The Number One Destroyer in the Parent/TEEN Relationship


-Proverbs 18:12
“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”

Pride is a big trigger for me. Just hearing the word makes me cringe. I do not tolerate certain forms of pride in others very well. My immediate response to unhealthy forms of pride is typically a negative reaction of fight or flight. I have no problem pointing out this kind of pride in others, especially when it presents itself as entitlement, but looking at pride in myself can cause a wall of defense to go up.

Having pride can cause significant challenges in any relationship. Pride affects the communication between two people and forces it to break down. Positive communication is necessary in order to have a healthy and growing relationship. This chapter will help you to understand what pride is, specifically how it can show up in the parent/child relationship. We will begin by exploring the definition of pride.

What is Unhealthy Pride?
There are two kinds of pride: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy pride is when we take pride in something or feel a healthy sense of pride with regards to an accomplishment. But unhealthy pride is when we feel entitled or like we desserve something. Often times, a prideful person will act as though they deserve more or they know more. They can have a sense of entitlement and see things one way; their way. They can present as arrogant, selfish, thinking of oneself as being better or more important than others and not being able to admit when wrong. While researching unhealthy pride, I came across the following characteristics:

  • Having an inflated sense of self or thinking that you are better than others.
  • Arrogance and selfishness.
  • Being defensive.
  • Not taking responsibility or ownership.
  • Inability to listen to another person’s point of view is the same as saying that your way is the only way.
  • Being fearful or anxious is the result of not trusting God. Distrust in God represents a belief that you know more than Him.
  • Controlling people, places and things is an inability to surrender which is another form of distrust in God’s will and plan for your life.
  • Having a deserving or entitled attitude.
  • Someone who is negative all the time and can only see the bad in things.
  • Someone who has expectations of perfection.
  • Consumed with what others think of them.
  • Judgmental and critical of others.
  • Breaks rules and doesn’t follow directions.
  • Wanting what others have.
  • Consumed by appearance or material things.
  • Allowing the inner critic to control your mind.

The Parent and Unheatlhy Pride

There are many different ways that parents can demonstrate pride in their relationships. It can present through their thinking and also through their interactions and reactions with their TEEN. I don’t think parents recognize their behaviors as being prideful. This is because the pride is a defense mechanism used to defend against a trigger.

As I stated earlier, a parent’s job is to make decisions and have control over their children until a certain age. Around age 11, the child begins to develop a sense of awareness and independence. Parents have much difficulty with this transition in the relationship and often times, the control and decision making that was once a healthy interaction, turns into prideful thinking and prideful behaviors. I’m not saying that once your child turns eleven that you should stop setting boundaries or having expectations. What I am saying is, that as parents we need to be aware of what how we are responding and reacting to our children. We need to be aware of our own triggers and we need to come from a place of intention when communicating with them, rather a place of reaction.

Let me give you a classic example. The “because I said so” answer we all give to our children. A teenager expresses dislike for a limit or expecation that is set and the parent responds with , “You need to do what I say.” The teenager will reply with, “But why? It’s not fair.” The parent then gets frustrated and hollers, “Because I said so, that’s why? And if you talk like that to me again, you will lose your phone privileges.”

Now I get it. I really do. I understand that as parents we want to raise children who respect us, listen to us and obey our requests. But just because the teenager expresses that he or she does not like a particular rule or agree with a certain expectation does not necessarily mean he or she is being disrespectful. And just because they respond with curiosity by asking why, does not mean that they are being disrespectful.  Parents can get easily triggered by simple interactions such as this one. We become immediately defensive if our children do not want what we want for them or behave how we think they should behave. We become defensive when they do not see things the way we do or have the same feelings and opinions about the things we do. And most importantly, we forget too quickly that we were the same way when we were their age. We had our thoughts and feelings; beliefs and opinions. We too expressed curiosity and at some point in our lives were probably shut down by a parent for having those thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions. You see, we learned to react this way from our upbringing in our culture. We learned to believe that we are more powerful, more important and feel this entitlement to be able to express that to our teenagers.

This is prideful parenting. We think that because we are the parents, that we have the right to respond this way. We think that it is not okay for our children to question us or have an opinion about things. We think this way and because we think this way, then we assume that our way of thinking is the only way.

This way of thinking and responding in relationship with our teenagers causes the relationship to break down. The more it breaks down, the more prideful we become. We tell our children they need to be with the family and enjoy it. How do you force someone to enjoy something they don’t want to do? How do you force someone to want to do something they don’t enjoy doing? Do you see where I am going here? It turns into a great big mess and in the end, because we are the parent, we think it is okay to blame it on our children being selfish and disrespectful.

Another form of prideful thinking is trying to change or “fix” your child. It blows my mind how many parents bring their teenagers to see me so that I can mold them magically into the person the parent thinks he or she should be. I’m not at all saying that if you bring your child to get help that you are prideful. Again, please understand that it is the intention behind the behavior or reaction to the teenager. If your intention is to give your child the guidance you do not feel equipped to provide, then the decision is not prideful. But if your thinking is to “fix” your child because they are not living up to your expectations, then this is prideful thinking. If you are a parent and you are going about your relationship with your child this way, then please let me tell you that you are not going to get anywhere. The changes need to begin with you letting go of your prideful thinking.

The TEENager and Unhealthy Pride
Okay TEENS, it’s your turn now. Let’s look at how TEENS can be prideful. I am pretty sure there are many things on that list that the TEEN reading this book can relate to. The biggest prideful characteristic in TEENS I see is a sense of entitlement. When they get to a certain age, usually around 13, they become very entitled. They form their own opinions about things and automatically assume that their way is the right way. They disregard their parents life experience and knowledge and say things like, “Things are different now.” They talk to us like we are old and washed up and have no clue what is going on in the world. There is especially a sense of entitlement between the years of earning their license and turning 18 years old. The thinking many TEENS have is “I don’t have to listen to you.” “Your rules are dumb.” “I’m almost 18 and I can do whatever I want.” “Once I move out, my life will be easy.” For some reason, many TEENS live in this fantasy world that life is going to be so easy once they move out on their own and can make their own decisions. They have a tunnel-like vision and can only see life through their eyes because for a TEEN, their life is the only one they are responsible for. They don’t have to worry about anybody else, but themselves. This is the way it should be for TEENS until they go out into the world and begin an adult life. But they tend to have a sense of entitlement about it and one track thinking.

This entitlement comes out in their interactions with their parents and causes great discord and breakdown in communication. It can be a tremendous trigger for a parent who is working so hard to find balance between taking care of themselves, working and raising a family. Again, those triggers cause stress and both parent and TEEN to go into fight or flight mode.

Effects of Unhealthy Pride on the Parent/TEEN Relationship
We all have some form or even multiple forms of pride. How does pride affect your relationship with your parent or child? Let me guess, you are looking at the list identifying all of the characteristics your parent or child has and how it impacts your relationship with them. You are saying to yourself, “Yup, if they weren’t as entitled, then I wouldn’t have a problem with him/her.” Or you might be saying, “If they could just see things my way for once, then we would be able to communicate better.” “If only he/she weren’t so critical and judgemental.”

As you can see, pride can present itself in many different ways. And if we look at the list one by one, we can probably see how each behavior or attitude affects our parent or child in the relationship. I know what you are thinking, “I need to give this book to my parent/child so they can see how their pride is affecting our relationship. If they read this, then maybe they will be able to see what I am trying to say to them.” Guess what! This way of thinking is the number one problem in the relationship. It is your form of pride and it is affecting your relationship with your parent/child.

I want you to tackle this chapter by looking at yourself, not your parent or child. As I stated earlier, it is easy to point out the flaws and faults of the other person in the relationship. It’s difficult to look at our own. Having a healthy relationship with your parent or TEEN begins with you being able to look at yourself first. And being able to do this is the first step in conquering pride in the relationship. When you deal with your pride, the other person’s defense mechanisms come down which allows them to deal with their pride.

Always seeing fault in the other person is the biggest form of pride. Blaming, shaming, judging and acting as though you are the victim in the relationship is a form of pride. Trying to change the other person to be more like you think they “should” be is a form of pride. By doing this, you are saying, I am better than you and my way is better than yours. And this way of thinking and being causes major breakdowns in communication. It triggers the fight or flight response which is why parents and TEENS argue, fight or shut down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many parents bring a TEEN to therapy and expect that the therapy will help their TEEN to open up and talk to them more. Their chief complaint is that their TEEN won’t talk to them and they think the way to making them talk is to bully them into it through therapy. I know this sounds really harsh, but it is so often the case of what I see. They use shame as a desperate plea to get their TEEN to talk to them. When the parent checks in with me before a session begins, they will say things like, “Well, he is still not talking with me and opening up with me at home.” They say it with a blaming tone and leave the session with the expectation that this will be worked on in therapy. Little do they know that the only way this will change is if they look at themselves first.

I experienced this kind of thinking a few months ago in my relationship with my sister. Over the years, we’ve grown apart. Slowly, I’ve distanced from her and a few months ago, she broke down and called me out on it. She was angry and upset and her frustration came out on me as shame and blame because I do not talk with her like I used to. I knew her heart was in a place of desperatly wanting the relationship restored, but the way she went about it was to point the finger at me instead of looking at why I was shutting down from her. And my response to her was exactly that. I first acknowledged that I do not open up to her. She responded with, “Well you need to. You can talk to me about anything.” I then explained to her that instead of pointing the finger at me, that maybe she should look at herself and ask herself why I don’t talk to her about my life. I explained that I feel judgement and blame when I tell her things. After the discussion, I had to let go of my pride and put the effort in to give the relationship a chance to change. I started calling her more and even opening up more. She too let go of her pride and respond with an open mind, listening ear and no judgement. And she even went above and beyond and began responding with curiosity to what I shared with her.

Pride affects communication. When there is a breakdown in communication in a relationship, there is a breakdown in the relationship. Pride triggers the fight or flight response in both the parent and the TEEN and the results of this can be detrimental to the relationship.

God and Pride
I’ve had a lot of parents and TEENS come to me with these very same issues and ask me how I can help them. Well, actually, their request is for me to change the other person by talking to them. My answer is always the same. I explain to them that we can certainly sit down and communicate their feelings to the other person, but we ultimately cannot change the other person’s behavior. Trying to change someone else is where our pride is.

So instead, if they are a believer, I am able to explain it to them in such a different way, by relating their relationship with their parent or child to their relationship with God. God is our Father. He is our creator. He does not make mistakes. He does not shame, judge or boss us around. He does not roll his eyes at us. He does not give up on us. He does not walk away from us. The God I know loves us unconditionally. He is patient and kind. He is forgiving and merciful. He sees the mistakes we made and continue to make right under His eyes and He is there to catch us when we fall.

When I started looking at my relationship with my children in this way, I was able to respond in such a different way to them. The walls came down and all I could see is love for my children. The relationships changed and their walls came down too. God wants us to talk to Him. And when we do talk to Him, He doesn’t respond with criticism and judgement and He doesn’t tell us what to do either. He’s given us the Holy Bible as His Living Word and He wants us to use it to seek Him and know His will for our lives better. It is a lifelong process and we mess up a lot.  Just like God gives us a way to live, we give our children rules, boundaries and expectations. And when our children disobey those rules and don’t live up to our expectations, we get stressed. Our reactions to our TEENS are not always Godly.

TEENS can learn a lot about how to have a healthy relationship with their parents through their relationship with God as well. As a child of God, I want more than anything to please Him. I’ve learned that my way of doing things doesn’t even begin to compare with His way. I’ve learned by making mistakes that His way is so much better in the long run, even though most of the time His way makes me uncomfortable or may be hard. It’s the same thing with our parents. We may not always like or understand what they are asking us to do, but God tells us to obey our parents. If your parent is making a mistake, you need to trust that God will work that out for you and your parent.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I know your parents are not God. But God is your Father. Your parents are your earthly parents. God is the ultimate boss. He created you and know what is best for you. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This means that He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. He loves
your parents and He will work it out if you just step back and give Him the time and space to do it.

And just as our TEENS need to be reminded of this, so do we as parents. We need to be reminded that they are His before they are ours. He will work for good in their lives. He can fix any mess they make. Our job becomes transitioning to be their brother or sister in Christ.

Ways to Conquer Pride
After reading this chapter, my hope is that you are better able to identify your own pride in your relationship with your parent or child. The following are ways to conquer pride in the parent/child relationship.

1. Awareness.
Having awareness is the first step in being able to change the relationship you have with your parent or child. Once you become aware of these things, you can take the next step toward conquering your pride.

2. Prayer.
Prayer is the act of communicating with God. It involves admitting our faults to Him, asking Him for forgiveness and
then asking Him to show us a new way; His way. It is the act of letting go of our own way and surrendering that way to Him. I will usually end these prayers by asking God to help me see a situation or person through His eyes.

3. Learn a New Way of Thinking
Once you let go of your pride, you will be restored with a new way of thinking. There are three characteristics I strive to replace my pride with. I say strive because I am human and like you I am never going to do this perfectly. The three characteristics are humility, grace and gratitude. The next chapter is going to explore how these three characteristics can change the parent/TEEN relationship into a more loving, open and healthier relationship.

So if you take anything from this chapter, please understand that pride is a defense mechanism that gets triggered by stress. A parent gets stressed when he or she is not in control and has fear of what will happen once they let go of that control. And the TEEN gets stressed when he or she feels controlled. Replacing this pride with humility, grace and gratitude is the way to having a healthier relationship with your TEEN.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

1. Do you recognize your pride in your relationship with your parent or child? Which characteristics listed above do you relate to? Explain by giving an example.

2. How does your prideful thinking or behaviors affect your relationship with your parent or child?

3. Describe one way your pride triggers fight or flight in your relationship with your parent or child.

4. How does God respond to you when you do not meet His expectations for your life?

5. How can you respond more like God in your relationship with your parent or child? Give an example.