When our children reach their teenage years, some parents may fall into the trap of believing that much of the hard work of parenting is done. But just because your teen can sort of wake up to an alarm, get dressed, and make their own breakfast doesn’t mean they are ready to strike out on their own, no matter what an overly confident teen thinks.
In fact, research has shown that teens need active parenting due to the many changes they are undergoing. The plasticity of the developing teenage brain is a ripe ground for positive or negative connections to be made, and as a parent, it’s your job to make sure that your parenting tactics are up to the job. So, if you want to be a positive impact on your teen’s current and future behavior, you may need to transform just how you parent your teens.
As much as your teen will express verbally their independence from you, their actions say otherwise. Your teenager looks to you to learn most of the behaviors they will carry into adulthood, even as they dismiss your advice on how some of the current trends look pretty goofy.
One example of this was my bad habit of leaving my socks on my shoes. This habit of mine would have been less of a problem if we didn’t keep a shoe rack in the entryway, putting my odiferous socks on display for any passing guest.
I had developed this habit in college since I didn’t want my socks stinking up my shared dorm room and it had stuck with me. It was a minor source of contention with my wife and me—especially since she usually picked them up for washing—but I never thought much of my actions until my oldest son started to follow my example.
When my wife asked our son to pick up his socks, he sneered back and told her that if I didn’t have to do it, he didn’t either and that it was women’s work anyway. I was shocked, appalled, but most of all, profoundly ashamed that my son took my modeled behavior to that extreme.
We did have a serious talk with him about his behavior and how he speaks to his mother and women in general, and I took a good hard look at what other behaviors I was modeling for my children.
Many parents feel like they spend most of their time lecturing or arguing with their teens. However, what these parents don’t realize is that their teens are far more likely to repeat their negative behaviors because that’s what the teens receive attention for on a regular basis.
Consider this—in many cases, we take it for granted that our teens will do the right thing. But by taking it for granted, many of us parents forget to praise our children for the good things they do and only pay our undivided attention to when our teens do something wrong. By doing this, your teen is more likely to act out and behave poorly, as this will guarantee them your attention.
Instead of falling into their pattern, take time to notice the good behavior they display. Thank them for things like chores done on time, being up and ready for school, take an interest in their extracurricular activities and attend their events. With a concentration on the positive, your teen is far more likely to pursue better behavior for your approval and attention.
However, I’m not saying ignore all rule-breaking and bad attention. There are some teenagers who have severe enough emotional and behavioral problems that solutions such as 24/7 care at a boarding school for troubled teens is needed. But with most teens, if you balance the time you spend on correcting poor behavior with attention to their more positive behavior, your teen should naturally lean toward the good.
Part of the difficult balance parents have to strike when raising teens is actively parenting while still providing teens with room to grow and develop on their own. You can work to instill things like a positive work ethic in your children, but in the end, it is up to your teens to decide if they will take the lesson to heart. A couple of the ways parents can give their teens the space to grow and make their own decisions are:
By putting in the hard parenting work during your child’s teenage years, you can have a lifelong impact on your teen’s behavior.
From the mountains of Utah, Tyler Jacobson writes about his experiences as a father and husband. By sharing the struggles and solutions his family has faced, Tyler hopes to help other parents looking for a way to better their lives. You can connect with Tyler and read his helpful insights on Twitter.