As I was reading some of my emails this past week, I noticed a common thread from parents raising teens. To summarize, they wanted to know how far is too far...which choices do they allow and at what point do they intervene?
Most of these parents adhere to the parenting belief that teens need to feel they are supported during their time of transition from dependence to independence. But let’s face it, most of today’s parents were not raised with this mindset and so they often find themselves in foreign territory.
In fact one parent stated that her parents were constantly criticizing how “lenient” she was with her teenage daughter. What past generations see as lenient, our generation sees as allowing them to make choices based on their own preferences in order to create the life they were born to live.
The inner struggle all parents feel, regardless of the age of their children, is always to find that balance, to gain clarity concerning the fine line that seems to always exist between honoring a child’s independence and protecting them from possible physical or emotional harm. However, the older the child the more critical it becomes to recognize the limit. Parents are well aware of the fact that choices and decisions made during the teen years can be life-changing.
So how do we determine how far is too far with our teens?
The first thing is to understand that pushing the envelope is what teens do!
Remember they are finding their way through the natural order of life to establish their independence. And to do that they are automatically drawn to the next step…the next step that will most often take them into areas unfamiliar not only to them but to their parents as well.
When a new situation occurs that gives you pause the following steps are critical to help you successfully work it through while maintaining a positive relationship with your teen.
- 1. Keep your emotions in tack. Reacting emotionally will shut them down.
- 2. Be open-minded.
- 3. Hear them out before you respond.
- 4. LISTEN to not only what they are saying but to what they aren’t saying.
- 5. Don’t judge.
- 6. Ask them for more information if needed.
- 7. When you respond point out options.
- 8. Lead them into a conversation that will help them see the issue from different sides without interjecting your opinion.
- 9. If you feel it won't be physically or emotionally safe DO NOT hesitate to explain your concerns, point out your reasons.
- 10. Express both your understanding of their disappointment and your appreciation for their willingness to discuss the situation with you.
Respecting your teen’s thoughts, feelings and ideas is more important than the matter at hand. There will be many times when your teenager will feel they are ready to leap into the next step of independence and you won’t agree. Allowing these times to become power struggles will only lead to a break-down in your communication and ultimately your relationship.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule parents can use to determine whether or not they should agree to their teenager’s desires. That distinction must be made on an individual basis because the level and rate of maturing is so individual. Where one teenager may be quite responsible and handles themselves in a mature manner, another teenager may still display immature tendencies and lack good judgment skills.
With that being said, by following these 10 suggestions you will have succeeded in giving them a voice in what happens in their life. If it is something you are uncomfortable with and you have clearly in a loving way explained your reasons, they may not like it but they at least will know they are loved and they matter.
Treating your relationship with your teenager with respect and honor needs to always be the basis of your intentions. There may even be times when they become angry or upset at your decision and that is okay.
Once this process is repeated several times, your teenager will receive the message that you are there for them, not only on their side, but also intent on fulfilling your role as their parent to always, above all else, be acting out of what is in their best interest.