5 common mistakes parents make with their teens (and how to change for the better)
Your once warm and talkative child now seems to be pulling away from the family and isolating. They now prefer spending time with their friends or being alone in their rooms. You’re confused and concerned. On the flip side, they may be hearing you nag them about becoming more independent while continuing to demand dependence. You’re confused and so are they!
It’s important to remember that pulling away is a normal phase during the teen years, but it also calls parents to change how they parent to avoid pushing their teen further away.
Here are five common mistakes parents make that tend to push their teens away and suggestions on how to make a few adjustments to parent more effectively during what can be a difficult phase.
Mistake #1: treat them as if they are still kids
Your emerging teen might continue to exhibit childish behaviors, which might cause you to treat them like they’re still kids. Instead, try to change how you treat and talk to them. Learn to speak to the emerging adult instead of the kid of the past. Encourage and inspire maturity by respecting their need to experience life, failure, and consequences for their actions. In other words, unless it is life-threatening, don’t caution them, demand control, or disrespect their choices. Their brain needs to experience the cause and effect of growing a mature brain.
Mistake #2: being too critical
If you’re constantly picking apart everything your teen does and doesn’t do, they’ll learn to either isolate themselves while at home or figure out a way to hang outside of your home with friends. Their choices and performance may not be to your standards – offer them the much-needed grace and encouragement to grow their decision-making muscles. For every correction you make, call out one positive attribute they have. Convey how proud you are of them for trying things on their own. Give them props for learning from failures (instead of shutting down). Positive feedback fuels their motivation to do more, which will give them the confidence to make healthy, independent decisions.
Mistake #3: smothering them or giving them too much freedom
Teens frequently say that their parents smother them, which causes anxiety and makes them want to run. This might include constantly telling them what to do, having unreasonable rules, asking a lot of questions, invading their privacy, always wanting to know what they’re doing, and even over-showering them with affection.
Give them some space, and they will come to you when they need you. On the other hand, in trying to be cool parents and giving your teens too much freedom, you can introduce them to situations they are not mature enough to handle. It’s essential to strike a balance between smothering and freedom. Trust how you have raised them thus far, set new boundaries that facilitate growth, communicate your expectations, and let them know what the consequences are if expectations are broken. Let your “yes” be yes, and your “no” be no. As your teen matures and earns your trust, lighten up on your expectations, give them some more freedom, and share your joy in seeing them respect the freedom you have given them.
Mistake #4: ignoring their views and what is important to them
Nothing can be more frustrating than when we feel that our opinions, ideas, questions or concerns don’t matter. This is the number one complaint I hear from the teens I work with. They want their parents to slow down, listen, and value what they have to offer. If you want them to respect your advice on big life decisions one day, it’s critical that they feel you’re available and learning to respect how they think. Here’s what to practice: stop what you are doing, make eye contact, grab a pint of ice cream, and commit to truly listening to them without criticism.
Mistake #5: not asking for forgiveness
None of us can always be right! That implies everyone else is always wrong. If your teen always feels like they are wrong, they will want to retreat. Keep in mind that your teen knows you are not perfect, even if you’re hesitant to admit it! Forgiveness is a key ingredient in every healthy relationship and a virtue every family could benefit from modeling. When you realize you’ve wronged your teen, learn to be humble and ask for their forgiveness. It will bring healing and open the door to deeper conversations. Time and time again, we’ve asked our children for forgiveness, and now as adults, they admit that it was what not only earned us the right to speak into their lives, but it also made them feel safe while they were growing up.
The fear of losing our teen can create the need to control. Practice these five healthy habits and you will be on your way to a healthier relationship with your teen. You can do this!
What a freebie? Get a pamphlet on five ways to connect with your teen. It’s on us.
We help parents navigate the teen years, reduce conflict, and enjoy a better relationship with their teens. Contact us today to find out how we can help.