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How to Deal With your Teenager

As your kids go into their teen years, it's obvious that things are going to change. Here are some practical steps for parents on how to deal with your teen.

  1. Change your expectations:
    Studies show that the frontal cortex of the brain does not completely develop until a person is well into their twenties, sometimes early thirties. The brain of a teenager is a work in progress. The frontal lobe of the brain is the seat of what researchers call the "executive functions." It's the part of our brains that helps us to plan,[ It's tempting to treat our teenagers as though they are capable of reasoning, making well thought out decisions, and controlling their impulses. But the truth is, they're not. They're brains are in a critical stage of development and they need you to help them through this part of their life. Instead of expecting them to act and think like an adult, expect them to be somewhat out-of-control and help them with it.

  2. Stop treating them with suspicion:
    Teenagers deal with fear as a constant companion. Fear of the other kids, fear of fitting in, fear of their teachers, fear of being mocked or ridiculed...they don't need their parents adding to it. When they come home, their home should be their sanctuary away from these fears. A place where they feel safe and protected, where they find love and acceptance. When your child walks into a room, your countenance should light up with happiness to see them. Not with a jaded eye and questions of where they've been and what they've been up to. Unconditional love and acceptance is the greatest gift you can give them.One that will not only boost their confidence to face another day, but will also steer your relationship with them in a positive direction.

  3. Develop empathy:
    Remember what it was like when you were a teenager, multiply that by 10 and cut your teen some slack. At this crucial time in their lives, they're looking for someone to understand what they're going through. We all need understanding, but your teenager needs it a lot more than you can possibly imagine and he/she needs it to come from you. When they come home, stop what you're doing (no matter how important you think it is) and give them your undivided attention. Look them in the eye, discipline yourself to stay focused on them and what they're saying not on what you're going to say, and guard your response to them. It's often been said that people need others just to listen. They generally don't need you to fix their problems for them (they'll figure that out for themselves), but rather they need someone who'll listen and empathize with them. This is what your teen needs from you. And if you don't give this to them, believe me, they'll find someone who will.

  4. Stop fighting with them:
    Teenagers often feel they need to prove themselves. They have to prove themselves with their peers, their teachers and they automatically feel they have to prove themselves with you too. Don't let it upset you and refuse to fight with them. Using empathy in your voice, develop one-liners. "I bet it feels that way." "What do you suppose you'll do?" "I don't know, what do you think?"] They may get even angrier with you and demand to know why you won't argue with them. Let them know you love them too much to fight with them over petty stuff. If you can refuse to take the bait every time they throw out their hook, you'll save yourself and them from having to go through a lot of arguing about things that are irrelevant.

  5. Establish boundaries and stick to them:
    Everyone that lives in your house should be part of making the household run. No one person should shoulder the entire responsibility. Teens are no exception. Decide, as a family, who is going to do what. Be reasonable! Assign everyone a chore and not more than two chores, plus keeping their own room clean. Instead of arguing and fighting with them when they don't do what they were suppose to do, let them suffer the consequences. When they ask to go out with their friends and their chores are not done, you can say with empathy, "Oh, that sounds like so much fun. But unfortunately, you never did your chores this week and your room is a mess. I'm so sorry you can't go." They'll want to make a deal with you immediately. That's when you can say, "I'll tell you what, as soon as your chores are done and your room is clean, you can go." Stick to this pattern. Discipline yourself to not fume and be angry when they aren't keeping to the family plan and doing their chores. Wait patiently. An opportunity will arise for you to deal with the situation. Using empathy and the "as soon as..." approach, you can effectively make it a win-win situation for both of you. Thus, avoiding anyone having to be angry.

    Give your teen choices within limits. This gives them the feeling they're in control of their lives. "Are you going to do your homework first or your chores?" "What time will you be home, 10:30 or 11:00?" It gives them a certain amount of confidence in being able to decide for themselves. If they break curfew, etc...then apply reasonable consequences with empathy for the circumstances.

  6. Honor and respect your teen:
    Treat your child with honor and respect at all times. Constantly screaming at a child will damage their emotions and cause them to be insecure as adults. No one (including yourself), likes to be belittled. Discipline yourself to never belittle, mock or talk-down to your child. Respect their opinions and ask for them. When it's just the two of you riding in the car, turn the radio to their favorite station. If they like sports, go out of your way to get them involved and go to their games. If they are musical, pay for lessons and go to their recitals. If they win any awards, make a big deal out of it and take the whole family out to dinner in their honor. These are easy, fun things you can do for your teen that will cement a life-long healthy relationship between the two of you.

  7. Open your home to their friends:
    Your teens are looking for a place to hang out. Be a good sport about it. Have some healthy snacks around for them, let them play their music and make yourself available. You'll be surprised how many of their friends might need a listening ear.

Publish Date: 17/08/2011
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