This delightful (to them) illusion causes them to push back hard against the boundaries we set.
And then we shoot ourselves in the foot by buying into their agenda when they push back. This is where emotional complications muddy the waters of parenting. When teens enact their in-built developmental mandate of differentiating and separating from us, it hurts. We can’t help but feel rejected when they take distance. Especially because they don’t usually do it very nicely.
So we feel sad. We want them back. They’re programmed to separate, but we’re not. We’re habituated by 15 years of parenting to keep them close.
What happens when we set a limit? They push back. They (both overtly and covertly) threaten to reject us more. We want them back. This is the first reason why we go soft on the boundaries. We feel sad. We feel rejected. We want them to like us. We cave. The second reason is our fears
When they use emotional blackmail to push back, we get scared. What if my kid really is the only one not allowed to go to the party? What if my daughter suffers (more) on the cutthroat girl social ladder? And our resolve weakens.
To these two sources of flabby boundaries, at camp we say: Get a Q-TIP. Quit Taking It Personally. That’s what I teach the counsellors of adolescents at camp.
When you set boundaries, teens will get hostile and hurt your feelings. This is a given. Don’t give in, because when you do that, they feel unsafe. Teens need walls to push against just like blind people need to feel the walls of a room to know where they are in space. Same for teens.
Pushing against boundaries makes them both sullen and safe. Teens without firm boundaries flounder. We’ve all seen this. So get a Q-TIP.