Being a Teenager isn't any easier today then it was when you were a youngster.The Teenage Years are now and always will be those strange in between Years when you are neither Adult or Child.
If you think that this time is difficult for you, the Parent, then try to remember back to the your own experiences as you stepped from childhood into the reluctant shoes of a young Adult.Do you remember what it was like to have responsibilities hoisted on you only, but had no real rights to speak of?
Look at it from a Teenagers point of view.On one hand you are told to grow up and stop acting like a child, but in the next second you are treated as if you are barely out of Kindergarten and are reminded that you are just a Child. If that is not confusing enough for any Person, no matter what age group or gender, we are now adding the ever increasing violence and absence of caring adults that are willing to take the time to parent into the mix.
In one breath we are telling the World that our Kids are so fragile and sensitive that they can not mentally handle to be graded and held responsible for their educational efforts, making them look like absolute idiots with no common sense and in the next breath we are claiming that our kids have become cold hearted homicidal maniacs.With that in mind and an honest look at what we are really saying via the media to those impressionable youngsters, I would like to encourage you to consider the following...
Keep an open door policy.
This is a phrase which is heard most often in a work related environment and it is this Writers belief that it fits well within the realm of parenting and getting to know your Child.
In reality, understanding or shall we say the willingness to understand our Teenagers is hard work.Understanding, involves work on both ends and a willingness to be vulnerable which each other. Over the years we have taught them, that we really don't want to hear what they have to say. At best we have only listened to them with half an ear. Most Adults still think that Teenagers haven't achieved enough life experience due to their short lifespan to really weight in on important conversations and decisions. They are looked upon as those which have very little of value to offer to the Adult World. That may be true in some Areas of life; however there are plenty of Areas in which they have one up on us. By being willing to talk to them at any time about anything they may wish to discuss with us, we are opening an important door to understanding what goes on in their hearts and minds. Don't censor the subjects they wish to bring to the table and don't close your mind and ears to their wisdom and words. No matter how uncomfortable we may be in discussing certain subjects with them, it is our responsibility to answer questions truthfully and express our worry, fear or lake of knowledge where it is appropriate. On the other hand, we are called upon to listen to their input as well.
Don't pretend you know everything, ask for clarification.
This might be one of the most difficult things for most Parents to swallow.We have been taught from a young age on that as an Adult you are supposed to have an answer for everything. I don't know about you, but I know I am not all knowing. If you are willing to humble your-self enough to ask your Kid about something they have more knowledge about then you do, you will give them the pride of being on the giving end for once. Most Teenagers like to show off their knowledge and enjoy being able to share what they know and be valuable at the same time.
Don't make any assumptions, just because something might look bad doesn't automatically mean it is bad.Remember, Teenagers like to shock. On the flip side, just because something seems innocent enough, doesn't make it so. The big tip here is to let them become the Teacher and you the willing Student. By learning from them, you will allow them to express them-selves fully to you.
Don't condemn without understanding their Reasons.
If you want to slam the Door on ever getting close to your Teen then go right ahead and keep condemning everything they do and say.Keep belittling every effort they may make to please you. Shout down every bit of self expression to may choose to have through their clothing, the music they listen to etc.
Teenagers don't think the way we do.What is perfectly obvious to them, may completely elude you and vise versa. Instead of completely losing your cool, you may want find out what was the thought behind the action first. You might want to phrase it like this...."I wouldn't have done it this way, but perhaps your way is easier. Can you show me how and explain to me why you decided to do it this way?" You might be surprised by their logic, but by asking you will see the recurring Patterns of your Teens thoughts forming. Now here I have to give a warning. Most Teens are good people, I would say 99% are decent young people, but don't forget that there are those that even at this young age are already dangerous. Use your wits.
Give them a choice to mess up.
Have you ever noticed that a lot of Teens just push and push until you are ready to go out of your mind?Then you, the Parent, fall apart. You are condemned for your lack of parenting skills. Here is a bit of uncomfortable truth. Your kid will mess up and a Teen will push your buttons until you put your foot down. They have to do that, it is part of growing up. We all have done it. However, they way you handle it will teach both of you what is expected.
You need to set clear guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not.Which consequences go with action and then give them the key to their own lock. As long as they are aware of the Rules and the Consequences if they decide to break them, which you will have to stick to, it is their choice to mess up. If their behavior becomes criminal then treat them like a criminal and let them pay their dues in Jail. They have to understand them-selves, before you can begin to understand them. They can only learn about their own capabilities by having the choices to explore them freely. It is scary at first for both, but you have to let them get to know them-selves and learn right along with them from the mistakes you have to watch them make.
In closing, the key to understanding your Teenager is listening with an open mind, asking them to teach you to understand their point of view, allowing them to make their own mistakes and yes even make certain they will be expected to pay for their trespasses.By respecting them and demanding respect in return you have just found the biggest key to understanding them. Follow the keys and the rest will follow.