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Oh, teenagers. The hormones, the attitudes, the surprising moments of compassion, wisdom and adult-ness they can exude. Parenting a teenager can be more challenging than parenting a toddler at times. They are trying to find themselves and walk a fine line between dependence and independence. They still need us, but they want to believe they can do it all on their own. They seem to think that they know it all, and that we “just don’t get it”. Well, sometimes that’s true.
I have a hard time “getting” my teenager (she’s 16, and has a totally different personality from me!) I do try to understand her point of view, but our priorities are polar opposites and sometimes we just end up arguing over little things. It’s quite frustrating, to say the least, but then I remember that this behavior is “normal” for her age, and that this, too, shall pass. Woooo-saaaaaa.
She’s a wonderful kid, and for the most part is much better behaved than most kids her age. We really are quite lucky…well, I wouldn’t say “luck” had much to do with it. I’d like to say it was more hard work on our part to raise her into a respectful, polite and thoughtful member of society. But, she still has moments of unbearable attitude, eye-rolling, and poor decision-making skills.
I talk to a lot of my friends and colleagues about the issues we face with our teenager, and I thought it might be helpful to put some of that sage advice together as a sort of “guide” to a peaceful life with your teenager. Here are 6 tips that may help keep the peace in your home, if it’s been invaded by a hormonal, sensitive teen like mine (we love you, T!):
This is the easy one. If you lend even a semi-interested ear, they will usually open up and start blabbing about everything. My daughter loves to tell us about every outfit she has picked out for every day of the week. She is very meticulous about the way she looks (as most teenagers are). I have never had much interest in fashion and tend to dress more for comfort or function, so she knows that I’m not really her target audience, but she seems to enjoy describing all of the details, so I usually just let her ramble on about it. Occasionally, she starts to feel comfortable in the conversation, and opens up about more serious stuff than fashion and makeup. Either way, it keeps the lines of communication open between us, and I can tell she feels better after our conversation.
2. Don’t be afraid to say “no”
Of course, this is one of the hard ones. It’s so easy to tell them “yes” when they ask to do things. It makes them happy, which (usually) means less attitude. However, we also know that teenagers don’t always make the best decisions, and it’s up to us to help guide them through the perilous journey of life as a teenager. Yes, they will be angry with you. Yes, you will get attitude for it. But, in the long run, they WILL realize that you aren’t saying “no” just to be mean or to ruin their lives. We must always remember that we are their parents, first, and it’s our jobs to teach them how to make wise decisions for themselves.
3. Let them make mistakes
Just as important as saying “no”, is allowing them to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. We won’t always be around to make decisions for them or tell them what to do, and this is the time in their lives that they are developing their adult personalities and learning how to make big decisions on their own. It’s OK to guide them, and to flat out tell them “no” if that’s what’s required, but it’s also OK to sit back and do nothing. They are growing up, whether we like it or not. Sometimes getting hurt or failing is necessary when learning how to adult.
4. Give them their privacy
We’ve all been tempted to sneak a peek at our kids’ phones in the rare moments that they leave them unattended. While this is, I’m sure, sometimes necessary in extreme circumstances, most of the time it’s a blatant invasion of privacy. If you can’t trust them, then maybe they shouldn’t have a phone with so much access. If they breach that trust, get them a flip phone. Have open conversations about safe phone and internet use, and it’s totally OK to “follow” them on all of their social media platforms to keep tabs on what they are up to in this techy age.
5. Lead by example
Get annoyed when your teen is texting or browsing Facebook while you are trying to have a conversation with her? Constantly lecturing your kids about texting and driving? Scold them for cursing? Our kids are ALWAYS watching us. They are learning more from what they SEE us do, than what they HEAR us say. So, if you are guilty of glancing over at your phone while your teenager is going on and on about whether she should wear the light wash or the dark wash jeans with this top, try to be cognizant of what you are doing, and leave the phone alone. Watch your mouth around the kids if you have the mouth of a sailor, and really you should NEVER be texting and driving. While I am guilty of checking my phone at red lights, I try not to do that when my kids are with me. Those stinkers are ALWAYS WATCHING.
6. Set the rules, and follow through
At the end of the day, you are the boss. You make the rules, but you also have to enforce those rules. If they have a curfew, enforce it. Set a certain GPA you want them to have? Take away an iPod or iPad or various other electronic devices until the grades start to come up. Whatever your rules or guidelines are, just make sure the kids know them and have consequences for breaking them. Otherwise, there’s no use in having the rules in the first place. Again, keep an open dialog about what your expectations are of them and help them to find their groove. If you feel like you are constantly coming down on them (this happens sometimes), then it’s probably time for a sit-down long conversation about what’s going on in their lives, and how to go about fixing it.