How to be Skilled at Parenting TeensMar 13, 2021
How to Be Skilled at Parenting Teens
Teenagers! Maybe you have them already. Maybe you’re dreading when your little ones will reach that age. We’ve all heard the stories warning that the teenage years are the hardest and that so many things change when those sweet little people who used to love having parents around suddenly don’t want to even acknowledge them. It’s true that many things change for your children when they reach their teenage years, but you can change too! You can find ways to still practice peaceful parenting while raising teenagers. Parenting teens doesn’t have to be something you dread. If you keep in mind that parenting teenagers will just require you to change WITH your kids, you can maintain a good relationship with your tweens or teens AND enjoy that stage of life.
Let’s jump into the question that’s probably at the forefront of your mind: why raising teenagers is so hard. Then, we’ll look at some tips that will help you feel confident raising teenagers.
Why are teenagers hard to raise?
Ok, so you know that your little kids can’t stay little forever. You know things are going to change. Maybe you have friends that have teenagers or maybe you remember what YOU were like as a teenager. Parenting teens brings up new challenges because of all the changes involved. Do you like change? Maybe not! Change can be hard, but it’s coming anyway, so the best way to move forward is to prepare. Here are some common areas of conflict that arise between parents and their teens:
- Arguments over curfew
- Who your teen’s friends are
- Performance in school (and work, if they’re working)
- Family time vs. peer time
- Driving privileges
- Dating and sex
- Hair, clothing, and makeup styles
- Choices you don’t agree with
Let’s look at each of these briefly and address the issue.
Arguments over curfew: Maybe you had a strict curfew when you were a teenager; maybe you didn’t and you think you should have. Whatever reason you have for setting it the way you have, it would be helpful to talk to your teen about it and involve them in the decision. Teach them independence through having an open conversation with them, truly hearing what they have to say and letting them have a say.
Who your teen’s friends are: Do you love all your kids’ friends? If you do, that’s great! If not, that’s okay too, but remember that there’s a reason your teen wants to spend time with specific people. Find out what connects them instead of dismissing a friend. Have open communication about how THEY can be a good friend, and what it takes to be a good friend.
Performance in school (and work): It’s important to understand what’s going on behind struggles in school. Maybe there is an undiagnosed learning issue, or a teacher they don’t get along with. If they’re having issues, think about how you can help them work through those issues to be successful.
Family time vs. peer time: Maybe you worry that your teen is spending too much time with their friends and not enough time with the family. We’re going to take a look at this issue a little more in the following section.
Driving privileges: Ah, the freedom driving brings! You remember how that felt. Now think about how you can help your teen understand the responsibilities that come with it and what a privilege it is. Decide what boundaries you want to set around driving, but make those boundaries from a feeling of love and confidence, not from fear.
Dating and sex: This can be a touchy subject, but it doesn’t have to be! Remember that in parenting teens, the more you can be open with them, the more they’ll want to be open with you. Teach about sexual intimacy regularly, the more you talk about it, the easier it’ll be for them to come to you and ask questions. Teach with your own family values in mind and teach them the WHY behind those values.
Hair, clothing, and makeup styles: You’re likely not going to agree with every decision your teen makes about how they look, but remember that they’re figuring out who they are. While their choices in this area may really bug you, they’re probably not going to last or affect their lives that much. Remember that parenting is about RELATIONSHIP so much more than anything else.
Choices you don’t agree with: Again, there are going to be things your teen decides to do that you think could’ve been done differently. Your parents probably thought the same thing about you! Maybe they told you; maybe you resented that. We’ll talk about how you can help your teenager with decision-making a little later.
These areas of conflict are things you can plan for NOW. If you already have teenagers, think about how you’re approaching these topics. If you’re looking forward to the future of parenting teens, make plans now about how you’ll deal with these issues BEFORE they come up. Knowing what you’re facing can really help you maintain peaceful interactions with your children even as they move into their teenage years.
10 Essential Tips for Parenting Teens
We know why parenting teens can be challenging, so now let’s look at some tips that can help you deal with those challenges and prepare you for raising teenagers.
1. Be a parent AND a friend
Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “I’m my teen’s parent, not their friend. They don’t need another friend.” Maybe you’ve also thought this was a good way to approach parenting. While it’s important to maintain boundaries, being approachable and open will help keep your relationship a positive one. Teenagers are going through a lot, and they need to know they can depend on you, turn to you when they’re struggling, and rely on your unconditional love. They need your respect just as much as when they were younger. These are things we do for our friends, so why wouldn’t we do that with our teens too?
Also, remember that it’s important to maintain your role as a parent. While your teen needs to feel you’re on their side, they also need your guidance, wisdom, and limits. Sometimes that means they won’t want to talk to you or that you’ll feel left out of their lives. Remember that if you’re consistent, they’ll know they can come to you when they’re ready, and that it’s through their mistakes that they’ll learn.
2. Have together time
We all like to feel special and appreciated. Check in with your teen; ask about their day; tell them you love them. While it may seem they think it’s lame or silly that you do some of those things, they’ll appreciate it and remember it in their times of struggle. Expressing love and showing interest will help them know you’re always there to listen and you’re interested in them. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, have some time that’s just for you and them.
3. Be an active parent
With this, I don’t mean that you should be overbearing or controlling. I mean you should be involved in their lives. What are their friends’ names? Do you know their parents? What occupies their free time? Staying involved in what your teen’s doing can help you feel less stressed about them and it can show them how important they are to you. You want them to feel safe and secure in their relationship with you, and they’ll see that as you appropriately stay involved in their day-to-day activities.
4. Be THERE for them
This can look different depending on your situation and how your time is divided, but think about how you can really be there for your teenager. One way to do this is to be there after school when they get home. As a teen, it can be a nice release from the pressures of the day to come home and know that your parent’s there. It can also help with numbers two and three above! If they’re going somewhere right after school, check in and be aware if other parents will be around. That connection goes a long way.
Another way to be there for your teen is to eat your meals together as often as you can. Maybe that will just be dinner, and that’s okay! Eating meals together can help you connect with your teen, find out about their day, and maintain communication about things that are important to them.
5. Lower your expectations
You likely have high standards for yourself in parenting, but it’s more important to love your teen no matter what. Expectations often lead to frustration, and that doesn’t allow us to be our best parenting selves. You don’t want your teen to feel like they’re failing or letting you down, so lower what you “expect them to do” and love them anyway. You’ve got this!
Remember that your expectations have less to do with your teen and more about your response to them. When you get rid of your expectations or how you “want them to behave,” you are being more open and loving, and they can see that! Lowering your expectations doesn’t mean you aren’t teaching them. It just means your teaching is more effective because you’re modeling behavior that focuses on connection and taking even the small moments as teaching moments.
6. Regularly communicate with them
“How was your day?”
“What was good about it?”
“I don’t know….stuff.”
Maybe you’ve had a conversation like this (or remember doing this with your parents). Teenagers may not always be the best at conversing, but if you stay connected even when it seems like they don’t care, it’ll keep those lines of communication open.
Keep open communication with them, especially about hard topics. Ask them questions and lecture much less. Parenting teens means that you’ll probably have to have some difficult, uncomfortable conversations. If you make those interactions positive and as un-awkward as possible, they’ll want to come talk to you about things in the future. Start now to really establish good communication. You could even have family meetings! They may start out awkward, but over time, you’ll get better at it. Listen, truly listen, understand what they are saying and what they are going through… this is the key to open and honest communication.
7. Help them establish good self-care habits
This may seem a little strange, but helping them establish good self-care habits can make their teenage years easier for them, AND they’ll be able to carry those over into being an adult. Do you ever feel cranky when you don’t get enough sleep? Teenagers need a good amount of sleep (between nine and ten hours a night), but between school, work, and friends, they may not get enough. Help them see why sleep is so important. Share your own experiences with them.
Another good self-care habit has to do with nutrition. They’re still growing a lot, but maybe now they have their own money (or an allowance) to buy what they want instead of relying on you for all their meals. Help them understand why a good diet will help them physically as well as mentally. A huge aspect of self-care is how they TREAT themselves, think of themselves and speak to themselves… you teach them these skills through modeling it yourself.
8. Keep electronics in a common space
Not many people have desktop computers anymore, but even gaming systems, laptops, and other devices could all be used in a common space where you can have more awareness about how they’re being used. With this tip, remember to keep in mind privacy and how you want to approach that. Have your teen give input as well! Help guide them to an agreement that you can both be comfortable with. This will also help with maintaining open communication.
Remember that teaching comes through role modeling behavior, so if you want to teach them proper screen hygiene, be a good model of what that looks like. If you want more support with this, check out my podcast episode on screens and kids.
9. Give independence but don’t push it
Maybe your teen isn’t ready for all the independence you’re trying to give. Each teenager is ready for independence at different stages, so don’t try to push them into something they’re not ready for. Be aware of their comfort level and think about how you can support them. Along with that, be ready to give the independence that they need to become their own people. When they were young children, you made most (if not all) the important decisions in their lives: what they ate, when they went to bed, who they had play dates with, when they got picked up, where they went. Now, they need the independence to make some of those decisions themselves. However, you can still be their guide! Help them set limits for themselves and know what is appropriate and what isn’t. They’ll appreciate the control over their own lives and knowing that you’re there to help whenever they need it. Once you have let them make a choice about something, go back and chat with them about it… how do they think it went? What did they learn from it? This will help them with decision-making in the future.
10. Strive for connection and repair over punishment
Discipline in the traditional sense usually breeds rebellion. The harder you push, the harder they push back. Instead, strive to connect when parenting your teenagers and help them make corrections when they’ve crossed a line, like breaking the trust you’ve established. Walk them through how they can make things better and rebuild trust. It’s important to help your teens see how to make things better when they mess up while letting them know your love and understanding have not been affected. It’s easy to lash out and take away things they love, but reach instead for other parenting principles I’ve talked about like conscious parenting or this podcast episode about boosting communication with teens.
Closing thoughts on parenting teens
Parenting teens can seem very daunting especially if you’re at the stage of just anticipating what life will be like. Use these tips and think about issues and how you’ll handle them before they arise. This can help you feel peaceful in your parenting decisions and the changes that are coming your way.
If you’re still having doubts, you can always count on me! A great place to start is by checking out my Freedom Moms podcast for some helpful tips. You can also find out your parenting superpowers through taking my free quiz.
Crystal The Parenting Coach