I've been talking to some parents lately, and been thinking again about how increasingly complex the job of parenting actually is. I think it is especially challenging for parents with adolescents. Just at the time that young people are needing to developmentally begin to turn away somewhat from their families, along comes a whole bunch of other influences that will muddy the waters. Young people are influenced externally in ways that are both powerful and rapid, in ways that we would not have even imagined just ten years ago. I'm referring of course to the increasing influence of the dear old technology, and social networking influences such as Facebook. Young people can seem increasingly savvy, increasingly sophisticated...This in turn can often make them sound quite wise and worldly in other areas, which can then lead to parents feeling that it is no longer appropriate for the young person to have boundaries, or parental expectations etc. And kids who are ''trying it on'', in terms of pushing for instance, for more freedom, can sound pretty damned convincing. Parents in turn, can begin to feel less confident in their role, even potentially intimidated by this new ''adult' they have found themselves to be suddenly sharing a house with. And as a result, will often start to back down, to avoid areas that they may now feel suddenly out of their parenting depth in. The backing down is especially likely to happen if the young person has a loud voice, strong powers of persuasion, or both....
It's important though for parents to keep in mind that no matter how worldly and articulate kids can sound, underneath it all they have limited life-experience, and not always a lot of wisdom to back up those occasionally convincing arguments that they can come up with. So, without being punitive, feel free to set clear limits, to have expectations. Don't think because a young person seems worldly and wise at age fifteen or sixteen, that your work is done. Know who their friends are- where the party is, who will be there, what time you want them home. Parents who focus on being friends with their kids, rather than parents, are quite deluded. Kids need parents to be parents- they have friends in other parts of their lives.
Adolescents will respond to rewards and consequences, especially if it involves technology, or other things they hold dear, and it is a mistake to think that these can only be useful with younger kids. The truth is, we are all shaped by rewards and consequences throughout our lives. The classic example is, that if I don't go to work, I don't get paid. Teenagers will often want and try and convince you otherwise, however : "so what if you ground me- I don't care...." The reality is that they probably do care, they are now just calling your bluff- and even if they really don't, you are still communicating that you care, when you use consequences, ie, that you are the parent, you are in charge. There is security for them in this, even though their actions may indicate that they think otherwise. But make sure, that when things are going well- notice this too, and mention it- do this frequently. Young people- actually all people- are more receptive to hearing what they are occasionally doing wrong, if you are frequently telling them what they are doing right.
These are some very basic points to keep in mind if you share your house with one or more teenagers or young people. But I've touched on just a couple of points and of course, there is much more to parenting. Know who your own supports are, for when the going gets tough. And regardless of what we might read, raising teenagers can be just as rewarding, just as much fun as raising kids at any other life-stage. Most teenagers get through this period relatively smoothly. Go and check out these folks for some more substantial stuff: Parentingteens.about.com And also email me, if you want do discuss any of this, or if you have any concerns about a teen/adolescent that you are living with....
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."