Parenting a Teen

The title alone may have brought on anxiety for you, I know it tends to for me. I have a 13-year-old son that let’s just say some days are good and others, not so good. The annual doctor’s appointment for my teenage son still sticks into my mind as the Pediatrician looked at my wife and I and told us, “Some days will be better than others” as she went on to discuss hormones and other changes that occur naturally. My wife and I glanced at each other, then expressed understanding regarding the changes in mood and body. It’s interesting how you can look at your own flesh and blood, remember how cute they were as younger kids and wonder what happened, ax if as parents we did something wrong to have a shift to someone that at times is a stranger. I don’t want to make it sound as if our eldest son is a nightmare that isn’t the case but sometimes, he is so moody that he is best to stay in his room and handle from a distance for a little bit.

Not long ago, I had a chance to catch-up with one of my friend’s mothers whom I hadn’t spoke with in a while. We discussed having teenagers, she said to me that one of the biggest light bulb moments was when she looked at her sons and they were taller than her. She went on to say that she in these moments realized the need to talk with them as “young adults.” The problem from her perspective and experiences was trying to treat her sons like they were still little kids as this often brought about tension and arguments. However, she found that when treating them as they were versus as a little kid, conversations, disagreements tended to go better. I appreciated this conversation as it was very helpful for me.

One of the balances my wife and I have had to make in terms of parenting three boys, one of whom is a teen, the middle being 12 and the youngest 7 years old, is that of give and take. What I mean is that our eldest son needs to be able to do things that perhaps our youngest could not. We needed to show our eldest son that until he proved unable, to have more responsibility. In our household, this looked like being able to stay home alone for a brief period of time, for instance if he didn’t want to go to church or while we run to the grocery store. It is necessary however, to talk with your kids as we have ours, to NEVER answer the door for a stranger, keep the doors locked and to use the cell phone for emergencies and for when we call to check-in. Also, we talk with our kids about calling 911 for emergencies only! These steps have all been taken in order to prepare and educate our kids on how to handle different situations and remain safe.

Through the ability to do things differently than his younger siblings, our eldest son seems to show appreciation in different ways, your kids maybe different, our son will at times be more willing to do things we ask, practice responsibility in other areas of his life, meaning that if he says he is doing something he will often be doing just that, he as no one it isn’t perfect but it’s getting better. My point to drive home to you is that, change needs to come from us as parents as well as the changes from our young adults. Often times, parents point to the kids as the one’s needing to change but that is a cop-out. If you want to get stuck in a negative pattern of interactions by treating your teen as a little kid and them getting upset then you get upset be my guest, but I can tell you it is worth trying to show them that you see they are growing-up. In some cases, I feel it is fear and loss of our young, cute kids that causes us to try and hold on to the thoughts of how they used to be that brings the tension. We then try and treat them as we did when they were younger which leads to push back. But if we can respect the changes, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them, talk respectfully with these young adults and work through our own emotions, things may just get better and we may feel like we have more control over the situations that arise.

Disclaimer: If your son and or daughter, regardless of age have shown an inability and or unwillingness to be trusted and give more responsibility then as the parent, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them in a responsible and appropriate manner. The example I gave is regarding my son and as noted above, kids are not all the same regardless of age and you probably know your child better. At the very least, allow the post to be food for thought.