May 4, 2010

What Are the Teen Years Like?

The Teen Years

I am now convinced that most theories about the "stress and strain of adolescence" have focused incorrectly on such factors as adolescents' physical changes, their emerging sexuality, their new social demands, their struggle between being a child and an adult, and so on. This period is difficult for children and parents largely because adolescents become so independent of their parents that they can no longer be easily controlled by rewards and punishments. And since most parents rely so heavily on rewards and punishment, adolescents react with much independent, resistive, rebellious, hostile behavior.

Parents assume that adolescent rebellion and hostility are inevitably a function of this stage of development. I think this is no valid--it is more that adolescents become more able to resist and rebel. They are no longer controlled by their parents' rewards because they don't need them so much; and they are immune to threats of punishment because there is little parents can do to give them pain or strong discomfort. The typical adolescent behaves as she does because she has acquired enough strength and resources to satisfy her own needs and enough of her own power so that she need not fear the power of her parents.

An adolescent, therefore, does not rebel against her parents. She rebels against their power. If parents would rely less on power and more on nonpower methods to influence their children from infancy on, there would be little for children to rebel against when they become adolescents. The use of power to change the behavior of children, then, has this severe limitation: parents inevitably run out of power, and sooner than they think.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

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