Parents Don't Grasp How Negative They Come Off To Their Teens

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Parents aren’t grasping how negative they seem to their kids — and it’s making teens act out even more

It’s no shock that research links the teen years to maternal depression. Loud arguments, slamming doors, and “I hate you!”s are within the realm of normal. Basically, your kid is angry, which makes you angry, and everyone’s angry together. But have you ever stopped to think about how your response to your moody teen’s outbursts may be affecting their behavior in general?

A new study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence proves that parents don’t grasp just how negative they seem to their teens, and that negativity may be what’s driving kids to act out. Researchers discovered that “when adolescents viewed parenting more negatively than parents did, adolescents showed elevated levels of broadband externalizing behaviors and, specifically, aggressive behaviors.” Essentially, when teens perceive their parent’s method of discipline as too harsh, they act out even more.

When mothers misinterpreted their children’s anger, kids were more likely to argue, storm off, or shut down. If it were fathers doing the misinterpreting, on the other hand, kids were more likely to become aggressive.

Basically, it’s all a merry-go-round of misunderstanding, resulting in more bad behavior on the part of the teen. If Junior thinks Mom is more pissed than she actually is, he’s more likely to slam doors, shout, and hide behind his Justin Bieber hair.

Misaki Natsuaki, one of the authors of the study and an associate professor of psychology at University of California Riverside says there are several factors at play here. “During adolescence, hormones surge through teens’ bodies, causing emotions that feel larger than life,” she tells Time. “To top it all off, they often believe that no one except their peers can understand or help them. As a result of this angst, when teens feel misunderstood by their parents, they’re more likely to try to assert their power by becoming aggressive. In reality, though, they’re trying to be heard.”

So kids feel more, and think that only their friends can help them – and research shows that “’deviancy training’” within adolescent friendships, which is exactly what it sounds like, “predicts increases in delinquency, substance use, violence, and adult maladjustment.” So kids feel misunderstood and try to make themselves heard by slamming doors, shouting, and doing all that annoying stuff that makes parents crazy and mothers depressed.

So how to get off the rage merry-go-round of misunderstanding? Natsuaki recommends reasoning with your teen, using logic, and having serious conversations to assure that everyone gets what one another meant.

Then maybe Junior won’t steal the car or repeatedly break curfew. And he might even stop talking to you from behind his hair.

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