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Parenting Teens: When Things Get Rocky

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Every relationship goes through its ups and downs. For parents, the teen years provide more opportunities for conflict and stress within your household. Teenagers are processing a lot (they’re changing physically and emotionally, discovering their passions and goals, planning their future, etc.), while parents are trying to transition from control to influence. Often, a certain tension permeates the air as launch time approaches.

As our children transition toward adulthood, changing our filter from instructing to empowering should happen incrementally. We increasingly assume the role of influencer and encourager, rather than director, so our relationship and communication should adapt accordingly. Because our children and our roles are undergoing such significant transitions, it’s important to keep in mind our key relational and communication goals, especially during times of conflict! With these goals in mind, we can help keep the “fireworks” at bay and ease some of the tension that may be rising.

Here are some important musts to keep in mind:

  • Respect their desire for increasing independence and empower them to assume greater responsibility
  • Strive to build an enduring relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. We must be viewed as a safe place for them to share their dreams, hurts, challenges, and disagreements. Replace “talk to” with “share with” in your filter.
  • Promote self-discovery and responsible decision-making, even if it comes with risk. Mistakes are a necessary part of the growth process.
  • Regularly model unconditional love, even when we don’t always agree

As we seek to empower rather than control our children, certain words should govern our behavior and occupy our communication filter any time we talk with them: influence, ask, listen, invite, respect, understand, encourage, share, and inspire. These are especially helpful to keep in mind when strains and conflicts rise and when our children are making difficult decisions.

Here are some key things for all of us to remember during times of disagreement and correction:

  • Respect their point of view (even if you disagree); strive for mutual understanding
  • Strategically time your difficult conversations when all parties are calm
  • Avoid nagging, irritating, and frustrating them
  • Share your views in love. Do not be harsh or critical.
  • Keep your cool and resist the urge to fight with them
  • End with a touch, hug, and expression of love

These strategies can help take some of the sting out of your difficult conversations and help your teen understand that you are trying to empower them, not control them. While having strong communication goals are important for parenting children of any age, they’re absolutely essential when raising teens and young adults.

Consider whether your communication methods influence and empower, or direct and constrain. When tensions rise in your house, how do you handle it? Do you have any great communication strategies to share? Remember, we’re releasing eagles to soar, not kites to control!

About the author

Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.

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