Parenting can be tough, especially when it comes to dealing with teens. Adolescence means lots of changes, and the child you knew is turning into an adult. Keep your relationship with your teen running smoothly by avoiding these key mistakes.
Expecting the worst
Every parent has heard at least one horror story about teens and drugs, underage drinking, shoplifting and skipping school (or worse), but that doesn’t mean every teen is going to make bad decisions or choose an unhealthy path. It’s good to be mindful of what your teen is doing, but avoid expecting the worst from them. Show your teen you have confidence in their ability to make sound decisions, and then ideally your teen will make them.
Constantly checking in on your teen and hovering around them every chance you get is just going to frustrate them. The more frustrated they get with your hovering, the less they’ll actually want to be around you, and you’ll find either your teen avoiding you or arguments breaking out. Give your teen space to show trust and acknowledgment that they deserve some time to be on their own.
Treating your teen like a kid
It can be hard for some parents to accept that their child is growing up or to believe this not-quite adult can make decisions for themselves. But continuing to treat your teen like a child is just going to cause resentment toward you. It’s hard to let go and let your teen grow up, but your relationship with them will be much better if you do.
Not embracing their new interests
Chances are your teen is no longer interested in things they were as a child. There will be new wardrobe choices, new music and new hobbies. Resist the temptation to make negative comments about what your teen is wearing or their choice in music. You don’t have to like these things, but it can help maintain your bond if you embrace rather than disparage what they’re interested in.
Worrying about the little things
Constantly worrying about small issues — your teen was five minutes past curfew or listens to really loud music or doesn’t spend as much time at the dinner table as they used to — will just make you crazy. Step back and accept that things will be different now, and try to give your teen the benefit of the doubt rather than stressing about every little change or small misstep.
Ignoring the bigger issues
As much as it can be emotionally draining to constantly sweat the small stuff, you also can’t ignore any glaring issues that arise. If your teen is acting totally out of character, skipping classes or hanging out with people that are an obvious negative influence, or if you teen is showing signs of drug use or otherwise unhealthy behaviour, you need to step in. Don’t assume the worst, but if you know something isn’t right, it’s time to address it.
Disciplining too much
No one wants to deal with a teen who doesn’t listen or who is disrespectful of household rules, but getting angry and doling out punishment for every small mistake will make it very hard to maintain a positive relationship with your teen. Pick your battles wisely — if it’s not worth an argument, just let it go.
Not disciplining enough
When it comes to discipline, you need to find a balance. Being too harsh doesn’t work, but neither does being too lax. You don’t want your teen to think they rule the house and can come and go as they please, not paying any mind to things like curfew or other rules in place to ensure their safety. So don’t let your teen get away with everything. Step in when they cross the line, or they will continue to cross it.
Like hovering, nagging doesn’t work. You might really want your teen to clean their room, but asking them 16 times a day to do it isn’t effective. If something really needs to get done (an assignment for tomorrow or a commitment to do something), explain that X or Y really is not something they can opt out of. But continually nagging about things that don’t matter in the long run will just cause unnecessary strife at home.
Focusing more on being their friend
Sure, you want to remain close to your teen, but there needs to be a balance between being their friend and being their parent. Absolutely, embrace their new likes and even try to share in them, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you still need to be a parent. Discipline your teen when the situation calls for it, and ensure your teen is thriving both at home and at school.
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