Common mistakes when raising teenagers

Hitting the right note – not too strict, not too lenient – is important

Going out of the house with dirty runners is definitely not worth arguing about.

Going out of the house with dirty runners is definitely not worth arguing about.

 

When it comes to parenting teenagers, “there is some level of strict that is just the right note”, says psychologist Niamh Hannan of Mindworks in Dublin, who works with teenagers and their parents. The fine-tuning of that “note” will vary from family to family, and from child to child. But if parents are too strict, it is as if they are not willing to trust or listen to the teenager who is trying to communicate about the struggle they’re having out in the world, she says. If they are laissez-faire, they may be giving the kid a level of responsibility that they can’t handle and are not ready for.

Other common parenting mistakes that Hannan sees include:

Regarding the teenager as the problem
Sometimes parents fail to see that they may be contributing to the aggravation and, whatever the circumstances, they must take responsibility for being part of the solution for the teenager.

Not listening
Or thinking that they know better, so not hearing what the teenager is saying “because they have already come to a conclusion in their own mind. They are not listening to the teenager’s perspective.”

Making consequences too big
Punishments such as “you’re grounded for a month” make teenagers feel “it’s not fair”; and if teenagers believe that, “they tend to go against it and seek revenge”.

Underestimating parental influence
While the teenager’s job is to separate, and they are very influenced by peers, they still seek the approval of their parents. Teenagers may treat you as if you are there just to hand out food and money and give lifts but it’s not really the extent of the way they see you.

Doing too much for them
Yes, it’s usually the mother; from making their school lunch to still pulling them out of the bed in the morning. Yet this “protecting them from natural consequences” leads to a total lack of confidence in the teenager, warns Hannan.

“The little chores around the house that they object to give them a sense of skill and being able in the world, and that builds their confidence.” Stressing over small stuff Prioritise what is really important: health, safety, education and respect. For example, going out of the house with dirty runners is definitely not worth arguing about.

Underestimating parental influence
While the teenager’s job is to separate, and they are very influenced by peers, they still seek the approval of their parents.

Teenagers may treat you as if you are there just to hand out food and money and give lifts but it’s not really the extent of the way they see you.

Taking it personally
Teenagers know your weaknesses and may not hold back in arguments. Empathy is one of the last connections to be made in the developing brain. But they need you to be firm, says Hannan, and not crumble.

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