The teenage years are marked by significant physiological, mental and emotional changes. How can we adjust our parenting styles accordingly to meet the needs of our growing teens?
In a recent radio interview, 938NOW host Susan Ng, my 19-year-old son Nathan and I had the opportunity to discuss the parenting beliefs and practices that my wife and I follow with our teenagers. It was a good discussion of how we can better engage our adolescents who seek greater autonomy and freedom.
As a family life trainer and father of 2 teens, here are some tips that I’ve found personally helpful.
1. Move from telling to offering advice
When our children are young, we often tell them what to do, where to go, and how to get things done. However as they progress into their teenage years, they no longer appreciate our directions as much. They’re more likely to see it as nagging.
Nathan shared on air how much he appreciated us for giving him the space to voice his opinions and make his own decisions. But this was something I learnt to do through experience. I realised earlier on that when Nathan is adamant about something, it is way more productive to talk through it with him than to try to talk him out of it.
He shared an example when he wanted to buy an expensive racing bike with his own money. Even though I had expressed my reservations when we discussed it, he went ahead and bought it anyway. He’s only used it thrice since. When he publicly revealed that he considered that a poor decision, I was surprised by his candidness.
Through this episode, Nathan learned to value our counsel more and to re-evaluate before making a final decision in future.
When teachable moments like these present themselves, we should seize the opportunity to help our children learn from the experience instead of rubbing salt into their wounds.
2. Spend quality time together, intentionally
Quantity time begets quality time.
When Nathan was 11 to 14 years old, we would have breakfast together every Sunday. We would talk about our high and low points of the week while affirming and encouraging each other. If he had misbehaved at home during the week, I will also take this time to bring it up with him. This weekly ritual provided ample opportunities for me to teach him the right values to prepare him for life.
You can’t get quality time without quantity time.
3. Offer a listening ear
One thing Nathan said during our interview reminded me that journeying well with your teen requires good listening while keeping an open mind.
When our children face problems in school or in relationships, how can we ensure that we’ll be their first confidante when they need help or advice?
We have to be willing to listen, be open to what they have to say, and suspend all judgment or disapproval. When they’ve expressed themselves and feel heard, they become more ready to listen. We can then offer our counsel or insight.
A stable marriage and a strong parent-child bond foster a great sense of safety and belonging in the home, which is important in helping our children be more open in their sharing and come to us when they have a problem.
A sense of safety and belonging in the home will help our children be more open in their sharing.
4. Handle conflict constructively and calmly
Conflicts are part and parcel of life, but it’s how we handle them that makes the difference.
Nathan shared that as a family, we try to air concerns and express our frustrations appropriately. Even when we have differing views, we help one another see things from the other person’s perspective and try to find common grounds.
It’s important to talk things through when all parties are eventually calm. We can agree on a suitable day and time to do this instead of pushing the issue in the heat of the moment. This way, we are more likely to resolve the issue, if not get some closure.
5. Live your values out
At the end of the day, our children will tend to follow what we do, not what we say. Regardless of how much time we’ve invested in sharing our held values with our children, it’s more crucial that we walk the talk.
When it comes to issues such as boy-girl relationships or peer pressure, the choices they make are likely to be influenced by the way they see us conduct our own lives. Hopefully the congruence that we demonstrate will inspire them to follow in our footsteps.
Practicing these points have helped my wife and I foster strong bonds and open channels of communications with our sons. I hope you will also discover what works for your family so that your children thrive in this unique parent-teen relationship.
© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Amos has carved a professional career in developing and coaching people. In a personal capacity, he and his wife have been facilitating marriage preparation and enrichment courses for over 20 years, longer than they’ve been parents! He has also anchored numerous relationship-focused workshops for Focus on the Family Singapore.
Dear Dad, are you looking for ways to build a more meaningful connection with your child? If your daughter is between 12-15 years old, take part in Date with Dad, happening on 17 August 2019! Find out more at www.family.org.sg/DateWithDad today.