Parenting a teen is no easy task. With hormones, pressures from their peers, their parents and teachers, coaches and others in authority, and pervasive influences most everywhere they turn, being a teen can be overwhelming!
The teen years are full of challenging times for both parents and children. It’s a time where teens are exploring who they are and how they fit into the world. It’s also a time when they’re reevaluating their inner moral compass and trying to understand what is right and wrong to them based on how they feel or perceive a situation, rather than solely relying on those who are influential in their lives.
The teen years are a time when parents struggle with balancing their children’s increased need for independence, with their need for careful, close parenting. It’s a time where parents are faced with learning to let go and letting their teens begin to live life more independently.
Successfully helping a child transition from being a kid to being an adult is hard work. It can be stressful and it’s full of practical and emotional ups and downs for everyone.
Fortunately the bumpy ride can be made a little smoother. While these 5 tips won’t make parenting your teen a completely smooth ride, they can certainly help you avoid major potholes on your parenting journey.
1. Focus on what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do
What happens to most folks when they see a sign that says “Wet paint?” They touch the paint! The same thing happens when we phrase things negatively to our teens. We say “Don’t talk back.” In their brains, our teens first process “talk back” and they have to try to make it a negative. It gets confusing and the wrong message can be absorbed. When we say “When you speak to me, please be kind and courteous” instead, there is no room for a mixed message.
2. Appear caring rather than controlling
More than anything, your teen wants to know that you love them and that you are on their side. One way you can convey this message is to take an interest in what they are doing. Take time to listen when they speak, to attend school events, and take time to know who they hang around with and what they spends their time doing.
3. Remember your teen still needs guidance
Some research says that the cause and effect part of the brain isn’t fully developed until we hit our 20’s. That would explain a lot in relation to some of the choices our teens make! They don’t yet have the ability to foresee how their choices are going to affect their future. Teens still need their parents to parent and to offer guidance, to set boundaries and to hold them accountable for their actions.
4. Don’t be moved by your teen’s drama
Don’t get upset when your teen tells you she hates you. It’s likely a sign that you’re doing a good job in the parenting department. Seriously, while it may sting for a moment, most every teen, at one time or another, says those dreadful words. Try not to take them to heart. The way you parent your teen should never be based on the fear of your teen’s reaction.
5. Keep the lines of communication open
Research suggests that even when our teens pretend they aren’t listening to us, they are. Keep talking about important issues and your stance on them. Your teen will hear you. Take time to listen to your teen’s opinions and thoughts on issues and be willing to admit, when appropriate, that their viewpoint is okay and even possibly better than your own. Budge on the little things when you can and hold your ground on the big things, but more importantly convey to your teen that you care what she has to say and that her thoughts do matter.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on your teen and on your parenting abilities. There’s going to be challenges and obstacles, but with love and wisdom, you and your teen will come out just fine on the other side.