I'm in real need of some help here. I've recently discovered punk music and started hanging out with the punk/skater crowd at school, and I feel like I've finally found people who understand me. I love my new friends – they make me laugh and they totally get me, and I can't get enough of the music and local underground shows.
But there's only one problem – my parents are totally against punk. They tell me to turn off my music, threaten to take away my iPod and ban me from seeing my friends. Mom won't let me leave the house in any punk clothes. They keep asking where my old friends from seventh grade have gone, but they ditched me to be part of the cheerleader crowd, so what am I supposed to do?
Signed: Pretty in Punk
Dear Pretty in Punk – thanks for writing! You may be relieved – or horrified – to know that you're not along. Many teenagers who embrace a subculture like punk, goth or metal experience some form of backlash from parents. It's normal and thankfully, there are ways to manage it.
First, it helps to understand why parents feel the way they do. Although parents can sometimes seem like total aliens, remember that everything they do, they do with your best interests at heart – even though they can totally go about it the wrong way. Without knowing too much about your situation, it sounds like your parents are worried that you're ditching your old friends to hang out with "the wrong crowd". Many people – especially those with no experience of alternative subcultures – equate the clothes and the music with sex, drugs and deadbeat behavior, and they don't want to see you waste your life.
There may also be some religious or cultural hang-ups too – if your parents have some aversion to your music on religious grounds, this can make life really difficult. And unfortunately, where parents are concerned, it's usually "my way of the highway" when it comes to your clothing, music and décor choices. After all, you're still living in their house.
If you suddenly started dressing like this, you can understand your parents might be a little concerned. Sparkle Bronze Ecoleather Mini Skirt, from Shitsville Clothing
Understanding your parents is all well and good, but that doesn't really help your situation. What you've got to do is show them the punk YOU relate to. You've got to make them understand that punk is your way of expressing yourself, and that it doesn't mean you're a drug addict, or a slut, or a juvenile delinquent. How do you do this?
- Show them stories about musicians you admire doing good things with their lives, like working for charities or standing up for important causes.
- Demonstrate to your parents that you're still the same child they raised. Show them that you're still enjoying other interests and goals outside of punk.
- Take the initiative and start a conversation about how the music makes you feel and why it's important to you. Use sentences such as "When I listen to punk music, I feel …" and "When I hang out with my friends, I feel …". Explain to them how hard it is to deal with their reaction, such as, "When you reject my music, it makes me feel as you are rejecting me." Avoid accusing them and getting angry – just explain how what they are doing impacts you. This is a very mature way to handle this situation, and parents will respect you for it and engage you as an adult, rather than a stroppy teen.
- Show them some of the songs that have a lot of meaning to you, and explain why. They often just don't like to think that you hate the whole world – show them how the songs give you energy or make you happy.
- Perhaps you can find some bands that use punk music in a religious setting. Even if you don't like those bands, they can help your parents understand that punk doesn't equal evil and open the door for more leeway in the future.
- Bargain with them. Say you'll spend Sunday afternoon hanging out with them if they'll let you go out with your friends on Friday night. Indulge their need for you to call and check in, even if you think it's dumb. It helps them learn to trust you, and trust is good, because it means more privileges.
Those are my tips for dealing with overbearing, punk-hating parents. I hand it over to our readers – have you dealt with parents who didn't like your subculture? How did you deal with them? What advice can you give Pretty in Punk?