Originally published Tuesday, 25 September 2012.
Do you sometimes feel like your pre-teen or teen is sticking his finger in his ears, so as to deliberately NOT hear what you are teaching them? Boy, I sure do! There have been times on my parenting journey that I was convinced I was absolutely failing as a mother (confessions of a parenting expert!) and that everyone was doing this parenting thing better than me. Through my writings, I try to be very genuine about my failures and triumphs, because I know so many of you struggle through those difficult teen years, too. Here are a few things I have learned about parenting my own teens. Maybe one or two can help you, too.
#1) Display in your home what you want duplicated. It is hard to ask your kid not to drink alcohol, when you do. It is hard to explain to your teen that premarital sex is wrong, when Johnny spends the night with you. It is hard to ask him to speak kindly, when you speak rudely. What are you watching on tv that you don't want him watching? What are you going to the movies to see that you don't want him seeing?
#2) Treat your teen the way you want to be treated. Ahhhh, the good ol' Golden Rule. Your teen wants to be heard. He/She wants to know that you value their opinion. It doesn't mean that you will always agree, but they have to believe you are at least considering their views. Why is it that we sometimes treat strangers better than our own family?
#3) Your teen is not a child. He is almost an adult, so begin to parent differently. If you rule with an iron fist and become completely unyielding, then you will almost certainly be met with resistance. Your teen is trying to find the line between submission to your parental authority and his own identity as a young adult. Give him a little breathing room.
#4) Understand your teens will make mistakes. I always find it humorous when parents feel the need to broadcast how perfect their teens are. I love when some parents say things like, "Susie's teen years have been so easy. They have just been a breeze." My personal opinion? Not! Although it has been a complete joy raising my own teens and I absolutely love our relationship and all that they are becoming, I wouldn't be honest to tell you that there have not been growing pains. ALL teens go through self-discovery. Who are they in Christ? Do they even believe in God? What are their hopes and dreams? Does submission mean no independence? There are tons of questions and with those questions come some areas where they will test their boundaries with you.
#5) It is okay to apologize to your teen. It doesn't make you less of a parent. You don't have to put up a facade of perfection to your kids. Be honest with them. Be genuine. Tell them you made a mistake. What a wonderful way to teach them how to humble themselves and do the same!
Author/Speaker Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation's leading authorities on single parents' and women's issues. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and Overwhelmed: The Single Moms Magazine, as well as an award-winning author. She has been featured on countless radio and television programs. For more information, visit http://www.jennifermaggio.com.