Live and Learn
How to Deal With Your Teenager
by Kru Dokmai, Head Teachers (Thai)
I’d like to share what I read about how to deal with teenagers. As many of you know I have 2 children. They are 11 and 6 years old. For the older girl, I imagine it will be easy to deal with her when she is an adult, but it’s not easy at this age (11-12 years old). The way I treated her before doesn’t work anymore!
This article helped me to understand teenagers more, and is helping me learn how to deal with my own pre-teen. As your kids go into their teen years, many things will begin to change. To get along and help your teen develop in a positive direction, you’ll need to change your expectations and develop empathy, all the while establishing boundaries.
Creating a safe, supportive, structured, and loving environment is as important for you as it is for your teen.
Adjusting to Their Independence
1. Treat them like a teen, not a child or adult. Your teen is not a small child anymore, so it’s important to adjust your expectations and not treat them like a child. However, teens are not quite adults and cannot be held responsible as an adult. The teenage brain is in the middle of a critical stage of development, and teens need you to help them through this part of their lives.
2. Be flexible with their freedoms. If your teen is making an effort and showing their responsibility, allow more freedom. If they are making bad choices, be more restrictive. Ultimately, show them that their behavior gives them freedom or restrictions and their own choices determine their outcomes.
3. Focus on trust, not suspicion. It’s true that teens can get into a lot of trouble, but don’t focus your attention on the bad things they’ve done in the past or the risks they might face. If you think your teen may be up to something, have them explain it to you fully. Ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions.
Enforcing rules and consequences
1. Stay calm. If you are angry, take a moment and gather yourself. Take a few deep breaths or walk away and come back when you’re calmer. This way, you’re more likely to give reasonable consequences.
2. Establish boundaries and stick to them. The teen should know what is expected of them. Teens will want to push the boundaries, so remain firm when you set a limit. Discuss these boundaries with your teen, and let them have a say in how they work. They are more likely to follow rules that they helped establish. Put boundaries and rules in writing so that there’s no confusion as to what’s expected of your teen.
3. Enforce consequences. Learning to navigate problem behaviors can be tricky. If you’re too lenient, your teen may think they have no limits or you don’t take their behavior seriously. However, if you’re too strict, your teen may grow to resent you or they may rebel. When your teen breaks a rule, calmly tell them what they did and why they are in trouble. When deciding on a consequence, make sure it’s proportional to the behavior and not given out of anger.
4. Be reasonable. One of the best ways to be reasonable is to listen to your teen’s perspective. When they’re in trouble, ask them what a reasonable consequence might be. Get their input and consider their perspective.
5. Handle conflicts. Sometimes, your teens may want to prove themselves to you or test their independence in your home. Refuse to fight with them. You can avoid major conflicts by monitoring your own reactions to your teen, even if you think they’re being outrageous.
6. Use effective communication. Keep a path of open communication between you whenever possible so they can ask questions, admit mistakes, and reach out when they need help. Instead of jumping to conclusions about your teen’s behavior, ask questions.
Showing Your Love
1. Have fun together. Make sure you find time to enjoy your teen.
2. Develop empathy. Your teen is looking for someone to understand what they’re going through. They generally don’t need you to fix their problems for them (they’ll figure that out for themselves), but they need someone who’ll listen to and empathize with them.
3. Honor and respect your teen. Just as you want your teen to treat you with respect, treat them with respect as well. Constantly yelling at a child can damage their emotions and cause them to feel insecure.
4. Support your teen’s interests. Get them involved in the activities they enjoy and show that you support them. This shows that you care and are invested in their skills and happiness.
5. Open your home to your teenager’s friends. Be a good sport by opening your own home to them. Create a space where they can hang out by themselves but you can casually walk through.
6. Be available to them. Show your love to your teen by being there for them. Not all teens want to talk with their parents, but let them know you’re willing to listen.
Enjoy quality time with your teenager!
Source: The article was co-authored by Paul Chernyak, LPC. Paul Chernyak is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago. He graduated from the American School of Professional Psychology in 2011.