Parenting Adolescents (page 3)
As many teenagers mature and begin to assert their independence, some of them alter their behavior. The young person tests limits and frequently disregards their parents’ rules and expectations. During my twenty years of working with teens and their families I have found some things helpful to keep relationships strong, and while reinforcing limits and expectations.
Case Study – “Sue” and the Importance of Building Trust
“Sue” was fourteen-years-old when she came to me for counseling. She wore dark makeup and long bangs “hiding” her face. She had a history of running away and difficulty following any rules at home. As time went on Sue began to open up about some difficult issues she was experiencing which she was not discussing with her parents. With prompting she began to talk to her mother and develop a more trusting relationship.
To develop trust with your child the first step is having an open forum to listen to each other. In Sue’s case, when her parents were prompted to hear about some of the struggles she was going through they actively listened to her. Sue began to feel more trusting of them
It is important to listen without judgment. The only exception is if your teen is sharing information that may be dangerous to him or her. Trust can also be developed by allowing more privileges as rules are followed. For example, if your teen follows curfew regularly and wishes to have a later curfew allow them this privilege. Sue began to earn the privilege of going to friends houses and having friends over without parental supervision. This occurred following discussion about expectations and demonstrates a sense of trust.
This was due in part to her mother’s willingness to listen to Sue and not judge her. It was time to allow Sue to have more privileges and develop trust with her parents. Sue to begin to follow rules at home and express her frustrations without screaming or leaving.
Sue’s parents played a large part in the positive changes by trusting Sue and praising her for her positive behavior. As her parents began to let her grow up she also developed a sense of trust with her parents. Sue became more comfortable with herself and the struggles of being a teenager and dramatically changed her appearance, taking care of herself more and showing a positive attitude about herself. This was by no means easy. It took time, patience, practice and repeating the same expectations again and again.
The adolescent years have been compared to the “terrible twos”. Teens often exhibit the same challenging behaviors of two-year-olds. Some will test us regularly as they begin to grow up and become independent. They may be non-compliant and demonstrate a lack of follow through. Teens may often react to parents’ expectations with arguing or selective inattention. There are several things parents can do to help both themselves and their children work through the teens years. This takes lots of time, practice and patience.
- Set clear limits. Be specific.
- Be consistent.
- Let your teen know when he or she has done something positive.
- Stay strong and firm.
- Set age appropriate rules.
- Set age appropriate consequences.
- Follow through with both rewards and consequences. Consequences should be clear, age appropriate and time limited. It is helpful to avoid saying things like, “You’ll never go out again”. Clearly state something such as, “Because you did not respect your curfew this week. you will need to stay home after school for the next week.” Clarify what other privileges or consequences are going to be (for example, no television, no computer, limited use of either, etc.). If your teen is told that he or she can stay at a friend’s house over the weekend if all stated expectations are met, follow through with this privilege. This again builds trust and allows your child to trust you too.
- Use “time outs” as needed, for both you and your child.
- Avoid empty threats such as “You’ll never go out again” or “ I’ll call the police”.
- Spend time with your child.
- Reinforce your expectations regularly.
It’s important to remember that you are not your child’s friend. You can develop a relationship with respect , understanding and love. You are the boss of your home and do get to make decisions and set limits. Make sure your teen clearly understands expectations at home, in school, and in the community.
Discuss privileges for follow through with expectations. Discuss consequences for lack of follow through with expectations. As the parent regularly follow through with both privileges and consequences. Stay strong and be consistent.
Expect your child to “moan and groan” initially if there is a consequence for negative behavior or a new expectation. It takes time, patience and practice to have teens understand rules and follow through. Sometimes either you or your child may need a “time out”. This can be taking a walk or going to a different room. Discuss things again after the time out.
Remember that it takes many efforts to learn a new behavior. Be patient. Practice setting expectations regularly. Be patient some more.
When your teen is going out set specific guidelines:
- Know your children’s friends
- Know where your children are going when they leave the house
- Know who they will be with.
- Know what they will be doing.
- Know when they are expected home.
- Set up check in times with your teen.
Adolescents really do want time and attention from their parents. Plan a game night, movie or other activity you both enjoy. Try to make this a regular activity, such as once a week. Ask your child what he or she would like to do. This can be as simple as going out for fast food. Your child will really appreciate the individual time and attention. Make sure you follow through with this if you set up a planned activity with your child.
Parents also need their own time and that is okay. Use your support systems often, including friends, community resources, churches etc. Plan time for yourself on a regular basis. Do something you enjoy regularly.
Remember these key points:
- Be patient.
- Be consistent.
- Praise your child.
- Follow through regularly.
- Spend one on one time with your child.
- Enjoy your children.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Social Workers.
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