Coping with Teens: The Demanding Phase of Teenagers
By Ahmad Amirali
Last week, a parent approached me after my class and shared one concern about her teen, which is of every parenting concern nowadays, that she is now becoming more and more demanding materialistically. She believes that her daughter, who is one of my students as well, always complains about the way they live in a ‘joint-family’, means she doesn’t have any privacy apart of her bedroom which is also shared with her younger siblings. However, the parent also appreciates that her daughter understands all these issues very well. Still, sometimes she argues too much with other family members and her siblings over small matters. The parent seems so desperate that she almost takes 30 minutes to share every bit of her mind with me. Once she finished, her daughter arrived, and she left without asking for a solution to her concerns. Maybe she only wants to share her worries to lighten up her emotions. However, while listening to her, several questions burst into my mind. First, if her daughter is that much reasonable, then what makes her react in such a rebellious manner at home? As per my observation, she is one of the obedient students of my class, and she hardly shows any sign of stress during the lessons. Is she really a demanding and attention seeker child at home or, maybe, her parent has misinterpreted her? Or perhaps all the assumptions are wrong, and the only issue is the communication gap between the daughter and the parent. Let’s find out.
One thing that needs to understand as a parent that it is perfectly normal and healthy for children to go through a demanding phase during their development – usually as they hit the ‘terrible twos’ (Teens-age) and begin to move out of infancy and establish their independence. If you are constantly hearing the buzzword of “Buy me, give it to me, I need…” from your school-aged children, it’s likely a time to think deep at what’s driving their such demanding behaviour. Dr Tali Shenfield, the Clinical Director of the APSC, believes that ‘some children do not learn to balance their needs with the needs of their parents or siblings. As a result of which they become very emotionally demanding and manipulative over material needs, especially during preteen and teen years’.
The causes for such teen’s behaviour vary, such as (Source: Advance Psychology)
- Going through their parents’ divorce may cause some children to act out in demanding ways.
- Children who have suffered sexual trauma early in life may latch onto these tendencies as they provide a reliable defence mechanism against unpleasant emotions.
- Parents who also inadvertently model narcissistic behaviour may become the cause of their child’s demanding attitude.
- Parental neglect is yet again, another common precursor to self-absorbed or demanding behaviour among teens. Particularly, if the negligence occurred while the child was very young, if a child’s mother is unable or unwilling to support the child’s emerging ego needs, issues with ego fixation and developmental arrest may later arise.
- The absence of appreciation or encouragement by the parent may develop a demanding personality in children.
*The reasons mentioned above are context and situation-specific and may vary in certain circumstances.
Since I ended up in this remarkable profession, I encounter several aggressive and attention-seeking behaviour of my students and most of the time the root cause of such action linked to their homes. Following are some of the possible ways which I believe can help parents to cope with their child’s demanding behaviour.
- Sit down with your child alone and try to talk have a conversation with them. The most important thing at that moment is to ‘win your child’s trust’ and in most cases ‘respect’. Make them realise that you respect their opinion and you are here to listen to them without making any ‘Judgement’.
- Ask them to keep a paper and pencil with them and start jotting down their concerns and demands on that paper while having a conversation with you.
- Now ask them if they’re at your place then how they fetch out the solutions of their problems. Ask them to jot these solutions as well on that paper.
- Now help them to see the good and bad sides of their solutions by discussion every possible option they’ve jotted down on that paper.
- Try not to become dominant or judgemental while discussing their point of views.
Communication is the key to happiness in every relationship as it creates space to breathe and understand. During all of my teaching life, I observe that the majority of the times the leading cause of such teen’s behaviour is just the communication gap between children and parents. Having a frequent conversation with children especially teens provide enough room to them to share their confusions, anxieties and most importantly built their trust with whom they relied on their whole life – yes YOU, the parents. Lastly, do not use physical force in response to your child’s demands. This may only influence the child to become more physically demanding on you later in their lives. Remember… stay calm.
Good Luck 😊