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Controlling Parents

by Angelina

Hi. I really need your help. I just can't cope living with my parents nowadays. I know that I'm only 17, but still, there are things which I want to do independently.

They don't approve the fact of me chatting on Facebook. It's so unfair! Children who are younger than me are allowed, so why not me? And to make matter worse, they have removed my PC from my personal room into their own room to watch me all the time.

I'm not even allowed to txt a boy else they will seize my Sim card. It has already happened twice. I'm only allowed to have girls calling or txting me. Why don't they see that I want my liberty? I can't have them watching my every move and controlling my mobile. It's my personal life!

Please don't advise me to talk to them. It's not worth it and I'm tired of trying. They keep telling me that they were also teenagers once and they are not blind like other parents.

I want to know if there are any rules that said that a 17 year old girl is not allowed to date?

Please help me, I can't bear it anymore.

Comments for Controlling Parents

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Teenager With Strict Parents - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Angelina,
My apologies for the delay in replying to your question about controlling parents. I wanted to to put some time into my reply and my own life has been a bit challenging right now!

It sure does sound like you are having a hard time with your parents right now, and I agree they do seem to be overly protective and controlling parents. From their point of view they love you to bits, and they are fearful that something will happen that you may not be able to handle and they want to protect you.

So even though you find it incredibly frustrating and restricting, remember the bottom line is they are not doing this to hurt you or get at you they are being over protective or strict parents because they love you so much.

Parent's Legal Rights

Legally in Mauritius, to the best of my knowledge, until you are 18 years old, you are under their care and they are entitled to make any decisions about your welfare - schooling, dating, any job you may take, they have the right to veto it.

The age of consent for sexual relations is 16 years of age. So you are considered by law old enough to have a sexual relationship with someone, but you are only allowed to marry if your parents consent to it, and since until you are 18 years old in effect they can stop you dating.

However, your parents are most likely providing for you and it doesn't sound like you are in the position to financially take care of yourself, so you have to find a way to make this work until you are able to take care of yourself.

Frustration Having Overly Strict Parents

I know it is incredibly frustrating when parents are so strict, and their rules and regulations push you into wanting to rebel and even wanting to move out. Unfortunately, the more you rant and rail at them and rebel, the more you are still acting as a child. The more you can present rational arguments, and present compromises in a calm adult way, the more likely they are to start seeing you as a mature young adult.

I agree with you that they seem a bit extreme, and pretty controlling parents, and there many different types of parenting styles. I was a very relaxed parent with my teenagers and let them make most of their own decisions in consultation with me. They made mistakes, and I helped them figure out how to fix them up, rather than trying to prevent them from making them in the first place as I think teenagers learn better skills that way. I can see the restrictions with your strict parents, are driving you crazy and it seems unfair.

Your parents are doing the best they can, they are most likely parenting very much the way they were parented, and the bottom line is they want to give you the best possible care as you grow up.

Part Two Follows . . .

Teenager With Strict Parents - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

And yes, I am going to suggest you try to talk with them because the most important part of families is communication.

BUT - more than likely you have approached talking to them as an angry frustrated child trying to force them to change their rules. When we fight back we tend to push people into having to stick to their position and they can't compromise or back down.

Negotiate Win-Win Solutions

You need to negotiate with them to find ways they can feel a bit more trusting that you are safe in your activities online, and in contacts with boys. And you are much more likely to have success with this, the more rational and calm you are. When you are angry and frustrated, that is NOT the time to try and negotiate as you are likely to blow up at them, and they are likely to get angry back and increase their restrictions, such as withdraw your Sim card.

So firstly pick your time, or even make an appointment with them to discuss something.

I would suggest you start with one thing at a time, don't try to push for change on all the things at once it will be too much for them to adjust to. Remember, they are coming from the position that the world is a scary place, they want to protect their daughter and make sure she is safe. You are their precious little girl even though you are almost grown up. So that need in them is very strong.

You know you can handle stuff, they don't yet. In a way you have to help them to grow too - letting go of a teenager and letting them make their own decisions is not easy.

Negotiation is all about win/win. So you have to figure out together how their need to protect you can be taken care of while at the same time they learn to trust you to make good decisions - or to be able to fix up things if you make mistakes - and we all make mistakes.

The more you can show them, or figure out what is UNDERNEATH their controlling attitude, the more empowered you are to be able to present a rational case for negotiating. If you acknowledge their concerns, and find ways to help them feel OK about relaxing some of their rules, the more you are likely to get what you want. On the other hand, the more you argue and push back the bigger barrier is building between you.

Just remember, strict rules and regulations from parents are because they love you and are doing what what they think is best for you, even if you disagree with their restrictions. I agree with you, it may not be the best thing for you - but that is where they are coming from so you have to work from that point.

Part Three Follows . . .

Teenager With Strict Parents - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

I'll give you examples on both the issues you have raised - Facebook and dating, and how you can start to think about what the issues might be for your parents and how you might find a way that they can feel more comfortable - therefore relax their rules.

Strict Parent's Issues With Facebook

Re Facebook - yes hundreds of thousands of teenagers are on Facebook. Probably a lot of your friends have more access to being on Facebook than you do, but many of them are also likely to have some restrictions about the length of time they are using Facebook etc.

From a parents perspective: These are just from my experience with other parents, your parents may well have other concerns.

  • Kids spend time on Facebook when they should be studying.

  • There are hundreds of cases of cyber bullying via Facebook and parents want to protect their children.

  • There are hundreds of cases of predators posing as "friends" who prey on teenage girls or boys on Facebook, even getting to the point of meeting up and even cases of rape.

  • Relationships and attachments form via Facebook and parents worry their teenagers are getting involved with kids they don't know, or may not approve of.

  • Parents often don't use Facebook, don't understand the attraction for younger people, are often intimidated by it.

  • Teenagers usually don't have very well developed time management skills, and can find it hard to prioritize homework (boring) when hanging out with friends online is so much more interesting.

Teenager's Needs

You will have many other needs and issues too, but I have just used these as an example:

  • Teenagers social development is just as important as their academic success.

  • Teenagers need privacy to be able to interact with their friends, discuss and talk about things that are important, to have fun without parent's witnessing it all.

  • Learning to balance social activities and schooling.

  • Learning to think about the bigger picture - what am I going to do with my life? What skills do I need?

  • Learning about relationships - both friendships and love relationships.

Part Four Follows . . .

Teenager With Strict Parents - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Strict Parents Concerns About Teenagers Dating

  • Parents worry their child will be hurt and want to protect them.

  • Parents worry their child is not emotionally mature enough for an intense relationship.

  • Parents worry that dating will distract their child from studying, getting good grades and that may effect their whole life, or limit their future choices.

  • Parents are scared of loosing their influence over their child, that someone else may have the power to sway their child to make decisions they would not approve of.

  • Parents worry their child will be come sexually active, and are fearful of all the issues around that - their child (particularly a daughter) being pressured into sex before she is ready, and of course sex before marriage may be something that is not approved of; fears of teenage pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Most parents find it extremely hard to talk about any sexual matters with their teens so it is much easier to simply restrict dating.

  • In many cultures dating is something that is not very acceptable unless under the umbrella of family - even to the point of arranged marriages. So parents want to vet a prospective boyfriend first.

  • Many parents don't believe their children should be dating until aged 18.

Teenager's Needs

  • Teenagers are full of hormones all having a huge party inside, and part of that is growing attractions for others.

  • Learning, thinking, dreaming about relationships, testing the waters, and even falling in love is a huge part of growing up.

  • Dating is an important way teens learn how to handle intense feelings, both emotional and sexual, and learning to set limits - both "how far you want to go" sexually, or how much of your time and energy goes into dating vs schoolwork are all big learning curves. Feelings can be incredibly intense and it is easy to be swept along with the moment, and loose sight of the bigger picture.

  • Teenagers need adults (not necessarily their parents) around to support them. Backup if they get in situations that are getting out of control, a sounding board if they need to let off steam or are trying to figure stuff out, and a haven to go to if they do get hurt or something happens they are struggling with.

  • Teenagers need family, they need the security of being taking care of, of being loved of knowing they have the grounding of family as a foundation in their lives.

  • Teenagers need friendships - social development is one of the major learning curves at this stage in your life, it is not all about schooling and parents often forget this.

Part Five Follows . . .

Teenager With Strict Parents - Part Five
by: Annie Desantis

So that was a bit of a snapshot of both sides - there will be a lot more that you feel is important, and a lot more that your parents think is important, or are their fears that they want to protect you from.

Hard though it is, you most likely need their support right now, and you are forgetting to appreciate what they do for you in the way of care when you are so frustrated with their restrictions.

Gently Help Strict Parents To Let Go

Your parents are finding it hard to see their little girl growing up, and wanting to make her own decisions. And the best way you can help them to let go, is to BE more grown up when you try to negotiate. The more you break their rules the more they feel they have to tighten them to keep you safe. If you can work together to find ways to take care of their concerns so they don't have to feel so fearful, then they will start to ease up on their strictness.

I would suspect the dating issue is going to be the hardest one for them to relax on but it may well be the issue that is most important for you. If you are already somewhat involved with someone, and are already breaking rules about seeing boys, then this is going to be difficult to negotiate as you already are being dishonest. You will already have feelings about someone and it is hard to just be rational and level headed in discussions.

When you negotiate, keep remembering win win, rather than your parents having to loose. This means you will not get all the freedom you would like FOR NOW. You can renegotiate in a few months - if you show you are making good decisions and making compromises then your parents will start to trust that you can take care of yourself and are making good choices and they can start to ease up a bit more as you get older.

Don't expect it all at once, it simply won't happen. You may have to be VERY patient and just accept micro changes from them. Your parents are not going to suddenly become relaxed permissive parents, you are going to have to respectfully and gently help them ease up.
Some Compromises Might Be:

  • Dating only in the company of a group.

  • Dating only in the weekends.

  • Time restrictions.

  • They might want to meet the boy first.

  • They may want to find out a bit more about him in advance of meeting him.

  • They may be able to agree to you seeing someone but only at home where they know you are "safe".

Part Six Follows . . .

Teenager With Strict Parents - Part Six
by: Annie Desantis

Hang In There!

I know you just want to get on with your life and make your own choices and your parents are driving you nuts. I know it is really hard to be patient and you feel like you have the strictest parents ever. The bottom line is - they love you. They may not be doing it the way you want right now, but they do love you. Your job is to prove to them you are mature and growing up, not by rebelling and running away, but by learning together how to BOTH get what you need and want.

Lots to think about, and sorry, but no magic answers :(

You are very welcome to reply back to this via the comments below, or send in another question anytime. You may even decide to show my reply to your parents as a starting point for some discussion. And of course they can also write in if they want some ideas. It may even be that there are counseling services where you live that would help you and your parents find ways to work things out.

Best of luck Angelina, I know it seems so hard right now, but it will not always be like this.

hang in there,
Annie D :)

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Do you have a question or want to send a submission to Annie? Simply click here to return to Parenting Questions About Teenagers.

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