Parenting A Teenager
The Top 3 Mistakes A Parent Can Make
By Colleen Langenfeld
If you are currently parenting a teenager you know how frustrating and even scary it can be.
Let's face it, parenting a teenager can be confusing, too. Sometimes learning what NOT to do is easier than trying to figure out what new idea to add into your parenting style.
I have been parenting for over two decades and am currently parenting my third teenager. Based on my own experience, here are the top three worst things you can do while parenting a teenager. Just avoiding these can go a long ways towards building a successful relationship with your teenager and thereby improving the harmony of your home.
Mistake #1. Ignoring your teenager
Teenagers are intense social animals. The stage of development they're moving through is complex and confusing to them. Their days are often anything but calm and stable. As their parent, you can sense this just by being in the same room with them or listening to their conversations with their friends.
If you are uncertain as to how to guide them, in your genuine frustration you may have fallen into the trap of ignoring your teen. If you simply don't know what to say to your teen's rude facade or embarrassing questions or painful silences then you may have decided to hunker down and just try to get through these difficult years in one piece.
Mom or dad, if that description sounds familiar, please take heart. There are better and easier ways of parenting your teenager. In fact, if you are ignoring your teenager, you are choosing the most difficult path available to you, from a long-term perspective.
Let's get something straight. It's okay if you don't know what to say to your teen. What your teen needs most from you is to be *heard*. Instead of walking away when an uncomfortable conversation begins, take a deep breath, look into your teen's eyes and intensely listen. If you have been ignoring your teen for awhile, it will take some time for your teen to believe that you are really interested in them. Be persistent. You teenager will be unable to resist your offer to listen unconditionally.
Mistake #2. Avoiding problems
This is different from ignoring your teenager. As teens are maturing into young adults, they naturally explore more and more adult-type issues. Sometimes a teenager gets in over his or her head and desperately wants your help but doesn't know how to ask.
Sometimes a teen will taunt you, as their parent, with a forbidden behavior, challenging you to stand up and BE the parent.
As their parent, the best thing you can do is to face the problem head on, even if you have feelings of uncertainty yourself (and you probably will). If necessary, get professional help. Let your teenager see you are taking his or her problems seriously. Talk to them and then listen, listen, and listen.
If you find that there is a great deal of arguing going on in your household, then that needs to be the first problem you stop avoiding.
Show your teen how an adult behaves in such a situation.
* You can show your teen how to stay calm and in the moment.
* You can model quality listening.
* You can let them know that you are developing a plan of action.
* You can show them how to get help when help is needed.
Whether it's failing grades, suspected drug use, promiscuity, or speaking disrespectfully, avoiding the problem will only make it worse. That's not what you want. (If you would like more parenting teenager strategies, please see the resource box following this article.)
Mistake #3. Letting your teenager call all the shots.
If you are unsure of how to guide your teenager, you may have fallen into the habit of simply letting them do whatever they want, whenever they want.
Of course, this is a recipe for disaster.
There is a reason we adults are called to parent our children right up until the late teens.
Because they NEED parenting. Desperately.
Ideally, as a child grows he or she is slowly given more freedom and responsibility until, as a young adult, he or she is ready to take care of themselves completely.
However, since parenting is definitely an on-the-job training gig and hindsight is 20/20, many of us parents arrive at the teen years with a sense that we'd have done things differently had we known better.
That's okay. Start from where you are and move forward. Be honest with your teen and tell him you can see where changes need to be made that will benefit everyone involved.
Parenting a teenager means setting boundaries with your teenager that reflect your family's values. Enforce those boundaries consistently. Get help if you need it. Listen to and hug your teenager everyday. Don't ever give up.
In other words, be the parent. One day at a time.
About the Author: Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for 25+ years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at www.paintedgold.com. Visit her website and grab more parenting teenager strategies today.