Changing Your Parenting Style
Parents typically use the same parenting method as their parents. Even those who vowed, “I’ll never do that to my teens,” often fall back on imitating what their parents did. The world has changed, though. Teens experience much more today than teens did back in the day. Things are different, and teens are changing every day. How do you keep up?
Parents need to adjust. But they sometimes are stubborn and refuse to change their parenting style. Adjusting from controlling to coaching them doesn’t mean surrendering your core values. It doesn’t mean throwing up your hands and giving up. It means you are meeting your teen at their level and respecting their individuality.
Parents who are stubborn and unwilling to adjust push away their teens. This often leads to a rebellious teen. Your teen should not walk all over you. There should be rules and boundaries that must be met and maintained. Adjusting your parenting style to their world will help in the long run. They’ll be more likely to lean on you when they need help. They might even open up and discuss their life issues.
Parents should stay engaged with their children. Every parent needs to know what’s happening in their teen’s life.
A New Way to Talk
The commanding communication style used when your teen was a young child wouldn’t work well when they are adolescent teens. Stop lecturing and start discussing. Start listening to your teen. Modifying the presentation doesn’t change the message’s content or the messenger’s values. It’s easier for you to get through to your teen.
Many parents think they can protect their teens by sheltering them. They spend little time preparing themselves for the real world because they aren’t in danger. But they can only keep their teens isolated for so long. Every teen will go out into that world, find a job, go to college, or start a family. Parents need to prepare their teens for that day. When you taught your kid to swim, you started them out in the shallow end and gradually increased their exposure until they were ready to swim.
Teens Fight for Their Independence
Most parents wait too long to give their teens privileges and responsibilities. Teens already know they need to test out the freedom to adjust to the world they will have to survive. It’s hard to give your teens freedom, but also protect them from danger. When letting your 10-13-year-old child attend sleepovers, make sure they are not unattended in their friends’ homes. Statistics show that preteens experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sexual experimentation. It shows that preteens pick these habits up when alone with their friends. Give your teens freedom, but give it to them slowly. Please don’t do it in areas threatening their safety and future. The preteen or “tween” years are very impressionable.
Adjust Your Style
One way to adjust your style is that instead of just telling your teens what to do, have discussions with them; spend time working out the practical applications of the truths you have taught them. Rather than lecturing, ask questions. When you ask questions, you convey a powerful positive message to them that they must begin thinking independently. Asking questions makes them feel valued—at the most devaluing stage of their lives. It empowers them to start asking questions of you and about the negative things their peers may ask them to be involved in.
The answers you get to your questions will help you identify areas in which you may need to adjust or strengthen your teaching. Do not be judgmental or reactionary. If they are a teen, you have already taught them all you will teach them about your values; now affirm and guide them toward what is right. If I’m counseling a young person and they give a negative answer, I say something like, “That’s interesting.” I don’t say, “That’s wrong.” I then keep the conversation going (with more questions) and try to guide them rather than smother them. They’ll often come around to the right decision — based on the values they’ve been taught — if it is discussed openly and without condemnation.
Adjusting to your teen’s age and maturity is like hitting a moving target. It’s not something you can do just once. As they grow and mature and face new challenges, you must keep changing along with them. The relationship is far more critical than minor issues. Don’t violate your principles; focus on what matters most and set aside the rest. They say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but don’t wait until your teen spins out of control to make the needed changes. Engage with your teen now, and make any changes or adjustments to improve your relationship with them. Prepare them for the day they will be out on their own.
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