Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

It is not uncommon for homes to have rules and boundaries for curfew and chores and things such as these. Let me suggest some you may not have thought about:

1. Spending Time is Non-Negotiable

If you want your relationship with your teen to move beyond entertaining them and providing for them you will need to schedule it and be regular with it.  A weekly father/son breakfast or a father/daughter dinner to spend some time developing your relationship needs to be a non-negotiable. Make it a rule – we will go out and eat together once a week. “If you don’t show up, you owe me $10. If I don’t show up, I owe you $25”

2. Listen More Than You Talk

In simple terms: Keep Quiet! Instead of always nagging, correcting, cajoling, or critiquing – just be quiet. Look for opportunities to lead the conversation around to where you ask your teen to explain their point of view, their solution to a problem, or how they arrived at a conclusion, then allow them to talk. Don’t try to correct their thinking – just let them talk.

Some parents just need to zip it. Teenagers today need to know they have someone who will truly listen to them and not judge them for what they say. So sharpen your own listening habits, and your teenager may just learn how to listen to you. Your home needs to be a place where everyone listens so make it a rule.

3. Lighten Up! That’s an Order!

Some families need to learn to laugh together. So, make it a rule to do something wild and wacky together every week. Parents today take themselves and their teens way too seriously, at times. I still remember the day that I lightened up with my kids.  I decided to enjoy them and try to get them to enjoy me more.

4. Our Rules Will Be Periodically Reviewed

Rules need to be reviewed from time to time to see if they are still appropriate as your kids grow from childhood to teenagers. For example, “We must hold hands crossing the street.” Now, that was appropriate for little children, but for a teenagers it would be, well, just weird! Likewise, a rule such as “curfew is 9 o’clock” for a 12-year-old may be obsolete for a 17- year-old.

Nothing undermines rules, even in society, more than when they are totally inappropriate, for example:

In Hartford, Connecticut, it is illegal to cross the street walking on your hands.

In Memphis, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians.

In Washington, it is illegal to drive an ugly horse.

In Youngstown, Ohio, it is unlawful to run out of gas.

By the way, some rules never change and these are the kind of rules that apply to all family members, including the adults. They generally have to do with the values you hold dear, like: respect, morality, family observances, faith, common decency and societal laws.

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1. Sharpen Your Arguing Skills

I really hope you didn’t think that you and your teenager would never have conflict.  Conflict is okay. It’s part of the maturation process for them and you.  Your teen’s growing independence is naturally going to cause him to question your values? I still don’t see eye to eye with my parents on everything (Don’t tell them ’cause I’m not sure they know).

Conflict happens. Why not use those times as an opportunity to develop your teen’s independent thinking. You will also be allowing them time to process your side of the argument. They’ll never place value in your side until you at least validate their right to theirs.

Here’s what I am saying: don’t allow conflicts to hinder your relationship with your teen. It’s okay to have a heated discussion from time to time. But scripture reminds us to “Be angry, but don’t sin.” I would suggest the following boundaries for arguing;

  • Never, never, ever let an argument get physical.
  • Never be disrespectful to each other.
  • Never be demeaning.
  • Know when to call a time out to allow emotions calm down. Resume the discussion on more respectful terms.

Even if neither mind has changed, end the argument on a loving note.  A good way to do that is to make a rule that every argument must end with a hug. That’s the goal. Even if you can’t agree, you are the grown up, and you can at least agree to disagree because it was all talked out.

2. Continue To Engage Your Teen

Have you ever heard a parent say, “Just get out of my sight?” I hate to be the one to break this to you but that is a MISTAKE!  That may be ok until everyone has had a chance to cool off and respect is restored but ongoing avoidance will only serve to build walls between you and your child. Instead, by engaging in discussion you will let your teen know you’ll continue to love them and spend time together even though there is a disagreement.

I have shared this with the kind congregation at Wahoo a number of times because of its impact.  A young couple went to a toy store to by a gift for their child.  When they engaged the sales clerk they told her that they were looking for a toy that will keep their child busy and be educational.  They told the clerk that they want the child to be able to love and hold the toy when she gets afraid or lonely.  After showing the couple several toys, the frustrated clerk told them that she was afraid that she would not be able to help them.  She said, “It sounds to me that what you are trying to find are parents and we don’t sell those here!”

Kids need to know that you are there for them even through the stormy waters of rebellion.  Make sure you are scheduling time for them in your day and engaging them in conversation.

3.  Model Positive Problem Solving Skills

Life is not a TV sitcom where major life problems are solved in an hour or less.  For the most part, teens are somewhat limited in their ability to solve problems. They often don’t have the maturity to unravel life’s bigger issues, and they don’t understand how to change their behavior in ways that are beneficial to them. That’s where a parent comes in. Demonstrating your own resources for managing frustration is one good way to teach your teen how to handle their frustration. Tell them how you go about solving problems at work, or with your spouse. Let them know you need God’s help, and that you don’t have all the answers. Help them learn how to use different behavior as a way to solve their own problems or to change their situation for the better.

4. Choose Your Words Carefully

Don’t set yourself up for failure by the words you use. Avoid words like “you” or “always.” Speak in broader, less offensive terms. Be more open to what you will and will not support. I know you’ve probably heard this but I am going to remind you of it: pick your battles carefully.

I read this just today. Be clear on your limits. Don’t say, “It’s your choice,” or “What do you think?” It is better to say, “Here are my limits…what I will and won’t allow in this situation. Then take some time to explore their needs and ideas and try to find a way to meet each other halfway, listening more and talking less.

5. Let Them Know You Are Stubborn With Your Love For Them

I guess what I am saying is (and here’s that word again) model before them God’s love.  Teens need to know that there is nothing they can do to make you love them any less and there is nothing they can do to love them any more than you have always loved them. I did my internship for my doctorate at a nearby children’s home. The one problem most kid’s I counseled dealt with was feeling like a failure.  The relationship with their parents was performance based and they felt as if they could never perform up to their parent’s expectations.  So they gave up.  Try a “grace based” relationship instead of performance based.  They need to know that they have your unconditional love, acceptance and worth.

Conflict, when handled properly, can improve relationships rather than tear them down. You can be certain that your teen will have conflict with their future college room-mate, their future spouse, a future employer, and even their future children (turnabout is fair play- Cha Ching!). So, engaging with your teen in conflict now is more about teaching them how to manage conflict in the future and less about who wins today’s argument.

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Your child has a choice in this area.  They will either be controlled by hormones and/or peer pressure or they will learn self-control. Here are some tips on teaching your child self-control:

1. Ask lots of questions. Ask your teen questions about moral issues, and wait for their answer. “How do you think that person felt about being treated that way? What is the best thing to do in this situation? What would you do if you were asked to have sex, steal or take drugs? Tell me what you think about…? Allow your teen give his/her opinion without injecting yours. This is a fact finding step not an opportunity to lecture or teach. Let them feel the impact of hearing their own words. Their answers may be immature or even irresponsible; however their responses will echo in their mind and start them thinking about the issue and how they would really act if that situation were to arise.

2. Let them suffer the consequences of their decisions within the limits you set. Once you’ve given them more freedom, allow them to make their own decisions within that area of freedom, good or bad. For example, if they spend the allowance money that they normally use for gas to buy concert tickets, then they will have to figure out how another way to get around. Don’t just give them more gas money. Let them walk, if necessary, to show the foolishness and reality of spending money unwisely. Once they have to walk, they’ll never make that foolish decision again. Suffering consequences is the greatest teaching tool for responsibility.

3. Set and make clear your boundaries, then enforce them if they are broken.

For example, if you see your teen is making inappropriate statements on Facebook, something that is out of bounds in your home, ask him – “Is this an appropriate statement?” Allow him the opportunity to respond as he should, by removing the comment. Let him come to the right decision on his own. If his immaturity causes him to not respond as he should, then log into his Facebook account and change it yourself. Then reinforce the rule with consequences the next time the rule is broken, such as loss of the freedom to use the computer for a time. If the rule is consistently broken, then remove the computer from access. This will impress on your teen how passionately you feel about the issue. Replace “computer” with TV or music or use of the car.

4. Applaud your child’s responsible decisions, and concentrate on their successes, not their failures.

Don’t say, “I told you so,” or, “I never should have let you make that decision,” when they make a mistake. Instead, patiently allow them the opportunity to make the right choice and look for progress. Every time your child responds with maturity and responsibility, congratulate them and explain that because they made a good choice you are now moving them up to a new level of freedom. Remember that instant feedback is always best.

5. Model a lifestyle of good decisions in your own life.

Observing you make good decisions at key moments in your life will come back to them when they have the opportunity to make similar decisions. Your real life example will give them the courage to make a wise choice in a similar situation. They will also offer something to think about if the teen makes a different decision. In the Bible we find a lot of instruction about modeling:

Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” 1 Peter 5:3

My advice today for parents of teenagers is to begin to shift control to your child before you think they will need it. Give them the opportunity to show what they can handle, rise to the opportunity and don’t bail them out or condemn them if they fail. Give them the chance to figure it out, learn from consequences, and find a better way for the next time they are faced with the same decision. Giving teenagers increasing levels of independence, coupled with proper limits and parental guidance, will begin to teach them the most important type of control, self-control.

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