This post: 10 Ways to Adjust Your Parenting in Your Kid’s Teen Years
Written by: Marybeth Bock
Every parent has their favorite season of parenting…
Some of us love the baby stage when our children are tiny and feel so delicious falling asleep nestled in our arms. Some of us love the elementary school years when our kids are goofy, playful, and full of wonder. And, some of us (call us crazy) love the teen years!
Personally, I love how you can have insightful conversations with your older kids. I love how they’re up to date on everything that’s trending and how they playfully tease and make fun of you because, after all these years, they’ve finally figured you out. Mostly, I love how they’re changing faster than lightning right before your eyes.
But to help our kids navigate their teen years, help them reach their full potential, and maintain an authentic connection with them, we have to change right alongside our kids.
After all, just as you wouldn’t treat a 10-year-old like a two-year-old, you can’t treat a 17-year-old like a 12-year-old. As your kids move through their teen years, there are certain parenting habits you have to let go of and new practices to adopt.
Here’s insight I’ve gathered during my kids’ teen years – insight that continues to guide me during their young adult years – along with a few terrific books you may want to read. Here are ways to adjust your parenting in your kid’s teen years.
10 Ways to Adjust Your Parenting in Your Kid’s Teen Years
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1. Accept That Conflict Is Normal
Remember how relieved you were when your child got through their defiant “terrible twos” and life was more peaceful and enjoyable? Fast forward to your kid’s teen years and you might feel like you stepped back in time to your child’s ‘terrible twos” again. Only this time they’re even more defiant with a vocabulary, attitude, and voice that wears you the heck out.
But before you stress out that you’re failing this parenting gig, remember that conflict is a natural part of your teen’s development. They’re supposed to be forming their own identities, pushing limits, gaining independence, and taking risks. It’s all completely normal! If you can adjust your parenting and expect that you might have a few disagreements (or full-blown heated arguments) and that your teen might slam a few doors and test your patience, you’ll be in a much better place to not freak out when it happens and accept it as par for the course.
2. Give Them More Space
Teenagers need a lot of space, both emotional and physical. I know it can be difficult to accept. In fact, quite often, parents admit that they fight this stage tooth and nail often feeling confused (and even angry) about why their teen suddenly chooses their bedroom over time with the family. Don’t take it personally – your teen needs this time.
Check up on them, ask them to hang out, and encourage family time, but be sure to give your teen plenty of breathing room to daydream, listen to music, and yes – spend a whole lot of time in the bathroom. Unless you believe something is truly amiss with their mental health, give them enough privacy to be alone with their growing and changing identity. It gets better – I promise!
3. But Keep Nurturing Them With Physical Affection
Giving our teens more space and privacy doesn’t mean we should pull back on our physical affection. Even the surliest teen will welcome an occasional hug, high five, back rub, or fist bump given at the right time in the right increments.
(Please, don’t let them fool you… they secretly love your affections. They’re just too cool to admit it.) Even if it means sitting next to your teen on the couch while you watch a movie, look for opportunities to stay physically connected. Nothing can take the place of a mom or dad’s affection.
4. Prepare Them for Adulthood By Letting Them Stumble and Fall
We live in a hyper-competitive world. It’s only natural for us to want to help our kids succeed by opening a few doors for them, cutting a few corners to make life easier, or rescuing them when they fail. We might bring a book to school that they forgot at home or email a teacher to see if they can retake a test that they failed or finish a project for them because they have too much other homework to finish. But we have to stop being the perpetual “fixer.”
Helping occasionally is one thing, but by constantly making life easy for our kids we’re denying them the value of this important lesson: “Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of success.” The bottom line is, give them the freedom to weather a few storms. You’ll be teaching them how to weather even bigger storms later in life.
5. Loosen the Reins
When our kids were little, we controlled every aspect of their lives. But… they’re not little anymore. If we’re going to prepare them to take on this world without us, we have to loosen our grip a little more with each passing year.
Holding the reins too tightly and not giving them the (age-appropriate) independence they crave will only trigger resentment, anger, and, quite often, sneaky behavior since teens will typically grab hold of their freedom any way they can get it – with or without parental approval.
6. Let Them Know They Can Come to You No Matter What
In my experience, the single most important gift we can give our teens, (besides our love, of course), is an open line of communication. Teenagers are notorious for being tight-lipped. They’re typically not keen on sharing everything that’s going on in their lives and minds either because they fear we’ll judge them, or punish them or simply because they assume we just won’t “get it.”
But even the quietest teens have plenty to say, given the opportunity. Open the lines of communication and let your teen know that they can come to you about anything. Make sure you listen to what they have to say and refrain from overreacting or jumping in to fix their problems. Sometimes, all they really need is a sounding board.
7. Give Them More Responsibility Each Year
Our kids live busy lives. Between school, extracurriculars, working, and enjoying at least some free time, they so often have little time to spare for anything else.
Still, we’re doing our kids a huge injustice if we don’t put some weight of responsibilities on their shoulders. Adulting is hard and they need to learn to get the hang of it before they leave our tender care.
Let them do their own laundry, help cook dinner, or help with the yard work. Encourage (older teens) to make their own doctor and orthodontist appointments. You don’t want to launch a clueless kid into the world who can’t navigate daily life.
8. Set Clear Limits on Behavior and Establish Consequences
Teens are hardwired to push a few boundaries and take risks – it’s all part of their developing brains. Rather than expecting or waiting for your teen to mess up (or screw up royally) talk openly with them upfront about important topics, including drinking, curfew, rules when driving, cell phone use, etc. Set expectations early and let your teen know what the consequences are for breaking your rules.
I’ve also found it helpful with my own kids to have family meetings so your teen can provide input about appropriate consequences and have an investment in their behavior choices and penalties.
9. Respect Their Expanding Views and Opinions
Your once “follow in your footsteps” child is growing up. They’re developing their own identity and forming their own opinions and perspectives about everything under the sun. Like it or not, their opinions and views might not align with yours.
Your daughter might decide to dye her hair purple, get a tattoo, or lean toward another religion. Your son might listen to music you don’t approve of or adopt political views that are completely opposite of yours – a reminder that your teen isn’t an extension of you. Do your best to keep an open mind and respect their viewpoints. Teach them how to “agree to disagree” respectfully, which is a skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives.
10. Use Your Influence to Guide Them
Teenagers don’t appreciate being told what to do, how to do things, or worse, being nagged or yelled at. Although we might view our kids as wet behind the ears, in their minds, they’re adults and they don’t need or want our constant instruction or intervention. They essentially fire us as their managers, which means our sphere of influence shifts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to be a solid role model for your teen, to show them first-hand how to adult, handle emotions, and manage stress. Trust me, they’re watching everything you say and do. From what you eat to how you handle conflict, they’re picking up little lessons along the way. Make sure they’re lessons you want to pass along to ensure your teen grows up to be an emotionally strong, capable, and independent adult.
If you’re looking for a few fantastic reads about parenting teens, check out these books!
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.