Posts Tagged ‘parent-teen relationship’

Maintaining good boundaries as the parent of a teenager is important.  Boundaries are about maintaining good self-care and setting limits on how much others can put on you or take from you.  Having clear and healthy boundaries can help you avoid a lot of problems in relationships because others know what to expect from you and know your limitations without taking things personally.  As you well know, teenagers can be very self-absorbed which is a normal based on their developmental stage.  This self-absorption can really push the boundaries of others, and especially of parents, if there are not clear boundaries in place.

Below are some examples of how boundaries of parents can be tested by their teens along with suggestions for helping you maintain good boundaries during this challenging time:

1.  My teen is always running late and throws off my schedule.  This can make parents feel like they can never be on their own schedule because their teenager is always dictating when they need to be dropped off, picked up, etc.  In these situations, you can maintain good boundaries by clearly stating what time you will be leaving to go out or what time you will be available to pick them up.  If your teenager is running late, you should still leave at the previously stated time and do this consistently.  Of course the first time or two your teen will be very upset, however, you can remind them that you will be continuing to leave when you say you will and suggest that they try to get themselves ready a little bit earlier.  It is amazing how quickly they will respond!

2.  My teen will not get up in the morning and I end up having to go into their room 10 times to wake them up.  I have heard this over and over again from parents who feel like their morning is ruined every day because they are nagging and badgering their teen to get out of bed.  In this situation, you should tell your teen that you will come into their room one time to help remind them to get up for school and that if they miss the bus, they will need to walk or use their own money for a cab ride to school.  Again, the first time your teen misses their bus and needs to pay for a cab or walk they will be irate and blaming, however, they will quickly get the message that you will give them their one reminder to get up and that is it.  This will result in you having time for yourself in the morning rather than being so focused on your teen who is likely fully capable of getting up and ready on their own.

3.  My teen always wants more money for things they “really need”.  This is always tricky because teens feel like their parents have a never-ending supply of money for them to use.  When parents do not set a boundary on this, it can lead to excessive nagging and badgering from teens who are always going to want or “need” one more thing that costs money.  One of the best ways to manage this is to have an allowance system with clear chore expectations.  Teens should be reminded that they have their own money for certain things (parents should be clear about what they will and will not pay for ahead of time) and that they will need to save for these items or wait for a holiday or birthday if appropriate.  Being consistent is the key to maintaining good boundaries in this area.

4.  My teen puts me on the spot in front of their friends.  Let’s face it, teens are good at getting what they want.  One particularly effective technique they use is asking for something right in front of their friends, hoping that you will be more likely to say yes.  This could be asking to have the friend stay over, asking for a later curfew or asking for a few dollars.  The best way to maintain good boundaries around this is to not let it happen at all.  I have worked with parents who have learned to say, “as you know, these are not decisions we make on the spot like this so I will have to say no for now until we can discuss it privately”.  Keeping a friendly tone and being consistent will result in your teen no longer setting up this dynamic.

5.  My teen says they will help out around the house but they never do.  This can be very frustrating and often results in parents doing the chores their teens were expected to do because they cannot tolerate them not being done.  A couple of suggestions for this situation are:  1.  Implement an allowance system and ONLY give the allowance if the chores are done as you have agreed upon.  For example, if the trash is supposed to be taken out on Wednesdays and Saturdays and this week your teen only took it out on Saturday when it was overflowing because they did not do it on Wednesday then they should not be receiving their full allowance.  2.  Limit what you will do if they do not do what they agreed to do.  For example, if they are supposed to clean up the kitchen and do not, tell them you will not be able to make them dinner (they can make a sandwich or have some cereal instead).  If they do not cut the grass but then expect you to drive them to their friend’s house later in the day tell them you cannot hold up your end of the bargain to give them a ride if they did not hold up their end of the bargain to cut the grass.

Some of these things will create conflict in the moment the first one or two times you set the limits and stick with your boundaries, however, teens will quickly learn your limits and will stop attempting to fight them.  In addition, most of these techniques will also teach responsibility in teens who need to learn that relationships are generally cooperative in nature.  Finally, establishing these clear boundaries will allow you to reduce your stress and have some time for yourself.

Go to www.HowToParentATeen.com for a FREE audio program with specific techniques for parents of teenagers.  These tips will help with behavior, communication and your overall parent-teen relationship.

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I have heard from countless parents how frustrated they become when they so badly want to help influence and shape their teenager’s life, however, their teen wants nothing at all to do with them.  As a parent, how do you manage this dynamic?  This is very tricky for a few reasons.  First, as the parent you are older, wiser and have often times had experiences from which your teen could benefit hearing about.  Second, it is often difficult to just sit back and watch your teenager make mistakes that you could help prevent if they would just be open to your advice.  Finally, and let’s be honest, sometimes you just want things done your way.  It can feel really frustrating to have advice that you feel would benefit your teen and feel that no matter what you do or say they will not listen to you or take your advice.

One question parents should ask themselves in these situations is, “what am I really looking to do by giving advice in this situation”?  The reason why I see this as such an important question is because often times it is less about really wanting to tell your teen what they should do and more about wanting to stay involved, influential and a part of their life.  Yes – there are situations when you truly want to tell your child what to do so that they can avoid a messy situation, however, more often you just want to have a presence in your teenager’s life. You want to be able to guide them and shape their life for the better.

With this in mind, you will want to think about behaviors which may help you remain connected (or reconnect if you feel a connection has already been lost) with your teen in addition to behaviors that will push your teen away.  Often times, changing your way of interacting with your teenager will change the dynamic and can greatly improve the overall feel of the relationship and ultimately their interest in advice you may have for them.  Below is a list of suggestions:

Behaviors that may help you remain connected or reconnect with your teenager:

  1. Be vulnerable.  Often times this seems strange because parents feel they need to be the strength for their teenager.  However, being vulnerable with your teenager allows them to see you as a real person with real feelings.  Examples of being vulnerable may include letting them know that you miss talking to them, asking them questions about their music or pop culture they like and tell them you feel out of loop about what is current, eating meals with them and just spending time with them in general being your relaxed self.  One of the best ways to be vulnerable is to apologize if you said or did something you wish you had not.  Own your mistakes in a sincere way.
  2. Don’t act out of emotion.  This can be extremely difficult when your teenager pushes your buttons or makes a decision which is harmful or highly inappropriate.  As a parent who cares deeply about their child, of course you are going to be emotional (angry, scared, disappointed, frustrated) when these things happen which is normal and not a problem at all.  What does sometimes become a problem is when parents act out of these strong emotions.  In these situations parents often times say things that they later regret, however, even with an apology, their teen who already has insecure and fragile self-esteem will hang onto the emotional response which can damage the parent – teen relationship.  It is better to take time to calm down, gather your thoughts (even write them down so that you remain on track when speaking with your teenager) and then speak with your teenager calmly about the situation.
  3. Don’t say “I told you so”.  Nobody ever wants to hear this phrase and teenagers are no exception.  As a parent, you will likely have many “I told you so” moments.  You will offer advice to your teenager, they will refuse your advice and then down the road the exact thing you predicted would happen does.  It will be extremely tempting to use these situations as an opportunity to tell your teenager that they should listen to you more because you were right.  While all of that is true, it is better to allow your teenager an opportunity to “save face” and not feel ashamed by the situation.  They will know that your advice would have been worth taking but will likely never tell you this.  Getting into a power struggle about who was right and who was wrong will likely only create resentment in your teenager.  As a parent, you can continue to offer your suggestions and hope that over time your teenager will see that you do have something worthwhile to offer them!

Behaviors that may further push your teenager away:

  1. Yelling and Screaming.  This is often a natural reaction to situations your teenager may create, however, is generally not helpful and can quickly cause them to view you as the “bad guy” and resent you.
  2. Saying you were right and they were wrong.  See the section above which outlines this concept.
  3. Giving extreme consequences.  Teenagers will become resentful if the consequences you give them are extreme in an effort to make a point.  For example, if Susie returns 30 minutes late with the car an extreme consequence may be that she cannot drive the car for 6 months.  The point will get lost in the outrageousness of the consequence.  When giving consequences to teenagers, the consequences should be meaningful and time limited.

For more parenting resources and tips go to the How To a Parent website where you can gain instant access to our free audio titled 3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers – get this audio HERE now.  You can also follow Karen Vincent on Twitter @KarenParentTeen.

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