Smells like teen spirit
The teenage years are notorious for trouble. Seemingly overnight, an affectionate, biddable child can turn into a surly, cantankerous and wilful young adult. Add in that maddeningly self-righteous manner many teenagers assume, and you have a recipe for rows, door-slamming and all manner of inter-family ding-dongs. Parents, understandably, often feel at a loss as to how to deal with this challenging new situation. The old ways of keeping order – the withholding of treats, sending the child to his or her room – simply won’t work any more.
That’s where a groundbreaking programme, Parenting UR Teen, comes in. Developed by Northern-based voluntary organisation Parenting NI, the course is designed to give parents more understanding of how to manage their relationship with their teenager. Sessions cover issues such as parenting styles, teen development, self- esteem, rules and consequences, conflict and problem solving.
Feedback from participants has been enthusiastic, and has been underscored by independent research, which has shown that the programme gives a significant boost to parents’ mental health and reduces stress in the parent/adolescent relationship.
The research project – conducted over two and a half years – was carried out by the Institute of Child Care Studies at Queen’s University Belfast, and overseen by an independent expert advisory committee that included Unesco chairman Pat Dolan from NUI. Prof Dolan was warm in his praise: “I see the Parenting UR Teen programme as one of the most innovative, parent-friendly and effective support programmes currently available, not just in Northern Ireland but internationally.”
Laying down the law
So what’s the secret to interacting positively with your stroppy adolescent?
The emphasis of the course is on authoritative parenting. In these more permissive times, it may sound old-fashioned, but it seems that firmly establishing the rules – not in a high-handed manner, but in a nurturing, supportive way – works. The research shows that teenagers who have authoritative parents do better at school, have fewer behavioural problems and are better adjusted emotionally.
Pip Jaffa, chief executive of Parenting NI, says “an authoritative parenting style centres on open communication, provides structure, sets out the rules for behaviour and gives appropriate autonomy to teenagers while supporting them. This provides a secure environment for teenagers and encourages them to take responsibility for their actions.”
Bredagh Jameson, who took part in one of the eight-week courses, said a great benefit was the reassurance it gave her.
“My son is 16 now, and we’ve been dealing with difficult issues with him since he was 12,” she said. “He’s our first-born child, and he’s always had so much praise and affection and love; he’s never wanted for anything. But then he became withdrawn; he wouldn’t talk to us. The course made us feel we were not on our own, we were not the only parents dealing with this kind of thing.