Once your child has reached their teenage years, parenting them becomes more of a challenge. Sure they’re pretty self-sufficient by this point and the various things they once relied on you for, they can look out for themselves.
However, with parenting teenagers comes a whole new topic of discussion – finding balance. It is during these trivial years that your teen will push the envelope as much as they can to learn who they are and how they identify with their peers. While on one hand you want to provide your teen with the freedom to explore themselves and new relationships, you don’t want to be so loose in your parenting that they end up making poor decisions and heading down the wrong path.
So how does a parent find a successful way to manage their teenagers while also allowing them the freedoms to “be who they are”? I will say that it comes with a great deal of patience, practice, and prayer…. If you set the foundation now, it should be a lot easier to deal with along the way. Below are some suggestions on how to do this effectively.
1. Give Trust Until They Give You a Reason Not to – As hard as this concept may be to tackle, we have to give some form of trust in order to see what type of people our teenagers really are. If we act as a prison warden early on, they will feel as if there is no trust and begin pushing the limits. By the time your child is a teenager, you already have some basis for how trustworthy they are. Using this baseline, you should trust your teen to do things (within reason), without excessive restrictions and limitations. Now I’m in no way saying that you allow your teen to hang out with their friends at their house unsupervised doing heaven knows what. However, what I am saying is that you set the guidelines, give your teen permission to hang out, and see how they do with this bit of freedom.
2. Establish the Rules – Once your child has reached that age where they want to hang out with friends more than with you (I know it’s sad to think about), this is the time to set down some ground rules. You must let them know right away what you expect of them and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow through. Setting a curfew, ensuring that all teen activities are supervised by an adult, and getting pertinent information about their whereabouts are some of the most common guidelines you want to have in place.
3. Stay Involved – This one might prove to be challenging as most teens are not “open” with their parents about their lives and would probably prefer us to just butt out. However, you must stay connected and involved in your teen’s life on every level possible. Ask about their day, attend school functions and events, and even get to know your child’s friends (and their friend’s parents). If you’re consistently involved in the life of your teenager, then it seems less intrusive to them and they will be less reserved when it comes to telling you things.
4. Reward Responsible Behavior – When your teen is following the rules and putting forth their best effort to be on their best behavior it is imperative to reward this behavior. Whether you take them on a shopping trip to the mall, give them extra spending money for the movies with their friends, or cook their favorite meal for dinner, the reward system still works for teens. Rewarding them for positive behaviors lets them know that they’re doing a good job and when making responsible decisions they will receive reward (just as it often is in the real world)
5. Correct Negative Behavior – It can be pretty easy to dismiss negative behaviors as “typical teenaged behavior” however, letting things slide can ultimately make parenting your teen a lot more challenging. They essentially assume that you’re a joke and what you say does not have as much impact. When your teen is “testing the limits” with poor behavior, they are looking to see what they can and cannot get away with. As such, when they do something outside of what you expect, consequences should follow. This in turn lets them know that you’re watching them, and that you’re serious about your rules.
6. Pay Attention to Signs of Trouble – You know your child better than anyone else, and as such you should be able to pay attention to the warning signs that there is trouble lurking. Parents often wonder if their teens are drinking and using drugs, and while teens do a good job of hiding it, you can ultimately see when there are signs of trouble. Pay attention to your teen’s behavior patterns at home, school, and with friends to ensure you can stay on top of any changes. Tucson Transitional Living, a facility offering drug rehab programs for young adults, gives information for parents on confronting teens about addiction. Educating yourself and communicating effectively with your teen can ultimately prevent them from making poor choices (or get them early help).
7. Intervene When Necessary – Yes, it would be nice if we could be labeled as cool parents, however, our jobs are not to be as cool as their friends, but to provide them with a solid foundation and understanding of life. As such, when you see trouble on the horizon, don’t wait until it is too late to say something. Intervene when necessary so that your teen understands that you mean business and that what they’re doing is not acceptable. Whether it’s talking to a teacher, your spouse, or the parents of your teen’s friends, doing what you have to do to make sure that they’re safe first and foremost is necessary.
Parenting teenagers will certainly require a great deal of balancing, but by setting the proper foundation, you can save yourself a lot of stress later on. We must allow our teens to get older and learn a sense of independence and responsibility; however, it must be done within reason. The above suggestions are not the end all be all, but they are certainly important factors to consider as you learn how to give your teen more freedoms in the years to follow. Whether we’re monitoring their video game usage or deciding whether they can hang with friends it is important to remember we are their first example of how to behave.