- Treat them as people
- Stop calling issues “teenage problems”
- Relationship first, always
- Autonomy supportive
- Emotional supportive
- Monitor peer influence
- Mental health care
- Your patience will pay off
A lot of parents dread thinking about the teenage years.
What to do about the mood swings, the risky behaviors, the defiance, the disrespect, and the irresponsibility of this developmental stage?
Here are the tips to help you navigate this phase with ease.
Treat them as people
This is not the same as treating them as friends.
Treating them as people means treating teenagers as separate entities independent from you with their own thoughts and feelings, which are quite different from yours most of the time.
Treat them as another person, like any other people or strangers on the street, without presumptions about what they are or are not thinking.
If your teenager talks to you in a rude, disrespectful way, do not assume they are.
There could be many reasons, such as being tired, having just fought with their best friend, or not paying attention to their tone.
You won’t know for sure unless you ask.
Because parents of teens, like all people, cannot read minds.
Tell them directly, “Wow, this is so rude. Are you being disrespectful, or is there something else going on here?
Oftentimes, you’d be surprised by the answer.
If they confirm they are being disrespectful intentionally, ask them why.
What happened between you two?
Dealing with it is similar to dealing with other people, not little kids or big kids, which means we cannot assume we are always right and they are always wrong.
We need to hear them out.
When we treat them as reasonable young people, they will start acting like one.
Your parenting will become a lot easier.
Stop calling issues “teenage problems”
Teenage problems only appear during the adolescent years, don’t they?
Why can’t we use that term?
The issue is not the term but how we use it.
It’s easy to blame everything on hormonal changes or the malleable adolescent brains.
But if we generalize all the problems into one thing, we risk forgetting and ignoring the underlying causes.
Unless we acknowledge a significant problem exists and is not just a result of adolescence, we cannot address the problem.
Relationship first, always
People of any age benefit from a close relationship with their parents, which is especially important for teens.
Research shows that the more teenagers feel connected to their family, the less they are associated with emotional distress, suicidality, drinking, substance use, and early sexual behaviors.1
Parent-child relationships should be every parent’s top priority, not grades or household chores.
Address any relationship problems early on, and don’t let them perpetuate.
Negative relationships beget more negativity2 , which can become a downward spiral.3
Don’t put your relationship with your teenager on the back burner.
Your positive relationship with your child is why you had kids (right?)
When disciplining, adopt a warm, responsive parenting style, become an authoritative parent, and use disciplinary measures that don’t damage your relationship.
Additionally, let the whole family have meals together every day.
Make this a quality time to connect, check in with each other, and have family conversations to strengthen your relationship.
Your teen will be much more motivated to do chores and get good grades when you have a strong bond with them.
This approach is much better than punishing them until they comply.
Your teenager’s ability to make choices and act on them freely is crucial to adolescent development.4
Children who are allowed to do that tend to have better academic performance, social functioning, social skills, motivation, mental health5, competence, engagement, and positive attitudes toward school.
You can become an autonomy-supportive parent by acknowledging their viewpoints, encouraging them to explore, allowing them to make their own decisions, and placing minimal control on them.6
Be flexible and keep lines of communication open so they will confide in you when they encounter problems.
During adolescence, teenagers are programmed to transform their relationships with their parents into less hierarchy and more autonomy to prepare them for an independent adult life.7
Autonomy does not mean letting them do whatever they want.
Let them decide but coach them along the way, teaching them how to think critically about solving problems in daily life.
Reasoning and critical thinking are important life skills teenagers need to succeed.
If they want to act on a bad decision, ask them how they’d feel about the bad outcome that’ll likely occur.
Sometimes, teenagers just need some reminding to see the natural consequences to become a responsible teen.
We all want the best for our children.
It’s scary to let go of control, but it will make your parenting life much easier and prepare your child for life as a young adult.
Teen years are a time of emotional instability, rapid mood swings, and sometimes drama.
Become their emotional coach to help them with their emotional development.
Let your teenager know that you’re their secure base.
You will always be here to support them and love them unconditionally.
They are free to explore the world; when they need you, they can count on you to be there.
Monitor peer influence
Watch your child’s social circle closely, but not intrusively.
One important aspect of adolescence is developing the ability to form strong bonds and friendships.
Being exposed to significant problematic behavior within their peer groups is unavoidable.
Parental monitoring can prevent deviant peer pressure or influence, such as drug use and juvenile delinquency.8
Monitoring your teen’s activities while allowing autonomy means you rely on them to tell you.
Having solid relationships based on trust is crucial.9
Once again, it is all about the relationship.
Also See: Teenage Attitude
Mental health care
During adolescence, teenage brains are more malleable than they will ever be again.10
But this is also a peak time when many mental illnesses develop.
Stress-related mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, unhealthy weight control, drug abuse, suicide attempts, body dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem are rampant within this period.11
Approximately 20% of teenagers suffer from a mental illness that will be carried into adulthood.12
Help your teen establish a routine to exercise, eat healthily, and get 8 to 10 hours of sleep to promote mental well-being.13
If you notice or suspect your teenager is struggling with psychological issues, seek professional help immediately.
Your patience will pay off
To help your child develop, your understanding is paramount as your child may have unpredictable mood swings than usual. It is not personal.
But things will eventually fall into place as long as you prioritize your relationship and work on it.
Take a deep breath when you are frustrated.
Think about how you would choose 20 years from now. Will homework still bother you then, or will your relationship (or the lack thereof)?
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- 1.Ackard DM, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Perry C. Parent–Child Connectedness and Behavioral and Emotional Health Among Adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published online January 2006:59-66. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.09.013
- 2.Kim KJ, Conger RD, Lorenz FO, Elder GH. Parent–adolescent reciprocity in negative affect and its relation to early adult social development. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2001:775-790. doi:10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.115
- 3.Belsky J, Jaffee S, Hsieh KH, Silva PA. Child-rearing antecedents of intergenerational relations in young adulthood: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2001:801-813. doi:10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.1681
- 4.Soenens B, Vansteenkiste M, Lens W, et al. Conceptualizing parental autonomy support: Adolescent perceptions of promotion of independence versus promotion of volitional functioning. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2007:633-646. doi:10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.1243
- 5.Brenning K, Soenens B, Van Petegem S, Vansteenkiste M. Perceived Maternal Autonomy Support and Early Adolescent Emotion Regulation: A Longitudinal Study. Social Development. Published online January 15, 2015:561-578. doi:10.1111/sode.12107
- 6.Deci EL, Ryan RM. Self-Determination Theory. Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Volume 1. Published online 2012:416-437. doi:10.4135/9781446249215.n21
- 7.Laursen B, Collins WA. Parent-Child Relationships During Adolescence. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology. Published online October 30, 2009. doi:10.1002/9780470479193.adlpsy002002
- 8.Dishion TJ, McMahon RJ. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. Published online 1998:61-75. doi:10.1023/a:1021800432380
- 9.Dishion TJ, Nelson SE, Bullock BM. Premature adolescent autonomy: parent disengagement and deviant peer process in the amplification of problem behaviour. Journal of Adolescence. Published online October 2004:515-530. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2004.06.005
- 10.Kieling C, Baker-Henningham H, Belfer M, et al. Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: evidence for action. The Lancet. Published online October 2011:1515-1525. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(11)60827-1
- 11.Romeo RD. The impact of stress on the structure of the adolescent brain: Implications for adolescent mental health. Brain Research. Published online January 2017:185-191. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2016.03.021
- 12.Lee FS, Heimer H, Giedd JN, et al. Adolescent mental health–Opportunity and obligation. Science. Published online October 30, 2014:547-549. doi:10.1126/science.1260497
- 13.Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. Published online March 2015:40-43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010