Ahh, Mother’s Day! Breakfast in bed, flowers, sweetly crayoned card, matching mother/daughter outfits, smiling kids posing for pictures? Mmm, probably not, if you have a teenager! Perhaps you’re lucky and your teen surprised you on May 13. In any event, even though Mother’s Day is over for this year, it provides a good opportunity to reflect on how to you relate to your teen. So, here’s a discussion of ways to keep and maintain a close relationship between the two of you.
Do Your Best to Listen
Once your child becomes a teenager, they think they know your views about everything under the sun. After all, you’ve been giving them your opinions on things for their entire lifetime. Now, it’s much more important that you listen to them. When you take the time to listen, it’s more likely that your teen will end up asking for your views and advice. Opinions, when asked for, are more likely to be taken to heart than opinions rendered before giving your teen a chance to say anything.
Use Criticism Sparingly
Although parenting involves sometimes offering criticism to a teen, the way you do it is crucial to staying on good terms. Use criticism sparingly and try to do it in as kindly a manner as possible. Even adults have trouble handling a barrage of disapproval, so don’t expect your teen to react well to it. A hail of constant criticism will likely be met with silence and a closed door to your teen’s room.
Learn the Best Way to Ask Questions
Don’t pepper your teen with questions without even waiting for answers – “Where were you?” “Who were you with?” “What were you doing?” Here’s a video which perfectly illustrates this. Ask a question, but then sit back and listen. If your teen doesn’t respond, try simply saying “I’m listening,” but not in a demanding tone of voice. A pause gives your teen permission to gather their thoughts and can lead to a worthwhile conversation.
Keep Your Thoughts About Your Teen Private
Many parents in social gatherings or online seem to think that it’s normal to talk about how their teens have ruined their lives. Even if your teen isn’t there, what you say may get back to them. And, if your teen is standing in a corner of the room hearing you, imagine how they must feel. The same goes for stories about your teen (either at the age they are now or when they were younger) which they will find embarrassing.
Choose What to Make a Stand Over
Teens face many significant issues, so does it really matter if they don’t make their bed every day. If you don’t engage in battles with your teen over small things, they will be more likely to listen to you on bigger issues. Base your rules on sensible guiding principles and let the non-important stuff slide. Most teenagers are doing their best to manage complicated lives, so cut them some slack when they forget to do the dishes.
Apologies Are Important
Every time you raise your voice to your teen or unjustifiably punish them, you’re erecting a brick wall between you and your teen. If you mess up, don’t just let things go. Apologize to your teen, and tell them that you’ll try to do better in future. Your teen will feel better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be setting a good example of a positive habit that your teen can follow with their friends.
Appearances Aren’t Everything
Teens are very sensitive about their appearance, so try to avoid pouring on the critiques and advice. If your teen adopts the latest teen fashion, gets a purple streak in their hair, or gets a nose stud, try regarding these things as fun (because they are!) and recognize that your teen will eventually outgrow them. Outright and persistent disapproval will only lead to more outrageous appearances.
Praise Your Teen’s Efforts
Don’t indulge in comparing your teen unfavorably to their siblings, their cousin, the teen of the neighbors next door, or their friends. If your teen plays sports, don’t scold and belittle your teen for not performing as well as the team star. If they didn’t receive the drama award or get on the spelling bee team, tell them it’s ok and you know they did their best.
Above All, Use Your Good Sense
Creating a happy, loving, open relationship with your teen is far more powerful than any form of discipline. You can maintain a good rapport with your teen and still expect them to get good grades, read books, not use swear words, wash the dishes, help the neighbors mow their lawn, etc. They may even take over the household chores on next year’s Mother’s Day! However, in spite of your best efforts, you may be having problems with your teen that you don’t know how to solve. At Doorways, our counselors are trained in how to relate to teens, so set up a free consultation with us to see how we can help you.