The objective of this article is to provide some guidelines for parents who want raise their children in ways that avoid trouble in adolescence.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: research yields that family group activities are prevalent in families experiencing good parent-teen communication. The opposite is true when there is poor communication. Doing things together as a group where relationships are otherwise good, should help promote the frequency of communication. This makes for fun, communication and laughter which enhances the morale of the whole family. The following suggestions are also important to producing children who, when they reach adolescence, stay in touch with their parents and are less likely to turn into troubled teens.
Set the example. We teach by example and our behavior speaks more loudly than any words. Youngsters complain frequently that their elders say one thing and do something else. Parental values are learned indirectly when children judge them by the examples we set to see how they work. Parents who get “stoned” on bourbon will have a difficult time advising their youngsters not to get “stoned” on pot.
Supervise and guide your children. Though teenagers are capable of freedom. privileges, and responsibility, they still need help in setting limits on their freedom and behavior. Deciding WITH the teen rather than FOR him usually lends a more responsible attitude on his part. Adolescents need and want limits and supervision but at the same time they rebel if they have to account for every minute of their time. A moderate and selective amount of guidance is one of the best ways to prevent communication breakdown. Stand WITH your teen–not OVER him.
Take an interest in your children’s activities and friends. This helps reduce the distance between you and them as it demonstrates your acceptance of their world. Talk to teens–to their friends-read about them and listen to their music–and do it all with an open mind. Give them a chance to display their point of view. It is alright to express your difference of opinion–“but if I found out more about this, I might change my mind.” Give your children time to be with their friends and make them welcome when they come to visit. Avoid being invasive–allow for privacy of thought. Our children want us to be interested and enthusiastic about their lives if we can do it without engulfing them and controlling them.
Respect the adolescent’s desire for individuality and independence. Don’t try to mold them into what you think they should be. Assume the role of watchful bystanders, ready to help if help is needed. We can then withdraw to another distance when young people want to be on their own and can do so successfully.
Communicate clearly in words and actions what you expect of your children. They need to know where you stand as parents. Many parents are wishy-washy in handling their children and insecure in decision making, inconsistent among themselves, and confused about firmness and discipline. These characteristics represent to the child a weak and divided parental front.
Don’t over-react. When we brace ourselves for the “dreaded” adolescence, we are quick to overreact the first time our teen steps out of line. We punish severely, withdraw trust, and lose confidence in the youngster, thus severing the lines of communication. It is only reasonable that at times, the adolescent will assert himself and try out his own competence while testing parental authority. This is part of his “breaking away” and learning what life is all about. Sometimes we need to let him make mistakes–but at the same time be ready to help him up.