Every parent goes through a patch with their little cherub that feels more like a movie than real life. Those characters in Disney movies that flip from cute and cuddly to angry are just like teenagers.
Parents can feel like everything that used to work is no longer helpful. The whole house can fall hostage to the rise and fall of teen moods too.
Sometimes in our house we can all be laughing about something funny on television, when one of the kids will make a witty quip. Before you know it, the atmosphere is frostier than an Antarctic winter and someone is stomping and screeching.
I’ve been that parent sitting on the couch wondering, “How did that happen?”
Why things go wrong
Teenagers are emotional wonders. Where adults have learned to flatten out their feelings, teenagers just go with the flow. When they’re happy, they can get silly and excited. When they’re sad, the world can be at an end.
Not only do they not regulate feelings well, but those feelings get amplified by the hormones racing around their body. They don’t just feel happy or sad. They feel ecstatic or miserable.
That’s why living with teenagers can feel like a ride on the world’s largest roller coaster. Rather than a sedate country drive over the hills.
The secrets to growing great teenagers
It’s not all bad news. Those emotions do level out over time, if parents play their cards right. And just as their bodies grow and settle into their adult shape, so too do their feelings and thoughts. It might not be pretty, but over the months you’ll see your teen maturing and making better choices.
If you want to raise teenagers that you like hanging out with, and other people do to, here are five secrets to nail:
- Be consistent. As I’ve written before, you don’t need to be a perfect parent. Don’t drop your expectations too often and talk about the reasons why when you do. Teenagers love and hate rules. They like to know the boundaries, but also feel honour bound to keep testing them out. If you’re going to have expectations of your kids, then be consistent with them.
Follow your own rules. Nothing grates on a teenager more than things being unfair. As they see themselves grow to look more like an adult, they expect to be treated like one. If you have expectations and rules for your kids, following them yourself.
- Model life. Teenagers are in the business of creating their own adult selves. They’re observing lots of people around them; working out which adult styles they like. They’ll even try some on, like the swagger of a rock star or the dress sense of a movie idol. But they have the most time observing us. They might dismiss everything about you as out of date and out of style now, but that’s won’t last.
Get good at listening. Despite the stereotypes, teenagers talk. But they like to choose when and where those conversations happen and be in control. Learn to grasp those little windows. Let them teach you what they know and enjoy the glimpse they give you into their world.
- Respect their growing independence. Part of becoming an adult, is learning to be independent. It’s about making their own decisions and accept consequences. Respecting teens goes a long way to encouraging them to make good choices. It shows that we believe their capable. That we see them as how they are going to be, rather than how they might be right now. It gives them a chance to master the little things before facing the bigger challenges of grown up life. This is an area that causes plenty of arguments, so it’s important to keep revisiting.
It might be a mindset shift, but if you’re feeling like you’re in survival mode as a parent, focus on the end result. Because the real secret to winning this battle is staying strong until the end. If you’re consistent, fair, set a good example, listen and show respect, you’re going to end up on top in the long run.
What do you think? Would you say there’s some other secrets? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Article supplied with thanks to Rachel Doherty from Tweens 2 Teens. Rachel lives in Brisbane, with her husband of 20 years and their three teenagers. She has received a number of qualifications in social work and teaching and built up a bank of experiences in working with young people and their families.
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