In a previous article I addressed five “Don’ts” or five mistakes to avoid in parenting your child. For this article I would like to do the reverse and examine five positive strategies that can help you as a parent experience more success with your teen.
1) Tune in to your child’s feelings. This means to listen – really listen. Listen to their feelings. Listen to their needs. Listen to what is important to them. As parents, it is easy to discount these things because they are “kids” and we often think that their feelings and needs are secondary to our own. This is both selfish and disrespectful on our part. If we desire for them to become respectful individuals who care about the needs of others, we had better begin by role modeling this for them.
2) Tune in to our child’s temperament. Many parents attempt to mold their child to be just like them. Oh, they may read this and say “not me.” Yet they then proceed to force their child to dress to their standards, pressure them to attend college at their alma mater, and so on. Our children are unique individuals. Sometimes their temperament is similar to ours but often it is not. It is our job to foster and encourage their particular “bent.”
3) Set limits. This can be a challenge. Some parents wish to set rigid strict limits on everything. They see this as somehow protecting their child. Instead it delays the child’s opportunity to learn needed decision making skills. The other extreme is to set few or no limits because we are afraid that we will interfere with our child’s happiness. This is just as dangerous. Teenagers do not yet have the life experiences and maturity to operate without limits. Therefore, it is imperative that we find appropriate limits within which our student’s have freedom to make decisions. While they are still living at home is a great time and a safe place to practice decision making in real life situations. If they have no freedom until they leave home and their first real decision making is on their own, we are setting them up for disasters.
4) Provide positive reinforcement. Too often we, as parents, become masters at finding fault and criticizing our teen’s every fault and misdeed. Maybe this negative approach is how we were parented and so, even though we hated it as teens and it didn’t work best, we still do it. This approach does nothing to encourage our kids or show our support. Instead, work at catching your child doing good. To keep a healthy balance, criticisms aimed at our child (or our spouse) should be outweighed by at least three-to-one positive interactions, especially physical affection.
5) Let your child experience the natural consequences of his or her behavior. Children learn responsibility from consequences of their decisions. For example, Alex, after repeated reminders, once again leaves his lunch or lunch money on the table. He calls from school saying that he forgot his lunch. If the parent rushes to school with the lunch, Alex learned a lesson – “I don’t have to remember my lunch because mom or dad will bring it to me.” However, if Alex goes hungry (it is ok, he won’t die), he will also learn a lesson – “Man, if I don’t make it a priority to remember my lunch, I can get awful hungry. I had better remember my lunch in the future.” Set your kids up well for the future – allow them to learn lessons NOW that will assist them in making better decisions down the road.