Coping With Rules

Has this ever happened to you? You want to go somewhere with your friends, and your parents say, “No way” – without giving you a reason except “Because we say so, that’s why!”


Or maybe there’s a rule at your house that says homework must be done before you can watch TV. You think this is dumb because it shows that your parents don’t trust your judgement. It also makes you miss some really great shows.

Not being able to do what you want when you want seems terribly unfair sometimes. Often, the only reason for some of the rules your parents lay down seems to be to make your life miserable. We’ll talk about some of these rules – also suggest ways for making it easier on yourself to live with these rules.

Rules are guidelines for behavior or actions that help people get along with each other. Imagine what would happen if everyone at your house disobeyed the rules about staying up all night to watch TV or coming home to supper at a certain time. Total chaos, right? The point is, whether it’s your family, group of friends, school, or society – you need rules to make it work.

But just because your family and our society needs rules to function, doesn’t mean that all the rules are fair to you. In fact, some are terribly unfair. Also, you may feel that all those do’s and don’ts restrict your freedom too much.

It’s perfectly natural for you to feel this way, especially while you’re a teenager. You’re now expected to learn how to become an independent and responsible member of society. That’s what the word adolescence means – “to grow into maturity.” So you’re supposed to slowly break away from your family and learn to stand on your own two feet. To learn to make your own decisions about your friends, your dates, your life style. To create your own set of values and standards for behavior. To make decisions about your future.

In order to learn to do all these things, you need some freedom. You don’t need to be tied down by a lot of rules left over from when you were a kid. It’s frustrating to be told to act like an adult and be treated like a kid.

But while you’re having a tough time dealing with this, so are your parents. On one hand, they want you to grow into a responsible, independent adult. On the other hand, they’re afraid to let go. They’re not quite sure what you’ll do if they relax certain rules. To develop into a responsible adult, you’ve got to have some freedom. But you’re often denied this freedom until you can prove that you’re responsible and mature.

Your parents may also be having a tough time accepting the fact that you’re growing up. It was much easier for them to deal with you when you were a kid. They told you what to do, and you did it. Things are more complicated now. You talk back. You ask why – and want a reasonable explanation. You break rules figuring it’s worth the punishment. So Sometimes, your parents will try to go back to a time when life was~easier for them. They’ll expect you to do something just because they say so.

If you’re having problems with your parents over rules, there are some things you can do. You can try talking with them about the possibility of deciding on rules together, or about how those rules that you think are unfair can be changed. If you’ve got a problem communicating with your parents, you might first want to call two other tapes that may help you. One is “No Communication With Your Parents?” the other is” you’re trying to work out a new deal for yourself, remember that your parents won’t give you what you’re asking for just because you’re asking. You may have to compromise.

If you think your parents are being totally unreasonable with rules and there is absolutely no way you can communicate with them you may just have to learn to live with it. Face it. Your parents do have a legal and moral responsibility for you until you’re 18. You’re reminded of this every time you hear, “As long as you’re living under this roof, you’ll do as I say.” But although you may have to live with this situation, you don’t have to let it get you down completely. You may not be able to change your parents behavior and attitude. However, you can do something about yours.

One thing you can do is try talking out your anger and frustration with your friends. Talking about what’s going on at home won’t change the scene there, but it sure can make a difference in how you cope with that scene.

Try, also, to remember some of the things we said earlier about what you and your parents are going through. It is perfectly natural for you to get uptight about certain rules because you need room right now to grow. But it’s also perfectly normal for your parents to lay down those rules because they’re concerned about – and maybe even afraid of – this growing up process. And if you clash because once in a while they like to pretend that you’re their child again, remember that they’re trying to go back to a time when it was easier for them to be parents.

In this tape, we’ve said that rules are intended to help people get along and make society function. Some rules can seem terribly unfair. At this point in your life, you want and need freedom to explore the world around you and learn all sorts of things about yourself. Learning how to cope with rules is one of the things we all have to learn as we pass from childhood into adulthood. If you and your parents can decide on rules together, or if you can talk with them about those that restrict you too much. fine. If you can’t you’re going to have to rely on your patience, common sense, and an understanding of what’s happening between you and your parents right now to get you through.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.