Recognize your teen’s developmental needs. A new way of communicating is needed, that respectfully balances freedom and authority.
Teens have never had it tougher than they do today. Social pressures are more pervasive and destructive than ever before. Parents often feel helpless to equip their teens with the tools to navigate – and steer clear – of harmful relationships, attitudes and behaviors. Parenting through the teen years, especially when dealing with rebellion, requires both tenacity and persistence.
Adolescents are beginning to think for themselves, which can give the impression of arrogance. This is true especially if in the past, they have unquestioningly accepted what their parents said. Youth specialist Tim Sanford encourages parents to realize that children always do things for reasons. He explains that many times parents don’t know the real reason behind a teen’s behavior. He says, “God didn’t make us random beings, so our behavior (even rebellious behavior) is stemming from a reason. It’s important to get to the ‘itch’ (core reason) behind the ‘scratch’ (outward behavior or attitude).” Whether dealing with basic issues such as respect or complex issues such as at-risk behavior, parents sometimes struggle to understand the difference between healthy teenage autonomy and blatant teen rebellion. What looks like rebellion may actually be a teen’s natural “itch” for greater independence.
A child needs space to do things his own way, to express the unique personality that is emerging. Recognize your child’s developmental needs. A new way of communicating is needed, that respectfully balances freedom and authority.
7 Golden Rules that work with teens:
1. Communicate with your child
As teens go through a phase of independent thinking, find time to reason with them in a friendly and loving manner. They may not be willing if you use your authority to make them sit and talk. It’s important to keep your cool in the discussion. Listen to the child’s point of view with respect. Challenge it where it is wrong, but be gentle. Build times of sharing before the problem arises, rather than at the time of crisis. Focus on building trust within the relationship. Trust cannot be built if parents want to prove they are always right. A parent who wants to win all the time, will lose the relationship in the end.
2. Be honest about your feelings
To help a child understand you, communicate how hurt you feel when he or she does not listen to you. Tell them honestly why you feel the way you do on that issue. Once they know the real reason behind your frustration, it will be easier to reason with them. Say, “I feel very disappointed, when you don’t listen….”
3. Respect them, don’t put them down
Do not use words that demean or belittle a child. Comparison with other children is a way of saying they aren’t good enough. Do not hesitate to make consequences of disobedience clear before the problem.
4. Make rules that work
Parents should be careful not to irritate their children with unreasonable or unnecessary rules. Make few crucial rules that are flexible not rigid, giving them space to fail. Do not expect them to always do everything right. If you are unreasonable and rigid in your demands they will rebel. Enforce the rules you make with gentleness and love. Leave room for failure. Encourage them to keep going, they learn through failure. Do not hesitate to impose consequences when there is a default.
5. Understand them through their peer group
A friend means a lot to a teenager. Get to know the friends who exert a strong influence on your child’s behavior. Their friend’s advice will seem more appealing than that of their parents who are out of touch with their world. Encourage your child to talk about them and bring them home. When you sense someone is a bad influence, don’t immediately attack that friend. Talk to your child in a non-confrontational manner about how he/she is being influenced away from the right path.
6. Be open to two-way learning
Adolescents will listen to you, when you listen to them. They don’t listen when they feel you do not try to understand their point of view. Though adolescents try to behave like adults, they are neither adults nor children. If you can treat them as adults and speak to them so, they become more open to share. Information-wise, children are more advanced than many parents. This can make them appear arrogant. Be willing to learn from them, for them to learn from you.
7. Pray for them
Above all, ask God’s wisdom for parenting. I would recommend every parent pray daily for wisdom to deal with his or her child and for the child. This will definitely make an impact in the life of the child.
This way of communicating will show your teen that you are truly interested in their point of view and are making an attempt to understand them. The balance between freedom and authority will be achieved in the long run.
The reason as to why he/she was disciplined and how he can avoid it next time should be clearly explained. Always try appreciating or correcting the act/behaviour rather than the child.
Dr. Dobson encourages parents, “Don’t panic; stay on your child’s team, even when it appears to be a losing team, and give the whole process time to work itself out.”
Resolve to never, ever give up. Decide now that you’ll always be there for your teenager. No matter how angry, stressed out, frustrated, disappointed or exhausted you are, resolve to be the best mom or dad you can be. Whether you are preparing for your child’s teen years or are presently in the midst of them, make a commitment — an act of your will — to never give up on your son or daughter.