Dressing, talking, and acting differently than adults helps your teenager feel independent. Most of these objectionable habits and preferences merely reflect conformity with your teen’s peer group. Try not to criticize him about these “no win” topics. Too much criticism can destroy your relationship. So “back off” as they say.
• Don’t try to change the way he wants to look in terms of clothing, hair style, make-up, and so forth. Don’t be critical of his music, favorite movies or TV shows, how his room is kept, how free time is spent, his speech, and even his friends (unless they’re in trouble with the law).
• Allowing your teenager to rebel in these minor areas, often prevents testing in major areas, such as experimentation with drugs, truancy, or shoplifting. Intervene and try to make a change only if the behavior is harmful, illegal, or infringes on your rights.
In summary, don’t try to forbid behaviors that you have little control over. If it came down to choosing between how your teenager looks and how he behaves, the choice would be easy. And take heart, this posturing is normal; it doesn’t reflect on your parenting.
During Dr. Schmitt’s 20 years as a medical practitioner and researcher, he has published over 100 articles or chapters on pediatric health care, and has been awarded the distinguished C. Anderson Aldrich Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics for outstanding contributions to the field of child development. Schmitt has also authored five books including Your Child’s Health, which won Child Magazine’s first Hall of Fame Award in 1991. Schmitt is also a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and on staff at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado.