What is the developmental task of a teenager? In short, finding out who they want to be as an adult, different from you the parent. How do they go about it? They use the easiest way possible, which is trying on different ways of being with others and seeing which one they like or don’t like and finding out how other people respond to it.
Knowing this has made my life a lot easier when my kids were in their teens. It could do the same for you. Acknowledging that you understand that this is their task and giving them the space to do their experimentation, within limits, lessens their need to fight you for it. This is also a time in their life that requires great sensitivity on the parent’s part. It is your choice of how to use your voice as a parent: speaking up or being quiet.
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Right Voice for You facilitator, Corinna Stoeffl shares 5 suggestions for an easier time with parenting during those years:
Be interested in them
They are going through physical changes – growth spurts and hormones; they are dealing with peer pressure and their desire to fit in, while at the same time, they have a desire to be unique. Be interested in what is going on for them by asking questions like:
– How was your day?
– What’s going on for you in …. (area of their life)
– Who is your hero/role model?
– What are your plans after high school?
Your sensitivity shows when asking questions in context to the overall conversation, to have a tone of genuine interest and not checking off a list of things to do. If appropriate, would you be willing to share how the teen years were for you and acknowledging how much the times have changed?
Teens are being judged by their peers and are judging themselves so much. A parent adding to that by being judgmental does not help at all. Ask questions in order to find out what is going on without it being an interrogation. Are you willing to ask a question and not need an answer, to just drop it? What if instead of judging you ask a question: What does …. (fill in the action or behaviour) create? Is that what you would like to create? These two questions will allow them to gain awareness and this will serve them for the rest of their life.
It’s their life not yours
There are 2 aspects to this. I have seen parents attempting to be best friends with their teenagers. Not only does that not work, it also ensures you have constant arguments with your teenager. The other aspect is that they are living their life not yours. Can you as the parent respect that and give them the space for it? From personal experience, I can say giving them space and increasing it until they leave home creates such a different relationship. Giving space and allowing them to make mistakes does a lot more for the development of the teenager than constantly telling them what to do. In a way, this is allowing them to have their voice. Again, ask them questions, be present with them. With my kids, my aim was to prevent anything that would endanger their life or their future. When you are looking at an action, play with the question: What would that evoke in me if I were (son or daughter’s name)?
Are you being who you really are and speaking to them from that place? Teens trying on all these different ways of being in the world are highly sensitized to any pretense. Being authentic and living what you talk about, makes you a role model. Talking about how to behave and not being it, results in being discounted by your teenager. Become aware of situations where what you say and how you behave are not congruent.
Being in Allowance
What does it mean being in allowance? It does not mean that you become a doormat, rather it means that you have no point of view, which you have to prove is right or ‘enforce’. We all have points of view; some of us have fixed ones that we are unwilling to change, some have flexible ones they are willing to change with new information. How to parent can fall into the fixed category. Would you be willing to examine yours to find out which ones are actually a contribution to you and your teens and which ones are making your lives difficult?
From my experience, the above suggestions make a big difference in how difficult parenting is during the teen years. And not only that, these suggestions can also make your whole life easier.