The years of babies, bottles and boo-boos have passed, and you look over at your child and begin to wonder, “who are you and what have you done with my child?”. If that sounds at all familiar to you, perhaps I should then welcome you into the teen years, and also forewarn you to hold onto your hat because you‘re in for what could be a very bumpy ride.
Entering into the teen years with your children can be an exciting and adventurous time, but it can also be fraught with confusion, anxiety and stress. For each parent who swears that their teens transition into adulthood was as smooth as silk, there are an equal number of parents who’ll swear that their teen is the devil incarnate.
Unseen and bewildering changes are taking place within your child, whether immediately apparent or not, and your role and responsibilities as parent becomes even more important than that of changing multitudes of diapers or kissing scraped knees and elbows. While some parents may have very negative views of the teen years, it is a time of great opportunity for parents to help their growing children become the person they are meant to be.
Opinions on parenting teens vary widely amongst even the most renown “parenting experts”, with published books and internet sites loaded with well-meaning parenting advice on dealing with what is often called the “tumultuous teen years”. Simply doing a general online search for “surviving the teenage years” provides parents all variances of opinion on what works, and what does not, regarding parenting and dealing with teen issues. With so much information coming from so many sources, how do parents determine which advice to follow and which to toss aside?
When Does It Start?
Exactly when the angst-filled teen years actually begin is also debatable, but my experience of raising six children was that it begins right around the time children enter middle school. Summer break ends and children start school, sometimes with a new set of peers, and arrive home later that day talking and acting like someone you don’t recognize anymore. Suddenly they’re grooming themselves differently, trying new Ahem…hairstyles and dressing differently than you’ve ever seen before, all in an effort to feel accepted amongst their peers and wanting to “fit in”.
Last time I checked, there has yet to be published a parenting manual that would work perfectly with every family dynamic. Each family has their own value system, moral compass and beliefs, which requires parents to use sound judgment when deciding what expert advice to follow in regards to parenting their children and teens. What might work well for one family may not work for the next, or there may be other influences such as religious beliefs to consider. Regardless of where the advice comes from, parents must stick together as a united team in deciding upon and implementing discipline, rules of the home, curfews, etc.
Dealing With Teenage Rebellion-
Teens have always found ways to rebel, for one reason or another, and today’s teens are more “in your face” than in previous generations. More than ever before, teens are pushing limits and boundaries set by their parents, going so far as to publicly disrespect, physically abuse and even kill their parents. Teens are quickly rejecting values and ideals set forth by their parents, opting to follow newfound beliefs based on what they see in movies or television, music and Websites. When my children were growing up, I did not allow them to watch even cartoon-type shows where children were verbally or physically disrespectful towards parents, using foul language or disgusting hand gestures.
Nowadays, parents not only allow their children to watch endless hours of unsupervised television each day, but parents have somehow found it funny to watch such shows with their children sitting beside them. Then they’re somehow surprised when their children begin acting out what they’ve seen or heard.
Staying Connected To Your Teenager-
Educate yourself. Read a lot of books about teenagers and parenting teens. Carefully consider the advice given, weighing it against what you know in your heart and soul holds up your personal morals and values. Remember what becoming a teenager was like for you. Parents who know what’s coming are better able to help their teenage children deal with the body changes, mood swings, odd feelings, etc. Work hard to keep the channels of communication open with your teens, ask meaningful questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer, but don’t go overboard by starting lengthy lectures.
Children Learn What They Live-
Be a good example, personally modeling the behaviors you desire from your teens. If you think for a minute that you can have a “do as I say, not as I do” type scenario going on, I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona I’d like to discuss with you. During one particular scheduled visitation with their dad, my now-grown children witnessed him gathering up the silverware at a restaurant he’d taken them to, laughing as he explained to our children his “reasons” for stealing the silverware, all the while telling them they should never steal. Tip: Kids aren’t stupid. They learn what they live, and it took some time to get them to understand that sometimes even parents make errors in judgment.
Pick And Choose Your Battles-
If you’re okay with your teenagers dying their hair, shaving their head, having a Mohawk, or wearing funky clothes, so be it. But if your expectations are that your teenage children uphold a more conservative style, then make sure you have clearly stated that position with your children and teens, explaining in a calm yet firm voice that what other families may allow their children or teens to do has no bearing on the decisions within your family.
Despite all your best efforts, there will likely be times when your kid will be downright obnoxious. Even during those times, it’s imperative that your child know that you still love them. While you have every right to express your displeasure and disapproval over something they’ve said or done, it’s best to do so without hysteria, empty threats, or getting physical. Your teen will likely attempt to argue or debate over every little thing, but raising your voice to the point of shattering glass won’t accomplish anything but a sore throat. My daughter used to try to debate me endlessly, but once I realized the game she was trying to play in order to get her way, I began telling her “this is not up for debate”. She learned rather quickly not to try to manipulate me. Tip: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Know Their Friends And Their Friends Parents-
I cannot emphasize this enough. I do not mean simply knowing their friends names, addresses and phone numbers. While it is important to know where your children and teens are, who they’re with, what they’re doing, it is also extremely important to get to know the parents. Not all parents will act in the best interests of their own children, let alone your children. Some parents allow their teens to drink alcohol as long as they are at home with the parents. If you do not allow your teens to drink, you need to know whether other parents will abide by your rules.
I learned this one the hard way. One of my daughters was invited to a girls sleep-over when she was fifteen. After discussing the plans and arrangements with the mother, including her promise that she’d be supervising the girls the entire time, I later learned that the mother had spent the entire evening held up in her bedroom, leaving the girls completely unsupervised (along with several teenage boys who arrived later with alcohol).
Do you have some tips you’d like to contribute? We’d love to hear from you!