What does a 17-yr old have to say about parenting strategies? Quite a bit actually. Parents raise their children in various ways, some arguably more effective than others, I see the results from my fellow teen’s perspective. I don’t have any hesitation in stating my opinions on mistakes that parents commonly make. It is more important today than ever before that parents have access to feedback from teens, which because they aren’t their own kids, will be more objective in what they say. Unfortunately, many teens respond with anger and apathy when dealing with their parents. This, after all, is only normal when a teen is completely fed up with a situation. My hopes are that by reading and understanding these problematic strategies, you will be forced to rethink yours, from not only your viewpoint as a parent, but also from your own teen’s perspective.
1. Stop: Grounding Your Teen Arbitrarily
Grounding seems to be the default thing to do when a teen does anything wrong these days. This practice makes absolutely no sense. Here’s why:
Hopefully you’re trying to teach your teen to be mature and act like an adult. Unless you know adults who ground each other for things they do, I would start thinking about a method of punishment that models the consequences one receives in real life situations. For example if your teen breaks curfew, instead of grounding them, set out a punishment plan. The next time they go out, require them to be home an hour earlier than they would usually have to be. If they make the same mistake again, then tell them they can’t go out for one week, and then when they do go out, require them to be home an hour earlier again. Assuming that they do this, then you can give back the freedom of being out earlier. Give them an incentive to make the right decision so they they learn to respect the rule, rather than write it off as pointless. So them that you are not an arrogant stiff parent, but rather someone who grants freedom in return for respect of the rules.
Grounding is too big of a variable to enforce. Getting grounded rarely has any significant effect because inevitably your teen will still do things that they aren’t supposed to be doing while grounded, so instead target the specific behavior that has caused the problem.
Teens fail to identify the reason why they are grounded, or mix it in with other punishments and soon grounding becomes a catchall without any specific negative reinforcement. (Negative reinforcement is something disliked that happens in order to promote the desired behavior)
Being grounded is repressive; you are prolonging bad behavior rather than giving your teen a clearly defined path to regaining your trust and or respect.
2. Stop: Thinking You Know Your Teen
The truth is that your relationship with your teen is only as good as the honesty and accuracy they provide you with about the events going on in their life. Attempting to ask too many leading questions with your teen will cause them to shut down and become annoyed at you. Make it so that they know you are there to talk to, but don’t try to understand them as another teen would, there are too many barriers that will cause you to either misinterpret them, or pass inaccurate judgments on them that will then make them feel as though they have been labeled by you. Instead, pay attention to changes in attitude, behavior, and social patterns, these can be the best indicators of your teens current feelings and often help a parent to identify any serious problems if an inconsistency presents itself.
3. Stop: Making Excuses for Your Teen’s Behavior
Not everything can be attributed to a bad day, hormones, or stress. Many parents fail to recognize the signs of depression, learning disabilities, and self-inflicted harm. These and many other serious conditions, if identified early, can be effectively dealt with and addressed in a caring and positive manner.
4. Start: Treating Your Teen as an Equal
Being a parent of a teenager, your goal should be to prepare them for the adult world. In order to do this you must treat them as you would any of the adults in your world. Respect is earned, not granted. You may be saying, well, my kids have to respect their parents on a higher level then they do their peers. This is a bad way to think about things. By demanding more respect as parents than anyone else they encounter in their lives, you are only reinforcing a double standard when dealing with adults and teens. Saying things like “because I said so”, shows your teen that they can use the same tactic on you when asked they are asked to justify their actions. Equally as important is taking responsibility for any disrespect you show your teens, this includes, but is not limited to, swearing, yelling, and other forms of physical or degrading abuse. You should be building your teens up, not putting them down.
5. Start: being an authoritative parent, not an authoritarian parent
An authoritarian parent is demanding and gives orders, which they expect will be followed without objection or question. I’m your Mom, you should listen to what I tell you to do and do it because I’m your parent. Authoritative parents, while they can be demanding, are highly responsive and can provide justification for the things they ask their teens to do. They can be assertive, but are not intrusive and respect their teen’s personal lives without becoming a part of them. They teach their teens to be morally and socially responsible by providing accurate explanations to requested tasks. Authoritative parents have more self-confident teens that learn to better think critically on their own. After all, shouldn’t that be the main goal for anyone parenting a teen?
I hope this has helped, and may it be my wish that you find parenting a teenager to be an opportunity looked upon with optimism, rather than a dreaded duty.