Let’s face it: teenagers get a bad rap.
Society, social media, television, and sometimes even their own parents love to portray teens today as being moody, sullen, rude, rebellious, angry, entitled and lazy. And while everybody I’ve ever met exhibits some of those qualities on any given day (have you ever met a two year old?), I’m here to tell you that teenagers really aren’t that bad. In fact, on most days I find them to be down right delightful!
I am NOT an expert on parenting teens (my oldest child just recently became one), but I do have a decade of parenting over 40 teenagers in foster care under my ever-increasing belt. The teens who came through my home were from rough backgrounds. Life dealt them a bad hand, and many found themselves involved with the juvenile court system. If anyone had the right to match the characteristics of the stereotypical teen, it was them. But more often than not, underneath the caked on eyeliner and defensive scowl was just another person who was dying to be heard, loved, accepted, and understood.
If you are a young mama who is fearful of the teen years to come, don’t be! Or if you are a mama who is currently in the midst of struggling to find a piece of common ground with your teen, take heart. It’s never too late to improve your relationship with the teens in your life.
These are my top 10 tips for parenting teens:
If possible, start young.
Remember you’re raising future adults. If you want a grown child that is affectionate, you must be affectionate with them when they are young. If you want a grown child that exhibits emotional self control, you must be slow to anger as you discipline each day. The choices we make when our children are small largely contribute to the type of people they will become as they grow. Raise someone you will one day want to be friends with!
Communication is key.
You must find a way to communicate with your teen. Perhaps that means setting aside a specific time each day to catch up. Maybe it means purchasing a journal that the two of you pass back and forth. Or perhaps all it means simply putting down your phone. Get creative in your communication! Talking doesn’t have to be a formal event.
Remember the goal is to capture your child’s heart.
You can’t influence what goes on in their heads if you don’t hold their hearts. Teen’s respond best to people who desire to know them more than they desire to control them.
Pick your battles.
Just because we can control every minute detail of our teen’s lives doesn’t mean that we should. One day your teen will fly away, and you just might regret not bending in their direction a bit more. (Obviously I’m not referring to battles over morals or safety. In those instances it is absolutely your job to stand your ground.)
Give them two good choices.
I learned this tip at a training long ago, and it works! For the teens who are desperate to begin making their own choices, try your best to always offer two good ones. If the goal, for example, is for them to complete a chore, consider offering them more than one choice. Instead of demanding that they vacuum, ask them if they’d rather vacuum or take out the trash. The end result of teaching family contribution and responsibility is the same.
Say yes (as often as possible).
I’m not talking about the big stuff here. I’m talking about saying yes to the temporary hair color or the shoes you don’t like. Save your no’s for the things that really matter.
Get to know their friends.
If someone is important to your teen, they should automatically be important to you. Find ways to become a teen friendly home. Invest in a pool table. Stock a fridge with soda. Fill a cabinet with games. Volunteer to drive at events. Be present but not pushy. I’ve yet to meet a teen that doesn’t want another adult to invest in their life (though they would die before telling you this).
Listen more than you talk.
If you’ve done your job right in the early years, your teen already has a good grasp on what it is you value and where you stand on a variety of issues. Listening will get you so much further than lecturing.
Assume the best.
Always give your teen the benefit of the doubt. ALWAYS. This communicates to them that you are on their side.
Your home is their training ground for real life. Both of you will make mistakes on this journey. Grace upon grace is the answer.
I, for one, believe the future is bright!