8 Tips for Parenting Teenagers
Raising teenagers can be one of life’s great journeys. However, like with many adventures, you can expect unexpected twists and turns, all the while hoping that your teen successfully negotiates the sometimes-chaotic terrain.
This post provides eight tips for parents of teenagers that I learned from my hypnosis and counseling work with teens over the past 25 years. My book, Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center, contains many more tips that parents may find useful in helping raise resilient, confident, and self-reliant children.
Believe in your teenager’s abilities
Once I began to facilitate hypnosis and interactions with the subconscious, I learned that teenagers have access to much greater knowledge and wisdom within themselves than their behavior would indicate. Teenagers often fail to consider what they know as they choose to undertake inadvisable actions because their brain is not developed fully until the age of 25. To make up for that, teens can be taught to think carefully to give themselves a better opportunity to access their own wisdom.
As parents, you can help your teenagers by assuming that they know many of the answers to their life issues, and encouraging them to quiet their minds so that they can access them. When parents believe in their children, the children learn to believe in themselves.
A positive attitude is one of the keys for doing well in life. It is important to talk positively to your teens because they internalize what they are told. When you suggest that your children have done poorly in an activity, the children may accept this suggestion and conclude that they are incapable of doing better, especially if they feel they had tried to do well. On the other hand, when you suggest they can do better, both you and your children can start asking yourselves how to make this happen.
Have positive intention
Positive intention is another key to doing well in life. By role modeling positive intention to your teen, he or she will learn about its power.
When your children need to improve, it can be very helpful to talk with them about their intentions. If they do not have an intention to improve, your discussion should center non-judgmentally on why they might want to reconsider. When they do state a desire to improve, the discussion can move on to brainstorming regarding how an improvement might be achieved.
Consistency is an essential ingredient for a peaceful co-existence with your children. For example, when parents have different expectations from their children, discord often ensues as the children will gravitate towards the parent who tends to be more lenient.
Employment of tough love is another example of being consistent. I worked with a 12-year-old who could only fall asleep in the presence of his mother. Both the boy and his mother wanted to change this dysfunctional pattern. I explained that after the mother tucked the boy in at night, her job was to leave his bedroom and not return even if he protested. I offered to teach the boy how to use hypnosis to help himself fall asleep, but he assured me that he could fall asleep on his own. Three weeks later, the mother informed me that the boy had continued to cry himself to sleep every night, but she did not return to his bedroom. This time he agreed to learn hypnosis. The next night, he fell asleep on his own without difficulty. The take-home lesson is that without his mother’s consistent refusal to return to his bedroom, he would not have overcome the problem at that time.
Some parents focus all their efforts on taking care of their children, their jobs, and their homes, while sparing no time to take care of themselves. While the performance of all these important responsibilities is laudable, failing to take care of your own needs can backfire. For example, if you neglect your physical or mental health, you can become more prone to illness that will affect your ability to take care of your children.
Parents can take care of themselves by taking time to be alone, read a book, listen to music, go on a hike, or even take a long bath.
Be an active listener
Neither parents nor teenagers usually listen well to each other, in part because all parties feel they know best what to say or do. I encourage families to use active listening as a way of facilitating communication. With this method when the first person finishes speaking, the second person needs to restate what the first person said. The first person then either affirms that he or she was heard correctly, or gets to explain their point of view again. Active listening helps ensure that each person feels heard, and can help avoid a lot of anger and heartache.
When we remember to be grateful for what we have, we can feel happier. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with your family member’s behavior, consider all the blessings that you may take for granted, such as a home, clothing, and food. Be grateful that your teenager’s knowledge and experience can help solve difficulties, rather than pointing out their deficiencies. Challenges can appear to be much easier to solve when you are in a good mood because of being grateful.
Believe in something big
Keeping things in perspective helps us cope better with life challenges, including in dealing with each other.
One way of keeping perspective is to ask yourself if a problem will matter a month or year from now. In not, it may be unnecessary to work to resolve it.
I often give my patients a quote to ponder from author Christian Larson, which embodies the power of belief in something big: “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
Both parents and teenagers benefit from using these eight tips. When family members approach life with similar strategies, they reinforce each other’s success. For example, I have seen many families transformed by consistent use of positive talk and gratitude.