To all of you parents out there, you are brave! Parenting a teenager is H-A-R-D. I’ve heard many parents say that raising a teen (or pre-teen) feels similar to the disorientation that comes from holding their first newborn child in their arms.
In this post, I’ll give you 3 insights about your child that will be a game changer. These tips will hopefully tell you something you didn’t already know about your teen and give you a different perspective on how to approach them. They will help give you focus and keep your cool during those difficult parenting moments.
They need love and physical affection
Even though they might fight you on it, don’t believe what they say! Your teen is still your little baby boy or girl inside a maturing body. Teens need physical affection from their parents even though they might look like an adult who can take care of themselves. In her book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” Dr. Meg Meeker speaks about how crucial the father-daughter relationship is. Dr. Meeker says that all too often fathers underestimate their importance in their daughters’ lives and might withdraw too quickly. She says that girls between the ages of 10 and 17 have a strong need for male attention, affirmation, affection, and touch. This means that if a girl is not getting enough physical affection from her Dad, then she is more likely to seek that from male friendships or sexual relationships.
Boys on the other hand, can assert their independence and be more strongly outspoken about not wanting Mom or Dad to show them physical affection. They may protest, but they need it all the same. You just might have to be a bit sneakier about how you show them physical affection. A pat on the back or a side hug can still respect a boy’s (or girl’s) personal space while reminding them that mom or dad is there no matter what. Don’t underestimate the power of an affectionate gaze or a deep compliment/statement of affection either. That can go a long way when your child is being resistant to physical touch.
They still need to be monitored!
I’ve worked with families in the past whose children as young as 12 and 13 were acting as if they were 23: Staying out all hours of the night, coming and going from the home without asking for permission, maintaining friendships with people significantly older than them, etc. It was so difficult for those parents to have their child listen to a simple request such as taking out the trash, spending time together, or doing the dishes. Since those children had complete unmonitored independence, they were unwilling to do what their parents asked of them, even if it was minor.
It is imperative that you set firm boundaries with your pre-teen and teen. You must do this despite their constant reminders of “I’m 14!” as if that means they’ve automatically earned the right to pretend they are older than they really are. Think of it as applying the same parenting logic as to when they were two. Your child was visibly unhappy when you took the knife away and when you prevented them from running in the street, however, you knew better and you still had to regulate them despite their being upset. Guess what? You still know better.
Just because they can put up a better argument does not mean that they don’t need your boundaries and guidance to keep them safe and to prepare them for adulthood. The real world is not about freedom without limits, the real world has many limits and it’s up to you to make sure they are capable of living within authority and limits and that they stay safe.
They will appreciate family time later on
“Oooohh, man! Do we have to have family movie night tonight??? This is so stupid, all we’re gonna do is watch something boring. I want to go to the mall with my friends. I’m too old for this movie night thing anyway!”
Sound familiar? Don’t let it intimidate you. You might have to enforce a few family nights (not at the expense of keeping the atmosphere light, happy, welcoming, and relaxing of course) but within a few fast years your teen will develop into a more confident adult because you were able to provide them with the stability and security that family is important and that they are important to you. Think back to some of your fondest childhood memories… I bet most of them involved a happy time with a family member. Your child may moan and groan, but one day they will look back and know they are loved and feel secure in that. And you will be the one who gave them that gift.
Don’t lose heart; you are not being too harsh by having regular family fun nights. As long as you are enforcing family night with a smile and not turning it into a “fun-draining-arguing-night,” these evenings will bring positive lifetime memories for years to come. Make sure every family member knows what night of the week the family night is. Make sure your teen knows not to make plans with friends on that evening (If possible, plan family night during the week so that they still have the weekend to themselves; this will reduce arguments). Make sure it is clear that no electronic devices are allowed to be used during family night (unless necessary for the joint family activity).
If your child comes to you with a request to miss family night, simply and gently remind them that they know what day it is and that they can schedule time with their friends another night. If they throw a tantrum and go into their room, allow them a few minutes to calm down. Before you begin the family night activity, either you or your spouse can invite them to join. If they refuse, continue the activity without them. If they choose to sit alone in their room without electronic devices, it won’t be long before they realize they are missing out on some fun! If your family night has multiple activities planned, one parent could attempt to invite your teen to join again just before the start of another activity. For example, “Hey, we’re done playing UNO and Dad won again. Too many Draw 4’s! We’re about to have some ice cream, do you want to join?” If your child still refuses, let them be. Discuss with your spouse at the end of the night how to speak with you teen later that evening or the following day. Be sure to include how much you love them and how family night was not the same without them and how you’d really love it if they would join next time. Once your child knows that you’re serious about spending time together they will begin to participate and eventually even begin to look forward to it!
Be sure that you and your partner are committed to family night as well. Remember, children learn from example. If you want your teen to make this time a priority, you must be completely committed to family night too. This includes not watching the big game on TV, getting work done, taking phone calls, etc. Keep family night a sacred time and your children will follow your lead.
And there you have your 3 tips! Even though you might feel like you’re going crazy hearing your teen complain and constantly resist your requests, if you can keep these 3 points in the back of your mind, you can rest easier knowing that you are always giving your child what he or she needs. Now get out there, give your kid a pat on the back, call a family meeting and lay the ground rules for your first family fun night!
Do you have a particularly difficult teenager or a difficult time with your teen? Consider scheduling a time to speak with a counselor. To see if counseling might be right for your child visit www.reginaboyd.com.