As most parents can tell you, about the time you start feeling like you have things under control and you know what to do and how to be the best parent to your child is about the time they morph into someone completely different and become teenagers. This means that parents may need to make some changes to what tools they have in their parenting toolbox in order to keep up. This transition can be as difficult for parents as it is for their teens and invariably, all of them will make some mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see parents of teenagers make.
1. Looking for the Bad Rather than the Good
The teenage years can be tumultuous and trying. However, it is important that parents don’t fixate on any negative expectations. The old saying goes, “whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” When it comes to parenting teenagers, that should say “whether you think they are good or think they are bad, you are right.” Oftentimes, when parents spend all their energy waiting and watching for the worst, they miss out on all the best things about their teens. In fact, all these negative expectations can actually bring about the bad behavior the parent is hoping to avoid.
2. Failing to Use their Own Instincts
One of the most obvious examples of this is people who read too many parenting books. This is actually a mistake parents can make at every stage of their child’s life. Parents who turn to other sources and who rely on other people’s advice about how to raise their teenagers are disregarding the most effective parenting tool they have at their disposal, their instincts.
3. Being Overly Controlling
Some parents feel that the best way to make sure their teens avoid problems with alcohol, drugs, sex, pregnancy, and all other teenage dangers is to keep them on a short leash, micromanaging and controlling everything they do. This may mean that they restrict access to social media sites, have veto power over any wardrobe decisions, and can decide who their teen can and cannot be friends with. While this may seem like a surefire way to keep them out of trouble, it can actually create two different problems. First, teens whose parents exert this much control are likely to rebel and to rebel in serious and significant ways. Part of being a teenager is taking some steps out into the world on your own and when parents prohibit that kind of exploration, it can backfire. Second, this type of parenting makes it very difficult for teens to learn how to make decisions by themselves.
4. Not Being Controlling Enough
On the flipside of the parents above, these parents take a laid back approach to parenting and fail to set boundaries, expectations, or standards of behavior. These are the parents that excuse inappropriate teen behaviors like smoking pot or having casual sex as “teens being teens.” By allowing their teens to behave however they want, these parents are failing to provide the solid foundation and sound moral compass that will help guide them through adulthood.
Parents of teenagers have a big role to play and have much more influence than they might think. The teen years may require parents to develop different tools and strategies. At times, it may feel like nothing they do or say is making a difference. However, parents are the ones who help teens build that foundation and formulate their own internal compass.