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The world is made up of a varied and eclectic mix of personalities, skill sets, opinions, ideologies, thoughts and expectations.

I remember when I was in my early 20s and Head of Art at a school in Ascot, England, I took my students to the British Museum, to an exhibition called TASTE.

Everything in the collection was divided into two groups; GOOD TASTE and BAD TASTE. The 'good taste' objects were placed on a pink pedestal and the 'bad taste' on a silver dustbin!

The highlight of the exhibition was the conversations one could hear and the arguments it caused, ie what one person thought of as BAD, another thought as GOOD and vice versa. I had very set ideas in terms of 'taste' and remembered being quite flabbergasted at the opinions of those whom I respected: "Was their taste that bad?"

When working with parents and teens, the same varied opinions can cause not only frustration but even antagonism when parents have one idea and the teen another. Deciding the correct way forward is hard because what if neither is right and neither is wrong?

Inbuilt within all of us we have an innate sense of what we want, the direction we are going and what we need and don't need in life.

As parents, we often have firm opinions about what our child should or shouldn't be doing, what is age appropriate and who and what we wish them to be. But what happens when that doesn't coincide with their thoughts, their desires and their wishes? How much do we let go of the reigns and how do we decide?

Unfortunately, it is hard always to get it right, but trial and error, and good communication are keys to finding that what might work: And remember what is right for one child, may not be for another.

Rebellion is the downside of restraining our teens and restricting their choices: Rebellion ultimately is the voice of the teen SHOUTING OUT - "You're not listening to me."


1. COMMUNICATION Open up the communication channels. Talk and LISTEN. Ask questions and HEAR what your teen is saying. If teens feel LISTENED TO and HEARD, they have less need to shout out through rebellion.

2. TRUST Trust your teen and SHOW THEM you trust them. Talk about trust and what it looks like. Teens who are believed are less likely to want to hurt their parents through rebellion than those who are not trusted. If they have broken your trust, then talk about forgiveness and give them a second chance. Don't 'write them off'.

3. HONOUR Honour their choices. They will only learn by getting some wrong. It is not the choices that matter but WHO THEY ARE as young people. Steer them and guide them and honour their right and wrong choices as part of their growing up.

4. PROBLEMS Inside EVERY problem lie the seeds for the solution. Don't role-model that problems cause unrest and arguments. Each issue that arises is a significant opportunity for learning. Teens need to grasp, before they leave home, that there are strategies for OVERCOMING and need to learn what they are.

5. VULNERABILITY Teach your teen that vulnerability is the ability to step out of ego and say "yes I am prepared to make a fool of myself'. In doing so, they open the door to creativity, innovation and change. Without change, they cannot grow. Without growth, we stagnate as human beings and can never reach our full potential.


Never say "NO" and then close the door to what your teen has raised in conversation. Doing so can only open the door to hopelessness and in turn cause rebellion, depression and even self-harm. Keep all doors open all the time. Explain that your 'no' is for now, but you are open to change.


Finally, as I say in all my posts LOVE YOUR TEEN. Their behaviour is not who they are and so remember to separate the two. LOVE does not mean 'control', but allows them enough slack on the reigns to make decisions for themselves GUIDED and STEERED GENTLY by you!

Sue O'Callaghan

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