Teens will listen to their parents — If mom and dad do this first

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Teenagers and young adults are notorious for ignoring what their parents have to say, so much so that many consider disobeying mom and dad’s wishes to be a rite of passage. Of course, while breaking the occasional rule or two isn’t all that bad, there are certain topics and situations in which adolescents absolutely should listen to their parents and heed their advice. So, how can parents get through to their kids? Researchers from the University of California-Riverside report that young adults in their late teens and early 20s will appreciate and listen to parents’ advice if mom and dad generally remain supportive of their autonomy.

The study authors explain that parents can support autonomy by providing clear guidelines when it comes to limitations and enforcing rules. Moms and dads may also want to participate in activities that are interesting to their teens.

“These parents consistently acknowledge and validate their child’s feelings, and encourage and support their exploration of different interests as they figure out who they are and what they’ll do with their lives,” says Elizabeth Davis, a UCR psychology researcher and the senior author of the study, in a media release.

Conversely, researchers explain statements like “Because I said so,” “get over it,” and “it’s not a big deal” are just a few common postures that will likely cause your child to ignore unsolicited advice.

In all, this project included 194 emerging adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Prof. Davis notes this sample is significant due to it being overwhelmingly non-White, with the group being 38.3 percent Asian, 33.2 percent Latino, 10.4 percent multiracial, 6.7 percent Middle Eastern, 4.7 percent Black, and 4.7 percent White.

“Much psychological research has focused on white middle class convenience samples, so diversifying the participant populations we study gives us a much better sense of how psychological phenomena work for everyone,” Prof. Davis notes. “It makes the results more broadly generalizable.”

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Young adults will appreciate and listen to parents’ advice if mom and dad generally remain supportive of their autonomy, a new study finds. (Credit: cottonbro from Pexels)

Study participants reflected on past occasions in which a parent offered them advice to help manage emotions. Next, teens completed a survey on whether the parent interaction was helpful, and whether it changed their emotional state. Participants were also asked about their capacity to cope with the situation and control their emotions, and about their overall connection with their parents. Finally, the emerging adults answered questions related to seeking out support, and if they believe their parents truly support their autonomy.

The study authors explain that emerging adults with autonomy-supporting parents perceived advice they sought from the parents as helpful. Interestingly, those same teens saw unsolicited advice equally as helpful. Prior studies, generally speaking, have found that unsolicited advice is always more easily shrugged off.

“Highly autonomy supporting parents may have increased insight into how to offer unsolicited support and thus do not fall into the trap of giving unwanted support,” the study authors explain.

If teens didn’t think their parents supported their autonomy, unsolicited advice didn’t seem helpful. Under such circumstances, unsolicited advice “may be interpreted as less sincere, and thus less effective,” according to the researchers.

This work builds on a pre-existing body of research asserting numerous benefits for kids raised by autonomy-supporting parents. For example, greater feelings of self-efficacy, i.e., “I got this.”

Emerging adulthood is a special time of the lifespan, when there are new opportunities for freedom and decision-making, but still lots of ties to family of origin,” Prof. Davis concludes. “So the way parents support their youth during this transitional phase will set the stage for later adulthood.”

The study is published in the journal Emerging Adulthood.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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