For every parent and child pair, there is a different form of parenting in place. It’s difficult for any one person or method of parental discipline to be considered ‘the right and only’ way to handle things. When it comes to raising your child, part of what makes your form of parenting so important is that you know what works for you and your child. You know the idiosyncrasies with your child, the little things that make them tick, and the best result driven method to get the best from your own kid.
As your child gets older however, it is important to alter the way you handle them. Sitting them in time outs which may have worked beautifully when your child was 5 or 6, is certainly not going to work when they hit the preteen or teen years. You still have to find the right ‘currency’ for your child – and find appropriate consequences for their ill behavior, but those denominators will change greatly.
One of the most important, yet often overlooked aspects of dealing with your older children is talking to them frankly. There comes a point when you have to realize that you are dealing with a pseudo adult who has just as many opinions and ideas about life as you do (albeit not mature). And that their age often brings with it a sense of entitlement which makes them feel like they can do as they want. Your communication style with a teen, especially on the pertinent life issues should be one of candidness and frankness that isn’t blindsided by love or compassion. When the time comes, you have to be able to say “GROW UP,” and be to the point with your teen if you want them to truly listen and respect you.
Remember that as a parent, it is your number one goal to raise children that can communicate in the world, and that can understand boundaries and goals. Children need to learn that it is not just okay, but necessary to speak honestly in all situations. The only way that they can learn this is if they see it (and hear it) for themselves. From their parents.
Far too often, parents try to skirt over the important issues in life such as alcohol and drugs, growing up, sex and other ‘facts of life,’ by talking around the issues. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot to the imagination for a preteen or teenager. Even though it may feel awkward to talk ‘straight up’ to your child, you have to realize that they are growing up and the dialogue between the two of you has to be forthright, honest, and compelling. Most parents find that they only get center stage in conversations with their teens for a very short period of time. Using this short segment of time wisely is important. And if you do things right, your teen will not just hear your message but be able to translate the tone of your talks into the knowing that you expect more from them now then ever before, and that you see and respect them as a mini-adult.
Plus, by being honest and forthright and saying what needs to be said, you command an authority with your child that ensures your child won’t manipulate you. Quite frankly, most teens know just as much about their parents as the parents know about them. And your teen knows that if they turn and twist your words, and act as if they are hurt because you showed a lack of compassion, that you will back down. No parent wants to feel like their child is going to need counseling or that they have somehow victimized their own kid. At the same time, the truth needs to be told to your child. By you. Because the rest of the world will only be harsher.
Another aspect of teen-parent communication that often hinders the honesty and direction of conversations is the fact that parents often feel guilty if they are forced to tell their kids about the harsh realities of life. And they also feel guilty because quite often, teens will disappoint parents. No parent wants to feel let down by his or her teenager and yet every single parent has felt that way from time to time. Expressing this feeling with your teen, in the sense of “Grow up, you are a young adult now and need to stop this nonsense,” can often be the fastest way to correct the behavior. Just as a parent doesn’t want to feel disappointed in their child, a child doesn’t want to feel that they have disappointed their parents.
When it comes down to it, you will save a lot of time by being straight with your kids. Tell them how it is, and tell them how things are going to be around the house. Make sure that they realize that while the two of you are a family, some decisions are not theirs to make. And most importantly, make sure that your teen gets the message that as they grow up, you expect more from them at all times. The things they got away with when they were younger just cannot work in the teenage years.
If you are straight to the point with your teen, there is less room for error or misunderstanding as well. When your teenager knows exactly what to expect from you, and is confident that you will follow through on discipline and rules once they are in place – your chances of keeping them safe and on the right path are certainly higher.