We’ve all had that moment when our teens look at us like we’re aliens. We’re the ones setting rules and holding them accountable, so they have a hard time believing that we used to be in their shoes. Otherwise, we would totally see it their way, right?
Right. And wrong. We remember the confusion, peer pressure and difficult choices we faced as teens – which is exactly why we set rules and hold our kids accountable. We want to guide them toward what’s best for them and help them avoid some of the mistakes that we made, even if they don’t always understand it.
But letting teens know that we give them reminders, curfews and lectures because we know what it’s like to be a teen is the first step in building a bridge of mutual understanding. Letting them know that we are, believe it or not, from the same planet lets them know that we’re here to support them and listen if they want to talk and, most importantly, that we’re on their team.
Here are some tips for working with your teen rather than against them:
Give your teen a little leash.
Basing rules on the tendency to expect the worst communicates to your teen that you don’t trust him or her. Instead, set rules based on reasonable timelines, responsibilities and school or family commitments.
If your teenage son completes all his chores and is keeping up with his schoolwork, allow him to spend a little extra time with his friends. If your daughter wants to see a movie but says she’ll be home in time for a family dinner, why not let her go? Rewarding teens with positive reinforcement shows them that good behaviors reap good results, and sends the message that they have some control over their freedom if they opt to follow the rules.
So give your teen the opportunity to prove that they’re trustworthy and able to meet expectations, and they just might pleasantly surprise you.
Be clear about limits, expectations and consequences.
It often seems like adults and teens speak different languages, so make sure you are clear and consistent about what is okay and what isn’t. If you change the rules, your teen won’t think you’re serious about them and will be more tempted to test you by overstepping rules or curfews. It’s better to agree upon expectations with your teen and then stay committed to those expectations – if you’re sticking to the agreement, it’s easier to ask your teen to follow suit and do the same thing.
Also, make the effort to give your teenager a chance to express his or her thoughts when you discuss limits and consequences. Ask them what consequences they feel are reasonable if they break rules. If you’re rewarding them with a little more freedom, ask them whether they’d like a slightly later curfew or less time spent checking in when they aren’t home. This shows your son or daughter that you’re on the same team and that you value his or her opinion.
Pick your battles.
If your teenage daughter is excelling at her academics and dyes her hair pink, is it really worth it to make a fuss about that pink hair? It isn’t permanent and it likely won’t matter as much as her grades will in the grand scheme of things. The same goes for clothes you can’t stand or music that makes you run for the nearest set of earplugs.
Give your teen freedom to express himself or herself and develop a sense of individuality. It not only shows respect but it ensures that you both aren’t left worn out from constantly battling over the small things. Save the lectures and absolutely-not conversations for the big things like sex, alcohol and academics; don’t make the mistake of nagging your teen over every irksome habit they have.
Parenting teens isn’t easy – in fact, we’re often just as confused as they are. So make the effort to work with your teen, not against them… For more tips on parenting teens, click here.