Changing your Parenting now your Child is a Teen
So you have been a parent for, maybe 10 years and you’re pretty good at it. Your child has had their “moments”, but then so have you and both of you are doing more or less OK.
Then something changes. It’s not you; it is your child. They grunt, they challenge, they shock you. They may even say, “I hate you.” The process is all about your child starting to move towards their own adult self but at times it can feel like a war zone in your house.
How did your wonderful child turn into this monster?
Your tried and tested skills don’t seem to work any longer!
Here it is in a nutshell: as your child moves into this stage you have to change your style of parenting.
You’re a parent, not a friend
Some parents try to become their child’s best friend. If you do this, not only will you lose your authority and give the teen too much power, you also disappoint your child, who wants you to be boring and predictable old mum or dad. This keeps their world intact while they have their adventures and find their new identity.
Keep those boundaries
As much as they tell you they hate them, teenagers like boundaries. They keep them safe and prevent them having to make too many decisions all at once. However, see the next point.
Choose your battles
Whilst a younger child may have been pretty co-operative, the teen will want to rebel about most things.
Decide what is most important to you: a maximum of three things. Perhaps speaking respectfully, staying safe and trying hard at school. Have a chat with your teen and say how you realise they are now a young adult and it is time for them to have a little more freedom but these are the Basic Rules. Ask them how they think these look in reality. For example, the staying safe could encompass everything from letting you know where they are, to online behaviour and being home at the agreed time.
In return, stop getting at them for every little thing. If necessary, record yourself on your phone. Listen to the tone of voice you use when they crash through the door, and the list of criticisms that come out of your mouth. With this in mind, when they do something well or right or helpful, then praise them enthusiastically. They may well grunt “Whatever!” in reply, but keep on doing it.
Whereas you could be very direct with a younger child as they (usually) respected you, a teenager will need to know a logical reason for things but explanations can get out of hand. It will help if you have a fairly standard phrase you can memorise and trot out when needed. Something like, “I understand the way you feel but I am your parent and it’s my job to keep you safe.”
Boys and Girls
It is often said that boys tend to be withdrawn and uncommunicative and girls want to provoke a reaction. This is not always the case as all teens can do either, or both. The trick is for you to imagine yourself as a swan, gliding along in the water while beneath the surface one teen is hanging onto your flipper and on the riverbank another is throwing stones at you. Your job is to keep gliding along, stay calm and remain in control. Teens want you to lose your temper so they have provoked a reaction. They also throw emotive accusations into the conversation, such as, “You don’t trust me,” and “You’ve always loved Johnny more than me.” Do not get distracted from the main topic by the use of one of these hooks.
Teens like being on their own for longer periods of time. Try to keep family times going by eating together and making regular 'dates' to do something they will enjoy. Remember this is a time when a young person’s self-esteem can take a nose dive and the incidence of self-harm is high so keep talking and you will be able to spot any worrying signs at an earlier stage.
This cannot be emphasised enough. Not only will this help you not to get so stressed but it will also completely confound your teenager. If your teen persists in shouting, moaning and complaining, walk away. If necessary lock yourself in the bathroom. It helps to know you are not alone and that it will eventually be over! Join a forum for single parents, such as Mumsnet, DadInfo and The Parent Connection.
“Get out of my Life…but first take me and Alex to town” by Suzanne Franks and Tony Wolf
“You just don’t listen” by Suzie Hayman
“The Five Love Languages of Teenagers” by Gary Chapman. Americanised English but the techniques remain the same!