[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”[/pullquote]
Your teenage son or daughter is bombarded with influences from more sources than any generation before them. Consider just a handful of the influences teens are faced with:
- School friends, peers and faculty
- Neighbourhood friends
- Celebrity influences like musicians, internet celebrities and others in the media spotlight
- Community leaders and laggards
- Romantic interests
- Siblings, extended family and you…their parents
- Employers at part-time jobs, or sports coaches and teammates
You likely feel like you’re fighting a losing battle sometimes when you are trying to influence your teen’s choices as they mature. There may be times when you feel like throwing in the towel, but short term perseverance will lead to long term gain.
Here’s how to become the role model, guide and confidant your teen needs you to be.
Tailor Your Approach
It’s likely you get no end of advice from your own friends, parents and social circles on how to best nurture your teen’s moral compass. Take the advice with appreciation, but act in the best interests of your family’s long term happiness. Adolescent men and women respond differently to different approaches, and they’ll evolve over time.
The more opportunities you can take to get your teen to unplug, unwind, and speak their mind openly, the better chance you will have to succeed. Avoid being confrontational, or judgemental with your son or daughter. It may cause them to retreat and stifle communication, especially if they suffer from insecurity or shyness.
Don’t be a Buddy or a Taskmaster
Striking the right balance between disciplinarian and pal takes work. You might miss the years when your child was a toddler or preteen, when their dilemmas were simpler, and they were less rebellious and filled with roaring hormones. You have to have be there to reward your teen when they follow the right path, but be willing to show measured discipline when they don’t.
Here are some elements of your personality which you’ll want to leverage most:
- Your sense of humour about yourself, and life lessons
- Patience and forgiveness
- Adaptability and having an open mind
- Fortitude to deliver consequences and reward consistently and as deserved
There are going to be times when your teen will try your patience. As parents, you want to show a united front when guiding your son and or daughter through their teen years, in good times and bad. If your teen sees Mom and Dad as being in different camps, they could play one side against the other.
Know When to Lead, Observe and/or Insert Yourself
There are some case where you need to trust your teen to try something, and succeed or fail. Allowing a teen to test boundaries is often better than sheltering them from the consequences making mistakes. If they want to try something that is:
- Legal and moral
- Won’t break the rules of their social sphere
- Doesn’t cause longterm, negative consequences
Build their trust by letting your teen exercise some independence, but be prepared to support them if they fail without judgement. The teen years are a pivotal time for every person’s development to independence, and you need to know when to take off the training wheels.
In terms of friends, both of the same and opposite sex, it’s especially important to create an environment where your teen is comfortable introducing you to their friends. Creating tension when a friend is around could drive some relationships “underground”, and you’ll lose your opportunity to be an influence should relationships get toxic.
Do your best to have relationships in your own life which set a good example for how to treat friends and loved ones. Whether Mom and Dad are together or separated/divorced, the best gift you can give to your child is to have as much friendly, positive communication in their lives as possible. A reasonable amount of respect goes a long way to building your teen’s confidence and trust.
Parenting expert, Dr. Ron Taffel said of parenting teens,
“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”
Though it’s tempting to steer your teen towards the smoothest, least travelled roads in life, sometimes you have to let them get a few flat tires and scratched fenders along the road to a responsible adulthood.