Good Parenting: A Work of Art Rather than an Exact Science
Tips for Successfully Parenting Your Teen
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our children gave us such clear instructions? Unfortunately, children are not born with instruction manuals. Sometimes, parenting books are helpful; however, the simple requests and guidelines contained in this imaginary letter from a teenager are really quite good enough! By the way, this letter is a compilation of what teenagers have told us over the years; and we really try hard to listen.
Adolescent development requires opportunities to learn in the real laboratories that life provides: family, school, sports, peer relationships, employment. Teens must occasionally make mistakes, suffer disappointment, and choose poor options for themselves to develop good judgment and the courage to face less than perfect outcomes.
Rather than requiring a perfect performance, parenting is more of a balancing and juggling act. The decisions you are called upon to make are often in shades of grey, calling for flexibility, the willingness to constantly assess and reassess how things are working, and make changes when indicated. Parenting is a work of art rather than an exact science.
This means you need to give up the fantasy of “getting it right” the first and every time. Remember, a really great batting average is only .300; nowhere near the 1000 a perfect score requires. If you need to be right all the time, you will communicate this need to your teen. They in turn will interpret this as a requirement that they, too, need to be perfect before you can be satisfied and proud of them.
Here are some suggestions for doing a good enough job:
- Listen more than you talk. Allow them to express their own feelings without judgment. Try to empathize even when you don’t agree.
- Don’t lecture. They despise lectures. Set an example by your behavior. Teenagers carefully observe what you do and whether your acts are consistent with your principles and ethics.
- Lighten up! Have a sense of humor! If you are too serious all the time, it scares them. Why would they want to grow up if it means that life doesn’t have its funny side?
- Have faith. As the saying goes, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Trust that everything will turn out okay, and that being okay is good enough!
If you would like to develop your skills and ability to communicate with your teen, we are here to help. Please feel free to contact us for information about lectures, workshops, individual and/or family counseling.