Teens love trying out a wide range of values and then seeing how the people around them respond. This is an essential part of teen self-concept building and is very developmentally appropriate. Often, teens love seeing their parents react to these new values negatively. Once the parents have a negative reaction, the teen will double down on the value and use it as a way to differentiate themselves from the parent.
Why do they do this?
- Sometimes they want to hear what’s right. They want to hear you give them a healthier and more mature perspective; this is the only way they know how to ask for it.
- Sometimes they want attention and engagement from you. If the teen isn’t getting enough healthy attention, they will act out and try to get negative attention.
- They may want their parent to feel pain because the relationship isn’t going well.
- They may want to feel in control because they are used to feeling out of control.
Parents, it does not matter what the teens say their values are at this age. You must play the long game here. By the time they are 30, most of them will wake up and realize they have the same values as you do. You do not need to lecture or drill them into your worldview.
We can not transfer all of our values to our teens. However, we can place them in situations where they discover their values independently.
Things you can say in response to teen value testing
- Calmly ask questions that have them think deeper about their values.
- Such as… “So if you think private property doesn’t really exist, I suppose you wouldn’t mind if I used your PlayStation?”
- Thank them for sharing and then move on!
- “Thanks for sharing that. I’ve always wondered how teens view socialism.”
Ways we can support teens in maturing their value systems
- Continue encouraging them to find their voice. We do this at Antelope through Art Groups, Dungeons and Dragons, and our Antelope Group!
- Continue practicing minute-by-minute self-concept-building practices at home.
- Encourage teens to try new experiences out and to continue learning. Provide opportunities for them to discover on their own.