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Your Teen Gets Irritated When You Approve: How to Stay Connected

It may come as a surprise when suddenly–your teen gets irritated when you approve of their decision. You thought they’d feel supported.

Here’s why.

I was listening to a parent tell a story about their teen recently, and their story reminded me that when your teen is going through a phase of separating from you, wanting to be independent, and asserting their right to make their own decisions–the last thing they want is to think you approve of their decision. 

It’s as if they need to feel, deeply within themselves, that their decisions are theirs and theirs alone.

For example, if they tell you they’ve decided to do “xyz” and you say, “I think you’ve made a wise decision”, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an annoyed “who asked you?” look. And if they’re feeling a particularly strong need to show their independence or rebellion, they may even change their mind if they know you approve.

It’s a stark contrast from earlier years when your approval might feel supportive to them. 

However, your teen still needs you to “see”, “hear”, and understand them. They also need to stay connected and to know you believe in them. Here’s how to do all that during this phase.

*Keep your comments neutral.*

For example:

  • “It sounds like you’ve really thought that through and you’re clear about ‘xyz’ being your best decision”, or
  • “I’m glad you’ve got some clarity about what feels right for you”, or 
  • “That sounds as if it really fits with [another goal they have in their life]”.

Drop any potential praise or agreement.

If you see a potential problem that you think they may have overlooked, you could ask, with genuine curiosity, “Have you thought through what you’ll do if *abc* happens? Asking with genuine curiosity usually means assuming they may have already thought it through. 

If you’re anxious about it or assuming they haven’t thought it through, they’ll almost certainly hear it in your voice and things may fall apart quickly.

If your teen is asking your opinion, that’s different–but it’s also a rare occurrence when they’re in that separation phase!

Essentially, your teen still needs to feel seen heard and understood, but they probably don’t want to hear that you agree with them! 

Does this land for you? I’m curious–let me know. 😊 

PS: This teen tendency often gets strong around age 15, and if you’re curious about an astrological explanation, check out this interview I did a while back with Diana Cary.