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Posts Tagged ‘raising teens’

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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Parenting a teenager (or any child for that matter) is not an easy job, yet it is the most important job in the world.  Parents are faced with daily challenges and decisions that need to be made based on their gut, intuition and common sense – as well as being based on the love and committment they have for their children.  This sometimes leads parents to just want to make difficult situations their children are facing go away – why wouldn’t they?  They love their children and don’t want to ever see them in pain, in trouble or suffering in any way.  The problem is this however…pain, trouble and suffering are all part of the human experience.  I know we don’t like to think about it but throughout our lives, we are always going to be faced with challenges, with situations that scare us and with situations that make us sad.  These situations are part of life and we will need to deal with them when they cross our paths and children will need to deal with these same things when they are adults.

So as a parent, rather than rescuing your child from the tough stuff,  you want to give them the tools they will need to deal with stress, frustration, fear, sadness and all the other things that WILL affect them in their adults lives.  You will want them to learn the skills to deal with these situations when they are children, rather than when they are adults and the stakes are much higher.

Below are a few tips you can use when these difficult situations arise for your child so that you are teaching them skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives:

1.  Help them talk about the situation calmly:  role model being calm yourself and help your child learn to express what they are feeling and what their dilemma’s are in a clear, calm manner

2.  Help them review all options available to them:  don’t give them the solution but rather, ask questions that will help them see all of the possibilities they have for solving their situation in a way that results in the best overall outcome

3.  Resist the urge to give them the answer or to intervene on their behalf:  try to hold back, even if it is difficult, and give them the space to try to figure out how best to proceed when they are in a difficult situation (obviously if there are safety concerns you should intervene and do whatever is necessary to keep your teen and others safe)

4.  Offer suggestions for dealing with difficult emotions:  children need to learn frustration tolerance and emotional management skills which will allow them to be more effective in managing difficult situations.  Listening to music to calm down, exercising, talking, writing or journaling, distracting their mind, deep breathing and many other activities can help when emotions are high and thinking becomes clouded

5.  Support them in developing a plan to avoid a similar situation in the future:  rather than lecturing, blaming and telling them what they did wrong, encourage them to talk to you about how they think they can avoid having a similar situation happen again in the future.

It can be tempting to fix things and make life as easy for those people who you love the most, however, when you do that, valuable lessons get lost and the development of critical skills does not take place, leaving children without the necessary skills they need to be successful in their adult life.  For more information and parenting advice, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com and sign up for our weekly Ezine and Free Audio Program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers. 

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Have you heard the term “Helicopter Parents”?  This is a term that is frequently used for a particular parenting style in which parents “rescue” their children from the difficult things that come their way in life.  Parents who are Helicopter Parents will often make excuses for their children, take their child’s perspective of a situation at face value without looking at all the facts, blame others for their child’s behaviors or difficulties and take steps to eliminate any discomfort their child may be experiencing due to their bad behaviors.  It is understandable how parents fall into this particular parenting style – if you love your children, you don’t want to see them suffering or uncomfortable so you do what you can when situations arise that bring up these difficult emotions.  However, what happens when parents use a Helicopter Parenting style is that they don’t allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, they don’t foster positive decision-making in their children and they are not teaching their children to be responsible for themselves.  In many ways, Helicopter Parents do a disservice to their children because they don’t let them experience difficult things as children (when the stakes are much lower) which can cause major problems for them as adults.

If you have a tendency to fall into this parenting style – this post is not to make you feel bad but rather to offer some insight into why this is not always the most effective parent style and some tips for adjusting what you may be doing.  If you function as a Helicopter Parent, your child will continue to depend on you to solve their problems and will look to you to blame others for their mistakes.  It may result in less conflict in the moment (since we all know that children – especially teenagers – can lash out when you are holding them accountable for something), however, they are not learning anything other than to come running to you when the going gets tough which will be exhausting for you!

Below are a few tips to consider which will help you not fall into this parenting trap and which will help your child grow into a responsible, independent adult:

1.  Be an advocate, not a rescuer:  of course your child will need you for support or to help them out if things are difficult and this is part of your role as their parent.  When you function as an advocate, you support your child, you help make sure they are heard and you step in when you need to.  However, what you don’t do, is bail them out of all the difficult situations they experience.  For example:  Your child is struggling in a particular class because they get a lot of homework and they are not seeming to understand the information learned in class so they are doing poorly on their homework assignments.  As an advocate, you may set up a meeting with the teacher and talk about ways of getting your child extra support in the subject matter so that they are able to understand and complete their homework.  What you would NOT do is go to the school, attack the teaching by saying they are not teaching effectively and demand that your child be moved to a different class with less homework.

2. Validate them but don’t always agree with them:  validating your child shows you are listening, you are understanding what they are experiencing and let’s them know you can appreciate that something is difficult for them even if you don’t fully understand why or if you don’t agree with their perspective.  For example:  Your child has a sports game and does poorly in a game.  They complain that the coach was being unfair or that their teammates were not helping them be successful during the game and they are really upset about it.  You may know that the reality is that they skipped 2 practices and stayed up late the night before the game and that they simply did not play as well as they typically do.  In this situation, you can validate them by saying that you know they are upset because playing well is important to them and acknowledge that it can be really frustrating to know they can play better.  If you do this, they will feel heard and supported but you will not reinforce their view that everyone else is to blame for their bad game.

3.  Let them sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come with mistakes:  this is a really important tip.  Children need to experience being uncomfortable and learn to manage it.  Our feelings drive our behaviors so when children are feeling uncomfortable, it will influence their behaviors which is important.  This can be difficult to watch but it is life and a much better lesson to learn as children than as adults when the consequences and stakes are much higher.  For example, if you teenager cannot get up for school on time and ends up with a Saturday detention that causes them to miss something they were really looking forward to, it is much less of a consequence than showing up late for work as an adult and being fired and then unable to support oneself.  If children are always comfortable, they will never learn to make good decisions because they know that regardless of what they decide that you will make them comfortable again.

Loving your children is critical and necessary for their positive growth, however, rescuing them can actually stunt their emotional growth and development.  For additional parenting tips go to How To Parent A Teen and sign up for our free, weekly Ezine.

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