“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
Teens Aged 13 to 19
However hard parents struggle to do what is best for their troubled and troublesome teenager, too often there comes a point when parents’ willingness to help and understand him gives way to feelings of despair and frustration. In order to help their teenage children effectively, parents themselves need support and guidance.
Parents first need to understand and appreciate the enormous changes that occur in a child’s body when she reaches adolescence. During this phase, your teen will develop sexually, and she will become more aware of and interested in the opposite sex. This is a natural part of growing up, and as such should be approached frankly and without embarrassment.
Along with this greater sexual awareness, she will also crave the acceptance of her teenage peers more than that of her parents. Often friends at this age will actively encourage her to go against her parents’ wishes and, in so doing, stoke the fires of conflict between teens and their parents that so often occurs during this stage. This happens particularly when parents try to prohibit her from activities in which other teens are partaking.
All too frequently parents react with lectures and threats to their teenager’s moodiness, cheekiness, disinterest in schoolwork, and general ambivalence. Communication between parents and their teenager then breaks down as he rebels against what he perceives as unfair stipulations put upon him by his parents.
Although parents have a right to attempt to comprehend why a teen makes bad choices, reacting to his behavior by talking down to him does nothing to encourage mutual trust. This merely contributes to the tension that already exists in the home and only serves to further limit communication.
Trust is the key to communication, especially with adolescents. Inevitably, when trust breaks down, both parents and teens feel misunderstood by the other. Parents need to understand that at this stage in their child’s life they cannot ‘make’ him do anything. Parents cannot enforce punishments on their teenager or otherwise influence him to accept conditions in which he has no say.
As a result, when parents try to prescribe rules without his input, their authority diminishes in his eyes. The teenager then loses respect for his parents, and trust then breaks down. In order to build this trust back up, parents first need to acknowledge that their teen does not have to cooperate with them, or even talk to them for that matter.
Parents need to give their teens the chance to explain why they make the choices that they do rather than becoming dogmatic and acting in an authoritarian manner. For example, if your teen has a friend with whom you disapprove, ask why he has chosen this friend rather than trying to prohibit your teenager from associating with him.
Another way to open the doors of communication is by parents first acknowledging that they sometimes make bad choices too. When children understand that parents accept the consequences for these choices, they will be more willing to do so too. In this way, parents can regain their child’s trust, and obtain their cooperation.
If a teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, is in trouble at school or with the law, or is causing havoc at home, the results of her behaviour tend to isolate the family. The feeling that parents are alone with this problem tends to compound feelings of guilt and may even lead to conditions such as depression.
As with younger children, parents must remember that everything their teenager does is a choice. As such, they need to try and understand why they are making these bad choices.
For most troubled teenagers, bad behaviours begin when trust breaks down with the authority figures (i.e. parents, teachers, counsellors, etc.) in their lives. Their friends then become the most important role models and as a result they tend to get drawn into a group that feels the same way about adults in general.
The majority of teenagers do not want to see a psychologist or engage in therapy; many parents of troubled teens try to force their teenage child to see a psychologist or therapist, often with limited or no success. In order for parents to try to resolve their relationship with their teen, it is advisable that an unbiased mediator be brought into the situation.
Often problems are exacerbated by having two teenagers in a household. One might appear to be cooperative and happy while the other one is uncooperative and moody.
In situations like these, parents need to take a step back and look at things from their unhappy child’s perspective; only then can they understand why they are unhappy and uncooperative.
The SCPP has proven very effective in helping parents build up a relationship of trust with their teens. As their buy-in is imperative, a SCP mediator will help the parents and their teen in negotiating a structure whereby the teen takes responsibility for the choices that they make and agrees to comply by the rules that are negotiated. These rules will concern schoolwork, cellphones, TV times, going out and so on.
In the SmartChoice Parenting workshops, parents are shown how to increase positive interactions with their children. Feedback from participants show quite dramatic improvements in their children’s attitude and behaviour, their own parenting skills, as well as an improvement in children’s social skills and school adjustment.
Parenting Decoded is the only parenting programme that has success in eliminating extreme behaviour disorders.
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“We started implementing the plan of action yesterday, and WOW I’m already seeing the results after one day! I must admit I was very hesitant in the beginning but I now realise how Matthew had made a hook of being scared all the time, and playing on it. I told him it’s fine I will following him to the toilet, but then he’s choosing to act like a baby, as only babies expected that (and I acted very confused), I also went on to say I will get all his baby toys out and his baby blanket, which I did, and BOY DID HE NOT LIKE THAT! This morning he was speaking out of habit and called me, then paused and stopped himself and went “oh never mind” and went to the toilet on his own”. – Belinda Ciotti