Sometimes a little humor can go a long way! This last weekend, one of my counseling students shared this video with me and it made me laugh. It also made me think of raising teens. When I returned home, I shared this video with my own two teens. Jokingly I said, “Should I give this technique a try at home?” They both laughed and said, “As long as we can use it too!” I suspect there may be times in the future when we pull this one out of our bag of tricks just to lighten things up a bit!
On a more serious note, it is not uncommon for parents of teens to want their teen to just listen and do what they have asked them to do. Have you ever wished you could just say, “Stop It!” and your teen would just stop; stop leaving lights on in every room, stop hanging out with someone, stop leaving their bike outside all night, stop procrastinating in school, or stop coming home late. Of course every teen is different and every parent faces different challenges in helping their teen develop into a thoughtful and responsible young adult.
The problem is that as teens get older, they need to develop their own identity, one with the values, beliefs, and self-expression that is uniquely theirs. This helps to explain why “Stop It!” by itself doesn’t work. Sometimes we have to see certain situations as learning opportunities, ones in which teens can make their own decisions and live with the consequences. Other times, our teens need us to hold a hard, firm boundary and say “Stop It” or “Absolutely Not”! Experts say that the most effective style of parenting is one that combines clear rules and expectations with being responsive, warm, and nurturing. Using this style results in teens who grow into happy, capable and successful adults.
This may sound logical, or even easy to implement. The problem is that we don’t respond to situations like robots or machines. In actuality, we are a lot more thoughtful about how we respond and we don’t always get it to right. But, how can this be when the suggestions for “effective” parenting are so clear and our intentions are so genuine. Let’s look at some of the things that influence how we, as parents, handle different situations.
- We are emotional beings. Because our teens are one of our most important investments, we want to do it right. This desire can lead to being too harsh on our teens and then overly critical of our parenting.
- We have experience. We want to protect our teens from the things we have learned from our experiences. This inhibits teens from having their own experiences.
- We assign meaning. We interpret situations and believe that our interpretations are the “truth”. This leads to making assumptions instead of asking our teen to share with us.
- We speak from our perspective. We talk to them as if they have the same knowledge and understanding we have of the world. We wish that we could impart our knowledge on them, while our teens want to figure it out themselves.
- We want their love. We want a close relationship with our children. This can lead to protecting them, rather than letting them live with the natural consequences of their choices.
- We get busy. Sometimes when our teens need our attention the most, we are distracted or too busy to listen. This can lead to having less communication, or even feeling disconnected from our teens’ lives.
The end goal is to be nurturing and responsive at the same time that we establish clear rules, guidelines, and expectations for appropriate conduct. But, it is important to remember that knowing this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. There will be times when we feel as though we have been too harsh or not harsh enough. Focus on “getting it right” as much as you can, and practice being patient with yourself. If you find yourself being too critical of yourself, just “Stop It!” Focusing on the past doesn’t allow you to move forward.