Today this guest post is by Margit Crane! She is a Child Development Specialist, Family Relationship Coach, and acclaimed expert on teens, tweens and their parents. She is the founder of Rock the World Coaching, and the author of the downloadable eBook, “HELP! My Teen Has Been Abducted By Aliens! Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.” A former middle and high school teacher and counselor, Margit has coached thousands of teens and parents to achieve greater sanity, deeper love, clearer communication, and a lot more fun in their relationships with family and friends. Visit her website to sign up for her free monthly eZine or to read her blog, Rock Your Family. Thanks Margit!
One of the most common complaints that I hear from my clients – both teenage and adult – has to do with rules and consequences. The teens complain that their parents are too strict, and the parents complain that the teens won’t listen. I’d like to go out on a limb and say that neither is true! I say that parents are confused and frustrated about how much freedom is appropriate to give teens, and that this, in turn, confuses, frustrates, and disappoints their teens.
It’s exhausting with that much tension in the home! Let’s lighten your load by exploring five common myths about teens and rules:
MYTH #1 – TEENS HATE RULES.
That’s right, it’s a MYTH. Teens LOVE rules. They may not know it and they certainly won’t tell you, but it’s the truth! What teens hate are rules that are arbitrary or hypocritical, i.e., ones that don’t reflect the family’s values. For instance, if parents value honesty, but they lie or they sometimes let the kids get away with lying, then “No Lying” is a hypocritical rule. When your rules reflect your values, you are better able to enforce them because you believe in them so strongly. Sure, your teens (may) grumble or whine when you enforce these rules. Grumbling and whining are just “Teen Talk” for “Fine. I heard you,” and nothing more. Your response when they complain? “OK, thanks, honey.”
MYTH #2 – TEENS ACT OUT JUST TO BUG PARENTS.
I’ll not deny that they’re trying to get a response, but bugging you is not the goal. They’re trying to get you to be the parent that they need. The family is a safe haven and when parents are inconsistent with rules and consequences teens hear, “We love you but we’re tired and confused and we just don’t have the energy to care all that much.” Parents represent ALL adults to their kids and when parents abdicate responsibility it teaches kids that, at some point, ALL adults will abdicate responsibility when the going gets tough. So either they push you to be the best (sound familiar?) or they do what they perceive you’re doing – they check out.
MYTH #3 – SENSITIVE/ARTISTIC/CREATIVE THINKERS DON’T DO WELL WITH RULES.
I hear this a lot from parents who don’t want to “stifle” their teens. In my years of experience I have found that sensitive teens do BETTER with consistent rules and consequences precisely because their sensitivity makes them more easily hurt by the “curve balls” of life. More than other kids, the sensitive teen is affected by change. They THRIVE in a home where the boundaries and consequences are clear, simple, and are enforced because they don’t have to deal with change, which more often than not, is perceived as a sudden attack on their security.
MYTH #4 – IF I’M ALWAYS ENFORCING THE RULES, WE’LL NEVER HAVE ANY FUN!
When you make the decision to strengthen your family you commit to a process. As with any successful process, it’s step-by-step, and this sometimes feels interminable. Begin with the end in mind. Picture your family enjoying each other. Really get detailed with your dream. Keep this image front and center and use it to inspire you.
In the beginning it will seem like all you do is deliver consequence after consequence. You will probably get tired and your kids will probably complain. But you’re already tired, aren’t you? And they’re already complaining, aren’t they? I urge you not to give up – the end result will having lasting implications (as will the result if you give up…)
MYTH #5 – IT’S TOO LATE TO FIX MY FAMILY.
I don’t believe this. What I find time and again is that every family remembers a time when everything clicked and the family just felt so right. What made it work then? Deal with whatever has gotten in the way; get whatever information or support you need. There will, inevitably, be some resistance – not just from your teens; you’ll feel it too. That’s normal. If you are willing to release your pre-conceived notions of how your family is supposed to be, you will be rewarded in miraculous ways.