By Valerie Rice and Andrea Watson September 29, 2020
Are you ready to continue our fairy tale? While I can’t promise a fairy tale ending, or a life full of magic and unicorns, I will do my best to help you slay a few dragons. At least the metaphorical kind. I’m the type of parent who likes things to be pretty laid back and stress free; not something that comes to mind when you think of life with a teen, let alone four. And you’re right, it is never that way 100% of the time. Just most of the time. And it can be for you too, if you want. Here are a few tips on how to make parenting your darling teen a lot easier. It will probably be messy at first, especially if you are changing things up a bit from how you are used to doing things, but it will also be worth it. Battles often are. Speaking of battles…
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Once upon a time I was pregnant with my oldest son. I wandered into a shop mindlessly and came upon a silver medallion that I absolutely adored. On one side was the image of a woman holding an infant and on the other were the words “ To guide, nurture, and protect.” I loved it so much I took it home, drilled a hole in it for a leather thong, and wore it around my neck for years. I may have lost it over tim, but I never lost the message. Children are not their parents’ property. The teenager is likely to fight you over everything they can, from what they wear to what color the sky is, and what time they are going to be home at night. Most of it is not worth fighting over, let alone discussing. They want power, they need freedom of choice, and it really isn’t healthy to take it away. When implementing rules for these almost-adults, ask yourself a few questions: Is it a matter of safety? Is it something I can and should enforce? Why do I need this? If you answered “no” to the first two questions, think long and hard about how you are going to answer the third question. Teenagers love boundaries. They crave them like daisies crave sunlight; but they need to make sense and make them feel safe. Now stand firm and be consistent!
BE A MENTOR, NOT A MASTER
The goal of adolescence is to become an adult, and your job during this time is to help turn a small, helpless human into a responsible, functioning one. This is not something either one of you can accomplish if the parent is making all the decisions or solving all the problems. It is also a bad idea to go completely hands free. As much as they may insist they are grown, they are totally lying. Honestly I don’t know why they want to rush into adulthood; it is not MY favorite thing with all the bills, responsibilities, and body aches. Plus the whole idea that grown-ups get to do whatever they want is such a freaking lie! But whatever. People love to argue about how you should be your child’s parent and not their friend, but what they fail to mention is that being friendly is totally allowed. What I mean is that your child needs an empathetic source of guidance. They don’t need or want a harsh dictator whose answer for everything is “because I said so.” They also don’t need someone who is going to shrug everything off and agree with them. This may be a difficult time for you, but it is ten times more difficult for them. They need you to show confidence, compassion, and understanding. They also really want your approval. So sit with them, talk through things instead of lecture about them, and lead by example.
One of the key components to successfully navigating life with a teenager is respect. As a parent, I’m sure you want to be respected. I am going to tell you a little secret: Respect is something you earn, even from your children. Now, before you argue and tell how entitled you are because you gave them life and all that, let me explain. You’re wrong. And this is why. Being an adult does not automatically grant you respect. Being a parent doesn’t either. Your actions, however, will determine how much respect your children give you, as will your words. Teenagers are sponges, especially when it comes to social behavior. So how do you earn a teenager’s respect? It is really simple. Basically, you follow the golden rule, or these steps. Don’t worry, I will go into more detail on these in Part 3.
1. Say please and thank you when making requests
2. Knock before entering their room
3. Admit when you are wrong
4. Don’t yell at or belittle them
5. Be open and honest with them
6. Let them be honest with you
Now that the dragon of power struggle is dead at our feet, I want you to try something. It requires pen and paper. I want you to make a list of all the rules your teenagers currently follow. Now cut that list down using the questions we talked about. You can do it, because I believe in you. Remember to examine them closely. Got it? Awesome. Okay, now repeat after me: Children are not their parents’ property. Every time you feel tempted to say “Because I said so,” take a deep breath and remind yourself of that. Excellent! Now all you have to do is put it into practice and stay tuned for part 3 where we dive into respect!