Every day, as parents, we wake up with a default GPS, our “Guardian Perspective System.” Contrary to what our teenagers might think, this GPS isn’t programmed to suck the fun out of their lives or control their every waking moment. Instead, it’s finely tuned to one overarching goal: the well-being of our children. As we navigate each day, it bombards us with alerts, much like a navigation system warning of potential dangers, traffic jams, or road construction ahead, always asking if we’d like to change our course. This constant reevaluation is the essence of a parent’s brain—REROUTING, REROUTING, REROUTING…..
From the moment we first buckled them into their car seats, we’ve been in the driver’s seat of our children’s lives, responsible for their health and safety. Our job has been to protect them from potential threats. When we succeed, it’s the best feeling in the world, making us feel like excellent parents. But when we fail, we’re plagued by the worst feeling of all: shame.
A GPS system excels at helping us efficiently reach our destinations in the fastest and safest way possible. However, it often forgets to consider a few crucial factors when guiding our parenting journey:
And let’s not forget our child’s bad days, THEIR hormones, exhaustion, and stress levels. During the toddler and early primary years, our internal guardian’s perspective system does a reasonably good job of keeping us on track. We trust our intuition and rely on it to guide us regularly.
It’s a decent system, earning it a solid 4 out of 5 stars in a hypothetical online review. But as the years pass, our maps become outdated, and we find ourselves contending with the world’s worst backseat driver—our teenager.
These confident individuals seem to possess their own GPS system (though it’s a newer model with some kinks), and they are just as determined about where they’re headed and how to get there as we are.
Collision course ahead—conflict. ⚡
Parent-teen conflict is virtually unavoidable. Friction, the resistance between two surfaces in motion, describes the parent-teen relationship perfectly. Your child experiences your resistance to what they want, and you experience theirs.
Understanding that conflict is less about an entitled teenager or a controlling mom and more about the normal friction created by two individuals both wanting control, whether that control comes from a place of desiring freedom or a desire to protect, helps put it into proper perspective.
When stressed or fatigued, it’s easy to dismiss or deny our teen’s requests or demands without fully hearing them out. Our GPS sets off alarms, warning of 📢trouble ahead 📢, and we follow that instinct. Before we know it, both our child’s inner trolls and our own make an appearance. This results in regrets over words spoken and actions taken or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, surrendering in frustration, leaving us feeling resentful and like utter failures.
Conflict with our child is not only normal developmentally but also not detrimental to your relationship. It’s through conflict that both of you learn healthy conflict resolution—a lifelong skill. You’re also learning to verbalize your needs, gain flexibility, and improve your listening skills.
As your child grows older, autonomy becomes increasingly important to them, naturally straining your relationship. It shifts from one person exerting control and autonomy to two—more friction. But remember, friction isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a part of growth and learning for you and your teenager.