As children develop into adolescents, it is normal for them to become increasingly independent, to want to make their own decisions, and to think for themselves. While it can be difficult, it's important for parents to relinquish their desire to control them and let your young person run their own race, thinking of yourself as the support team on the sideline.
We control our teens out of a desire to promote the best outcome for them; however, these actions lead to teens thinking we have a lack of faith in their decision-making and abilities. By relaxing your control, your young person will feel believed in and perceive that you have trust and confidence in their abilities.
When your teen feels well-supported, they will feel they can seek advice and still make independent choices and decisions. Age-appropriate independence occurs when young people are allowed to exercise their judgement and explore what it means to be themselves, rather than simply playing out the wishes of their parents. While we want to think that our children will have the same taste in sports, activities, hobbies, social and political views, we need to offer them freedom in areas where they can express their individuality — so don't take it personally; they are becoming their own person!
By giving your adolescent the chance to think for themselves, they will establish limits in their own world where they can practice considering and dealing with the consequences of their choices.
Practicing these skills while still in the family household, will give them the chance for trial and error, developing their own moral compass in a risk-free scenario. This will set them up to make good decisions in the future outside of the home.
1. Avoid the lecture.
We all know teenagers do not respond well to lectures and ultimatums. As a consultative parent, move toward being empathetic. Ask questions and allow your teenager to deal with the natural consequences of their mistakes, basically handing the responsibility and ownership back to them.
2. Be prepared to compromise.
When it comes to your young person, compromise is key. Giving them choice around less important issues will be the best way to navigate their requests, as it will help them feel in control of the situation. For example, say, "Would you prefer to be home at 9:30 or 10 tonight?"
3. Allow them to make mistakes.
If parents step in every time to save their teenager from making a mistake, teens will never be able to learn the logical consequences of their actions. An important part of preparing your teen for adulthood is teaching them how to live with the consequences of their behavior. Young people's characters are formed through learning to make decisions and living with the consequences.
4. Allow for logical consequences without punishment.
When you punish teens for their mistakes, it doesn't give them the time to think about the consequences of their behavior and decisions. Punishing teenagers does not work, regardless of how successful this strategy was when they were younger. You will find that punishments have less and less effect as they get older, and you will be having to make them more and more harsh.
Punishments only exacerbate the problem, so instead allow your teen to experience the logical consequences of their behavior and support them in coping with the outcome. Logical consequences will be a part of their whole life and will teach them accountability.
5. Don't ask too many questions!
Teenagers feel a great need for privacy, and what previously might have been everyday questions may now feel like an interrogation to them. Instead, try using open conversation phrases that give your adolescent the chance to open up to you without feeling pressured such as, "I'm sensing that you're feeling stressed. Is this the way you're really feeling?" or "I've noticed that you haven't been seeing much of Holly. Is there anything going on?" If your teenager is hesitant to talk, take it slowly or re-approach at a different time when they are ready.
This article was originally written by Dr. Anna Cohen. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.