A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years


By BHIS   clockJune 10, 2020   

The teenage years of a child are the most trying times for the parent as well as the teen. The parent wonders what happened to my sweet little child, who always did what I said, while the child is busy grappling with a whole lot of changes in the body and mind. Most teens have these thoughts ‘I hate my Mom’ ‘Why does my Dad think he always knows better?’ ‘Why don’t they just get it?’ ‘Why won’t they leave me alone?’ Why are they always trying to control me?’

Parents think the child is just defying me for the sake of it. A

ll parents would have experienced this shift:

At the age of five, you and your child would possibly have a dialogue like this:
‘Will you set the table for dinner?’
‘Sure, Mom.’
‘Have you completed your homework?’
‘Yes, Mom.’
‘You want to shoot a few baskets with me, Son?’
‘Great. Let’s go, Dad!’

During his teens, the dialogue would mostly be like this:
‘Will you set the table for dinner?’
‘Why do you always pick on me to do work?’
‘Have you completed your homework?’
(If you receive an affirmative response, it may be best to check!)
‘School is so dumb. The teachers don’t understand anything.’
‘You want to shoot a few baskets with me, Son?’

Most parents are taken aback by the teenage phase and find it very difficult to deal with this sudden rebellion. They cannot recognise their child anymore ‘No way! Definitely not a product of our DNA or the nurturing we provided or the values we taught as parents.’

It seems to most parents that an alien has invaded their teen’s body and this throws most of them into a tizzy. They don’t seem to want to get out of bed, contribute to any home chores, relate to others, or take up responsibilities. The teenager seems to be indefinable and ‘unanalysable’.

Dear parents remember that the onset of your child’s transition into his teenage years and the resultant conflicts about control is the natural order of things, and a sign of his need for independence.

The fact is that just like the toddler, the teenager is testing boundaries, albeit with a greater ability to exert his will and power. He is exerting his need for independence, asserting his point of view, and testing his ideas on you and the world around him. To that end, he will argue and disagree on almost everything.

Often, this will be the polar opposite perspective to your own. Further to this, your teenager’s need for autonomy may result in an apparent distancing from you in public, with a difference in opinion about the way he or she behaves and dresses. Unfortunately, these intentionally pronounced differences will be a further cause of stress between you both. You will feel as though your authority and your beliefs are being questioned, you will have your patience tested often and you will feel emotionally challenged, at times even drained.

Here are my recommendations to deal with this challenging period and to survive the teenage years:

1. Hear them out: During this period, realize that your teenager will push as many of your buttons as he or she can. This seems to be a part of their need to feel the distance. They will challenge your ‘everything’. They will challenge your authority and most of your beliefs.

2. Stay calm and avoid escalating the confrontation. Allow and encourage choice within agreed parameters. Don’t allow minor issues to escalate into major issues. Decide what is critical to debate and what one should be firm on. Providing clear boundaries is essential, yet flexibility will allow your teenager to make decisions and enjoy both the benefits and consequences of those decisions.

3. Focus on the issue and not on your teen. The discussion should focus on allowing each of you to advocate your position while allowing inquiry – that is, it is not a debate but an exploration of the issue. Each of you will be looking at the issue through your lens; each of you will have a point of view that advocates a position.

4. Be clear about the consequences of your teenager’s actions and/or behaviour. Always recognize and reward positive actions and behaviour, but never ignore the inappropriate behaviour. The consequences should be consistent, understood, and balanced, reflecting the earlier discussion on this. Please do not threaten a consequence without acting on this; consistency, fairness, balance, and calmness are all essential elements in this stressful situation.

5. Dealing with the terrible teens is a part of being a parent. I have never met any parent who was not embarrassed by something inappropriate that their teen did. Let your teen face the consequences, but don’t withdraw your love. You don’t have to accept your teen’s behaviour, but that does not mean that you reject him or her.

6. Both parents must present a united front. Parenting is always challenging, especially when each parent has been raised differently by their parents. While it is unlikely that you and your partner will agree on every aspect of child-rearing, you should still come to a mutual and common understanding before approaching your child.

7. There is a science to modifying behaviour. It is called behaviour modification. You reward or recognize the behaviour you wish to see more of and ignore what you want to discourage. The trick to remember is that positive or negative attention will encourage that particular behaviour.

As a parent you need to make sure you do not stop loving your child. They need to at all times, feel loved despite the disagreement. Another thing to keep in mind to survive the teen years is that there needs to be give and take. On some occasions you give in and at some your child will let go and mutually discussing rules and the consequences it the key to tiding through this time.

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