For years my wife and I have been raising, babies, toddlers, and school-aged children, and we are still are, but two of our for babies have grown into teens, and sure while some parenting techniques are the same others are much different.
Sure, there are challenges, and some of the stereotypes you hear are true, but I don’t believe raising a teen is overly hard especially if you have been raising them with right attitudes and respect since they were young (See my post on Raising Tomorrows Men).
With that said, there are a few things on this list that I have done and continue to work on, and a few I am sure you have done as well. I am sure parents of teenage girls can relate to many of these as well, but since we have only boys, this is what works for our boys.
Give Them Privacy:
I get it our kids are growing, and they have interests outside of our homes. Our first reaction is to invade their privacy to make sure they are doing the right things, but if you don’t let them make a few mistakes along the way, they won’t be able to grow into independent adults. Teens need their space to foster independence.
DAD TIP: This does not mean you should not be informed of their activities, but they should be able to make decisions without Mom or Dad in every detail of their lives.
Also in one of my earlier post I talked about monitoring your children’s devices (see that post here), there comes a time when you need to cut the leash on that as well. Once my son was entered high school I turned off all the monitoring features except the GPS tracker; his texts are his.
Our children have been listening to us since they were about an 18-week fetus, they know how we feel about the neighbors, the president, their friends, music, and just about everything else in our lives; however, it’s time for our mouths to take a back seat and allow our ears to drive.
We want our children to trust us, to be able to communicate with us and to know that we are going to listen to what they have to say and not just hear what they are saying.
Sure we are not going to agree with everything they say, but that’s not the point. The point is to for your teen to build the trust to speak to you, so that you can listen and offer helpful advice.
This one took me a long time to understand myself, as I tend to interrupt a lot when he is talking about something, and then we never get to the bottom of it, which of course makes it worse for all of us.
DAD TIP: When you learn to listen they will tell you their problems, so if you worried about giving them privacy
Rules (Be Firm):
Clear rules with expected consequences must be set, but both parents must be on the same page with the rules and the outcomes. If not it just won’t work.
Each family is going to have a different set of rules and consequences. Simply because we all have various views on topics that are important to our family; however, when defining those rules make sure they are reasonable and flexible (not lenient), for example, if he has followed the rules to the letter let the proverbial leash out a little more. If and when they break the rules draw it back in.
Pick Your Arguments:
Arguments are bound to happen, somedays multiple ones. As a result, you are going to need to decide which ones worth arguing about and which ones are not.
As a rule of thumb, if it’s going to cause irreversible damage to their or someone else’s body, health or lively hood, that’s a battle to pick, and well if it’s only temporary, or minor that one to let go.
In our house, anything that involves, drugs, smoking, or permanent body alterations are a battle we win. If he decided he didn’t want to hang up his clothes today, depending on how most of the day has gone, we might let that one slide a day or so.
DAD TIP: Sure, I have tattoos. I got my first at the very young age of 13, and while I don’t hate it, its a decision I wish I would have made much older (and with better parenting).
Sports Are Not Everything:
I can’t stress this enough. All of my children play sports, but that does not mean I expect them to be the next Nick Suranio, Helen Morales, or Cristiano Ronaldo.
I believe sports are an essential tool to teach us teamwork, leadership, and of course sportsmanship, but you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on your teen and sports.
When I go to wrestling or soccer matches, I cheer but screaming at your son or daughter because they missed the goal or lost the match, is just crazy to me, and you are not helping their confidence at all. I once heard a father tell his son he was a waste of talent because he didn’t block a goal, and his team lost. I am hopeful the father didn’t actually mean this and that it was not a daily occurrence.
My point is they have enough stress with just being a teen, looking for the approval of their friends, among many other things. Sports can be a particularly hard time in a boys life since it seems like all fathers want their kids to be all-stars, and put tons of pressure on them to be the best, remember sports are not what the world is about, the child playing them is.
Family time is still essential in a young man’s life, and it’s vital that you schedule downtime to instill how important spending time with your family is, whether it’s bowling, watching movies, camping, ice skating, or any other family-oriented activity. This will enforce the values you are teaching them. Check out this post on digital detox for tips on detoxing.
It is crucial for us as parents to set aside what we are doing in order to show our children that spending time with them matters, whether our teens tell us or not, they need us, and want to spend time with us.
Alcohol & Drugs:
As your teenager begins to attend social outings with his or her friends it may be impossible for them to stay clear from alcohol, or other drugs, that get offered at some of these places.
Don’t avoid having a conversation because you have a good kid; things can and do happen. Make sure your teenager understands some of the results that can occur when consuming drugs or alcohol, and if your family has a history of drug or alcohol use, inform them and let them know they are at increased dangers.
DAD TIP: My son and I have had many conversations around this. I tell him that if he is out somewhere, I don’t care what the reason is if you or someone you are with is or has consumed alcohol or anything else, call me I will come and get you no questions asked. He knows that he will have a consequence with it as well, but there will be none that evening or the following morning, as I would rather him home and alive, than dead because he was worried about what his father was going to do when he found out.
While not a drug per say, talk to them about smoking and vaping as well. Vaping is increasing amongst teens and it has serious side effects and can disrupt brain development (see Surgeon General information here).
Respect His Friends/Girlfriend/Partner:
Talk with your son, and inform him that it’s important to respect his friends their choices and their views on things, whether he disagrees or not. The same goes for his girlfriend too.
However, they also need to understand that whatever happens between them, sexually, texting, video whatever it is, it is between them, and none of that is his friends or the internet’s business. Not that we condone any of that, but it happens, so your son needs to understand that his girlfiend is trusting him and that if it doesn’t work out nothing changes. Everything that had happened was and is between them.
DAD TIP: You should probably be having the sex talk with them as they hit middle school, that may seem young but more and more children are starting at a young age, take a look at this study performed on middle and high school kids and increased sexual activity.
Don’t Criticize Everything:
This probably goes along with picking your arguments, but give your child a little creative freedom. There is no need to nitpick every little thing they do. Sure, he is probably going to do things that you don’t approve of. That could be clothing, hairstyles, or spend time with his friends playing video games (that is how kids hang out these days even the athletes).
Criticism is needed at
Sometimes we as parents are wrong (wait that happens?), but what’s worse than being wrong is not being able to take accountability and apologize for being wrong.
Be a leader, show your teenager that you too are capable of mistakes, and by apologizing you will teach them that we all make mistakes, and that forgiveness is something we can both give.
At the end of all of this, if your teenagers are like mine, they will be more open to having a discussion, feel more comfortable talking to you about personal things and want to be around you, as well as bring their friends around.
Oh and finally get ready to buy lots of groceries, I don’t know if it’s because they are athletes or because they are teenage boys, but wow can they eat.