Are you in a twist about parenting your teen? Maybe your child is still a tween or younger but the mere thought of when they will reach the teen years sets your stomach churning. Or perhaps you are already parenting a teen or two and finding yourself ready to pull your hair out at times. Well it doesn’t have to be that bad, so settle back with a cup of coffee and take some time to think through the following seven tips which could help you to take the terrible twist out of parenting your teen.
Remember who you are
The teenage years are a huge adjustment not only for the growing child but also for you as the parent. Suddenly your darling little boy who was contentedly snuggling in your arms just the other day is now sprouting a moustache and coming up with all kinds of wild and independent ideas. And all your princess baby girl can think about is makeup, boys and dieting. So it can be a bit of a shock to the system, but this is when it is essential to remember that you are still and always will be your child’s parent. Just because they are starting to sound and look so ‘grown-up’ does not mean that your parental role has ended. On the contrary, now more than ever they will need you to be their seatbelt on the teenage rollercoaster ride.
Let your love be evident
When you were growing up did you ever find yourself wondering if your parents really loved you? Of course you knew they must because they fed and housed you, and they made sacrifices to provide for you. But now that you have your own children, wouldn’t you rather be sure that they have no doubt in their minds whatsoever that you love them? So let your love be undisguised and evident to all. Tell them often how much they mean to you and how glad you are that they came into your life. And back your words up with actions that are kind and loving, as well as firm and upbuilding. Which brings us to the third tip…
Have positive expectations
By now your teenagers should know what is important to you in terms of acceptable behaviour, house rules and good grades. If you expect the worst of your teen you may just get it, so rather have positive and reasonable expectations which show that you care about him or her. Encourage your son or daughter to set their own goals and expectations too, and celebrate with them when they succeed. When there are shortcomings be supportive and help them to get back on track and try to do better the next time around. Don’t just focus on the end result but take into account things like effort, dedication and attitude, thus helping your teen to realize that it’s not always what they do but how they do it that counts.
Be clear about boundaries and consequences
Firm boundaries are essential for your teen to feel secure, despite the fact that they may think they no longer need them. It is a delicate dance of gently releasing the reigns as the child matures, so that eventually they can reach independence safely and securely. A teenager still needs about eight or nine hours of sleep per day, so help them to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. Be willing to let your teen learn how to negotiate and compromise with you about certain rules, but always make sure that you have decided on your limit beforehand. And don’t forget to reward them when they are keeping the rules well, such as adding an extra half hour on a curfew that has been successfully respected over time. If you have set a consequence in place, be sure to follow through with it when the boundaries are overstepped, otherwise your child will likely be confused and their respect for you may be undermined.
Choose your battles carefully
It is very easy to slip into a warzone with your teen where every little thing seems to spark a conflict. This is where you need to think very carefully about the issues that you will and will not draw the battle line about. It is normal for teens to want to experiment and try out new things, especially when ‘everyone else’ is doing it. If it is something temporary such as funny clothes, dyed hair or painted nails, rather let it go and save your strength for the non-negotiable matters like alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sexual activity – things which can cause long lasting or even permanent changes and damage to your child. If you are struggling with the way they want to dress or wear their hair, rather use the topic as a springboard to find out why they like it that way, how it makes them feel and how others might see them.
Communication is probably the most vital lifeline to keeping your relationship with your teen alive and healthy. Do whatever it takes to keep the lines of communication open. Make regular time for your teen every day; perhaps half an hour before bedtime, sitting on the edge of their bed for a chat. Listen while they share their struggles and joys. Be supportive and interested in what they are going through and grappling with. Find out about their friends, hobbies and sports. If you show genuine concern and talk in terms of your teen’s interests you may find that he or she is more reasonable and willing to cooperate with your requests.
Be the role model
Teens seem to have a special kind of radar which is very sensitive to phoniness or hypocrisy. If you are giving them firm talks and instructions about the health hazards of smoking, but you are taking a quiet puff on the side, you can be sure your words will fall on deaf ears. Actions most definitely speak louder than words, but if words match actions then that is a very powerful dynamic. So make sure that you ‘walk the talk’. If you want your teen to mature into an adult who is responsible, kind, and worthy of respect, then you need to show them how. The best way to parent your teen is when you are the role model for the kind of character qualities that you want to see in them.
If you have found this article a bit overwhelming and you are wondering, “Where do I start? This all seems way beyond me…” Don’t worry, just look through the seven points again and choose one which seems the most manageable, and start working on that – just one small step at a time. Remember, even the smallest change can make a significant difference and redirect the trajectory of your parenting. So take that one step today to start untwisting your teen parenting and the rest will follow, all in good time.