Three Parenting Blunders That Confuse Teens
All bets are off, it seems, when your child becomes a teenager. It can be a life stage marked by conflict, bewilderment and trepidation—for both parent and child. Your children don’t appreciate that you are new at this too—you’ve never been the parent of a teenager before. And you may not recognize that your own efforts—as you transition from parenting a child to parenting a young adult—may be confusing and frustrating to your teen. Here are some of the common blunders I see parents making:
Rules Without Relationship
Envision a line representing parenting styles. On one end is the totally authoritarian parent who is hyper-controlling. On the other end is the completely lax parent who sets no expectations whatsoever. As you adjust to your teen’s growing maturity, you may move back and forth along that line—the goal is to stay roughly in the middle. But many parents swing wildly from one end to the other when teens push buttons, test limits and fail to respond as expected. Throw in guilt and pressure from work schedules, parenting mistakes and any number of other life stresses, and you may have wildly erratic movement along the line that leaves kids disoriented. When you reach the edge of your control limits and are tempted to either react punitively or just throw your hands up… take a deep breath and prayerfully consider the right response.
Parents frequently feel bad about setting boundaries—but they shouldn’t. Teenagers may seem to communicate by their words and their actions that they want carte blanche in every area of their life, but they really and truly don’t—and unlimited freedom will be disastrous to their development. Culture today teaches children that the right to privacy, individualism and self-expression is paramount and sacrosanct. But God has given you the responsibility to train, to shepherd, direct and redirect your child. Firm and measured parental control, countless studies have shown, leads to more successful, emotionally well-developed children.
No Room to Grow
While teenagers need rules, they also should be given increasing levels of some autonomy to develop responsibility, learn to operate independently and work out their own styles. This is time to focus more on results and less on methodology. An elementary school aged child needs to be told how and when to do his homework. Teenagers, in contrast, should reach a level of maturity in which they manage the process, understanding that the parental expectation is focused on the grade. Intentionally building increasing layers of flexibility is a challenge for parents, and a task in which they often fail to keep pace with the child’s rapidly developing maturity.
Reactive parenting may work with a toddler, but it will become ineffective as your child ages. Never is intentionality more important than in the job of parenting a teen!
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