Change Your Parenting Style during the Teen Years
- Monday, July 27, 2009
The aim is to stop assuming they know what their child is thinking, or making the same kind of demands as when they were younger, and develop strong listening skills.
The method for changing the way you listen addresses both sides of the “listening’ issues. Zip your lip and open your ears. Sit directly in front of your teen when they are talking and listen intently. It is a simple concept with staggering ramifications. Start listening. Stop reacting. Stop ignoring. If you must ask a question, ask only that which allows you to further your listening, and keep quiet while they answer. This brings me to my next point….
Change What You are Willing to Talk About
Christian parents are sometimes so protective of their values and beliefs that they send the wrong message to their teen – one that says, “We can’t talk about that – because talking about it will make it seem as if I approve.” One sure way to build a wall between you and your teen is to make them feel that there are things you will simply not discuss.
The aim is to change the way you talk with your teen and what you are willing to talk about. Build opportunities for discussion -- a two-way conversation that takes interest in what each of you has to say, while exploring new ideas.
For most parents, the method involves spending more time listening and less time sharing your opinion. It also involves waiting until you are invited to give your opinion before offering it. Try, “I’ve thought a lot about what you’re saying, I respect you – so, what do you think should happen next?” You will find that the more you ask this question, without offering your own ideas, the more your teen will pursue discussing his options with you. He’ll even come up with options he’d never thought of before, just because you are listening.
Change Your Attitudes About Your Parenting
Parents believe that what they do in raising their child in the younger years will carry that child through to his older years. For example, they go to church, walk in godly ways, study the Bible, go to Christian camp or summer mission trips. It is a deceptive self-comfort that we settle into in parenting -- if we just do “these things” our teen will turn out fine.
In reality, this attitude sets some parents up for disappointment, and it can become a rigid wall to run into when a teen begins to struggle. In my work with Christian parents and teens, it is usually harder to get the parents to change, than it is to change the behavior of the teenager. But both must go hand in hand when it comes to working through a time of struggle.
The aim is to change your attitude about how successful you’ve been in parenting, and learning to view parenting as a more fluid, more accessible, and more grace-filled position in the life of your child that evolves over time. There is no perfect parent and no perfect parenting plan. So, you shouldn’t always expect a perfect child.
The method involved in changing your attitudes and expectations is two-fold:
1. Move from seeking justice for their mistakes to giving more grace. Focus on finding more of what is right in their life, instead of always focusing on what is wrong. Pick your fights wisely and avoid nitpicking. There are important things and values you need to care about, but there are less important things that are best left to the teen’s discretion. When given discretion over those less important things – like clothing, as long as it is modest -- your teen will feel a sense of responsibility and may surprise you with how well he chooses. Or, he may admit later that his choices were really childish – but he’d probably dig in his heels and not come to such a conclusion if it was a point of contention between him and you.
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