It’s not uncommon for parents to say to their teenage child ‘you are not allowed to go out with friends this weekend’. The teenager will likely feel that this statement does meet the expectations they have of their parents. They assume that allowing teenagers to have a normal social life and some degree of independence is part of good parenting, and that their parents aspire to be good parents. It is not possible for the teenager to reject the authority of their parents or simply see them as bad people. Nor can they easily suppress their own feelings and accept such restrictions on their freedom. On face value, it seems that there is a head-on collision between different perspectives here.
In order to resolve this conflict, it’s helpful for the teenager to ask: what are we dealing with here? It might be the case that the previous weekend, the teenager went to meet friends and took their parents’ car without permission, returning well after the time they were expected to be home. If the parents’ statement is framed in light of this information, the tension can be resolved. The parents did not intend by this statement a blanket ban on socializing. Rather, they were addressing a specific point. When viewed in the right context, the statement ‘you are not allowed to go out with friends this weekend’ does not contradict the assumption that good parents allow their teenagers to have a degree of independent social life. By asking ‘what are we dealing with here’, the sentiments of both parents and teenagers can be validated. We can see that the two perspectives are not in direct conflict, and can be harmonized by understanding that each one has a particular goal and context.