Learn To Effectively Parent – Part II.
Last week I wrote about learning how to effectively parent and trusting your parenting skills. When I was raising my first daughter who is now 27 years old and is a practicing attorney, I was new to parenting and had to learn what worked and what didn’t work. As she became an adolescent and I became more experienced as a Marriage and Family Therapist I gained invaluable skills to bring her to successful adulthood. As a Family Counselor, as well as Parent, I believe bringing an offspring (your child) to successful adulthood includes helping them in becoming a self-sufficient, independent, upstanding, responsible community member. Helping our children know what to do in life is our primary responsibility. Knowing why they act the way they do during certain developmental stages is helpful so you know how to help guide them during their challenges. I am currently raising another teenage daughter and believe the following are helpful tools (courtesy of heysigmund.com):
The Adolescent Stage
- Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult. Just like you had to do at their age.
- What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
- They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.
- May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
- Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.
- Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
- They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks.
- They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
- They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
- They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that.
- Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier.
- Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.
What to do
- Don’t be judgmental or critical – they need your love and connection more than ever.
- Understand that they need to find their independence from you. Give them the space to do this. Over time, their values will be likely to align with yours.
- Know that your teen isn’t rejecting you, but is finding their own way in the world – it’s an important, healthy part of being an independent adult – even if it feels bad.
- Let go of control and go for influence. The harder you fight to control them, the harder they will push against you. The truth is that when it comes to adolescence, we have no control – they will decide how much they involve you in their lives, how much they tell you, and how much influence you have. Make it easy for them to come to you when something happens or when they need guidance.
- Give them information, but don’t lecture.
- Don’t buy into arguments – ask them to state their case and talk to you about the pros and cons of what they want. By nature, teens will overstate the positives and underestimate the negatives. Encourage them to tell you some of the cons – nothing is ever black or white.
- Be the calming force – breathe and wait for the wave to pass over you. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, to peak and to start to fade, provided you don’t do anything to give it oxygen.
- Help them to plan ahead and see around corners, but without judgement.
- Encourage their social connections and give them space to strengthen their relationships. An important part of their development is to decrease their independence on the family tribe and to do this. To do this, they will feel an increased need to strengthen their affiliation with a friendship tribe. Encourage and support this wherever you can.
- Help them find safe ways to take risks such as sports – competitive and non-competitive.
- Let them know you will always do whatever you can to collect them from any situation when they want to come home – regardless of the circumstances and how late or far away it might be.
- Let nothing be off limits when it comes to what they can talk to you about.
- Wherever possible, let them sleep in to catch up on sleep deficits.
- Listen more than you talk.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Couples Counselor, and Relationship Expert, it is important to know there are things to learn, mistakes to be made, boundaries to be pushed, independence to be found while parenting. The experience is beautiful, exhausting, baffling, sometimes terrifying, overwhelming and even traumatic. Be patient and don’t take their opportunities to learn and grow away from them by taking their mistakes and their less than ideal behavior personally. Their greatest growth will come from the mistakes they make and the limits they push. Even under ideal circumstances, they are going to make mistakes. Provided they have the support they need, their mistakes will be about their growth, not your parenting.
Acquire the tools to effectively parent and then trust those skills. Growing up is a journey of learning, exploring and experimenting for our children and for us. If you need help in acquiring effectively parenting tools please contact me at (858) 735-1139.