Being a parent is hard! In so many ways as your kids get older however, the job does get easier. Perhaps this is why the shelves of your local bookstore are teaming with selections on parenting tots but the pickings are slim regarding advice for parenting teens.
When your kids are younger you are in control of almost every aspect of their lives. Aren’t temper tantrums just a reflection of the frustration they can sometimes experience because they possess full awareness of this fact? As they get older, the control dynamic changes. You may find yourself working harder to find out what they are doing with this control (i.e. where they are going, what they are doing, and with whom). At times it can be quite frustrating trying to get this information out of them.
Technology has certainly helped close gap on this somewhat. You can now call or text to immediately connect with your teen. And, if they don’t pick up, GPS functions on phones allow you to pinpoint their exact location. But, as you may have already realized, technology is only as helpful as the user’s knowledge and well, it may seem like your teens are always one step ahead of you. Honestly, they know how to work it if they don’t want you to know where they are. Regarding what they are doing…unless you require them to stream video every time you connect with them can you really be sure? And even then, if there is a will there is a way, they can figure out how to make sure you see only what they want you to see if you use Skype or Facetime to connect with them.
So, what can you do to ensure that your teen is making positive, safe decisions? How can you ensure that he is not misusing the control he possesses? Actually, you can do a lot more than you think, and many things you are already doing!
- Research indicates that kids tend to pick peers who possess similar values. Those values are usually instilled upon them by their parents.
- Research also reflects that kids learn more from the behavior their parents model to them than from what their parents say to them (i.e. it is important to ‘Practice what you Preach’)
- It has been found that adults who report strong open communication with their parents growing up live longer, healthier lives than adults who report poor communication with their parents while growing up.
- Parents build their own children’s self-esteem when they present as confident and engage in positive ‘self-talk.’
- Research concludes that teens are far more emotionally resilient than parents assume. This is why your teen can storm upstairs after having you a set a limit, and come downstairs shortly after with a smile on her face as if nothing happened. The takeaway message, don’t be afraid to set a limit, your teen will deal.
- And finally, research indicates that a ‘permissive’ style of parenting is most associated with teens who become substance abusers, and or become involved with the juvenile justice system. In translation, your teens need you to set limits for them. The majority of teens I have worked with have reported they want their parents to set limits. Limits are a demonstration of guidance, caring, love, and support.
The take away message? Focus on the things you can do with and for your teens, not on what you cannot control or change. In conclusion, keep talking with them, stay involved and invested. You have far more influence over them than you may realize.