The Blog

Parenting teens: A New Year’s countdown of helpful advice

As we approach the end of both the year and the decade, here’s a countdown of what I think are the most helpful pieces of advice for parents of teenagers. You may be disappointed that certain favourites did not make the list, such as “Give them lots of money so they have nothing to complain about,” “Forbid them from having any contact whatsoever with other teenagers,” and “Threaten to come to their school at lunchtime and do a five-minute dance outside the cafeteria window unless they behave better.” I have a feeling these will serve you better.

10. Do not invest too much energy into making sure that your teen is totally honest with you.

Teenagers lie. Some don’t, but most do. Better to understand that there are some things that you cannot trust your teen about and act accordingly.

9. If your teen points out your flaws – and he will – don’t get defensive and angry.

Accept that you do have flaws, but that’s okay. It is a wonderful model for teens to see. They know they have lots of flaws, and it’s good for them to see that you can be a confident adult even if you’re far from perfect.

8. Don’t try too hard to correct teenage character flaws.

First of all, you can’t. But second, you may be fighting a battle you have already won. Most teens have a far more immature version of themselves that comes out at home with you. But they have a much better version that surfaces out in the world, and in a few years it will come out with you as well.

7. Once you truly decide on an unpopular stance, you have to be willing to see it through.

It is excellent to sometimes change your mind in response to their arguments. But if your teen wears you down regularly, she learns that if she’s not getting her way, all she needs to do is argue even more. So pick and choose your battles.

6. It’s not personal.

You may feel that any negativity directed at you by your teen reflects his genuine personal dislike of you. That is, after all, what they say.

“I hate you. I really do hate you.”

But it’s not you, it’s the teenage allergy, which you don’t need to and can’t do anything about anyway. Fortunately, if you just wait, the allergy goes away. And then they like you again.

5. The best that you get with most teenagers is partial control. That’s not so bad.

Teenagers follow rules most of the time, sort of. With most teens your rules do have significant power in controlling them, but not perfectly. Don’t be discouraged. Hang in there. You have more power than you think.

4. Battle day-to-day teenage grumpiness with an upbeat mood.

Parents who always respond to teenage negativity with criticism only make it worse.

“How was your day?”

“Lousy as usual.”

“Why do you always have to be so negative? Do you understand how unpleasant you can be?”

In doing so, you are in effect harmonizing with their teenagers downbeat mood – and usually doomed to a continuing cycle of unpleasantness.

Much better: “Well, my day was nice. I had a good day.”

3. When making an unpopular decision, don’t try too hard to convince your teen that you’re right.

You won’t be able to. But you will find yourself in an endlessly escalating argument.

2. When setting limits, the basis of your authority is not because you are right, but because you are their parent.

If all decisions require that you are right, then you leave yourself open to constant arguing. You may not always be right, but certainly you do what you feel to be in your children’s best interest, and it is your responsibility – as long as they are still children – to make those decisions.

“I am sorry you do not agree with what I have decided, but in my judgment I think this is best. When you are older it will be up to you, but for now you are still stuck with me as your parent.”

And the winner, by a considerable margin …

1. When you are going against what they want, and you have truly made up your mind, disengage as fast as you can.

Because they will not. Anything more that you have to say to what they have to say, the only thing that happens – the only thing – is that it gets worse and worse.

Source: Toronto Globe and Mail



*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility or any Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility member.*