* Fostering Responsibility and Independence in Your Teen

By Valorie Dassel, Courier & Press, Feb. 13, 2018 –

Being a parent is often described as the greatest joy of one’s life.  It is amazing that an experience that is often described so fondly is also characterized by most parents as the greatest challenge they have ever faced.

A wide set of emotions can be experienced on this journey, particularly during the pre-teen and teen years.  Families are often extremely busy, which can result in many emotional reactions from parents as well as teens.

If we can relate to the developmental challenges our children are experiencing, it may help us to respond in a manner that results in the least resistance and greatest gain.

There are many physical, emotional and mental changes teenagers are experiencing.  Most teens are at the developmental stage of approaching individualization.

The beliefs, values, and subsequently the choices of most pre-teens are primarily based on what their parents have taught and modeled.  As our children approach the teen years, they begin the process to become their own person with their own set of values and belief systems.

During this process parents may interpret the teen’s behavior as rebellious and disobedient.  Decision-making skills are the last skills mastered during the development of the teen brain.  As teens seek independence, they often experience conflict between wanting to have a good time and their desire to be taken seriously.

Independence for teenagers can be translated to finding ways to “belong” outside of the family.  Research indicates that parents have the most influence over their child’s decisions.  Their peers often take a close second.

Social media creates greater access and a closer bond with peers.  Now more than ever, parents should facilitate this independence while maintaining a healthy relationship.

Independence and responsibility must occur in harmony; otherwise the teen may feel out of control and act accordingly. Parents must allow consequences and use discipline when necessary to help teenagers make better decisions.

For many parents this transition can be difficult; allowing your child to fail is tough. The old adage “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child” can ring very true while we allow them to experience the pain that can go along with poor decisions.

It may also feel as though you are losing your close relationship with our children as they nurture their friendships more than familial relationships. With work and dedication, most parents find maintaining good communication and providing rules that strike a balance in time spent with friends and family often results in healthy and enjoyable relationships.

Dinkmeyer & Dinkmeyer provide good guidelines for parents to follow when deciding whether or not to get involved in a problem their teen is experiencing.  In their book, Parenting Teenagers, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, they discuss the importance of deciding who actually owns the problem before forcing parental involvement. The following questions are encouraged to be explored:

  1. Can anyone get hurt?
  2. Are any rights being disrespected?
  3. Is anyone’s property threatened?
  4. Is my teen unable to take this responsibility?

If any of these questions are answered with a “yes,” then both the parent and the teen own the problem.  Joined problem solving and parental monitoring should be in place.

If each question has a response of “no,” the teen would own the problem and be allowed the independence to make a decision regardless of a potentially natural consequence occurring.

Raising a teenager can feel stressful and chaotic.  It is important to schedule time to enjoy each other without conversation over tense subjects.  Remember -they will quickly pass through the teen years and potentially raise a teen of their own someday!

* Avoiding Parent-Child Power Struggles

by Terra Ours, LCSW, Courier & Press, July 25, 2017 –

It’s the end of the day and you’re exhausted.  Suddenly, you find yourself engaged in a war with your child – one you are determined to win.

You’re staring at him; he’s staring at you.  You’ve told him to go clean his room and received a firm response of, “No!”

Panic sets in as you struggle to come up with your next move and think, “What do I do? I’m angry and he’s angry.”  The result is an explosion as you hear yourself yell, “I said go clean your room NOW!”

This is an example of a parent-child power struggle.  Power struggles can leave parents wondering, “Why won’t he listen to me? Why do I have to yell to get him to listen?  Why won’t he just do what I ask?”

Fortunately there are simple solutions to avoid power struggles and increase desired behavior. The first suggestion for avoiding a power struggle is to not engage in one.  Once you have engaged in a power struggle with your child, the odds of winning are not in your favor.

Decide what rules are most important to you.  For example, you may decide your child cannot use electronics until homework is complete.  Be firm but gentle when reminding your child of your expectations.  Children learn more from a gentle approach and action versus screaming, negative words and idle threats.

If your child attempts to engage you in a power struggle, simply wait for everyone to calm down and utilize it as a teachable moment.  This may mean delaying the conversation until the next day.

Explain to your child that it is okay to feel angry; however, it is not okay to yell at you.  Ask your child to identify a more healthy way they could respond the next time they feel angry.  Role play more healthy responses to prepare safe ways to manage difficult feelings.

If this happens, explain to your child that you set the consequence when you were angry or upset and you now realize the consequence is too harsh.  Set a fair consequence and be sure to follow through.

Find ways to empower your child.  Give them choices.  For example, “You can clean your room now or you can clean your room after supper.”  You are stating your expectation but empowering your child to decide when to complete the task.

You may also decide to problem-solve together.  Try to come to an agreement on rules and family expectations.  Create a family contract and have everyone sign it.  This creates a win-win for everyone.

Praise your child when he follows through on expectations. Offering positive praise will motivate your child to have more positive behavior. Always focus on what your child is doing right and not just on what he is doing wrong.

Use empathy.  Try to understand your child’s side of the story or how they view something.  This will build trust and open healthy paths of communication.

Always remember to take a time-out if you feel angry.  Children learn by what they see, and our best teaching moments are when we can calmly show our children how to respond to stressful situations.