5 Adjustments parents of teens need to make
I have four kids; ages 20, 18, 13, and 11. The biggest parenting challenge happens as they start to go through adolescence. Parenting teens is completely different than parenting young kids. They are becoming adults and beginning to exercise their free will. They are learning to think for themselves. It’s all very good, but the parenting approach has to change.
Something needs to change
The kids usually are usually blamed. We call them, “moody teenagers” (and they are), but they’re not the ones that need to make the change. Parenting young kids is really pretty easy. They are filled with innocence; they don’t think for themselves very often and they don’t really care about much. A young child just needs control. Strict discipline, consistency, and a lot of affection will result in well-behaved kids every time. That’s the secret sauce and it’s not complex.
However, in the course of a year or two, they now need something completely different. Parenting teens is no longer about control, it’s all about influence. They will no longer listen to you because you’re in charge. They are eager to take on actual responsibility. They want to start calling the shots. This is a good thing! It’s simply a part of the maturation process.
5 Adjustments parents of teens need to make
These are the top 5 ways your parenting needs to change as your children approach addolecense.
- Lighten up – For most of your child’s life, you have chosen their clothes, nagged them about chores, monitored what they eat, and nagged them about countless different behaviors. When they are young that’s fine, but that won’t work anymore. If you don’t start choosing your battles, you will see them become bitter. They are reacting exactly the same way you would. If someone started nagging you about everything in your life and had to comment on every decision you made, you would go psycho on that person. You still need rules, but your objective is to be to giving them areas of freedom. Give them an opportunity to make good choices and then repeat the process, until a they are a Senior in high school. By that age the dream is to have no rules. They are living as adults in your house making great choices.
- Pretend like they’re not idiots – I know they are dumb. Fortunately my kids don’t read anything I write so I can say that. (Free taco for my kids if they read this). My kids have done some of the most bone-headed things that a human can do. Like, it shocks me how dumb. My wife and I laugh a lot…quietly…privately, when they are not looking. Of course they do dumb things; they lack life experience. Again, this is part of the maturation process. If you belittle them every chance you get (and you will get a lot) they will grow bitter at you. Instead, find the few good decisions they are making and celebrate them. What you reward will be repeated.
- Invest in the relationship – This is probably the biggest challenge because we are not very good about loving people that are hard to love. Most teenagers are hard to love. At least at times. I find myself wanting to hide from them. Tell me I’m the only one? Investing in the relationship means looking to spend lots of time together in a non-preachy way. So, if you go fishing, don’t try to find your opportunity to give a talk. Just go fishing. Find common interests. You have resources that their friends don’t have, leverage that. Go on vacations.
- Listen when they critique you – Wow, this one is hard. One time my daughter called me on the carpet. She said that I was “hating on her friends.” My first reaction was to be like, “well, thats because you pick …..” Then I stopped and I thought. No, thats true. I haven’t been showing love to her friends. I apologized and told her that she was right. She about fell over. Don’t let your kids manipulate you with this, but if they are right, acknowledge it. Nothing gives you more influence.
- Create a fail friendly environment – Your kids will fail. Your son will look at porn. Your daughter will miss curfew. You have to create allowances for these failures. That doesn’t mean you don’t have consequences. It means you have grace. I have a rule with my kids. If I catch you doing something wrong, there is punishment. However, if you confess before I catch you, no harm will come to you. This helps them see that I am here for them. I want to help them with their problems. In all things, at all times, your teen must believe that you are for them, not against them.
Once in a while I see parents who fail to make the appropriate adjustments. They continue to parent their kids the way they did when they were young. The result is bitterness. The teens feel like caged animals. They don’t want or need total freedom, but they need you to start treating them like adults, at least at times. If you don’t make these major adjustments, your kids will resent you. However, if you begin to show them the respect a human is due, they will feel empowered and loved!