Help Me With My Teenager--A Guide for Parents
Teenagers can be very challenging--they are self-centered, they don't listen, and they often don't think before they act. It can be very stressful to parent teenagers, and sometimes parents and teenagers can get caught up in a vicious cycle of conflict and resentment. Here are five strategies you can use to make your child's teen years much smoother:
1 - Set Ground Rules and Stick to Them
As a parent, you have the right and the responsibility to set clear expectations for your child's behavior. You get to decide--based on their age and on their level of maturity--where they go and what time they need to be home. You get to decide how they can talk to you and how they can't. You get to decide the ground rules for their use of cell phones and computers. You don't need to compromise your values and your expectations. If you are putting a roof over their head and food on the table, you get to call the shots! Compromise is fine from time to time, but only when it makes sense. Giving in because they have worn your down is not compromise. It's just giving in.
2 - Set Your Expectations High
Your kids probably won't like all of your decisions, but it is your job to do what is in their best interest. Teens will often try to compare themselves to their friends, telling you that they should be allowed to do something because so-and-so is allowed to do it. They will tell you that you are ruining their life by not letting them do this certain thing (go to a party, go the mall unsupervised, wear certain types of clothes, get their eyebrow pierced, etc). But just because other kids are allowed to run wild doesn't mean you should set the bar so low. You have higher expectations for your teen and you don't need to be ashamed of it. Expect more of them than other parents expect from their kids!
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3 - Don't Take it Personally
Your teenager is bound to hate you from time to time. They might yell, pout, withdraw, lash out, and try emotionally manipulate you. There is no need for you to fight back when their behavior is hurtful. Teens are focused on becoming independent from you--it's normal. So they will frequently do things to push you away--it's a natural part of their development. If they cross the line, however, you should hold them accountable. But don't take their behavior personally. This is a mistake that parents often make, and it leads to endless fighting and resentment. Learn instead to see your role as their teacher and guide. Instruct them and provide consequences if they screw up, but don't fight back as if you were their peer.
4 - Don't Let Them Grow Up So Fast
Today's 13-year olds often look and act like full-fledged adults. Girls wear short skirts, high heels, and dark eye-liner when they are still in middle school. Young teens get dropped off at the mall with no adult supervision for hours at a time. Teenagers naturally want to look and act older than they are, but that doesn't mean you have to let them. By letting your daughter dress in sexy clothes and wear heavy make-up while she's still in middle school, you are setting her up for unwanted male attention, for one thing. Why would you risk that? Young teens don't have to date yet. They don't have to be involved in heavy relationships yet. They don't need to spend hours of time alone with their friends and no supervision.
Without enough guidance and supervision from you, teens can easily get involved in sex, drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. If you sense that they might be headed down the wrong path, it's your responsibility to stop them. How, you might ask? See rule #1. If you pay their cell phone bill (not to mention the mortgage or the rent) you have some leverage.
5 - Don't Be Naive
Think back to some of the stupid things you did when you were a teen. Your child is now living in a world where they have more access to information (via the internet) and constant access to their friends (via texting) than you ever dreamed of. There are many more risks, and if you have any doubts about where your child's head is at, then you are probably right to worry. Don't be fooled. Check on them constantly. Don't take their word for it when they say they are going to so-and-so's house. Talk to the parents. Show up for a visit. Take the time to know that they are where they said they would be, and that they are okay. It's part of your job.
Sage Carter shares ideas, information, and advice for better living. Visit her at http://sagecarter.hubpages.com/.