Sources of Conflict Between Parents and Teenagers

Updated on March 7, 2018
Blake Flannery profile image

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

Teenagers and Parents Have Conflict

The sources of conflict between parents and teens is not always easily spotted.
The sources of conflict between parents and teens is not always easily spotted. | Source

Parent and Teen Conflct

Conflict happens when two people disagree based on their own goals, values, or beliefs. Parents and teenagers inherently have many opportunities to have conflict. Adolescence is a time when independence and parental influence conflict. Conflict is in the simple as an argument. Conflict is what happened right before the argument. That's what two people disagreed about before they started calling each other names.

The ability for an adolescent to be able to think on his own and yet have parents who have rules and expectations sets the pair of for conflict. Teenagers don't necessarily hold the same beliefs and values as their parents, and their goal to have fun conflicts with parents’ goal to keep them safe.

List of Common Conflict Sources between Teens and Parents

Here’s a list of common sources of conflict between parents and their teenage children:

curfew, cell phone use, noise, boyfriend/girlfriend, type of music, church/religion, grades, chores, messy room, disrespectful behavior, drug use, dishonesty, allowance, fairness, clothes, body piercings, tattoos, hairstyles, diet, how to spend money, getting rides to places, taking care of a pet, what to eat, getting out of bed, using electricity/hot water, smoking, allowance, sex/displays of affection.

Hot Topics for Heated Arguments

Curfew

Curfew is a classic topic for parents and teenagers to argue about. It doesn't really matter what parents set the curfew, when kids don't show up when they're supposed to be home and makes parents worried. A worried parent becomes a scolding parent. So when the teen does come home, he gets an earful and a stiff punishment.

Cell phone use

Historically speaking, cell phones are a new technology so this is a fairly new source of conflict. This one usually ties in to to other sources of conflict: spending of money, and displays of affection. Usually the disagreement happens when the teenager is using a cell phone excessively, either by racking up a very high phone bill or by using the cell phone to communicate with a significant other. Sometimes the phone is used in an inappropriate way such as sexting.

Using the electricity or water is another easy source of conflict when you have one person paying for something another person uses frivolously. "Turn off the lights." "Close the door... Were you born in a barn?"

Noise

It doesn't matter whether it's a party, an electric guitar, or the TV. Parents don't seem to have the same tolerance for noise as teenagers. Sometimes teenagers’ goal to have fun conflicts with the parents goal to get sleep. This is an everyday occurring and common conflict. Type of music could fall under this category because if parents don't like the type of music the kids are listening to then they are more likely to tell the teenager to turn it down.

Boyfriend/girlfriend

There are 1000 reasons why a parent might not like your boyfriend or girlfriend as a teenager. There are 1000 reasons to justify that the parent is being unfair. Either way, parents probably see their kids as too young to make a good decision if they are even old enough to date at all.

Church/religion

Going to church and practicing religion is something that is easy for parents to influence young children. Unfortunately as a child matures they start thinking and more complex and abstract ways. They start to be cultured in and influenced by peers, teachers, coaches, and the media. Teenage beliefs may clash with parent beliefs about whether there is a God, who God is, or whether church is important.

Grades

If there’s one easy standardized way for parents to gauge maturity and discipline, it’s by looking at a teenager’s grades. Although this may not be totally true, it’s available data to be used for judging a teenager every time grades are reported. Some parents have a problem with F’s, others C’s, but the conflict happens when the parents’ expectations aren’t met.

Fairness

No one likes to work for free, but occasionally teenagers see doing chores as working for free. Their parents are likely providing something tangible as payment that the teenager may not be acknowledging. For example, the parents may be providing food, clothing, shelter, use of a vehicle, etc. But when you are young and self-centered, that’s not enough payment for taking out the trash and cleaning your room. Allowances my not meet the adolescent’s expectations just like grades may not meet parental expectations.

Personal Appearance

Tattoos, piercings, crazy hairdos, heavy make-up, or short skirts are easy ways to pick a fight with parents who value traditional looks. It’s ironic that the traditional parents somehow are blessed with children who ironically want to express their individuality by getting a piercing or a tattoo. Ironically, there are millions of teens expressing their individuality in the same way.

Smoking, Drinking, and Drug Use

No parents say they want their kid to be a druggie when their child is born. When parents find out that their teen is doing drugs, it goes against their vision of a bright future for their child. By the time the parents find out, it has probably become a problem in some way already. There are the exceptions where the parents are hooked on something, but it’s debatable whether those parents are actually being parents. Their relationship with the drug becomes more important than their kids.

Dishonesty

Honesty is already a hot issue for some people. When parents are totally responsible for the person who is lying to your face, feelings of anger will likely surface. Lies are usually used to covers up something else. This includes theft, sneaking out, and hiding a tattoo. As a teenager, when trust is broken, it can take a while to dig out of hole you dug for yourself.

Suggestions for Communicating based on Brain Science

Is There Hope for Parent-Teen Conflict?

Identifying sources of conflict is the first step to resolving the conflict. Here are a few tips to solving conflict between a parent and a teenager.

  1. View each other as allies in the common goals you do agree on which usually include keeping the teen safe and seeing him or her be successful. Refocus your energy on these goals to keep from getting too adversarial.
  2. Use "I statements" to express feelings and make requests. Just say "I feel _______, when I _______. Then make simple and specific requests. This is much better than blaming and name calling, which normally happens when emotions run high.
  3. List possible solutions to the conflict together. This may seem obvious, but many times a conflict will polarize viewpoints until no compromise or negotiation seems possible. Just start listing creative ideas, whether they seem reasonable or not. Creativity is your friend when solving any problem in life, including conflicts with others.
  4. Make a decision together. It's still a conflict if parents tell their teen that they have to do something, "Because I said so." It's also still a conflict if the teen just gives into a threat, and the relationship is damaged. Decide on a solution together when both parties are calm enough to make rational decisions. Don't try this when anyone is angry though.

Mom and Teenager Arguing about Different Topics

Stay Calm to Stay Productive

Avoid pointing a finger literally or figuratively speaking.
Avoid pointing a finger literally or figuratively speaking.

Parent and Teenager Conflict Poll

What caused the most conflict between you and your parents?

See results

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Ouba 

        11 months ago

        Parents are really think they know it all...if they bad things in the past they should not make that our problem

      • SharonBallantine profile image

        SharonBallantine 

        3 years ago

        No two people will agree on every topic all the time. Learning to get along with others includes learning to accept that we have differences of opinions--and even so, we can still respect and even like each other.

        This is true within our own families as well. When we teach our children at an early age to look inside themselves and discover what makes them unique, we must also accept that there may be things about them that we would not have chosen for them if it were up to us.

        Focus on the feelings behind the disagreements and learn to really listen to what is being said, and the emotions behind the words. And be willing to work with your kids to come up with alternative solutions in the face of disagreements. The best solution for the family is usually one you collectively choose. It might not have been your first choice, or even something you would have thought of on your own!

      • tom yam profile image

        Russell Pittock 

        3 years ago from Nakon Sawan Province, Thailand.

        My wife and I were young parents and we thought that, for this reason, we would be more in touch with our children. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The areas of conflict that you have identified ring very true.

      • profile image

        ghea 

        5 years ago

        usually the teenager now wanted to live young wild and free...

        they do what they want... they don't care what other people say about. and they don't care who sees about it..

        all they want to do is to have more fun in their life....

      • jpcmc profile image

        JP Carlos 

        6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

        Teenage is truly a difficult time for both parents and the child. On one side is a child learning about himself, friends, society, norms rules etc., on the other end is a parent trying to protect the child. The balance is quite difficult. I'm a new dad and I'm already worried about these things. I guess, it's something all parents will eventually have to handle.

      • profile image

        Aunt Mollie 

        6 years ago

        Excellent information for raising teenagers. A little turbulence during these years is perfectly normal. Voted up!

      • Nancy Owens profile image

        Nancy Owens 

        6 years ago from USA

        I like that you talked about seeing one another as allies in the area in which you agree. Knowing that both parties can agree on at least some things sort of helps to take the sting out of the part where you have to receive criticism. Voted up and useful!

      • stephaniedas profile image

        Stephanie Das 

        6 years ago from Miami, US

        This is a cool article. When I was a teen, I fought with my parents about my party habits and slacking off at school. I was a bit rebellious, but luckily for me I was the youngest child, so I got to slide under the radar.

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        6 years ago from North Carolina

        Well written article with lots of important and interesting information.

      • Seeker7 profile image

        Helen Murphy Howell 

        6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

        The pointers for helping to resolve conflict issues are excellent. Not many articles on this topic have these and only highlight the conflict areas. Great hub + voted up!

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 

        6 years ago from Orange County, CA

        I like how you not only point out the sources of conflict but offer some resolution strategies. Voting this Up and Useful.

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