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“You treat me like a child” is a cry heard mostly in early and mid-adolescence. Parents and teenagers often bring out the worst in each other as the teenager tries to gain power, and the parents fight to stay in control. But what does being an adult mean? It also means being able to question adult orders rather than simply accept them. If each believes the other shares their view, both will be disillusioned.

Case in point
“Sam, our 16 year old son is always asking us to treat him like an adult, but there are times when he seems even more irresponsible than our 10-year-old.” Jane, 41

  • For parents, it means being responsible, living up to certain standards that the parent thinks desirable.
  • For teenagers, it means being independent, being allowed to run their lives the way they want to, and choosing their own friends, clothes, and leisure activities.


Parent’s view : He’s not a child any more.
Teenager’s view : I’m not a child any more.

Parent : She should be more responsible.
Teenager : I want to be more independent.

Parent : He should choose his friends a bit more carefully.
Teenager : I’m old enough to choose my own friends.

Parent : She ought to spend more time working than fooling around.
Teenager : What I do in my own time is up to me.

Parent : He must be responsible enough to be home at the agreed time
Teenager : Why should I have to get home at the time they said?

Parent : She’s old enough to help around the house a bit more.
Teenager : I’m tired of them always telling me what to do.

Parent : He’s old enough to tidy his room without me nagging him.
Teenager : It’s my room. Why can’t I keep it the way I want?

Parent : She would realize that smoking is bad for her health.
Teenager : I know smoking is bad for me, but can I decide, PLEASE?

Parent :He’s old enough to behave how an adult ought to behave.
Teenager : I’m old enough to decide how to run my own life.


Here's a Quiz on Freedom; At what age of life what you would allow your Son/ Daughter to indulge in the various activities described.


There are no right or wrong answers to these questions because there are no hard and fast rules, but you should try to make decisions about freedom based upon how mature you think your youngster is (not how old he or she is).

Your teenager will always demand more freedom than you are prepared to give.

Lack of freedom seems to be more of an issue for girls, especially in early and late adolescence. Maybe this is parental sexism, which leads parents to believe they must be more protective of girls.

In retrospect:

  • What you decide will depend on how you assess your own child and the particular circumstances. Deciding when you should allow your youngster to go out at night, for example, must depend largely on where you live, the distances involved, and the transportation available.

  • Girls become self-sufficient sooner than boys, and a 15-year-old girl will see herself as much more of an adult than boys of the same age.

  • Parents, however, are more protective of girls than they are of boys, and may be less willing to give them the independence they need.

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