Why Is the Conflict Between Parents and Teenagers a Seemingly Universal Problem?

Your teen is neither a child nor an adult. When they were a child, you could determine the rules for your family and insist your child follow them. However, you may be finding that this directive approach is no longer working with your teen. As children, they needed the security and the care you provided. Now, as a teen, they may resist your guidance and be more strongly influenced by their friends than by you.

We often hear teenagers telling parents, “You don’t understand me!” Why do they feel this way? Did they suddenly change from charming children to rebellious adolescents? Why is the conflict between parents and teenagers a seemingly universal problem?

Let’s look at this from a new perspective I would call ontological. That may be a new word for you, but an ontology is a belief we have about the nature of something. In other words, how we understand the thing or a person. It is a method I have been teaching to coaches, parents, educators, and leaders for two decades. Let me explain how this new view can be helpful.

The foundational philosophical belief of ontological learning and coaching is that humans live in interpretive worlds. Each of us sees the world differently and, from our viewpoint, understands the world uniquely. There is not one truth with a capital “T.” We experience ourselves and all that is going on around us and interpret or assign a meaning almost instantaneously and often unconsciously. That meaning is our assessment or interpretation. It is true to us but is not a universal truth. In other words, we are each living a story based on the observer we are when we encounter the world around us. Our understanding of what appears to be reality is a story we’ve created. So, there is a possibility of revising our story when we are dissatisfied with some aspect of our life.

The idea that we are unique observers is intuitive to most of us and is easy to observe. However, it is something that we easily forget or overlook. Imagine that you and your teen go to a movie together. After the movie, you are enthusiastic about what a fantastic movie it was, and your teen says it was one of the worst movies they have ever seen. What is happening? In a world where there is only one right answer, you may argue about who is correct. Looking at this situation through an ontological lens, we can see that the parent and the teen are different observers. Ontologically what is important and most interesting isn’t whether the movie was good or bad. It is about the observers having such different interpretations of the same experience. You may not realize that your conversation with your teen isn’t really about the movie but about the observer each of you is.

You may wonder why we all tend to believe our interpretation of the world is the correct one. Fundamentally, believing that what we experience is reality gives us clarity and a sense of control. Many of the conflicts between parents and teens are essentially a struggle to determine which version of “reality” they will use. If you and your teen want to understand each other, the place to be curious about is the observer each of you is and how you became that observer. This ontological approach is a powerful tool for parents when coaching their teens to become more emotionally intelligent.

Free eBook for Parents: How Can You Coach Your Teen to Become More Emotionally Intelligent? 

Download our free eBook for parents to learn a different interpretation of emotions that illustrates how they are a valuable source of information for you and your teen and support you both to make wise choices.

About the author 

Dan Newby

Dan is a best-selling author of 5 books on emotions, a social-emotional learning consultant to U.S. school systems, a certified professional coach with 9000 hours of coaching experience, an international speaker, and a thought-leader in the domain of emotions and emotional literacy. Dan was a Senior Course Leader for Newfield Network for eight years. In those years he led coach training programs in the U.S., Amsterdam, and at the University of Calgary. He has worked with several school systems in the U.S., global commercial enterprises, and NGOs. Dan’s passion for elevating emotional literacy fuels his writing, teaching, and development of games to help people learn the value of emotions and the many ways they enrich our lives. His quest for emotional skills development combined with his work as an ontological coach and CEO of one of the premium coaching schools globally helped him move deeper into this territory of learning and become the teacher he is today. Dan was born in the U.S. and has lived in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}