As parents, we grow with our children. But that growth hits a stumbling block when we reach the teen years. Then our usually compliant son or daughter changes and the challenges begin. All of a sudden there are challenges to your commands. They want to be the boss. They want more independence and you’re not ready to give it. They want to be with friends more than family. They are very self centered and private and they seem to thrive on arguments. Does this description fit your teen? Then maybe some information and tips would be helpful to you and your family.
It is important to remember the stages that teens go through in early adolescence (usually somewhere between 11 and 15 years) teens start thinking more critically. This is the time of questioning and challenging. It is as if the teen is saying “so these were the values I was brought up with, but are they valid?” The next stage is middle adolescence where teens want to try some values out for themselves. Now they are saying – “ok those are your values but I’m going to try some for myself.” Obviously, this is the experimental time. It is usually between 14 and 16. It is a very scary time for parents. But take heart through this time. It is important to keep your standards and restrictions in place and weather through this time. Because sooner or later comes Late Adolescence. This is where parents can breathe easier. In Late Adolescence, teens usually “come back home” to the values they were brought up with. It is this time where they start being more responsible and thinking more about their future.
So how do we, as parents, deal with our teens as they go through these stages? Well here are some key do’s and don’t for raising an adolescent.
It is important for their ego development that you respect them. It is natural for them to disrespect you at times – nevertheless it is important that you continue to respect them! You will command their respect more if you recognize that they are as human as you and I. They are going through the rougher part of this transition. They need you to respect their opinion, their space, and their privacy.
2. Continue to set limits.
Respecting them is not the same as relinquishing all control. They need (and sometimes want) limits. It is ok for these limits to be negotiated at appropriate times.
3. Praise is important.
Never in their lives do they need to know what you approve of more than now. Make a point to notice the positives and voice them. But in voicing them don’t let it become negative comment, (i.e. now that’s what I like not like when you . . . .). Just be simple – “I like it when you . . . .”
4. Don’t be critical.
Make corrections simply and clearly. Don’t overcorrect, lecture, embarrass, belittle, shame or blame your teen. They understand simple corrections.
5. Be a good example.
Do as I say not as I do does not wash with teens. It might just be the time for a parent to stop smoking and/or drinking. It is amazing how much respect this can earn from teenagers.
6. Listen when they want to talk and make time to listen.
Be active in listening. Repeat statements. Nod your head. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t give solutions. Just listen. Let them figure it out in your presence.
7. Don’t over-advise your teen.
It is time for them to figure things out. They need to learn some things by experience. I know – this can be scary!!
8. Get out of arguments quickly.
Say your peace and stop. The argument is the temper tantrum of the teenager. They’ll keep you arguing forever and it never stays on the same topic. If you turn away and stop, they fizzle out.
9. No matter what – stay involved.
Kids with involved parents grow up to be better adults. Witness your teen’s interests. You don’t have to love it. You don’t have to learn to skateboard too! But it’s not a bad idea to see what he or she has to show you!
Take heart. They are all children. Show them you care. Show them some love and they usually do well.
Some reading for parents:
Get out of my life but first can you drive me and Cheryl to the mall. By Anthony Wolf
You and Your Adolescent A Parents Guide for ages 10-20. By Steinberg & Levine
Brian G. Orr, M.D.