How to Ask Permission From Your Parents: Positive Communication for Teens

Good communication skills can help avoid negative interactions with your parents.
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Parents and kids often find that their relationship becomes exponentially more difficult during the teen years. As adolescents mature, they expect increased freedoms, while their parents often struggle to let go and accept the fact that their kids are capable of more responsibility and independence. This can result in difficulty communicating with each other. When you need to ask your parents' permission for something important, good communication techniques can help you approach the conversation in a positive way.

Plan what you will say before you speak with your parents. Write down a list of convincing arguments for why you think they should give their permission. Anticipate possible reasons for refusing you, and think up some counter-arguments to address these concerns. For example, if you want to go to an event on a school night, you can let your parents know there are no tests scheduled at school the following day. Assure them you'll respect curfew and go straight to sleep when you return home.

Anticipate questions your parents might have and know the answers you'll give to demonstrate you've thought through your request for permission. For example, if you're asking to borrow the car, it helps if you can tell them all the details about your destination, the route you'll be taking and how long your trip will take.

Choose a good time to have the conversation. Don't approach your parents when they're in the middle of something stressful because you won't have their full attention and they will be more inclined to say "no" without hearing what you have to say. Tell them you have something important to discuss and ask if now is a good time for them to talk before you begin.

Remind your parents about the responsible things you've accomplished recently, says psychologist Don Fontenelle, in his book "Keys to Parenting Your Teenager." Expect them to bring up incidents where you made mistakes in the past, but don't get upset. Instead, give them good reason to believe you've matured and now have better judgment.

Give your parents your undivided attention during the conversation. Turn off your cellphone. They might not feel you're taking their opinions seriously if you keep interrupting the conversation to send or receive texts.

Listen to what your parents have to say. Acknowledge their concerns by rephrasing what they've said. For example, you might say, "I know money is tight right now and you're concerned about how much this is going to cost." Be prepared with positive suggestions to address their concerns, such as an idea for helping offset the expense by contributing some of your own money from your savings or part-time job.

Avoid saying, "Everybody else's parents are letting their kids go." Even if this is true, it's unlikely to convince them to change their mind. If your parents know any of the other parents, it's better to give them names of those who have agreed, if you know your parents respect them, and suggest they discuss any concerns with them.

Decide in advance what a good compromise position might be. For example, if you want your parents to extend your curfew by several hours, be prepared to settle for a thirty-minute extension this time. Remember that negotiation involves compromise; that means you might not get what you want as fast as you like, but if you accept what you get with good grace, you're more likely to earn your parents' respect and increase your chance of getting what you want in the future.

Be respectful throughout the conversation, even when you strongly disagree with what they say. Maintaining your composure helps demonstrate maturity. Don't whine or lose your temper and raise your voice.

Avoid words and phrases that accuse and insult, such as "You never understand," or, "I knew you'd be too stubborn to agree," say experts with the Child Development Institute. Keep in mind that your goal is to impress them with your maturity so they'll be confident and trust you enough to grant the permission you seek.

  • Consider getting support from other adults in your life. If you believe your parents are unreasonably strict and won't listen to reason, share your situation with a grandparent or guidance counselor. They might agree to speak with your parents on your behalf or help you to understand your parents' views a bit better.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.