Parenting tips - mistakes parents make while parenting teenagers
Parenting teenagers can be easy
Parenting teenagers is generally considered a difficult task, but I would disagree with this notion. Parenting teenagers is such a joy and a rewarding task, provided you understand your teenager well and are able to communicate and relate to your teenager. Being a parent of a teenager and working with other teenagers, mentoring and administrating youth activities, I have realized that it is really an easy group to work with. All you need to do is win their respect and admiration and you will have them eating out of your hands. Teenagers like other children need love, approval, encouragement and direction; not advice. Teenagers are, I believe, the most maligned and misunderstood group ever. It would be worth your time and effort understanding and appreciating the problems teenagers face.
Top 10 mistakes that parents make while parenting teenagers
Harping on the negative. Most parents of teenagers and the thousands of articles on the internet seem to harp only on the negative. Being negative and critical is going to drive your teenager much further away than he / she already is. No one likes to be constantly told that they are wrong. A little appreciation goes a long way, while negative and critical comments only help to break down the lines of communication between you and your teenager. The one comment that I often hear from teenagers is that their parents never have anything good to say about them. If such is the perception teenagers have of their parents, I do not expect much of a relationship or interaction to happen.
Tightening the reins when the child develops problem behavior. Do not wait to exercise authority over your child until he / she becomes a teenager. Control and authority should be consistent right from babyhood. When you suddenly tighten the reins, your teenager starts to believe that you do not trust him / her anymore. This sends a very wrong and negative message to your teenager making him / her rebel against any form of authority, especially from you as a parent. All disciplining should be consistent, continuous and fair. Most parents are blind to signs of unacceptable behavior that grows up with the child as he / she grows into a teenager. Right handling and correction of these behaviours would lead to a well-adjusted teenager.
Leading by example. I often listen to teens complain about their parents saying that they have double standards. It is not enough to set rules and expect your teenager to obey them, it is also required that you as parents lead by example. When you lead by example often it is enough to show your disapproval and you would find teens taking the cue and acting on them. The saying 'actions speak louder than words' is still very effective. Try it.
Not being aware of what is happening with your teenager. Many parents have absolutely no idea of what is happening to their teenagers. You do not have to police your child; there are better ways of knowing what your teenager is getting into. Good communication between you and your teenager could tell you a lot more than what you need to you know. Listening to your teenager and his / her friends, picking up non-verbal clues and listening to their emotions could give you a fairly good idea of what is happening with him / her. Being in touch with your teenager’s social network, their parents and teachers in a normal and regular way could help you be aware of all that is happening and to become alert when things become strange.
Believing that your teenager does not want to talk to you
This is a big myth that most parents seem to believe in. Teenagers are just bigger children and they would love to be spoken to and listened to. It does take a lot of effort to strengthen the communication lines between you and your teenager, but it is fairly easy. Teens are interested to talk about what is happening in the world, current affairs, sports, the big why’s and controversial subjects. You could start with any of these subjects to get the lines of communication going. Once you establish the lines of communication, it becomes easy to talk about any subject. Building good communication also helps strengthen the bonds, making it possible for your teenager to open up and speak to you with the belief that you value his / her opinion and would give him / her a patient listening. It is important to listen until the end, reflect and respond to what your teenager is saying instead of jumping to judgements and making generalised statements. Building a good relationship could help you identify and avert problems of teenage depression, substance abuse and other problem behaviors.
Believing that values and character building is the responsibility of teachers and the educational system. Educating your teenager is your responsibility, especially in the areas of morals, values, belief systems and behaviours. It is so important to provide the right information, and who could be a more reliable source other than you? Information regarding sexual behaviour, drug use or delinquent behaviour needs to be provided to your teenager at the right age, in the right measure. Providing the right kind of literature/material is important, it helps your teen to get to know the facts rather than picking up falsified information from the media or worse still from his uninformed peers.
Not setting the rules clearly. Defining which behavior is acceptable and what is not, and stating clearly, what could be the repercussion of breaking the rules, will tell your teenager what he can or cannot do. Often parents do not set these rules clearly and/or do not consistently enforce the rules that have been set. Such lapses on the part of parents cause the teenager to take advantage of the situation. Very strict and unfair disciplining could also cause negative reaction from your teenagers. Your teenager should know why he / she is being treated in a particular manner and feel that the disciplining they receive is in proportionate and justified.
Not allowing teenagers to make their own mistakes. Parents believe that they need to take control of their teenagers when things go wrong. This is a myth. The moment you start taking control, you would find your teenager becoming more resentful. Allow your teenager to make his / her own decisions and find out for himself / herself how good or bad it is. If you have instilled the right values in your child, you can be sure that your teenager will make the right decisions or learn very quickly from the wrong decisions. Just be around to make sure that you help and support your teenager when he / she realises it is a bad mistake. I often allow my son to make decisions about money. When he asks for something, I would let him know that he could have it and that it would cost me a month’s supply of milk or some such thing. Often, when he realises that the money he is spending could be put to better use, he does not usually come back to request for such a thing in the future. This is an excellent method method of allowing your child to make their own decisions.
Good grades means all is well. This is a common problem with parents of teenagers. They believe that all is well with their ward as long as the teenager gets good grades. Good grades may not necessarily mean that all is well with your child. He / she is intelligent enough to get good grades or may be too intelligent that they need their intelligence to be channelled into other creative areas. Very often, it is the more intelligent teenagers who get into unwanted activities because they do not have the right kind of guidance.
Instill positive values and believe in your teens . Most parents give up on their teenagers too soon. It does take time to work through difficulties especially if you have not been consistent from the beginning. Patience and perseverance is really required to work with the child after he / she has developed some problem behavior. Giving up on your teen gives him / her the reason to give up on himself / herself. I'm convinced that no teenager is beyond correction. You just have to keep believing in them and being positive to see a positive change. Instill positive values and confidence in your teens and you will have raised confident and secure adults.
It would help to avoid these pitfalls mentioned here in order to raise teenagers who are positive and confident. Communication is the key to good relationships and good parenting. The rest comes easy. Take time to work as a family, make time for family activities and you would be on your way to raising a great new generation.
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