How to Deal with Criticism from Teenage Children

It's important to accept that some criticism from teenage children may have some truth to it. Listen to your children and learn!
How to Deal with Criticism from Teenage Children
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 08 October, 2022

Perhaps one of the first ways in which adults and their teenagers enter into conflict with each other is when the first criticisms come. That “super parent” or “perfect mom” is suddenly no longer the hero of the story: Their cape begins to fade and their flaws start to become visible. It then becomes essential to have certain skills and tools to be able to deal with criticism from teenage children. Let’s see how to do it.

Understanding adolescence

First of all, it’s important to stop seeing teenagers as “the weirdos of the family”. It’s simply a matter of understanding that, like all stages of life, adolescence has its own characteristics and challenges.

One of the qualities of this time has to do with the search for one’s own identity. Adolescence is sometimes an awkward time when young people are no longer children, but neither are they adults. However, they need to make their own place, to be seen and noticed with their own personality and autonomy. In this regard, criticism and opposition are part of this “making a difference”.

At the same time, it’s also important to know how to situate adolescence in light of the time in which it takes place. This stage of life isn’t the same as it was 50 years ago because times have changed, and with them, customs and habits. For example, access to technology significantly affects reality and day-to-day life. In this regard, we shouldn’t be surprised if our teenagers question us and look at some habits or comments with surprise.

Above all, it’s important to promote criticism and dialogue within a framework of respect.

A teen and her mother yelling at each other.
Adolescents begin to forge their personalities and it’s common for them to differentiate themselves from adults through opposition and criticism.

How to deal with criticism from teenage children

Some of the recommendations to keep in mind when dealing with criticism from teenage children are as follows:

  • Propose alternative ways to give criticism. When your child tells you that you’re a pain in the butt about outings and curfews, instead of getting angry, you can say this back to them: Instead of telling me that I’m a pain in the butt about schedules, how about telling me that I can try to be more flexible because you’d like to spend more time with friends? This way, we teach them to practice assertiveness. It’s also an opportunity to review the way we ourselves communicate our rules and limits.
  • Do a self-analysis and think about what truth there may be in your child’s criticism. “You control me all the time”, “You never give me any space” may be some of the criticisms teenagers make of us. Before turning a deaf ear, we can also take the opportunity to ask ourselves if it’s possible that we should change some things about the way we treat our growing children. Sometimes, we fail to accept that young people are growing up and that they need us to adapt to this new stage.
  • Avoid taking criticism personally. Adolescence is a time when confronting and challenging adults is a tool with which adolescents test themselves. It’s important to keep this in mind to avoid feeling attacked all the time or that they have a “grudge” against us. Of course, as adults, we’ll also have to handle ourselves with subtlety and evaluate the content, frequency, and manner of the criticism and know how far the limit of what’s “tolerable” goes. We can even be grateful if they point out some areas for improvement and try to do so. This way, we can also improve our relationship with them.
A mother yelling at her daughter through a megaphone.
De-dramatizing the situation in the face of the adolescent’s criticism can be a good way to achieve a better dialogue and avoid moments of greater tension.
  • De-dramatize the situation. For example, after several occasions in which your child criticizes you, you can choose to tell him “with all that you’ve said about me, I’ll end up believing that I’m the worst parent of all”.
  • Set a limit. If you think your teenager is continuously attacking you, you can point it out and not let it go unnoticed. It’s important to point out how they can criticize you and distinguish “conflict” from constructive criticism. The former only seeks to create a problem, while the latter is geared toward change. At the same time, adolescents sometimes criticize continuously as a way to get attention. So, you may also ask yourself what message may lie between the lines in their behavior.

The bad and the good

Finally, it’s very important to recognize that the constructive nature of criticism. It helps us to improve, take into account other points of view, and recognize other aspects of a problem that we may have overlooked.

Hence the challenge of overcoming one’s own perspective and even validate and recognize that adolescents have much to teach us. Sometimes, we get trapped in an adult-centric view that causes us to believe that, because we have more years and experience, we’re right. On the contrary, people can always learn from others, and that’s where criticism makes great sense.

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  • Krauskopof, D. (1999). El desarrollo psicológico en la adolescencia: las transformaciones en una época de cambios. Adolescencia y salud1(2), 23-31.
  • Cobos, E. G. (2008). Adolescencia y familia: revisión de la relación y la comunicación como factores de riesgo o protección. Revista intercontinental de psicología y educación10(2), 105-122.