One of the reasons that the difference in perspective between people is so complicated is because it is often impossible to explain why we feel the way we do about many things. It is difficult to identify why something feels like an attack to one person and wouldn’t bother the other. Or why something is important to one person and isn’t important to the other. That is because why is not the issue. You might as well try to explain why you find a movie hilarious and your friend doesn’t. Both of you observe the same movie, the same sequence. Your friend “understands” the “logic” of why you are laughing, i.e., the word play or the physical performance. It is not a lack of understanding that is the issue; your friend is simply not affected in the same way emotionally as you are.

The danger lies in that if you feel or are affected a certain way, it seems obvious to you that you would feel that way, and you might assume that it would be obvious to your friend. To you, it is obvious why you are laughing. So it becomes confusing why you need to explain why, and more confusing when trying to explain what is so funny doesn’t work.

When it is something that is more important than comedy, then the debates become more difficult. For example, what if a teen and her parent disagree over which college she should apply to, or what her major should be. These core value issues ‘make sense’ to each of them. They each have a gut feeling about what feels right and what feels wrong. Each will be attached to getting their own way.

Take the example of budgeting and spending money. Imagine the teen (lets call her Alice) goes out and spends an amount that feels appropriate to her on clothes. Then her parents find out, and it is an amount that they are not comfortable with her spending. This is an easy trap for an argument. From her parents’ perspective, it is obvious that this would bother them. They may assume that she went out and bought these clothes with full knowledge that it would bother them. They may further assume that if she knew that it would bother them, then she was either inconsiderate in disregarding their feelings or she bought these expensive clothes deliberately to defy them.

That is a lot of assumption, given she was just acting in a way that made sense to her at the time. The difficulty is remembering A) what is obvious to her parents may not have occurred to her at the time B) She has her own feelings and perspective that are equally valid to her, and that make just as much sense to her. C) Her actions have more to do with her perspective and desire than how they will affect her parents.

You can’t force someone to see things the way you do. You may only end up succeeding in having her see you as more pushy. Try to avoid forcing your teenager’s hand to do what you want her to do, whether it is directly or through threats. She may end up resisting simply out of a defensive and oppositional reaction. If you present your point with the respect for her right to disagree and to form her own opinion, then she will be more likely to evaluate the validity of your point with flexibility. If you believe that your point is so justified, let it speak for itself. If it is a question of rules, then set the consequences and allow your teen to make the decision herself and reap the consequences. Allow the experience to dictate her choice. Her growing sense of autonomy means that she needs to feel that she is making her own choice, and not simply doing what she is told.

Parenting means picking your battles in terms of what rules are fundamental, when to let your teen make her own choices, and when compromise in an option. Let your teen have some choices on her own. For example, instead of arguing with her over spending, give her an allowance and then let her buy her own clothes, food for going out etc. Then she will have to budget herself, or deal with the natural consequence of running out of allowance and not having any money to go out until the next allowance.


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“My experience is what I agree to attend to.” – William James


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“In the last analysis, then, we believe that we all know and think about and talk about the same world because we believe our percepts are possessed by us in common.”               – William James


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