Marsha B. Sauls, Ph.D.
Adolescents are in a life cycle that requires them to adapt to the world. They must learn to get along with and be accepted by people outside of the family, both adults and peers. Healthy adolescents do this in a way that leads to positive choices and outcomes in their lives.
To an adolescent, self-esteem means being accepted in a peer group. Socialization is the main priority for an adolescent. This means an adolescent will prioritize clothes, talking and being with friends, and being seen in the right places. Adolescents will fight with parents to be with peers. If the peer group is positive, positive things such as, planning for college, being active in athletics or music, having a job and having good clean fun will be prioritized. If the peer group is negative, negatives such as, staying out or away from home, seeing parents as “the enemy”, or developing an entitled attitude of not having to earn privileges or be supervised will be prioritized.
Healthy adolescents have to deal with how they are going to handle a society that is over sexualized and has drugs and alcohol readily available for teens. They talk about this among themselves and make decisions about how to make choices. Healthy peer groups make healthy decisions. Research shows that people eventually behave like their peers.
Adolescents do listen to their parents. What a parents says is a boundary they bounce back and forth over. If there is no boundary the kids get lost.
Attitude is an important indicator of what is happening to a teen. The degree to which an adolescent has an attitude of entitlement and a belief that parents do not have the right to be involved in the teen’s life determines the level of difficulty a parent will have with their teen.