Don't Be Blindsided by the Teen Years
- Friday, March 12, 2010
Parents with children in the "tween" years should pat themselves on the back for a job well done! After a decade of protecting and nurturing their growing child, parenting can become easier at this time. But they would be wise to consider this "breather period" as a time to prepare for the teen years and make the appropriate adjustments in their parenting style.
When your child reaches the "tween" years, parenting can seem to smooth out and become easier, but those who have been through this stage might call it, "the calm before the storm." The parent of a "tween-ager" may be tempted to think, "Why change the way I relate to my child, since things are going so well right now?" Here's why...in a year or two your teen will begin to earnestly seek independence. They will spend more time away from you and your home, and they'll become influenced by their culture and friends.
When kids begin thinking and reasoning for themselves, their parents may realize too late that they haven't properly shifted their own parenting style to accommodate for a more self-willed and self-sufficient child. They can therefore be surprised and dismayed at the rift it creates in their relationship.
Lacking a strong relationship with parents, teenagers who are spending more time away from home begin thinking they are in control and that their parents are irrelevant and totally out of synch with them and the world. A parent who hasn't learned to shift their style of parenting will see their child pull away from them at this time. To their dismay, they'll see their teen making immature decisions that can lead them down the wrong path in life.
To prevent your child from pulling away from you, here are a few suggestions for changing your parenting style for the next decade of your child's life. Implementing these suggestions will provide a more stable line of defense by keeping you and your teen in a closer relationship; minimizing the possibility you'll be blindsided by the storms of adolescence.
Change 1: Give Your Teen Room to Decide on Their Own, Within Boundaries
First, realize that your child no longer needs or wants you to control their every move. So major on the majors and avoid hovering over your teen. Demanding that they follow your lead is counterproductive to their maturing process. It gets in the way of the greater goal of teaching them how to think for themselves and it can spoil the opportunity for them to flex their options-seeking and decision-making muscles.
So, allow them to learn how to solve their own problems through finding their own answers. Don't force your opinions or directives on them about the less significant matters in their life. Establish and enforce age-appropriate and moral boundaries to corral their behavior, but within those boundaries, allow them to make most of their own decisions. They will probably not make the right decisions at first, but failing a few times will teach them the right answer or at least to seek other alternatives the next time. Your job in the teen years is not to hawk over them and rescue them, as you did when they were younger, but to guide and encourage them.
Change 2: Focus on Building Character More than Demanding Obedience
Secondly, change the focus and intent of your rules from protection to character-building. The most important character-building qualities your child will develop include keeping commitments and living honestly and respectfully. So, set up boundaries and rules in regard to these qualities, and seek out situations where character can be developed. For example, help them find a job where they will be held accountable for arriving on time. Let them volunteer and help those less fortunate while at the same time taking on leadership and responsibility. Assign the strongest penalties and consequences for character misjudgments, such as displays of disrespect, lying and cheating.
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