Teenage is not bad.
But it is a difficult time for both the parents and children. In fact, parents who think they have the most adorable and obedient kids tend to change their tune when their offspring become teens. So what changes when children enter their adolescent years?
A lot! They go through significant physical and hormonal changes, leaving them confused. But you can make their teen years less chaotic and more fun with these tips for parenting teenagers, from MomJunction.
Here is the thing: Puberty and adolescence are not the same. Puberty is the process of physical changes, which involves the development of sexual organs, beginning of periods in girls and facial hair growth in boys. Adolescence is the time when the teenager goes through emotional and psychological changes. Parenting a teenager in this growing phase can be challenging.
A child becomes an adolescent and also hits puberty during the teen years. So yes, they are going through a lot of change, and that can be scary! Your teen may not be at his or her best when they are trying to come to terms with the changes. How they behave around you, talk to you and deal with you and the rest of the world also changes.
They may act like the stereotypical teen or worse. What they do is their reaction to the changes that come with age. How you behave with your ‘rebellious, stubborn or wild’ teen is your response to them. Your response is the only thing you can fully control.
Yes, your teen is going to get on your nerves and test your patience. And yes, they will drive you crazy, making you want to give up on parenting. So here is our advice for parents of teenagers: as the adult in the relationship, you need to make the right choices. You are the one who needs to think and act, to get the desired reaction from your teen.
Tips On How To Raise Teenage Boys And Girls
We have compiled a list of tips on how to parent a teenager with as few conflicts as possible. Read them, try them and you’ll understand what we are trying to say.
1. Talk to the kid:
If you are having a conversation with your teen and manage to get more than just a “yes”, “no” or a sigh, bravo! And yes, a lot of times what seems like a decent chat with the teen can turn into a crazy argument at any moment. Such conversations are normal, as long they are not an everyday affair. So how do you make sure they are not a daily routine?
- Listen to what the teen has to say. They are growing individuals with an opinion of their own. They have a right to it. Respect their views, try to see their perspective and then agree or don’t agree with it. Listen more than you talk, to understand what’s going on in their mind.
- Teenage is a time when teens tend to spend more time with friends than parents. So try and spend more time together just talking, or doing something.
Have a chat with them often to know about their developing interests, hobbies, plans and other details of their life. Do not pry or force them to speak. Gain their trust by trusting them. When they trust you, they’ll tell you everything.
- Your teens need privacy and ‘space’ as they grow more independent. Respect their privacy, give them their space. But do be informed about what they are doing or where they are going. Your kid may be growing up, but you still are the parent.
- Your teenager can be annoying. But they still need your love and affection. Be the loving parent they need to get through these challenging years. Show your love through actions, not mere words. Do the things that would be best for them, things that would make them happy and enable them to achieve their dreams.
- Have some fun together. Yeah, you’ll have arguments and unpleasant experiences, but in between, have fun. Do things that you both enjoy.
Teens are independent and may not like it when you make decisions for them. So make it a point to involve them in decision-making. The decisions may not always be what they want, but at least they’ll be a part of the process. Through this, you can gain their confidence and they are likely to share their plans with you.
Things you must avoid when communicating:
- Yelling, whining or nagging them to do things.
- Calling them names or patronizing them in front of their friends.
- Arguing about everything to get your way just because you are the parent.
A teen is a half-grown adult who needs a little guidance. Telling them what to do or what not to do is a bad idea. But making them a part of the conversation will work. So communicate.
2. Be a friend:
To a teen, you should be a parent and a friend. Your teenager wants to be heard and understood, not judged. And to be able to do that, act like a friend. Listen to them, support them, have fun together and respect each other. In short, your teen should be comfortable telling you just about anything (yeah, like the Gilmore Girls).
There will be times when you have to pull ranks and become the authority figure to say no. And it is okay to do it, but do not make it a habit. Because then, you’d become the parent that the teenager hates.
3. Sex, lies and alcohol:
Some of the most delicate issues that you need to deal with teenagers are sex, alcohol and drugs. Of course, most kids dread discussing these topics with their parents. They’d rather talk about it with their friends or a confidante at school. And to avoid talking about them with you, they might develop another bad habit: lying.
Sex, drugs and alcohol can easily tempt a vulnerable teen. Here are some tips on how you can deal with these things with the teen, without creating a conflict.
Let’s talk about sex
Teenagers and parents are always inhibited when it comes to talking about sex. But, if you think that you need to have the “big talk” then do so. Talking about sex can be easy with a 16-year-old, but it is important to talk about sex earlier and talk often. That said, teenagers do not like being ‘told’ what they should or should not be doing. So start a conversation and talk about it, discuss it and answer any questions that the kid may have. That way, they also feel heard and will be open to listening to what you say.
When you listen, your teen is more likely to open up about his or her sexuality/sexual orientation, fears about sex, and maybe even heartbreak. You can make them understand better about underage sex and its dangers such as teen pregnancies and STDs.
Tip: Make sure you are ready for the talk before initiating it. Let your teens understand that sex isn’t taboo and that they can be comfortable talking about it with you. Be careful not to make it an awkward chat. So if you have to research the internet to know ‘how to have the talk?’, do it.
It’s never just one drink
Underage drinking is a problem. So, talk to your teens before they get a taste of it. Speak to them about why it is important to wait until they are old enough. Tell them about the problems that drinking can create and how it can affect their performance, behavior, and moods. The idea here is to make children responsible.
- Tell them about the good and the bad of alcohol – drinking socially is okay when they age, but getting drunk is not cool.
- Let this be a dialogue as well, so they can ask you questions and share their opinions.
- Try to learn what they already know about drinking and if they have had any experience with it.
- Tell them about the dangers of drunken driving and also set an example for them.
- Set rules about drinking and have consequences if they break the rules.
- Teach them to say No when someone offers them a drink.
Most of all, tell them that if they need help, like when they are in a situation where they’re scared of getting drunk (at parties or social events), they can always depend on you. Just one call and you are there to take care of them.
One puff is all it takes
“But I just took one puff,” she said. And then it became a habit.
For a teenager, almost everything is an adventure. They want to experience something once, just for the ‘thrill’ of it. But with drugs, it may not necessarily end there. Teenagers may get tempted to experience the high more and more, and before they know it, they are addicted to the substance. Here is what you can do to prevent the child from getting their hands on drugs or using them.
- The first step is to prepare – if you do not know much about drug problems in teens, research about it. Find out how a child can get drawn to the habit and the different drugs that they get their hands on.
- Watch out for signs of drug abuse, including mood swings, unusual and sudden aggression, looking dazed or ‘high,’ loss of appetite and tiredness.
- Tell them that the consequences of using or distributing drugs can be jail time and even hefty fines, which will affect their future.
Educate your children enough for them to not get anywhere near drugs. But if they are abusing a drug, thwart them by using your authority.
4. Choose your battles wisely:
With a teen, almost every conversation becomes an argument. So you need to be the adult and pick your battles wisely. Figure out the things for which you want to say ‘no’ and those which you should just let go. For example, if your teen wants to try something that might cause permanent damage or change to their body, like getting a tattoo, nose pierced or something similar, then you should be bothered.
But if it is something like a messy room, or coloring their hair, don’t worry too much. If you try to control every little thing that your children do, they might feel that you are picking on them.
Now that will not make you a friend, will it?
5. Teen relationships – get to know their friends:
Relationships are among the many things that your teen is exploring at that age. Adolescence is the age where they build meaningful friendships that can last a lifetime. Your little girl or boy may also get attracted to the members of the opposite sex during this time, and explore romantic relationships.
Now you may not like all their friends. You may worry that they are a bad influence on your child. Here is a tip: Don’t tell them to stop meeting a friend or seeing someone you think is not good enough for them. Do that, and they are sure to push you away. If you want the kids to talk to you about a relationship, and maybe even ask you relationship advice (yeah, right!), then be open.
Take time to know your teen’s friends. Invite them to dinner, movie night or a party at home. Spend time talking to them, and you might even like them. If you still don’t like them, your teen will, at least, know that you have tried to understand them. Also, if you genuinely think that someone is a bad influence on your child, try talking to them about it and give a reason. They might understand.
6. Always have rules:
Rules rule when it comes to parenting. Smart and successful parenting is based on a set of rules that are well-defined, reasonable and come with consequences. Make sure that the kids know what the rules are and understand the consequences of breaking them. Most importantly, be consistent with the rules and the consequences. Both the parents must be on the same page when it comes to rules, so have a discussion with your partner before you lay down the rules.
It is important to understand that rules are about setting boundaries within which the teen can explore life to his or her heart’s content, without harming themselves.
7. Teach them to be responsible:
Face it. Your baby has grown up and is a teenager who stands five or six feet tall. They are not helpless children anymore and may not need you for everything. That’s okay. Even if you do not like it, you need to accept that they are soon going to be adults and won’t need hand-holding. Rather than getting angry that they are making their decisions (you won’t be able to stop them anyway), teach them to be responsible.
Decision making and critical thinking are two of the important aspects of responsibility. You need to teach your teenager to be responsible not just for themselves but also for the family and the society. Some of the ways you can make them responsible are to give them chores, encourage them to take up a summer job or volunteer for something. Make one thing clear – they are always accountable for their actions and behavior.
Be a good role model and take responsibility for things you do or mistakes you make.
8. Don’t let technology take over parenting:
How many teens you met do not have a social media account? How many of your teen’s friends or classmates do not have a smartphone?
No matter how hard you think, you won’t be able to come up with a number more than five. Okay, ten at most! The reality is that we need technology to make our lives easier. Giving your teen a smartphone will make it easier for you to keep a track on their whereabouts. But it can also be annoying given how a teen is distracted by the phone, laptop or a tablet. While it is okay to let the kids play with the gadgets, it is not good to let them get addicted to it.
While it is okay to give them access to smartphones, laptops, and other devices, it is important not to let them get carried away by them. Have rules that restrict usage of laptops, the internet, and social media. Help them find a way to balance time spent in the real world and on the World Wide Web.
9. Create a game plan:
Wherever they are – at a party, out with a group of teens or spending the night at a friend’s place – your teenagers must be in touch with you. Certain rules cannot be broken, like getting into a car with a drunk driver is a big NO. So even if it is 2am in the morning, they need to call you. If they are stranded and have no way to get home, they call you.
Even though all these rules are logical and make sense, your teen will not like it if you force them on him or her. So create a plan together, brainstorm and let your teen come up with a few suggestions. That way, they make their decisions in life, of course with your guidance and counsel.
An important tip here is to avoid manipulating them or swaying them in the direction you want. Teenagers are smart and will figure it out in no time. When they do, they may not want to trust you again.
Some Tips For Parents of Teenage Girls
Not all teens are the same. And teen girls are not like teen boys, although they could be equally painful. Here are some additional tips on how to raise a teenage girl.
10. Make her resilient:
Yes, we treat our little girls as princesses. Well, bring her up like a princess who is strong, resilient and honest. Focus more on her character than her looks. More often than not, parents have this urge to protect their little girl from the bad world. While it certainly is your job to protect your kids, understand that you cannot always do so. And it is okay if they get a little hurt once in a while because that makes them tougher.
Your daughter will learn to deal with emotions like pain, sadness, jealousy and anger when she experiences them. Allow her to deal with breakups, fights with the bestie or something as silly as bad hair day, on her own.
What you should do, though, is prepare her for life. If there is a problem, talk about it. Discuss possible solutions, but let her decide. Remember, her decision may not match yours. Support it anyway, as long as it doesn’t put her in harm’s way.
11. Instill confidence:
Nothing can stop a confident woman. Instill confidence in your little girl, and you will help her make her dreams come true. That said, make the distinction between confidence and over-confidence. While it is okay to believe that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to, she should also know about her limitations and capabilities.
Teach her to take little risks that bring in rewards she desires. It is okay if she fails. Most importantly, make her understand that she doesn’t need to be perfect.
Usually, most girls get their first period when they are 12 or 13. Some might get it before. Talk to your child about it early on. When your girl gets her first period, make sure you help her deal with it.
There’s not much you can do about the mood swings at that time. But do talk about the importance of hygiene during the periods and keeping track of the menstrual cycle, to be prepared for it every month.
13. Talk to her about boys – they will happen!
Boys. You cannot keep them away from your girl. Your little girl, who was happy to stay home and play ‘princess’ by herself, is now going out with boys! While you cannot stop a teen girl from dating, what you can do is talk to her about it – boys, dates, kissing, sex and breakups (but not all at once!)
Some More Tips For Raising Teenage Sons
14. Talk to them about girls:
Wouldn’t it be a proud moment for you as a mom, when you see girls loving and adoring your boy for who he is? But for that to happen, you need to bring up your boy to be a gentleman who treats women with respect. Teenage boys are attracted to girls and might want to explore their new found sexuality sooner than later.
Before their hormones take over, talk to them about girls, sex and the consequences of combining the two.
15. It’s okay to be emotional
Boys don’t cry. At least that’s what they were told for a long time.
Teenagers are vulnerable to emotions. But they inhibit themselves from experiencing their feelings because the society makes them feel that boys should be strong, not sensitive. Pent-up emotions are dangerous and can result in a breakdown too. Also, suppressing emotions, for whatever reason, is not healthy.
Teach your teen boy that it is okay to be emotional. Encourage them to feel love, anger, happiness, sadness or whatever it is they are going through. Tell them it is okay to cry.
16. Give him space:
We all heard the term “man cave”. While your boy is not yet a “man,” he still needs his space, and at times, he wants to be left alone. Give him his space. Unlike girls, boys don’t always want to share their thoughts, feelings or experiences. Also, respect their privacy and always knock before entering their bedroom.
17. Managing facial hair:
Hormonal changes in the body will make facial hair appear sooner in some teens. The changes can be embarrassing, especially when they do not know how to handle it. Ask your spouse to talk to the kid about how to stay hygienic during the growing years. If you are a single mom, ask a significant male role model in the family to help your boy or do the research online and help him on your own.
Either way, the boy needs to know that he has your support.
And Then Some Don’t s:
So far, we have discussed what you should do. Now, let us talk about things you should not do as part of parenting a teenage boy or girl.
1. Setting unreasonable expectations:
When you have kids, you should have house rules. But don’t make rules that are unrealistic. There is nothing wrong in having high standards and expectations, as long as they are realistic. Expecting them not to make mistakes is not right. So set realistic goals and expectations before coming up with rules. Think about how you were as a teenager. Think like a teenager and see if the rules seem fair or not.
2. Expecting the worst:
If you have read a lot of literature on parenting teenagers, you might expect the worst when your kid enters the teens. Don’t! Teenagers aren’t as bad or difficult as most people think. If a teen is difficult, it is because the parents do not know how to handle their behavior. Yes, teenagers can be stubborn, rebellious and even annoying most of the time, and it’s nothing but normal.
But approaching teen parenting with a negative mindset will not help. Stay positive, empathize and be supportive, and your teen will not have a reason to be difficult.
3. Don’t ‘deal’ with them:
Your teenager is a person, not a situation that you have to ‘deal’ with or a thing that has to be ‘handled’. Also, don’t always handle or deal with their situations for them. Treat your teenagers with respect and help them handle their problems, issues or concerns. Be their guide, go-to person or their rock that keeps them afloat. Do not try to control them, because if you do, they are more likely to rebel than agree with you.
4. Think you own them:
When you treat your teens like you own them (of course you do!), parenting them will only become so much more difficult. When you make a decision for them, they are not going to like it. Rather, include them in the discussions about their future, their life and let them be a part of the decision-making process. That makes them feel important and responsible too.
5. Treat them like helpless children:
Kids grow up. There will come a time when they do not need you at all. So, while your little girl or boy needed you for a lot of things, your teen is not helpless. Stop trying to do things for them. In fact, do not do anything that they can do for themselves. Also, teenagers are independent and do not want to be treated like little children. So treating a 14 or 15-year-old boy like you would a five-year-old is not a good idea.
Love and accept your self-dependent teen just as you would a helpless, cute two-year-old baby or a six-year-old with two missing front teeth.
The teenage parenting tips you have read so far are just that: tidbits of useful information for raising a teenage girl or boy. There is no one-size-fits-all guide when it comes to parenting. But a little patience and a lot of trial and error with these tips in mind can make teen parenting less of a hassle that it is made to seem.
What is your take on teenage parenting? Share your thoughts here.