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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 July, 2004, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Are teenage years the hardest?
Kevin the teenager played by Harry Enfield
Parents worry that they are making a poor job of raising their teenage offspring, a new report says.

The Institute for Public Policy Research reports that nearly three-quarters of parents feel the teenage years are the most difficult to deal with.

Parents were also concerned about discipline, finding time to spend with troublesome teens and not having access to organised activities for their children such as youth clubs.

Are the teenage years the hardest for parents? Are you a teenager of a 'difficult' parent?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

You comments:

I think teenagers rebelling is made worse by the publicity
Sam, London
I am 16, and the seemingly rare case of a teenager who lives happily. I go to boarding school during the week, and when I do see my parents we get on well. They are reasonable, and in return I don't hold piss-ups in their house or return home drunk at 1am. I think teenagers rebelling is made worse by the publicity - psychologists saying that it is only natural for teenagers to rebel. Celebrity parents follow suit, with Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) even suggesting that a teenager who didn't rebel would have something wrong with them. I'd like to meet him. Imagine a society where being needlessly difficult was publicised as immature and uncool, rather than normal. Perhaps that would sort some people out.
Sam, London

In France we call teenage years, l'age bÍte (dumb years). And i find this expression quite appropriate, during these years you have a total disrespect for everything and for everybody (parents first. You are sure to be always right, and some years later you regret everything you've done between 14-18 and understand you have been very childish.
Luc, France

The overwhelming mass of adults who successfully emerge from being a teenager do so because unknowingly they were guided through by loving but strong willed parents who didn't want to be their offspring's "friend" during their formative years. The society teenagers grow up in is pressured because of the lax standards that parents set - not the kids. It will be interesting to see how far standards can slip before there is a backlash.
Keith, US/UK

It's simple lack of communication that causes most of the problems
Doug, Swindon, UK
As a teenager I did all the things which the parent's generally regard as 'bad'. I listened to heavy metal, I drank heavily, I avoided showering, and I played Dungeons & Dragons in shadowy rooms. At 25 I still listen to heavy metal and play Dungeons and Dragons in shadowy rooms but am also a very nice person and have recently got married. It's not always 'just a phase' and it won't always lead to crime and drugs. Parents should listen to the teenagers just as much as the teenagers should listen to their parents. It's simple lack of communication that causes most of the problems.
Doug, Swindon, UK

I remember getting depressed at flying into a rage at 14. The problem? There wasn't anything in the charts I liked. Teenage years are just as hard for the teenager as the parents I think.
Simon Soaper, England

Your childhood is the best part of your life. Your teens are stressful due to society's expectations making life very difficult. Then you become an adult and the expectations increase 10-fold.
David, Cornwall, UK

It must be hard to today's over-fed, lazy, & ignorant youngsters to connect to their parents' philosophy of perennial war on the world's poorest in order to satisfy their & their parents' own insatiable material greed.
Jon Davis, USA

I'd go back there tomorrow if I could
>Karen , Kilmacolm, Scotland<
Being a teenager was fantastic! No work or money worries! Carefree free time to be with your friends! Who wants to be a grown up? I don't know what all the complaining is about - I'd go back there tomorrow if I could!!
Karen, Kilmacolm, Scotland

I'm 26, and despite having wonderful, supportive, loving parents, I still kicked up a load of trouble in my teens. Teenagers are contrary - it's just a by-product of discovering who you are and what you believe. That said, in the last few years it seems to me that the teenager's lot has become even less easy, with the advent of mobile phones, iPods, Xboxes etc - the more consumer gadgets are available, the more teenagers feel pressured to conform, and the more the have-nots among them feel ostracised.
Rob A, London, UK

Even though we've all been through the trauma of those awful self-conscious teenage years, society, youth culture and morals are changing so rapidly, it's hard for any parent to identify with their teenager. I dread my son reaching that stage - who knows what kind of person he'll become, with his hormones raging? My parents had a trouble-free time with me - they were fairly liberal, but also instilled in us a great sense of pride in ourselves and respect for others. All I can do, like any good parent, is my very best, and hope that it's enough!
Kate, Manchester

When in my teens, and starting to make my own choices, my parents were generally opposed to everything, such as my choice clothes, music, pubs, friend, career etc. and told me constantly that when I was older, I would realise that they were right. I'm 34 now and a parent myself, and I can quite categorically state that I was, without fail, right about everything all along, and they were wrong. Teenagers - Listen to your inner voice and don't listen to the olds.
John Taunton, York, UK

There is no reason on earth why a teenager has to go through any difficult period whatsoever
Patricia, Henley, UK
Our society's gone insane. Anyone who thinks being a trouble maker, defiant, rude, uncontrollable etc is normal is just perpetuating this problem. I came back from India recently and was amazed at the wonderful manners and respect of every single teenager I met out there. They are polite, educated, know what they want, where they are going, have a wonderful sense of morality, are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the world around them and were an absolute delight to be around. Came back and as I stood at Heathrow for my bus watched a load of British teenagers shouting at their parents, blocking cars, seemingly unable to pick their feet up properly and walk! Says it all really. There is no reason on earth why a teenager has to go through any difficult period whatsoever. I didn't, the Indian teenagers I met didn't, why do we think it's normal in Britain?
Patricia, Henley, UK

Being a teenager is very difficult, but only because they make it difficult for themselves. The attitude of the world owing them something and endless concern about what everyone else thinks, is bound to cause stress. Here's hoping they never change, imagine a teenager that wasn't like that, they'd scare you to death.
Chris, UK

I couldn't stand my teenage years - years that I spent hating both my parents for the best part of the time. I, like one of your other respondents, had an extremely strict upbringing with parents scrutinising what I watched, listened to, my friends, etc. to the point where I spent as much time as possible out of the house. Add to this that it was the early 1980s with high unemployment, nothing to do in the evening (cinemas all closed down) and both my brother and I wound up with serious drink and drug problems all the way through our teens. I left that all behind the day I moved out of the house and went 200 miles away! It took years to get things on an even keel with my parents and in my own life. My parents have apologised for being so strange during my teenage years and not making the home a place I wanted to be. You make your bed....
Karl, Leeds

I must say to Anon that you are not alone. My experience bears many parallels with your own. In simple terms maybe society should be more concerned about children who are suppressed and never rebel, than what it is about the rebellious teenagers. Obviously, there are some teenagers whose anti-social behaviour is completely a menace to both their parents and society as a whole, but in truth the majority will develop into good decent well adjusted individuals and their rebellious years is nothing more than an assertion and realisation of their own individual identity. In fact the degree to which they rebel depends entirely on how much their parents try to dictate their lives.
Martin Godwin, Shrewsbury

Many adults seem to entertain the notion that they are perfect and must not be answered back to under any circumstances by teenagers and children. I am a 15 year old and following several family episodes I have come to the realisation that adults are not only not perfect, but that most of them have not grown up themselves. Oblivion of other people, disrespect and selfishness are all very common adult traits, and that's what makes the teenage years so difficult. How are we supposed to take in suggestions and statements by our parents that we know to be hypocritical. When we point out this fact, it is seen to be "cheeky". As soon as parents realise that they are not infallible, can be wrong when their children are right, and realise that not only did they make the same mistakes as us, but continue to do so, then progress might be made.
Oliver Robinson, UK

We live in an age where parents are too selfish and lazy to bring up their children. The parents of those so called troubled teenagers don't take the time to listen to their children and get to know them better. A number of parents don't even know what their child's interests and hobbies are, or what kind of music they like. Some of them don't even know who their child's friends are. It's no wonder why so many teenagers are the way they are today. Their parents obviously don't make the time to listen to them and guide them in the right direction. No, parents are letting television and the media raise their children for them. My heart goes out to all those misguided teenagers.
Maria, Suffolk

I have a 14 yr old son - an only child. I have the utmost respect for him and he for his father and myself, I listen to his opinions and always have been open and honest in all his questions through his childhood years, have advised him as best thought but have always let him make his own mistakes. Never have smacked him, don't need even to raise my voice. The three of us are best friends, maybe he'll turn into a Kevin one day - but I'll just have to wait and see.
Alison Caswell, Cardiff, S Wales

The blame is not solely on the parents but the culture and the medium which promotes such culture
Ali Khan, Ilford, UK
Youngsters being the difficult ones is just a reflection of the society's culture. If one holds the view that life is about obtaining maximum pleasure, then drugs, teenage pregnancies and the like are expected results. The blame is not solely on the parents but the culture and the medium which promotes such culture. We as a people need to start questioning freedom and ask ourselves where it is going to lead us in the years to come.
Ali Khan, Ilford, UK

I'm young enough (28) to remember how hateful the early teenage years were. You're no longer a child, but nobody will treat you as an adult. Later teenage years are a lot more fun, but what kept me on the rails was respect for my parents which went right the way back to early childhood. Many of today's kids have parents who work 12 hours a day, or simply couldn't care less. With the distractions and experiences of teenage years, it's no wonder they go off the rails without a mutually respectful parent-offspring relationship to fall back on. Heaven knows I relied on it on more than one occasion!
Dan, Yateley, UK

With the media constantly pushing the belief to teenagers that they can all by famous, earn lots of money and not have to work hard to achieve any of this then it is no wonder many feel lost and confused. There is no message that getting what you want in life involves hard work and sacrifices, and in today's 'Have it now' culture the harsh reality of life compared to the media's fantasy world must be placing today's teenagers under considerable stress when it comes to deciding what their future might be.
Chris, Preston, UK

Society is different than when I was a teenager in the late 70's early 80's. Back then no-one had money, a designer label meant Millets and a text message meant sliping someone a note whilst the teacher wasn't looking. Oh yes, and if the teacher caught you, you got a slap! Whilst the pressures in some areas are greater on teenagers today, they also have far more freedom, far more influence, and heaven knows far more "rights" - the problem is they are quite often far too immature to make proper use of these positive developments.
Jez, UK

These days they appear to be. I am in my mid 30's and I didn't find it difficult being a teenager. I had a strict upbringing, as did most of my peers and apart from a few stray ones, everyone seems to have coped admirably and are all now well adjusted adults. I can't say the same for today's teenagers who, for a lot, never seem to have heard of the word discipline. We didn't need endless clubs to keep us amused, our parents did that. I think it is an example of today's society. I think a lot of it is down to the parents.
Andrea, UK

Having recently departed from the teenage years of my life I would say that Parents are the cause of many of the problems! Many tend to forget what it is like and act like they were angels at the same age!! My dad use to "borrow" his fathers car to teach himself to drive, when I tried it he didn't see the funny side! (It was only a small dent!)
Peter F, Bristol UK

I have a sixteen year old and fourteen year old. They are typical teenagers. Yes it is very difficult at times, particularly as mine are in boarding school in the UK. I notice huge attitude and behavioural changes each time they come home at the end of term. I really try to bite my lip, and recall my relationship with my own parents when I was that age. These years are the times that our children develop their independence, of course they will make mistakes - and hopefully learn from it. As parents we have to give our children the latitude to develop their skills for independent thought and self expression.
David, Indonesia/UK

Teenagers are more influenced, especially regarding their behaviour, by their peers than their parents - all research supports this. It is difficult for us parents to 'let go' of being the most important people in their lives - but this is what we need to do. Policy makers also need to appreciate this fact and drop the ridiculous idea of punishing parents for their kids behaviour!
Nic Marks, Wallingford, UK

Decrease the stress of trying to raise an unruly teenager by raising them properly before they reach their teenage years.
Rich, UK

My step daughter has just got there - I wasn't around for the early years but I can see that, as the song goes, there may be trouble ahead. I'm finding though that simply being honest and talking with her rather than shouting at her means that she hates me for being reasonable rather than hates me for being unreasonable. I know that in the end it'll all work out.
Andrew, Bristol

Get it right and your kids are great, get it wrong and you life can be hell
Brian, UK
The whole point of adolescence is in preparing to break away from the family group and establish your own. Parents can either make this easy and be supportive, or they can make it difficult. But you can't wait until the kids are teenagers, it starts at birth and goes on well into grandparenthood. It's up to the parent whether it's difficult or not - get it right and your kids are great, get it wrong and you life can be hell!
Brian, UK

I had a difficult mother as a teenager. I became interested in heavy metal, so she concluded that I was taking hard drugs. My parents were quite keen for me to achieve academically, but also to work part-time, and learn music. I began to develop symptoms of depression and this further fuelled my mother's suspicions of drug-taking. She used to beat me about the head "to knock some sense into me." I often though of suicide. By the time I was 17 my academic carrier was in decline. When I got to university, in my second year, I had a full-blown nervous breakdown. Luckily some sympathetic tutors got me some counselling, and I was able to scrape together what was left of my studies, pass (but only just) and go on to a moderately successful career.

I have not yet had the privilege of having a teenager, but I was one myself, some few years ago. In my recollection, the "troubled teenagers" in my neighbourhood usually came from families dealing with substantial problems of their own, which seemed to cause the lack of time needed to spend with a child. Unfortunately, some of those teenagers I knew ended up as criminals, which is a far cry from my own reality. Despite my parents' divorce, I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family and always had someone to turn to and spend time with if I needed. In my opinion, the most important thing is that time spent together, not the 'special activities' or the 'special treatments'. I'd rather have a million 'normal days' with my family than a hundred 'special treatment days'.
Bjorg, Reykjavik, Iceland

Without doubt! You want your independence but don't have the means, and you don't know what path your life will take (though you have preferential routes in your mind). I rebelled during my teens, but I think that this behaviour is normal. I certainly won't bat an eyelid if my children dye their hair pink/get facial piercings etc on reaching their teens. It's a normal expressive channel really.
Hayley, Sussex Uk

Once you get complacent you've probably already lost the plot
Liz Tay, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Every age has its challenges and I think as parents we always worry about whether we are doing the best we can for our kids. Maybe that's the best way to be. Once you get complacent you've probably already lost the plot. Maybe the teenage years seem the hardest because they are the freshest memories we are left with before our children grow into adulthood? (Mum of 3 teenagers)
Liz Tay, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Maybe they are the hardest, not physically (the parents of a newborn probably go through difficult times with no sleep and constant stress), but on the psychological level parents have to face that their kids are growing up (thus they are not getting any younger themselves), get more independent (thus parents have less and less control on their safety)and develop their own preferences on everything (thus the don't necessarily like the same things as the parents, who stop recognising themselves in their kids, or they don't recognize the kids they used to know).
Maria, Athens, Greece

Did they really need to research this oh so obvious fact?
Heather Cooke, Cambs/Lincs border

My wife and I have two teenage sons (18 and 16) and we feel that we have brought up two well balanced sensible teenagers. They don't do drugs, hanging about the streets and both are heading for higher education. Yes we have had our share of family ups and downs but on reflection the teenage years are no harder than the early years, it's only the problems that are different. In some respects they are easier because you can reason with a young adult better because they have by definition learnt more about the world around them. We are firm believers in "You get out of your children what you put in" so we invested time and attention in both.
Darren Yates, Basingstoke, England

I agree with the statement that teenage years are the hardest, simply because a lot of the teenagers now are unruly and completely oblivious to other people. TV does not help it is the most influential piece of technology and many of the programmes promote violence and answering back to their parents, at a young age children think that is great. I should know I am only 18 myself.
Leonie, UK Bristol


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