Quite often I see threads on my local mums’ Facebook page about how to discipline a teenager. I read these threads that are detailing the issues they are having and I nod along going: yup, yup, yup, like some kind of nodding dog. They are usually asking for advice, which although I don’t always jump in and give as I don’t necessarily feel equipped to, I do find myself questioning what I do, or how I think I would react.
With each teenager, I am experiencing new things and coming up against new issues. The issues that existed with my step daughter are now different for my daughters and so on. Life changes and evolves in all sorts of ways and as parents, we must be prepared to move with it.
With this in mind, I thought I would write another post in my: Voice of Experience series. Not because I feel that I have all the answers to teenage/parent angst, but because I have picked up a few things that have worked and are working for me on my journey.
The Voice of Experience Talks Bringing Up Teens
Sometimes against every gut feeling in your body, show them and tell them that you trust them. If someone feels they aren’t trusted, they are more inclined to stray. It builds up a huge amount of resentment. Trust is an essential part of any relationship and it is certainly important with teens.
Equally, make them aware of your expectations surrounding this trust. This gives them boundaries to push against, and therefore the security that you care and that what they do matters to you.
Communicate with them. Try to get them out of the house and on neutral ground. A walk is perfect, whether it’s a dog walk, a walk around town, even a trip to the supermarket. Stepping into their bedroom with the words: ‘we need to talk’, is guaranteed to switch them off.
Don’t be afraid to thrash things out. You cannot avoid confrontation for an easier life. If you haven’t got the energy to deal with it, put it on hold until you have. Sometimes it’s good to let the dust settle.
Don’t set unrealistic rules and be prepared to be flexible. Don’t see this as backing down. Often if you listen to your teen they are making valid points about something that you may have previously dismissed. Not listening to their point of view will push them away and closer to their friends who will always agree with them.
Try to keep them close. You will feel that you are losing them, but you are not. Don’t smother them, let them go and ironically this will keep them closer to you. As they start to seek independence, to spend more time in their rooms and less time on family activities, don’t panic – this is normal. At about the age of 15, they will probably stop bothering to come downstairs to say goodnight. Don’t hold it against them, it’s nothing serious.
Don’t use cutting off their lifelines as punishments: their friends, their phones, social media. They quite literally are their lifelines. By doing this you are simply making them feel even more isolated and less likely to cooperate. If they see that you are listening to them and trying to understand, then they are far more likely to play ball.
Acceptance is so important. Accept that they are going to push against you. Accept that they are going to break some rules. Pick your battles. It is not a reflection on your inability to parent, it is a sign that they are growing up.
Embrace their noise! Be happy that they have a voice. Teach them how to argue effectively and to put their point of view across.
Throw comments into conversations. Snatched moments are all you may get with a teenager, so use them in a way that you haven’t perhaps before. Don’t see it as futile and worry that you’re not getting time with your teen to get a message across. If you sit down at a table and talk to them for 10 minutes, they will only be listening to a tiny part of the conversation anyway and will actually remember even less of it. Think back to those throwaway comments people have said to you in the past that you remember. Sound bites have a place – be a parent politician.
Please add your thoughts in the comments box. Let’s share the challenges and celebrate the successes!