If you have a teen, you know about the highs and lows – yours and theirs. There is a lot that can go wrong, before it goes right. Communication is key in creating a healthy parent-teen relationship. In my 25 year experience working with teens and their parents I have often seen three common mistakes parents make that get in the way of enjoying their teen’s last years at home.
Mistake #1: TALK TOO MUCH
Having a teen can be frustrating, especially when you see them headed in the wrong direction. You don’t want to see them fail or even make the same mistakes you made. You KNOW what they need to do and you just can’t help yourself. You TRY to get through by talking…and talking…and talking some more, thinking if you say it often enough they’ll hear you. Believe me, a teen’s ability to hear is not the issue.
This is a mistake because you may miss an opportunity to understand what your teen is thinking and guide them to a more logical conclusion. And, let’s face it: no one likes to be talked at. Anyone would tune out and shut down.
What to do: LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN
Ask teens what they think about an issue or even what their peers think about something. Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: Teens should do 70% of the talking and you, about 30%. That’s right! They probably already know what you’re going to say, anyway, and teens need to talk so you – and they – can hear what’s going on in their minds. You’d be surprised how many teens can walk themselves to the opposite side of an argument, when given the opportunity to talk it through. A teen’s brain is going through massive development and talking through a problem can help with decision making – the kind of decisions they have to make when you’re not around.
Mistake #2: TOO MANY RULES
My house = my rules! You dictate and determine everything.
This is a mistake because everyone needs to feel a sense of some control in their life; otherwise, we become angry and rebel or withdraw. your teen is moving quickly toward independence and needs to practice self-determination in small doses.
What to do instead: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
Choose two or three hard and fast rules that have to do with safety and family stability. Otherwise, teach your teen the art of compromise. If your kid’s room is messy or the bed isn’t made, is it really the end of the world? Allow some rules to have flexibility, based on special circumstances or earned privileges, e.g. grades are good, so you extend Friday curfew.
Mistake # 3: OVER-REACT
The stress of being a parent can feel overwhelming, at times. Things can be difficult with teens even if you didn’t have anything else to do – like managing your own life. Fear & worry come out as anger. Justified anger can come out as rage, when it’s been building up for a while. You find yourself frequently yelling, giving extreme consequences where you can’t possibly follow through, and taking things personally.
This is a mistake because you’re the one who is suffering in the long run (high blood pressure, lower immune function & general misery), and it gives your teen an excuse to dismiss your legitimate concerns. After all, they can tell themselves you’re nuts. Plus, you give your teen ammunition if they like to push your buttons.
What to do instead: TAKE CARE OF YOU!
Breathe! Then breathe again. Remember “this too shall pass.” When angry, step away. Tell your teen you’ll get back to them when you’ve had a chance to think things through. Develop a routine that releases tension – exercise, yoga, meditation. Get a massage. Make a good night’s sleep a priority – stop trying to do one more thing before bed, turn off the computer or TV. Learn and use Emotional Freedom Techniques. Ask for help, when you need it.