Employee & Community Health

Is parenting a teenager possible? Yes!

10/12/2017 by Hannah Mulholland, LICSW

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Raising a teenager can be the most rewarding — and the most frustrating — experience you have as a parent. On one hand, you’re seeing your child start to become an independent adult. On the other, you want to continue to set some limits around their behavior, choices and beliefs. And your teen wants you to control none of these.

Teens are in a unique stage of development. They know they need you, but they don’t want to need you. They crave independence. They crave peer interactions and approval. This can lead to frequent arguments as they assert their independence, and you assert your authority, since they do need help navigating peer relationships.

Communication and mutual respect is the key. Although it feels contrary to how you may have been raised, it’s important to earn your teenager’s respect. We can respect our teens by explaining the rationale behind our decisions, giving opportunities for independence, staying calm, being present at their activities and asking their opinions. In turn, you can expect them to show respect in their interactions with you.

10 tips for parenting your teen:

  1. Take time to connect. This is unique to each teen, so connect with your teen over something they are interested in or you can do together. Some ideas are: sporting events, shopping, cooking, exercising or just talking.
  2. Provide clear expectations. Have rules about curfew, friends, social gatherings and cell phones. Then stick to them.
  3. Listen to their opinions. Sometimes even let them influence yours.
  4. Expect responsibility. Your teen should be responsible for their own chores; after all, you won’t always be there to clean up after them. Begin early teaching them how to manage their money and save for their own wants and needs.
  5. Don’t lecture. Brevity is a parenting skill. Get to the point.
  6. Take the blame. Allow your teen to use you as their “out” when peer pressure is weighing on them. Let them refer to you as the lame parents who won’t allow them to go to that party.
  7. Expect them to believe — and act like — the world revolves around them.
  8. Discuss drugs, alcohol and sex. Don’t wait until something has already happened; plan ahead. Don’t make fun of them. Their self-esteem is fragile. Find ways to laugh together.
  9. Show your love for them. Tell them how much you love them or do something special for them “just because”. Some day (no guarantees when) they will let you know how much they appreciated it.

Want to learn more on raising teenagers? Check out the University of Minnesota Extension’s “Family” web pages. Or read the book, Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager, by Anthony E. Wolf.

Hannah Mulholland, LICSW, is a clinical social worker serving children and adolescents in Employee and Community Health's Division of Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH).