Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Would you like to have a great relationship with your teenagers and help them through to a happy and successful adulthood.
Despite all the negativity hype, it is possible.
I've listed below some ideas that worked to help me through the teenage years. And some may work for you.
I started these strategies early, rather than waiting until problems arose.
Catch your teenager being good. Encourage them, notice their improvements, tell them you're proud of them. Tell them they're turning into the wonderful young adult you always knew they'd be. So often as busy parents we only comment on the things that we want improved. Our children need a hair cut, their bedroom's untidy, they haven't started a homework assignment, they're forever on the phone, etc. But we can take for granted the fact they've got their homework in on time for the last three weeks, they help out by picking up a younger sibling after school, they stack the dishwasher, help prepare dinner sometimes, etc.
What you notice you get more of.
Give an unexpected reward or privilege for a job well done and be specific about why. Your teenager learns, if they do the right thing, you notice and appreciate it. It could be something as simple as having friends over for a sleep over, or taking them to a movie, or buying something they've wanted for a while. It can be something you were thinking of doing anyway. Something thoughtful supporting their interests, or a book by their favourite author, can make them feel like you understand them.
Always speak to your child respectfully. If you treat your child like they are a valued guest in your home, they are more likely to do the same to you in return. If they're ever disrespectful with you, pull them up with something like... 'That's not like you. Is something wrong? Or 'You're better than that.'
Encourage and support your child to be involved in some type of activity that makes them feel good about themselves (and ideally builds their fitness, confidence and self-esteem.) That could be playing in a team sport. Or maybe maintaining an individual activity like dancing, cross-fit training or surfing. But it could also be playing an instrument, drawing, or learning a new skill. Try to make it something they choose themselves and can succeed at.
Ensure your teen has access to quality friends at school. And also in their areas of interest. Limit access to friends you feel are bad choices.
Because most teenagers can't drive until you teach them, until you do, this can give you some ability to screen friends.
You don't have to ever say their choice of a particular friend is bad. That's likely to make them defensive. But you can make it easier to access the friends you consider are good friends to have.
Discuss what makes a good friend while they're young.
Encourage them to have a number of friendship groups. That way they have a large group of friends to move between. And in case they ever need them.
Teenagers become like the people they spend the most time with.
Have a working relationship with the parents of your teenagers closest friends.
This gives you insight into what values your teenager's friend's family has.
It also prevents teens playing parents off against one another. E.g. Saying they're sleeping over at friends, when they're not. Or attending unsupervised parties.
It's often surprising when you say that you're concerned about your teenager going to a party, or going on a camping trip, or going out at night, another parent may be feeling the same way. And even if you're more strict than another parents, it can encourage them to think of implications they may not have thought of. And it's more likely to result in middle ground being found between you than if you hadn't shared your thoughts.
Even if the other parent is very permissive, you're better off knowing about it. Then you can factor it in, if your child wants to stay overnight, or attend a party there.
Do things together with your teenagers that keep the channels of communication open. And if they come to you...Listen. With some boys doing things alongside them is less confronting than facing them: e.g. building something, doing the gardening together, or helping with a school assignment. Going on a camping holiday, or a hike, when there are less distractions, can be a fun relaxing time. Even helping your teen with a challenging task, may build credit points with them, that can help preserve your relationship through more difficult times.
Encourage your teenager to get a part-time job, ideally up to around ten hours a week. Nothing teaches the value of money like earning their own. My youngest son went from wondering why I wasn't willing to spend lots of money on games for him to saying 'I'm not buying that. I had to work three hours of my life for that.' And because he earned the money to buy the things he wanted himself, he appreciated them and looked after them.
Discuss expectations ahead of time and when there's no issue. That way your teenager knows exactly what they're allowed to do. And is less likely to challenge you if they've done something wrong.
Let your child negotiate with you prior to decisions being made. But once you say no to a request, regardless of how badly your teenager behaves, don't change your mind.
Really think about it before you say 'No,' to a teenagers request. Ask the many questions you need to, before you give an answer. And if you can allow it, say 'Yes.' But if you think the activity is too risky, stick to your decision.
Explain... 'I feel I'm not being a good parent if I let you do this at your age. And you know I try to be the best parent I can for you. If you choose to do this once your older, that'll be up to you, and I'll respect your decision. I can understand that you're disappointed... Is there another activity that you know would be more acceptable to us you might like to do instead?'
Don't get into an argument. Arguing gives away your power and erodes your relationship.
If your child is upset and reactive, be the adult. Take a breath before you respond. Lower your tone of voice rather than raise it. Repeat instructions, in the same tone of voice, a few times if necessary, until they follow them. Follow up with natural consequences if you need to.
When interacting with your teenager ask yourself... Is this what a good parent would do? Is this building my child, or diminishing him or her?
Another thing to remember, if you feel like losing your temper is... Will what I'm saying bring us closer, or drive us further apart.
Don't hit a mozzie with a fly swat. Keep your responses calm and measured. If consequences need to be followed up, be clinical and administer them when you're not angry. And both parents need to be involved where ever possible.
There are things you don't ever say to children For example: Don't say things that are hurtful... ever. Avoid negative words that are personal, permanent and pervasive. Words like ' You are a selfish/mean/fat/ugly ...... You always have to ruin everything,' tear at the very core of your child. If you're angry say 'I can't talk about this with you right now.' And don't talk about it till you've calmed down.
The key to success is your relationship.
If you're kind, fair and have fun with your teenager, any disharmony should be short lived.
If you're predictable, reliable and responsible, your teenager learns they can trust you. Consistency is the key.