It is not inevitable that parents and teenagers will clash. Many families remain relatively peaceful throughout the adolescent years. According to Thomas Gordon, Ph.D. of Parent Effectiveness Training (www.gordontraining.com), “adolescents do not rebel against parents. They only rebel against certain destructive methods of discipline almost universally employed by parents.” Many parents of young children expect that they will have to accept that their adorable child will turn into a defiant teenager. This doesn’t need to happen if parents take the time starting at very young ages to follow these three simple steps.
1. Don’t try to fix everything. It is easy to offer advice when your child or teenager comes to tell you their strong feelings about something that has happened. Resist the urge to offer solutions and instead empathize with them. Show that you understand how hard it is for them right now. Try to put yourself in their shoes and perhaps recall similar times in your life that you can share with them. This serves to help your child or teen feel that you don’t judge them, improves your relationship and makes it likely that they will continue to discuss their challenges with you.
2. Attempt to see yourself as a coach and not a boss. Think about influencing your child and teen instead of controlling them. Many parents feel that if they don’t tell their children what to do and how to feel that they won’t succeed in this world. On the contrary, today’s world requires independent, creative thinkers who won’t be developed unless they are allowed more freedom to problem solve and think for themselves. The goal of childhood is to eventually become a fully functioning and productive adult and by directing children and teens, they don’t learn how to direct themselves. Give them choices you can live with and ask them questions that increase problem solving skills.
3. Specifically compliment. Parents are often guilty of criticizing what their children are doing wrong and neglect to focus on what they are doing right. Make sure that your child is hearing far more encouraging statements from you than critical statements. Children and teens have a developing self-esteem and will be more prone to misbehavior when they feel badly about themselves. Remember that your future adult is a completely unique person who may not always act the way you expect, which is tempting to let them know. The key is to find behaviors that they do well and capitalize on those.
4. Get involved in their interests. Listen to music they like, play video games that interest them and watch TV they enjoy. Find ways to learn about their world. Many parents can be judgmental about the world today and say it was better when they were young. This does nothing to help a parent build a relationship with a child and instead creates more distance. Teens have no choice to be in the world they are in so if you can’t beat them, join them!
It is possible to enjoy your child throughout their childhood. There will be times due to brain growth and hormones that your teen is moody and difficult to be around. However, by using these strategies with children of any age, it will be more likely that you create a healthy long-term relationship where you will both want to spend time together and even look forward to it.
Licensed professional counselor Julia Kozusko is a parent coach with Elevated Parenting LLC and has led the Incredible Years Parenting Program for seven years. Through the nonprofit Early Childhood Partners, she consults with teachers, home visitors and parents at local child care centers Early Head Start, Head Start and the Nurse Family Partnership. Kozusko’s work is regularly featured on her blog, elevatedparenting.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.