Most parents of adolescents go through a period of time when they feel that their teen has turned into an alien. Sometimes it is just normal adolescent development, and sometimes it is a more serious problem such as; substance abuse, anger, depression, or anxiety. In either case there are some basic things parents can do to help, or at least, keep the situation from getting worse. These basic tips are not a cure-all for serious problems, but are helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship with your teen, or any other alien you may encounter.
Be consistent and be on the same page: When there are two parents, it is very important that you are both on the same page. If you’re not, the two of you need to work out your difference, and then present a united front. If you’re a single parent or have someone else helping with the parenting, you still need to be consistent. Each situation is different, but your basic values and beliefs should be consistent. Your teen is learning from you. When something is important, be consistent so they learn that it is important.
Mean what you say – Say what you mean: Never give a direction or command that you do not intend to see either completed or followed up with a consequence. When you expect something and they do not follow through, plan on backing it up with appropriate negative consequences.
Listen first: This may be the most important of these tips. If you want your teen to listen to you, show them how to listen. Listen to them first. Make sure you understand their point of view. You don’t have to agree to let them know you understand. If they know you listened and understand, they are much more likely to listen and understand your point of view. And, by listening you may actually get some information that may change your mind.
State what you want, don’t ask unless it is a question: Do not present something you want from your teen as a question or favor. State what you want simply, directly, and in a businesslike tone of voice. “Molly I want you to do your homework now.” However, if you truly mean to give her a choice, then make it a simple choice. For example, “Molly, would you like to do your homework now or after supper?” If you ask the question “Would you like to do your homework now?” they can respond with a yes or they may respond with “in a minute”, and we all know what that means.
Tell your teen what to do rather than what not to do: If you state your expectations in such a way that it provides the teen with information about what his next step should be, he will be much more likely to comply. “Start your homework now” will work better than “Don’t sit at the computer all night”.
Use a positive tone of voice: Tone of voice is perhaps the most positive, or the most destructive technique you have. A frustrated angry voice usually triggers an angry response. The more calm and matter of fact your voice is the less likely you are going to get an angry response. Don’t get me wrong. There are many times when you have every right to be hurt and angry, and you should not be afraid to express your honest feelings. It shows you truly care. However, your kids learn to express themselves by the way you express yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help: When you are experiencing problems with your teen and things aren’t getting better or they’re getting worse. It may be time to ask for some help. Talk to other parents about what they are experiencing. Talk to your child’s counselor at school. Don’t be embarrassed; you are not alone. There are recourses in every community and your school counselor can often be a starting place to tap into those resources.