Day 7 of NaBloPoMo and I feel the burning need to write about parenting teenagers.
As a mother, I am sure we love our children dearly but I think that being the parent of a hormonal live wire (plugged into an endless supply of attitude) is one of the most frustrating and perplexing situations to be faced.
My one child, Nathan, just turned 16. Some days our back and forth conversations leave me feeling closer to 60. It doesn’t seem to matter how many books I read, how many internet searches I perform or how often I share with friends, parenting remains for the most part a process of trial and error … with more than a few errors after the trials.
At this stage in our relationship his singular goal is to test his boundaries – along with my patience – while actively trying to see how far he can go before he is grounded or has to forfeit a privilege. Opinionated and argumentative, I am bombarded with all of the reasons why things should be done his way and not mine. After all, I know nothing; I am merely a silly parent – old and naïve if not ill-advised – who is oblivious of the ways of the real world. Sounds familiar?
Yet, underneath all of our drama, I can attest to him being a good son with decent grades and acceptable social graces (if only he would make his bed on mornings before he leaves for school and keep his room as well as his wardrobe a little tidier … sigh). He chomps at the bit for more responsibility and I resist, trying to keep the reins tight, only because I believe he is not quite ready for some of the things he wants to do or have.
As my son and I navigate this emotional roller-coaster of a journey, I came across an excellent article by Tammy Daniele entitled: “Parenting Teens – The Ten Most Commonly Asked Questions and Concerns”. Of the 10 she noted, here are my top three:
- My teen is moody and irritable a lot of the time. He doesn’t want to spend time with the family and says things that hurt my feelings. I feel like all we do is argue.
- What are appropriate consequences to give a teen when they have done something that warrants punishment?
- How do I get my teen to apologize when they have done something wrong?
If you are a parent looking for some light at the end of your tunnel I suggest you click on the link to read the article in its entirety. What I really appreciated however, were Tammy’s tips (and reasons why we should follow her suggestions) for communicating better with your teenager.
In a nutshell, my key takeaways (all of which I wish my mother had told me about when Nathan was a baby) consisted of what I needed to pay attention to in the future:
- Do not judge Nathan (anymore)
- Get to know his friends (and not judge them either)
- Familiarize myself with whatever he is interested in (no matter how strange)
- Agree to one-on-one time but let him pick what we’re going to do together (as long as it’s not a safety hazard – physically or mentally)
- Make sure I am available (to give him my full undistracted attention)
- Really listen to what he has to say (without butting in)
And let me not forget the crème de la crème AHA moment as per Tammy: “Don’t be afraid to be a parent! Often, parents run into trouble when they try too hard for their teens to like them, or they try to be a friend more than a parent. Remember: adolescence is hallmarked by constant change and flux. Impulsiveness, poor decision making and immaturity are common, typical behaviours during this period. Teens don’t need a buddy. They need guidance, boundaries and rules in order to learn how to organize themselves and navigate into adulthood. The best person to provide this to them is their parents. Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing as a parent and know that your teen may harbour negative feelings towards you for a while. When this happens, know that it will pass. Guaranteed.”
Do I hear an Amen?!!! Of course I do! There are too many of you out there in the exact same boat as I am even though we may believe that children are a reward from God!
I really wish my mum had sat me down and told me a little more about how to be a good parent, including things to look out for at various stages. But seeing as how I’ve made it from zero to 16 since 1997 it looks as though I must be doing something right.
Starting from today however, I plan to apply my new found knowledge and therefore commit to (a) listening without judging, (b) encouraging without enabling, (c) enforcing discipline without reneging and (d) praying without ceasing – for him, for us, for all parents of teenagers because yes, parenting is really hard back-breaking work without a doubt, but in the end it’s worth it!