I am not a trained psychologist, but I am a very observant person, who has been placed in a situation with much to observe. So please take my words to heart for I believe they are more truthful than any explanation to date.
Much conflict arises in the common American household between parents and their children. Blame is never on one party alone, but it has so long been the burden of the children, for they have never had a voice or an outlet to express their side of the story, I would like to be that outlet.
Parents have a very difficult job raising children, and especially teenagers, though much can be attributed to the way most parents view the situation and their children. Parents view their children as just that, their children. Not as a separate entity or individual but as a continuation of themselves, almost as a possession.
This view develops early in the parent-child relationship, when the child truly is an extension of the mother, and then further develops in the early months and years of a child’s life. That child is entirely dependent on it’s parents; it cannot survive without them. The young child has no say in decisions as an adult human being would, for it cannot talk or grasp adult concepts. Therefore the adult does not think of the young child as a human being, but as an object to be pampered and taken care of, like a pet. This is acceptable, for at this stage this treatment is to be expected, difficulty only arises when the child begins to get older. Then, as the child develops to the point of language and thinking the child begins to question things, like: why must I eat this food, why must I go to this place, the child begins to develop a sense of self, this is known as the terrible twos. The parents cannot understand why this “pet” of theirs refuses to do things that it has done willingly (though it had no means to protest) for several years now.
Eventually the child matures a bit and begins to understand the reasoning behind eating this or going here (or perhaps the child just begins to fear punishment), and is not as argumentative as he was before. This golden age between the parents and children lasts until the beginnings of adolescence. At this point the child again begins to question in earnest the motives and demands of his parents. This is because the child is beginning to see the adult world, which lies beyond the safe confines of their home. Through school and television the child sees that life is more than dolls and cartoons. Physical changes contribute to this as well, and dating becomes an issue. The teen just catches glimpses of the adult world (the good parts) and wants to enter it soon as possible, the parents restrain the youth, not allowing many things now asked for. This breeds resentment in the young teen, for they never receive any good explanations behind the restrictions, they are just decreed.
A few more years pass and the teen through bottle-fed responsibility and more real life experience is now ready for full membership in the adult hierarchy, though this exclusive club is very repressive of new members and the teen has a hard time breaking out of the situation he has been in for the last 17 years. His parents treat this new incarnation of their child the same as they have previously, not as an equal but as a pet. The parents cannot grasp the concept of this “pet” thinking for itself and being it’s own entity.
I use the term “pet” very deliberately, for that is exactly the appropriate metaphor for the situation. I will relate my point through an experience of mine. I have two pet dogs, and one day one of them made some grievous error on the hallway rug. When I saw that I got furiously mad, I could feel the anger and frustration building inside of me, I felt the urge to lash out at my dog, luckily my rational side restrained myself. This gave me something to think about, for my reaction was not the same as it would have been if my friend or my parents did something wrong, it likened itself more to how I would feel if some machine malfunctioned on me. I probed further as to why this might be and concluded that since a machine, and ultimately a pet, is subhuman and directly subservient it is supposed to do whatever we tell it to do, for it is nothing without us. We feed it, keep it alive, create it, it owes us it’s existence, so then why does it disobey us? This is how I feel parents regard their children. They feel they are merely an extension of their own being and when a part of yourself does something you don’t want it to do then it can be easy to get excessively angry. Also this is why when someone you regard as an equal goes against your will, you accept it because you recognize this person as someone other than yourself.
Therefore to be a better parent one must recognize one’s child as an equal, independent being. Once this has been attained I believe that all conflicts can be resolved with much less heartache and argument. And ultimately create a more loving caring environment for both the child and the parents.