In our work coaching hundreds of parents of tweens and teens over the years, we’ve uncovered six common themes that leave teens feeling a little more encouraged and willing to respect their parents.
1. When your teen challenges you, don’t fight them. Listen!
This is NOT about giving in or being a doormat. It is more about incorporating listening and affirming as part of your process in guiding them. To do this, it requires stopping, taking a breath, maybe even uttering a short prayer when challenged: “Lord, help me reflect your grace and truth here.” You’ll gain far more respect and authority in your child’s eyes by this approach than by forcing your agenda on them. Kids that really feel listened to gradually learn to listen to others.
2. Stop thinking, “How can I get them to…” and start thinking about influence.
Many parents who come to us for help start by asking, “How can I get them to stop this or that bad behaviour?” The problem is that underneath this question is a desire to control our children, and teens are usually perceptive enough to spot (and resist) this a mile away. Try taking a deep breath and thinking not about how to control your children, but how to influence them to make wise choices themselves.
3. Practice your “teen-whispering.”
Oftentimes, connecting with our teens can feel like trying to approach a wary mustang — they can be pretty skittish! But with a good measure of patience and willingness to learn how to connect well with your teen, you can communicate safety to your child, and eventually earn access to their hearts.
4. Is your help actually helping?
When our kids are small, we often rush to help them — because we love them, and because we enjoy feeling needed. But if we’re doing things for our kids (that with a little training kids could do for themselves), we may actually be communicating the message, “You’re not capable; you’re irresponsible.” Read this story and consider: Is my “help” actually hurting my kids? Pray about this, and think about how you might empower your child to take responsibility for themselves.
5. Focus on connection when things are calm.
When it comes to talking with our kids about big things — like emotions, or poor choices, or their friends — it can feel like there is no good way to begin. But there are steps you can take to make this less difficult, including relaxed conversations about little things that are full of light-hearted listening, non-threatening questions, and thoughtful observations (not lectures). When you do this with your kids about LOTS of neutral things, it builds a positive foundation of trust and communication skills for the big things.
6. Give them opportunities to learn responsibility and independence.
We all want our kids to grow up into self-motivated, responsible adults. But it’s easy to fall into a pattern of nagging our kids to do their chores, and then criticizing their work when it doesn’t meet our standards. This drains the life out of their motivation to do well. Instead, give your biggest, best energy to affirming little things they do right! And instead of criticizing where they might have fallen short, ask them thoughtful, non-judgmental questions to help them evaluate their work.