As our children become teenagers, it can be hard to know how to parent them well. What advice do you have for parents or carers who feel like they’re failing because the relationship feels more difficult than it used to?
Rachel: Ok, let’s start by confessing: it can be a rollercoaster ride when parenting teenagers, so you’re not on your own here! Having three teenage boys myself, I often find myself thinking, “Where has my little boy gone?” I think I’m learning that he hasn’t gone anywhere; he’s just dealing with a flood of hormones and physiological changes that, for him, will be scary and overwhelming at times. Home is a safe place where they can let off steam. Here are three things I try to remember to help keep my friends, my husband Tim and me sane, and promote ongoing fruitful relationships with our teenagers:
1) Choose your battles.
Which of your values are non-negotiable? It could be to do with language, behaviour or simply respect. Be consistent in praise when they get it right. For example: “I noticed you were really angry just now but good on you for walking away. I know that must have been hard.” Be predictable with consequences when they cross the line: “Ok, you know that as your mother I will not accept disrespectful language and so the consequence for that is a screen ban for two hours.”
Calmly follow through even if it feels like you’ve unleashed world war three. In the long term, consistency makes the difference because it’s a message your son or daughter will come to expect.
2) Remember: it’s not personal!
It may feel strange to hear, especially as the things your teenager might say to you feel extremely personal, but it’s helpful to remember that probably every teenager that has ever lived will have hurt or provoked their parent. It’s not personal – it’s universal! They are dealing with strong, complex emotions that can erupt big time and you’re the safest person they can unleash it on!
3) Find a shared interest.
Whether it’s sport, hobbies or volunteering, spending time together develops friendship that can last into adulthood. My 15 year old and I love watching films together – it all started with Star Wars! We’ll often pick a film to watch on TV or go to the cinema for a treat. My favourite part is analysing it together afterwards.
Despite the mixed messages we may receive, you are your child’s constant, their sounding board and boundary giver for which they’ll be grateful for, even if they don’t acknowledge it so much now. I’m told by friends with grown-up children that this stage doesn’t last forever, so let’s hold on to that! Stick in there and, despite what our kids might sometimes tell us, you are intelligent, you can parent well, you’re not embarrassing and you are doing a great job!
We get it. Helping kids through school isn’t easy. Visit our School Kitpage today and learn how your church can reach out to parents and carers in your community with our ready-to-run course!
With twenty years’ experience working with children in both church and school situations, Rachel has pioneered and now heads up TLG’s Early Intervention programme supporting children struggling in mainstream primary and secondary schools. Oh, and she’s got three teenagers of her own at home!