The teenage years are never easy for the teen or the parents. It’s a time of little communication beyond eye rolls, sullen silence and that infamous response, “whatever.” It’s a time when parents wonder if either party will survive this period.
It’s often very frustrating, but it can be easier if parents and teens recognize what jobs they each have now and how best to approach them.
A parent’s job is to raise a compassionate and competent adult who can handle the challenges of life and who has a sense of what it’s like from another person’s perspective. A parent’s job is not to be a genie who makes all their child’s dreams come true or to be a servant doing all the things the teen is perfectly capable of doing on their own. Parents can’t always rescue their child from failure or from life’s inevitable pains.
A teen’s job, on the other hand, is to separate from their parents and test the waters of life. When a child drives its parent “up the wall” by pushing limits, that is what’s supposed to happen. It’s all part of the developmental process of becoming an adult. This behavior means they are an absolutely normal child.
But that doesn’t mean parents should just smile and accept it all. Parents are expected to show the appropriate feelings, set limits and impose reasonable consequences for unacceptable behavior.
How do parents do this job when they’re so angry they could explode? Start by calming down. Don’t confront the child while angry. Take a walk, a hot bath or whatever it takes to relax.
Tell the child that the discussion will be held at an appointed time later, and take enough time to prepare a thoughtful response instead of an emotional one. Sit down with the child at the appointed time. Don’t yell, scream or engage in any physical acting out. Parents have to be a model of responsible behavior if they expect the same from their teen.
Parents should share their feelings with the teen using “I statements,” such as “I was very scared about what you did without my permission.” Discuss appropriate consequences. Don’t threaten things that can’t or won’t be carried out.
When handing out punishments, it’s also important for parents to affirm that they love their child but dislike their behavior. Parents should make it clear that what happened disappointed them.
With patience, love and a sense of humor, parents and teens can survive the teenage years successfully.