In our work coaching hundreds of parents of teens over the years, we’ve hit on six themes that draw the parent-child relationship closer. Read through and let us know in the comments below which of the tips you want to implement in your family.
1. When your teen challenges you, don’t fight them, join them.
This is NOT about giving in or letting them run over you. It is about listening and affirming more as part of your process to guide them. To do this requires stopping, taking a breath, maybe even uttering a short prayer when challenged, “Lord, help me reflect your grace and truth here.” You’ll gain far more respect and authority in your child’s eyes by this approach than by forcing your way on them. Kids that really feel listened to gradually learn to listen to others.
2. Stop thinking “How can I get them to…” and start thinking about influence.
Many parents who come to us for help start by asking, “My child is doing (such-and-such misbehavior). How can I get them to stop?” The problem is that underneath this question is a desire to control our children — and teens are usually perceptive enough to spot (and resist) this a mile away. Try taking a deep breath and thinking not about how to control your children, but how to influence them to make wise choices themselves.
3. Practice your “Teen-whispering.” (It’s a lot like Horse-whispering.)
Oftentimes connecting with our teens can feel like trying to wrangle a feisty mustang — they can be pretty skittish! But with a little patience and willingness to learn what will connect best with your teen, you can communicate safety to your child and eventually earn access to their hearts.
4. Consider: Is your help actually helping?
When our kids are small, we often rush to help them – because we love them, and because we enjoy feeling needed. This pattern can persist far beyond the true need, however. And if we’re doing something that with a little training kids could do for themselves we may actually be communicating the message, “You’re not capable, you’re needy.” Read this story and consider: Is any of my “help” actually hurting my kids? Pray about this and think about how you might empower your child to take responsibility for themselves.
5. Converse with your kids about easy things (and the hard things will be easier!).
When it comes to talking with our kids about tough things — like emotions or poor choices or their friends — it can feel like there is no good way to begin. But there are steps you can take to make this less difficult, including relaxed conversations with your kids about LOTS of things which builds a positive foundation for when something tough has happened!
6. Give them opportunities to learn responsibility and independence.
We all want our kids to grow up into self-motivated, responsible adults. But it’s easy to fall into a pattern of nagging our kids to do their chores, and then criticizing their work when it doesn’t meet our standards. This drains the life out of their motivation to do well. Try a different approach: ask them thoughtful, non-judgmental questions to help them evaluate their work.
If you feel like you’re just overwhelmed with parenting your teen(s) and you’d like some one-on-one help, we’d love to talk with you about setting up some parent coaching (which can be in person or from anywhere via Skype!). Please read more here and/or contact us about coaching options.
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