How to Raise an Independent Thinker
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Parents can help prepare their children to make good, healthy choices. Open communication is vital to a healthy parent-child relationship. Through healthy communication with their parents, children can learn how to think for themselves and make wise choices. Include your child in decision-making processes to build their self-esteem, confidence and self-discipline. Here are some ways to help your teen make wise choices:
- Role Model: How you act and what you say will impact the outcome of the conversation. When you use “feeling” words instead of “command” words your child will be apt to listen to you. If you are empathic with your teen he is more likely to be give empathic responses. Be an example for your teen. Always respond as the adult/parent. Do your best not to drop to his emotional level; he needs you to be the parent. Focus on positive accomplishments and give praise from the heart. Be genuine with your teen.
- Open Communication: Establish a foundation so that your teen knows that he can always talk to you. Trust and consistency with your teen will support this outcome. Talk with and listen carefully to your teen. This shows that you respect him. This, in turn, will encourage him to listen to you and respect your opinion. Ask your teen his views about music, politics, news stories, education and listen to his ideas!
- Decision Making: Discuss with your teen what the possible choices are and the outcomes of each choice. Remind your teen that he has had a lot of practice making decisions regardless of the outcome. Identify with your teen what worked and what did not work for him in the past. Ask your teen to recall how it felt when he knew he was making the right choice. Then, write down the choices, wait a couple of days/week, re-look at the choices and make a final decision. Some difficult choices do not have to be black or white. Remind your teen that compromises can be made and that there are always other options. Let him know that everyone makes mistakes, but view the mistakes as lessons to learn from.
- Friend's Advice: If your teen seeks his friend's advice before he asks you, do not be offended. It is normal for teens to rely on friends for advice, especially on social matters. Don't try to prevent your teen from listening to friends. Instead, encourage him to talk about the advice he received from friends before following it. Think of a few questions to ask your teen before you approach him, this will help you think about what you as the parent would like the outcome to be.
- Behavior: Involve your teen in discussing his behaviors, the rules, and the consequences. Give your teen an active role in defining his behavior, contributing to creating the rules, and establishing consequences. Write-up a contract with your teen, have him sign it, and give him a copy. You can refer back to this contract when he has broken one of the rules. Consistency is very important for him. Have realistic expectations for what your teen is capable of living up to and try to remember what it was like when you were a teen. Enjoy your teen!