Teenagers are strange and fascinating creatures. One moment they’re all sweetness and light and the next they turn into hormone-fueled beasts that can test the patience of even the most stoic of parents. No one ever said it would be easy, but while every teen and every family are unique, no one ever said it would be this hard either. When parenting teenagers, help may sometimes be needed whether it is the advice of a friend or a professional. Here are a few things to keep in mind on how to parent a teenager.
Science has a few solid explanations for the otherwise unexplainable behavior of the modern teen. The decision-making portions of their brains are not yet fully developed and add hormones to this mix and you have a child who is trying to act like an adult but truly lacks the capability to do so.
We can expect certain respectful behavior from our teens to help maintain harmony in the family, but without clear direction and firm rules teens are more likely than not to lose sight of their goals and find themselves in situations they’re not prepared for.
If you’re the parent of a teen and feel like you’re at the end of your rope, some of these tips for how to parent a teenager could help save your sanity. It is possible to help your teen adjust their behavior and restore your healthy relationship as a loving parent and child.
Listen to Your Teen
Teens have a lot to say but many feel as if no one hears them. And while it’s true that getting your teen to open up about their feelings can be like pulling teeth, deep down inside your teen wants your acknowledgment and wants you to hear them.
Many parents find that pushing the issue only causes the teen to shut down. Try to have a neutral conversation in a neutral environment, such as a car ride. Don’t ask pointed questions and don’t accuse. Keep the conversation light and let them set the tone. Then you can use phrases such as “how did that make you feel?” and “what do you think could have been different about the situation?” These types of questions don’t place blame and may help your child tell you what’s bothering them and how you can help.
Engaging on an everyday or at least consistent basis will help your teen know you care and that you want to hear what they have to say. Alienation happens when you stop trying.
Set Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations is going to make things better for you and for them! They aren’t mind readers. It doesn’t feel good to your teen to let you down and not even see it coming. It doesn’t feel good for you to be let down. The first step is hold a family meeting and have an open conversation about what you consider to be fair expectations. Give them a chance to respond and get their buy in.
Throughout anyone’s life there will be expectations and consequences. This includes both parents and teens. Dad’s boss expects him to be on time for work and there are consequences if he doesn’t do that. The same is true for your teen. If you expect your teen to perform a certain household task and they fail to do so, there must be consequences.
Following through with a punishment is never easy, whether you’re a manager or a parent — and you may feel like both — but failure to follow through gives your teen the impression that you don’t mean what you say. Not only does this lead to the belief that they can misbehave and avoid consequences but it also shows them they can’t trust you to do what you say you will. If they can’t expect that from you how can you expect it from them?
Consequences and follow through are two important lessons that teens need to learn on a regular basis starting with the small things so that the big things don’t come as a shock.
If Parenting Teenagers Has You Feeling Overwhelmed, Remember There Is Help
When Outside Help Is Needed
In even the best homes, where parents feel they’ve done everything right, raising a teenager sometimes gets confusing and hard. You may feel like you don’t have the answers. You may need help reaching your teen. There is a good chance you need to open the door for better communication and information flow. However, this can be super hard when your child is not comfortable sharing their feelings.
Often this can occur when there is a big problem that needs be addressed and worked through. Such big problems can include divorce, death in the family, death of a friend, phone addiction, alcohol or drug use, eating problems, bullying, and other potential stumbling blocks. In this case, you can turn to the school counselor for help in determining what is happening at school and if they have any helpful resources. I also suggest the help of a family counsellor in these cases when possible.
A professional who has extensive experience with teens and behavioral issues can offer you an outside perspective. They can also help when your child needs someone to talk to but isn’t comfortable talking with you. Often times children fear letting their parents down. They don’t want to share their inner fears or anxieties because you may seek their weakness and be disappointed. It may not be entirely rational but they may even fear you will stop loving them. Hearing good sound advice from a professional can be helpful for both the teenager and the parents.
Parenting A Teenager Book
Another helpful option may be a trip to the library to check out a book on parenting teenagers. Sometimes, a different point of view or a clear set of instructions is just what you need. There are lots of options and some may even be aimed at the particular problem you are facing. See this great list of 15 Best Books For Parenting Teens.
Parenting A Teenager Quotes
Maybe you just need a bit of inspiration. Here are a few quotes on parenting a teenager to help.
“Conscious parenting is not about being perfect, it’s about being aware. Aware of what your kids need from you to reach more of their full potential.”
– Alex Urbina, The Inspirational Parent: The Magical Ingredients For Effective Parenting
“You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream, the print of the way you taught them will remain.” – Mother Teresa
This quote is not actually about parenting teenagers but if you teach this message to your teens and remember it yourself, you will be well served. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
Sometimes parenting a teen may be hard as you watch them struggle and you don’t know how to help them. Or you see them going down the wrong roads and they don’t want to listen to your words of caution.
At other times parenting will seem so rewarding, as you are lifted up by a sweet unexpected action. Or amazed to see them growing into a thoughtful young person instead of a careless child.
Remaining sane and raising a teen can feel like the mother of all problems but even for those families with seemingly insurmountable problems parenting teenagers, help is available. You just need to be consistent in communicating with your teen, setting boundaries, and knowing when to ask for help. Again, no one said parenting teenagers would be easy, but it is a stage they will grow out of be better for if you consistently keep doing your best and getting help when needed. Is parenting teenagers tougher than you thought it would be? Where do you turn for help?