The Battle Against Authority
At a time when your teenager acts like your imposition of family demands, rules, and restraints is unwanted, unneeded, oppressive, and intolerable, you must keep that family structure firmly in place for his or her well-being and protection. At this age your teenager is excited and frightened by the same understanding about personal freedom: “You can't make me and you can't stop me!”
Although your teenager is correct, and although he or she argues the point at every opportunity, you will mostly be given consent because there is security in the structure you provide, and your son or daughter knows that. “But is it worth all the conflict?”some weary parents ask. The answer is definitely yes. Your mid-adolescent needs to fight against you to save face in order to go along with you to keep safe.
Understanding the combative nature of the consent you are often given at this age, you typically enforce structure in five ways.
You make demands. (“This is what you need to do.”)
You set limits. (“This is what you can't do.”)
You allow or apply consequences. (“Because you did that, you must now do this.”)
You raise questions. (“Why did this happen?”)
You confront significant issues. (“We need to talk about your conduct last night.”)
In mid-adolescence, a teenager will sometimes “go on a run.” Intoxicated with freedom he or she is rebelliously unable to resist, the adolescent will break all curfew requirements in a headlong run toward excitement, danger, and the forbidden, usually in the company of like-minded friends.
In this extreme case, what are parents supposed to do? Just give up, accept the situation, and act hopeless? No. Every time your teenager breaks the rules and leaves at this age, your job is to go after him or her, bring your son or daughter home, and reassert healthy rules around the child once again to create the opportunity for consent.
Substance abuse makes mid-adolescent disciplinary issues more intense. It becomes harder for you to penetrate the shell of self-centeredness. The teen uses the defenses against responsibility more frequently. His or her resistance to your authority becomes more deeply entrenched.
“But she just sneaks out again!” Then you must go after her again. Going after her, bringing her home, reasserting healthy family rules, all show that you are actively there, that you care, and that wherever she runs, your parenting follows. In addition, you may want to seek the help of supplemental social authority. “If we set a boundary and you keep going beyond it, beyond where we can reach to restrain you, we will find someone who can. We will file a runaway report with the police and they, too, will be looking for you.”