Parenting difficult teenagers is always a challenge. Part of the challenge is that you are starting late in the piece, and it can be a bit like trying to score a winning touchdown or goal in the last 30 seconds of a game!
Although parenting any teenager will try your patience and sometimes break your heart, the rewards are worth it. The joy of watching a child grow out of the teenage years into a successful and much loved adult is worth any price, so here are some tips for how you can parent your teenagers, even if they are being difficult!
1. Give them Clear Rules
Paradoxically rules allow us freedom. As a general rule, teens with no boundaries set will be more destructive and actually more miserable! Set fair and reasonable rules, and make sure the teen knows the consequences of breaking those rules before they do anything. You cannot come in after the fact and inflict a punishment, because teens have a strong sense of what’s fair and that simple isn’t!
2. Make Sensible Rules
When parenting any teenager, you need to pick your battles, so make sure your rules are sensible and fair. Don’t make a Federal case over whether they eat their sprouts! Choose more important things like when they get home and how they speak to people.
3. Set Reasonable Consequences
For teenagers you need to match the consequences with the action, and deprivation of things they want is better than corporal punishment. You can’t ground them for coming home after midnight and for not making their bed one day. Save the big penalties for the big disobedience, and I would always recommend punishing open defiance and rebellion more than forgetfulness or miscalculation.
4. Be Consistent
In any type of discipline, consistency is the key. You cannot overlook a rule one day and expect to enforce it the next, so make rules, make them clear and stick to the consequences.
5. Set Communication Rules
Parenting teens is about communication, so set rules with them. Communicate what you expect, why you expect it, and what the consequences will be if they disobey. Text it to them if necessary, but make sure they understand. I would also encourage you to set time aside for communication with them. Take them out for a milkshake and let them know their life interests you.
6. Control the Big Things, Not Everything
Teenagers need to feel they are in control to a degree, so set the big parameters and let them control things within them. In other words, don’t micromanage their lives. For example, you may allow them 2 hours of media time, and they can divide it between the TV, the computer and the Ipad. If they chose to take longer on an Ipad game, that’s leaves less time for TV, but they still were able to make a choice, and that’s important for their development.
7. Set a Curfew
Parenting difficult teenagers means taking control of the big things, and time is one of those. Losing sleep might be fine while you are doing it, but you pay for it the next day, so set times for bed, times for computer games and times when they can go out with their friends. Also set consequences and make sure they know them beforehand.
8. Be Available
Troubled teens will experience extreme highs and lows, especially in the area of relationships. One of the best parts of being a parent to them is being available when the inevitable crashes come. Be ready, any time they need you and your stocks will rise if you listen and care for them in their hour of need.
9. Speak words of Praise
So many teens are haunted by the way they have failed, and believe it or not, especially how they have failed you! You need to talk up the successes, and once the failures have been worked through, not keep bringing them up. Speaking positive words to your teenager will have a huge effect on them for years to come, as will negative words, so be careful how you speak.
10. Tell Them they are Loved No Matter What they Do!
Your teenager needs and craves your love and approval, and they need to know that this love is unconditional. When my teenage girl made a decision I strongly disagreed with, I told her so, then told her my love was unconditional, and unaffected by her decision and how she disappoints me. Turns out she long for my approval, but I wanted her to know that my love was without compromise. This keeps the door open, even if they completely rebel, and gives them incredible confidence.