How to Find the Human Within Your Teenager
Parents often wonder if there is a human lurking inside their teenager, or whether they have been switched in the night for an alien! In Is Your Teenager Human? I outlined the problems, and here I offer some advice on how to enjoy life with your teen.
The first thing to do is to stop worrying until you know there is something worth worrying about. Anxiety will make you tense with your teenager and this won’t help the situation. So try and relax when you are around them.
Don’t Force Confidences
Secondly don’t try and force them to talk to you. As you will have noticed, twenty questions will put your teenagers back up pretty quickly. My son will never answer more than two questions, so I have to make sure they are good ones! If you want your teenager to talk then it has to be when they are ready for it and on their terms. My daughter often volunteers information when we are out shopping together, so a change of scenery can help.
If your teenager does tell you a piece of news which you find shocking; they smoke, are gay, have dabbled in drugs or don’t want to go to college, try not to over-react. Listen without making judgements and try to understand why. If you react with shock or anger then they will be less likely to confide in you next time. But be sure to consider professional help if you feel it is needed.
Be interested in what your teenager likes (but not too interested or you’ll creep them out!). You may not like their music, clothes or friends, but try not to criticise. Criticising your teenagers choices is like criticising them.
If you are really unhappy with your teenager’s behaviour then tell them. But don’t shout or nag at them as they’ll switch off from you. They’ll be much more likely to listen if you sit them down and explain in a calm manner what you don’t like and why you don’t like it;
Have Ground Rules
Establish rules with your teenager, such as times for getting home and being on the internet, or a certain standard of polite behaviour. If the rules are broken then establish consequences such as priveliges being withdrawn. Be sure that everyone know the results of breaking the household rules.
But Not Too Many
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You don’t want to have too many rules or your home will seem like a prison and there will be constant conflict. I choose to overlook messy bedrooms (if they want to live in a pig sty it is up to them!) and a certain amount of moroseness, but establish rules about things I consider important, like personal safety and homework.
Always speak to your teenager with respect and you are more likely to get the same back. If you shout and swear, then so will they. If you bark orders at them like a sargeant major, then expect mutiny. However, if you involve them in decisions about their life, they’re more likely to be co-operative.
Practise What You Preach
Teenager’s don’t like hypocrisy. You can’t tell them not to smoke, not to drink heavily, or not to stay out all night if they see you doing it yourself. I know a Dad who is always telling his daughter off for not reading, but has never been known to pick up a book himself! Behave as you would like them to behave and they will respect you, even if they don’t always listen to you!
It Will Pass
Don’t take it personally. Your teenager loves you, even if they don’t show it, and needs you, even if they won’t admit it. This awkward stage will pass and your teenager will be grateful one day for your love and support at this difficult time in their life. And look on the bright side, what parent would get the computer, the Wii, or their phone to function properly without the technical assistance of their teen? How would you stay young at heart without your teen? How would you be up-to-date with all the latest fads without your teen?
Your teenager is human, they just do a great job of covering it up! You may be mourning the loss of the child you knew and wondering who switched them in the night! But your child hasn’t left. They are still in there somewhere. So don’t be fooled by a surface veneer of grumpiness or aloofness. Just be there for them, don’t stop showing them that you love them, and one day they will thank you for it.