stop talking, and leave and separate yourself from your teen - because your teen will not stop. Saying “no” is extremely hard but one of the most important parts of parenting a teenager. Once you have said “no”, your teen is not listening to all the other subsequent parts you might say, or understanding your reasons behind it, the only thing he or she is trying to do from here on is to get you to change your “no” to a “yes”. To them, all “nos” are unfair and unreasonable. Thus, there is no point trying to explain too much as nothing you say will convince your teen. Your teenager is a superb wannabe lawyer, their brains are very fast and very good, and are able to come up with lots of counterpoints and debates as to why they should get their way. You will find yourself getting sidetracked by lots of issues that were not part of the original discussion, and trying to defend your position. It is important to stand firm and not change your mind despite facing this. Develop a strong “NO” and state your reason, which should be as short and honest as possible, and do not allow them to wear you down with their unrelenting persistence and passion and energy. If they learn that there is a possibility that their arguing with you could lead to you changing your mind, they will redouble their efforts and keep on doing it in the future, which makes it harder to deal with them the next time you have to say “no”.

  3. Listen Respectfully
    Although your teens may not act in a mature way, it is important to try and model what adult ways of interacting are like. Of course, this is not easy, but it is always an ideal to aim for. Remember to be respectful of them, and listen to what they have to say to you, after you have stated your stand and your case. Try to determine if their argument is reasonable – if it is not and is simply emotional and illogical, then try and move on and disengage – restate your stand – “I am sorry but it is still a no”, and exit as fast as possible. If there is some merit to your teen’s case, you may change your mind in response to what your teen says or the evidence he or she presents. This is good because it shows that you do listen and consider and evaluate their arguments, and it also shows them that you can be flexible and willing to change if there are valid reasons. While it is essential to allow some time for discussion – a back and forth dialogue with reasonable arguments and counter-arguments, do not allow the conversation to carry on for too long. Most probably, it will not be meaningful and will simply be one-sided case pleading, which will lead to tempers rising on both sides. When is it a good time to end? When you feel your own blood pressure increasing and stress and negative emotions building up inside of yourself – you have to be on the lookout for these early warning signs and recognize that these are clear signals to stop and leave before it becomes a full-blown argument. Tell your teen the discussion is over firmly, and say nothing more, no matter what else your teen tries to say or do. Wait your teen out, as they may rage, throw a tantrum, etc.; at some point they will run out of steam and stop. Don’t try to do anything else, as all other alternatives will likely make things worse. However, if you think that there is some part of their argument that makes sense, you can always tell them that you will think about it, but this is the end of the conversation. Then, when you are alone, go back to point 1 and repeat “It is not personal. It is part of adolescence.”

We hope that these parenting tips are helpful for you. If you require further support or would like to talk to one of us, please feel free to contact any of the counselors at RGC via email: [email protected].

Warmest regards,

The RGC team

RGC - Parenting Adolescents 

The RGC Team from L-R: Mei Hui, Kah Hwee, Alexis, Paul, Zull, Jeffrey



Wolfe, A. E. (2011). I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, New York.


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