Mar 2011

Parenting: Flexibility

Tips on Adolescent Parenting: Flexibility

Parenting is difficult and even though there are many parenting books, there is not one comprehensive manual that covers all you need to know. I have given this much thought and I believe I understand some of the difficulties with having one solution to the entire parenting problem. This is that parents need to try new things and new ideas as their children grow and change.
Many parents who are dealing with their newly turned twelve-year-old come to me frustrated. They tell me how their child has changed. Their child used to listen to everything they said and now they are talking back and refusing to listen. This is where flexibility is key. As your child grows and changes, so does your parenting style. When you tell your ten year old to do their homework or they can’t have dessert, they listen. Somehow when that same child turns twelve this technique no longer works. This is natural. It’s hard to be a parent and step back and take a breath. Your teen is going to challenge you and you will have to rise to the challenge.
Now is the time to change your parenting, when it no longer works. Read different books and talk to other parents. You know your child better then anyone else does. Try different things and see what happens. Parenting is not a one-answer solution, everyone works with their own children differently and good parents are the ones who experiment and find new solutions for their teenager.
The other trick with flexibility is that each of your children are different and individual. You might find the perfect parenting solution for your oldest child and then when the second one hits teenage years this solution doesn’t work. This doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, just that your second child is still requiring you to be flexible and change things up. Try different solutions and find what works for you child.
So here are basic tips with you teen. Try talking with them. Adolescents are notorious for giving monosyllabic answers to you involved questions. Believe it or not, they still want a relationship with you and want to be involved with you. They just don’t know how and don’t want to be treated like a child. Have them work with you on rules for them as they get older and talk about the consequences together to find something they can live with. If you set a rule of no talking on the phone until their homework is done, work with them on what is the consequence if they break the rule. You’d be surprised that they know what consequences they should get. Now that you have worked together on this problem, when they get upset when you enforce rules, remind them that they agreed to this as a consequence.
Conversations with adolescents are rocky at best. So many parents I work with complain that they can’t get their teenager to talk to them. Flexibility comes in handy here as well. Your child does not want to talk about school, grades or homework. If you really want to get a teen talking, ask them about something that interests them. You may not understand it, you may not even know what they are talking about, but just listening will go a long way in connecting with your teenager. I have spent many hours listening to teens talk about music, skateboarding, basketball and gossip about their friends. I’m not really a part of that life, but just my sharing in it makes them feel heard and cared about.