Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Teens tend to get a lot of flack from parents. Way too often when I talk to parents about their teens it is full of stress and exhaustion and speaking about their teens like it is full of way more difficulty than joy.
Teens are a rough group to parent- finding themselves plus raging hormones that they seem to not be able to communicate outside of attitudes can be overwhelming. But, I am here today to give you some tips for parenting teens that I think will help a little bit.
1. They experience more stress, conflict, peer pressure, etc. than you will ever know.
It hurts to hear but your teen is not going to tell you everything. You can definitely build your relationship to a point where they tell you a majority of things but expecting them to tell you every single thing is going to lead to disappointment. With that understanding, remember that when you speak to them, when you are correcting them, etc. I hear ALL THE TIME from parents/adults, "you're a kid, you don't pay bills, what could you possibly be stressed about". And it drives me INSANE!
Are your only stressors bills? NO! There is much more in the world to stress about than bills. And having this perception your child will never come to you about what they are experiencing because you are ultimately invalidating their feelings and experiences. Look back at your high school experience, not with the eyes of a parent or adult but as a 14-18 year old- the peer pressure, homework, working a full or part time job, trying to manage time with your friends on top of home and school responsibilities and extracurriculars, rumors, teachers that also forgot what it was like to be in high school, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends that switch up every day, etc.
2. Be open to WHATEVER they tell you
This is a huge way to conquer issues regarding number one. You reaction to the things they tell you will determine what they share and how much they share with you. This includes when they tell you good things that have happened and mistakes, things their friends have done that you don't approve of, thoughts and ideas they are having (positive or negative), etc.
It can be easy to punish for what they are telling you but take a minute and remember lies are told because of fear. Sometimes punishment is necessary but really take time to think about if there needs to be additional punishment or if the experience is the punishment. For instance, say your teen comes to you and tells you that their friends were smoking cigarettes and offered him/her some but they did not take it, or that they did take one but hated it and never want that again. You can either yell and scream and be upset and demand that they never spend time with or talk to those friends again resulting only in them never being honest with you again about adverse experiences and sneaking around to hang with those friends. OR You can thank them for telling you, ask what their experience was like, allow them the space to discuss with you without fear resulting in a new relationship growth, trust for the future, and the likelihood they will continue making positive decisions with those friends or choose other friends altogether.
3. Stop fussing at them to get off of their phones!
Socializing with peers and friends is a HUGE part of development at this age - so much so that it is mentioned in Erik Erikson's stages of development. Validation from peers as well as the connection to them is extremely important.
If you are truly just wanting to spend time with them uninterrupted, say THAT! It will be so much more respected with that reason than you just wanting them to get off of it and look at the walls. But, if you are telling them to get off of theirs make sure you are off of yours too! Adults are on our phones just as much as teens nowadays sometimes. I've seen it so many times, parents telling their teen to put the phone down while their phone is in their hand. It makes no sense!
4. Compliment how well they are doing rather than complaining about what they are not doing
How often are you thanking your child for completing chores and congratulating them on good grades compared to how often you are fussing at them for chores not being completed and getting one low grade? How would you feel if your significant other always talked about what you are not doing rather than showing appreciation for what you are doing well? Would you respect them or just be annoyed? How motivated would you be to keep doing the good things? I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million more, kids are people too! They have feelings and emotions just like you do and they deserve the same respect and consideration you feel you deserve. We tend to forget that teens need just as much compliments and reassurance as our younger babies. They still seek and need validation.
5. Ask how their day was before giving commands
Same thing with the significant other example: if your spouse came home and immediately asked did you do what they asked you to do or what they expected you to do or asking you to do something without a proper greeting or asking about YOU how would it make you feel? OR Think about having a hard day at work and going home - how motivated are you to immediately start cleaning the house? School is work for them. Some of them are working jobs.
If they said they had a hard day give them a break for once or offer to help them!
How did these tips make you feel? I know that especially for Black families the tips and practices that I share can be a bit foreign and uncomfortable. However, I think if you take the time to reflect on your life and your relationship with your parents you will see how their parenting styles impacted you on a deeper level. Parenting is about growing, shaping, and loving - not fear, punishment, and feeding your ego. Remember, we are growing mentally healthy adults and it starts now at home!