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RAWRxRandy's avatar

Why do parents not understand teenagers?

Asked by RAWRxRandy (620points) December 6th, 2009

They were teenagers once right? So when we do stupid things or make a mistake they should understand, instead they don’t and they start getting mad and yell like they have no idea why we’re doing what we’re doing.
They don’t understand how we think.

I know not all parents are like this but some are (including mine).

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32 Answers

avvooooooo's avatar

They do understand. But they also understand consequences and how they can fuck up your life. Hence the being mad.

pjanaway's avatar

They are just doing it because their parents did the same thing. So they are just taking it out on their own kids. lol


Sarcasm's avatar

Even though they were kids at one time, it’s been a long time. And you’re being raised in a completely different era, possibly in completely different environments.
Society and technology are changing at alarming rates.

Whoops. I mean, cuz’ parents r dumb.

sliceswiththings's avatar

I hate to admit it, but my parents were right about everything when I was a teen. I didn’t realize it at the time (or was unwilling to admit it) but looking back, they really did know best. I think they do understand how teens think but don’t indulge it.

master_mind413's avatar

they do it to protect you from the same mistakes they made every parent wants a better life for there kids then what they had it is the goal of any responsible parent, there is a line that separates a parent from a friend and it is thin some parents cross this line hence the over populated prison systems nation no i take that back world wide and that is why kids should not raise kid’s

parents have been around longer and know more teens are just overly emotional and irrational “kids” that think they know every thing about life when they obviously dont and should listen to there parents

Ansible1's avatar

They probably understand better than you think. What you must understand is that when they get mad or yell, it’s out of love. Just be glad you have parents that care enough to get mad, ya know?

Haleth's avatar

I think it’s more that teenagers don’t understand parents. Being a teenager is all about doing your own thing and figuring out who you are, and a lot of the time that also includes disobeying your parents or sneaking out. Your parents have probably done all that stuff, but over the years your priorities gradually start to change in a really big way. By the time you’re a parent of a teenager, keeping your kids safe and helping the succeed is a huge priority. So even if they understand you, because they have been there, they will still get angry over things. Another thing is that me when I was a teenager and most people my age loved feeling misunderstood. It’s kind of a way of feeling superior.

skfinkel's avatar

Getting mad and yelling doesn’t usually work so well. That’s probably what happened to them, and when you are a parent, that will be what you do as well. Unless somehow the cycle is broken. What I suggest is that when you have not made a mistake, and all is well, you sit down with your parents and talk about what will happen next time you do something wrong. What you would like, and they can tell you what they want. It might work. Maybe together you all can figure out a better way to act—that will help all of you.

belakyre's avatar

I think that this characteristic (as you stated in your question) is not a dominant trait in all families. However, some parents find it hard to move on with the flow. I guess that its really hard to see this lil kid becoming independent and all. The explanation is a little biased in the fact that it sounds biased. However, if you thnk of it, if you had something that you thought you had a right to own and control for a little while “make a mistake”, you would go mad as well. To further explain my point, it would just be like having your computer break down because of a minor mistake.Most people, instead of trying to understand and correct the mistake, would just shout at and hit the computer and send it to a repair center, very much like the way parents would send us to professional counselling.
Furthermore, some parents find it extremely hard to let go, as I stated before in this answer. Some parents just can’t bear to find their children growing up so fast and so they would treat their children gruffly in order to be well distanced enough away from them when the time to say goodbye to their children comes.
I can’t really help you beyond those two points. I’m not a parent.

Darwin's avatar

They do understand, but they also have 20:20 hindsight and don’t want you to make the same mistakes they did. At least they care or they wouldn’t get angry.

As my husband always says, by his second day of boot camp he began to realize that his dad was a lot smarter than he thought.

RAMesesII's avatar

Parents do understand teenagers. What happens is, they sometimes get frustrated, they’re worried, or they forget that you’re a teenager (you don’t look any more like a kid so it sometimes happens.)

faye's avatar

They do, they remember all the s**t they got up to, and the narrow escapes!

sliceswiththings's avatar

To be honest, I wish my parents had been on my case more. They trusted me to form my own healthy habits and do well in school. Little did they know (??) I was up super late just talking to friends online every night so I never slept and I didn’t do much homework (I’m now at my safety school). I guess they were glad they didn’t have to worry about me partying and stuff, but I still wish they had supervised that stuff more even though I would have hated it at the time.

RAWRxRandy's avatar

Thanks, i like that idea. I think my Parents dont understand how to deal with some things that i do. Probably cuz they grew up in a different culture that i do. The things i go through are clearly different but they dont seem to think that…I’ll just try talking to them

Darwin's avatar

Sometimes parents are smarter than you think and see your true motives, and sometimes they are just afraid you are going to screw up your life somehow. One of the girls who was on my daughter’s kickball team has already had two babies and still hasn’t even finished high school, and the son of the school’s nurse got drunk and fell off a balcony, landing on his head. Both of them are going to have very different lives than their parents had hoped for them.

Supacase's avatar

They do understand – and some day you will understand that. I think “my mom was right” was the hardest thing I ever had to admit.

I’m not saying you don’t realize that they have the benefit of hindsight, only that just how much they really do know will surprise you when you’re in their position. There really isn’t any way for any kids to fully comprehend it until they get there themselves. I know they wish parents would let them figure it out for themselves, but most parents wish they would just take our word for it sometimes.

DominicX's avatar

I’ve always felt that my parents were more understanding than many people’s parents, so I’ve had a different experience. (Guess I didn’t get so much the thrill of being misunderstood. Damn my parents for accepting my homosexuality so easily!) :P

For example, while some kids I know went to great lengths to conceal their drinking and partying from their parents, it’s no secret between me and my parents and I consider that a good thing. It’s funny how some parents are clueless about that kind of thing. So in some cases, they truly don’t understand or just aren’t fully in tune (this may be because of ignorance or because they don’t want to face the truth). But my parents did the same things when they were teens and even worse in some cases and they’re glad I haven’t gone as far as they did.

The problem is, as Sarcasm said, partly because it has been a long time and the memories aren’t as fresh and being an adult has completely changed their outlook, so it’s harder to connect to being a teen and the change of times makes a difference. The ‘70s and 2000s are not the same. Of course the teens from both decades did similar things, but there are significant differences. Technology being the main one.

That said, they overreact when you do dangerous/illegal/bad things because it’s their job to make sure you don’t do things like that. Teens should expect that. Now, of course, I don’t happen to think yelling and flipping a bitch are the right options, but that’s just me…

And yes, I’m still a teenager.

stevenb's avatar

I think teenagers don’t understand parents. I was yelled at, etc, as a teen and, looking back I realize I deserved it every time. I was an extrordinarily well behaved kid, but still did stupid things from time to time. I always knew my parents were smarter than I was, so I tried to learn what I could whenever I could.
Maybe you can help them not yell at you by showing appreciation for the help they give you every day. Stop and look at all they give you, provide for you, buy for you and do for you. Maybe thank them for some of it, and show that you realize that a lot of people in this world don’t get provided for in many ways, and a lot don’t have parents.
Someday your parents will be gone and all you will have are the memories of them. Try to make the good memories outnumber the bad ones, or at least see the positive in all of them where you can. Good luck.

Jeruba's avatar

Let’s say you’re right and parents don’t understand teenagers.

What would they be doing differently if they did?

mattbrowne's avatar

Every generation of teenagers develops and uses a new youth language.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Sometimes I’ve yelled because I could not believe that I did not raise a child with more common sense than I had at that age.

JONESGH's avatar

It’s actually you that doesn’t understand them I believe.

hearkat's avatar

I understand my son (now 18) quite well. However, when he does stupid stuff, I rarely yell… I usually sarcastically say, ” I know your mother taught you better than that.”

There was a time that I would yell and get more upset, though – I must admit. As a parent, I put a lot of pressure on myself to not make mistakes. I truly want my son to have a better life than I did, and not to make the same dumb mistakes I did. Both his father and I had abusive childhoods, and no self-esteem; I wanted to end the dysfunctional legacy with my son. But I did not do so well… his dad was an alcoholic, so we divorced and his dad did not long after from alcohol and drug abuse. I was left to raise my son on my own. I made some other poor decisions, and was in an unhealthy relationship for a number of my son’s ‘impressionable’ years. But I was always honest with my son, and eventually came to my senses and really made him my first priority.

As he approached 14, I reflected on myself at that age, and I knew that I couldn’t have cared less what my parents said to me at that age – I did whatever I felt like doing, and sometimes I did stuff to spite my parents. I realized that I could no longer be a disciplinarian, I had to hope that I had instilled in him enough self-discipline up to that point, and just be here for support and guidance. He has made a number of stupid mistakes, and was in the Emergency Room 3 times earlier this year, but I know that those lessons learned the hard way are the ones that will really stay with him and ultimately make him a stronger person.

Someone above mentioned that some parents are trying to protect their kids and it was also mentioned that some parents get upset that the kids are growing up too fast. I found that once I made my son my #1 priority, time passed at just the right pace, because the time was spent with each other. So many parents are so busy doing so much trying to create this idealistic life for their kids that they’re not really enjoying their kids’ childhoods.

In addition, some people are overly concerned with what other people think, so some parents get embarrassed when their kids misbehave. Kids can often sense this, and often times will feed into it, because to them it seems that the parents are more concerned with keeping up appearances than they are with their own child’s well-being (and sadly, they may be right). So this turns into an ugly cycle… the kids are acting out to get attention, and the parents are so busy trying to cover things up and make it all look good, and everyone gets more and more unhappy… a sad cycle.

If you want advice on how to open a more mature dialogue with your parents to address your feelings and concerns, feel free to ask the collective… it’s a very diverse community, in terms of age and cultural backgrounds, and also very supportive. Good luck!

Poser's avatar

I think it’s quite the opposite. Parents do remember what it was like being a teenager. They remember what they were thinking (or not thinking). I know I got myself into a lot of really bad situations that could have ended with me dead. I went into those situations because I thought I had them under control. I thought I could handle them. In reality, I just got lucky.

I fear my son will think the same way I did. If/when he and I butt-heads when he’s a teenager, it will be because he thinks he has things under control, and I will know he doesn’t.

Parents have the benefit of having been through their teenage years and remembering what it was like to go through all that, and the wisdom of experience that highlights what we didn’t know back then. Teenagers have only the belief that they know how to handle all life throws at them, without the experience.

justme1's avatar

I think because parents think that teenagers think they know everything, and that because they are older than them that they are right and are the ones who really “know”. However they don’t see that it goes both ways, parents think they know everything also because they are older and have more experience, they have made their mistakes and don’t want to let their teens make the same mistakes. The fact is that teenagers like the parents themselves are going to need to learn from their own mistakes also, I have also heard some teenagers talk with more common sense and knowledge than a lot of adults or parents.

But they are older so that isn’t possible….....

Poser's avatar

@justme1 I didn’t say that parents have the wisdom of age that gives them more knowledge. I said experience. I don’t believe that the number of one’s years automatically incurs wisdom upon the aged, but when someone thoughtfully and truthfully analyzes their mistakes, wisdom is gained.

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “Smart people learn from their mistakes. Really smart people learn from others’ mistakes.”

If teenagers were as smart as they think they are, they would draw upon the wisdom of their parents, and learn from the mistakes they made when they were younger. Instead, teenagers assume their intellect, intuition, and judgment are superior, and go out and make the mistakes their parents are trying to protect them from—not because their parents want to spoil their fun, but because too often, those mistakes end up killing them or severely harming their future.

Webzilla's avatar

Teenagers are loaded guns! Their brains are growing, chemicals and hormones are everywhere and they don’t even understand themselves and that is why parents can’t either. Parents are under constant stress because they are afraid of what way their teenager is going to react today and you can’t fault them for that.
When they see you like that they realise what their own parents went through and it is hard to deal with and the teenage years do go on for a few years!

justme1's avatar

@Poser I didnt even read your first answer, I was answering the question. Sorry if you thought my response was to you, if I was it would have said @poser

Response moderated
SABOTEUR's avatar

Parents know exactly how teenagers think because they’ve been teenagers themselves. It’s teenagers who fail to see the obvious.

And the general consensus among teenagers is “things are different now” and there’s nothing they need to learn from “old folks”.

There’s a saying for that: New day, same shlitz.

Teenagers are often quite surprised the day they begin to sound like their parents.

DominicX's avatar


Well, to be fair, a lot of things are different now, mainly the technology. Parents of teenagers right now didn’t have to worry about computers and cell phones and texting and social networking when they were teenagers, so there are some significant differences, especially since those things are a big part of teenagers’ lives.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@DominicX: True, but those are peripheral changes…that’s not what I’m referring to. The things that matter are age old things like respect/self respect, making good decisions, dressing appropriately, handling relationships, etc.

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