Parenting Advice to Parents of Teens…From Teens
Parenting teens is tough. They often seem to believe they have all the answers. They “know” exactly what they need, exactly how a parent can best parent, and exactly what their parent is doing wrong. Well, I decided to listen in on the vast wisdom of a few teens and learn some of their parenting tips. Actually, they did offer some pretty good advice. So, I’m sharing their advice with you—advice to parents straight from the teen’s mouth.
- “Get a hobby.” Healthy teens are moving toward independence. They want to establish their own identity, to individuate and become their “own person.” So, they begin to spend more time with friends and less time with parents. The joy of having a parent by their side now becomes the annoyance of “my parent, the stalker.” Don’t misunderstand this advice. Teens still need parents. Even more surprising, teens want their parents to remain available and attentive to their needs. They need a safety net only their parents can provide. Remain available to your teen. Let your teen know you are available. Talk with them. But “get a hobby.” Do not make them the sole focus of your life. Invest in your own interests and friends. Have fun with other adults.
- “Quit interrogating me.” Many teens have told me they “can’t stand” being asked “a lot of questions.” They don’t want to walk through the door into a barrage of questions: “How are you? Where did you go? What did you do? How was school? Did you remember to put gas in the car? How come you look unhappy? Are you OK? What’s wrong?” Quit asking so many questions and simply greet your teens when they come home. Ask one, maybe two questions. Tell them about your Give them space and allow for some silence. Develop the conversation of friendship with your teen—one which involves both people sharing information about themselves and their day. Honor your teen by trusting them to reveal information to you in their time and in their way while you simply keep the door open.
- “Let me be me.” Too many teens feel compared to a parent, brother, sister, neighbor, or “me when I was your age….” Comparisons leave us, and our teens, feeling unaccepted or “not good enough.” In response, our teen might just give up and say, “Nothing I do is good enough anyway.” Comparisons hinder our teens’ self-esteem. Instead of making comparisons, simply acknowledge what your teens do. Accept their level of ability, acknowledge their interests, and praise their efforts to improve. You will watch your teen grow in maturity as a result.
- “It’s my life. Let me make my own mistakes.” Of course we do not want our teen to make a life threatening mistake. However, most mistakes are more of an inconvenience than a true threat. Teens learn from their mistakes, just like we did. So, let your teen make some mistakes. Keep the lines of communication open so you can warn them of the dangers. Remain available to offer guidance. Rather than telling them “I told you so,” show empathy for the discomfort and negative results your teens experience when they make the poor choice. Doing so will allow your teen to learn from that mistake…just like you and I did.
- “Life with you is boring.” The teen brain is undergoing a whole remodeling. During remodeling, teens’ “reward center” operates differently. They need a greater thrill, a bigger risk, to activate the reward center. But, when it is activated, they experience a greater rush, a bigger thrill, and are ready to do it again. In other words, what excites you and I will often bore our teen. So, they seek the next thrill; and when they find that thrill they get a rush of chemicals in their brain’s reward center. We don’t want that thrill to be life threatening or dangerous. Taking the time to know your teen is a healthy practice to help you manage their risky behavior. Take time to discover your teens’ likes and interests. Gently guide them toward taking healthy risks based on their interests. Help them learn how to find that rush of excitement while remaining safe.
Believe me, teens have a lot more to say about parenting, but I didn’t want to overwhelm anybody. Just let these 5 pieces of teen parenting advice sink in and maybe we can learn more “teen wisdom” in the future.