When my kids were babies, I could hardly wait for them to grow up, so we could DO something together. Working on art projects with my daughter and playing chess with my son thrilled me. Now that they’re adolescents, I’m having more fun with them than ever, but living with a teenager can be like having a loaded fuse in the house.
I still remember the first time my easy going, polite teenaged boy suddenly exploded. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I thought, “Who is this person? Can he be the same guy who was living here yesterday?”
Just when they have to handle hormonal and physical changes, teenagers face the bewildering task of discovering who they are against a landscape of social issues their parents never faced. Tempers fly, and issues come up that you never even dreamed of. As James Dobson says, “Parenting is not for cowards.”
I’m being stretched as I consider how to be an effective parent:
Be a Good Role Model
We want our teens to grow into caring, considerate adults, but are we living out the values we want to see in their lives? One scary thing about parenting teens is that they’re mature enough to realize your failings as an adult. I sometimes wonder if half my battles with my kids wouldn’t be solved if I focused more on my own behavior rather than on theirs!
My husband and I seek to model apologizing when we overreact or say things we shouldn’t. After seeing us do this for years, our kids now come back and apologize when they blow up at us.
Staying calm when my kids respond in an angry or aggressive tone requires superhuman self-control, but it diffuses arguments. When I react to their blow ups with angry words myself, the conflict escalates. If I remind myself that they are blowing off steam and count to ten, they cool off. Staying calm doesn’t mean, however, giving in to unreasonable requests.
Keep Communication Open
I want to be an approachable, safe person with whom my kids can talk about ANYTHING. This means not over reacting when they share things that cause me to panic inside. It also means not allowing a busy family schedule to crowd out opportunities for communication. Going on ice cream dates, sitting down together for an afternoon snack, and making the choice to turn off our computers help us find time to talk. Some nights I even force myself to stay up past 10:30, which is when they’re ready to talk!
Teenagers are so much fun. Thanks to mine, I get to watch silly you-tube videos, play gin rummy, and have my daughter do my makeup and hair. My kids are expanding my horizons; I actually know all the words to the song “Wake Me up When It’s All Over.”
Do you have any teenagers at home? What parenting advice do you have? I need all the help I can get!