Today I’m going to break from the norm here on this site. Normally I talk about things like money or time management, then there’s the occasional inspirational story or two, and sometimes I throw in one or two success tips that I pick up.
But today I’m going to focus on dealing with teenagers.
While my specialty may be in success or investing, I have found that the principles that work so well there also work in our day to day lives.
All that’s needed is a little tweaking.
But let’s set the stage first – A single mother, a 14-year old boy.
She has tried “everything” to get through to him but nothing seems to work. So where do we start?
It is important to remember that nearly every 14-year old is almost 20 in their own minds. They are basically smart enough to take care of themselves. They think they understand what dangers there are. And the last thing they want is an adult-figure telling them what they can do. They want to do what they want to do.
As adults we do have one advantage, we were once their age. The problem is that many parents forget this. Many parents seem to have forgotten that they themselves were less than perfect children.
So the first step is to remember. Remember what it was like to be 14. Remember how we no longer just accepted our parents’ orders. We began to question them.
Here are just a few of the things that go through a teenager’s mind:
- “Why should I have to come home at 6? I’m not a kid anymore.”
- “Why do my parents treat me like a child?”
- “Jeez, why are my parents having a cow?! I just forgot.”
- “Take a chill pill, Mom. It’s no big deal.”
Teenagers are in a unique situation, practically adults in their ability but free from responsibility with the bonus of having time and some money. It’s the one time in life that our actions seem to have little consequence.
Parents have trouble knowing what to do. Do they
- Give their teenage children more freedom (the so-called cool parents) and worry sick about them night after night OR
- Try to control them which often makes teenagers lie, sneak out and go behind their parents’ backs
The answer is neither. In either case, the parents lose.
Parents need to give children enough room for them to grow while at the same time keeping them safe, it’s a delicate balance.
Once parents remember just how difficult it was to be a teenager (trying to fit in with their peers, dealing with peer pressure, school pressure, nagging parents, raging hormones, and the newest issue teenagers must face, social media pressure), the next step is to listen.
All teenagers want something. All parents want something, too. The problem lies in that what the teenager wants, the parent often denies – the battle ensues.
I believe that you can’t beat a teenager; most are unrelenting, incredibly sneaky when they want to be and figure out all sorts of loopholes, and unfortunately, like the challenge of defying their parents.
So if you can’t beat them, join them – find out what they want.
Speaking as a parent I believe the one thing I want above all else is to know they are safe and to be able to contact them in case of an emergency.
Our minds run wild when left to the imagination so it gives us peace of mind to know our kid is at so-and-so’s place.
My parents did it this way – they gave me money to spend (which I very much appreciated) and freedom to go out any Friday and Saturday (sweet!!). Since I lived in Thailand at the time that meant I was free to join my friends for a drink at a bar if I so desired.
I could come back anytime I chose. (Wow!!) And with money in my pocket, life was good.
In return my parents asked for a few things.
- To let them know if I wouldn’t come home for dinner
- To pop my head into their room when I got back
- To let them know whose house I was staying at if I chose not to come home
- To tell them about it (they were sworn to secrecy)
Considering most of my friends had to sneak out after their parents had gone to bed, I felt I was in 7th heaven.
Freedom that I desired, money to spend. And with that my parents got what they wanted, peace of mind.
I had no need to lie, sneak or do all that typical teenager stuff. My parents understood the secret of dealing with teenagers- give them what they want, for the most part.
So the final step is to negotiate.
In step 3 the key point is to create a win-win situation. We are all willing to give up something, if they can get something better. Teenagers are no different.
Instead of trying to take what you want. Give, to get.
Let’s say you really listen to your kids’ desires and he really doesn’t want a curfew and hates not having enough money to spend. This is how I would play it:
- Give them a later curfew, in exchange for knowing where they are.
- Give them some spending money, in exchange for honesty.
Personally I wouldn’t even bother going the curfew route on weekends unless I lived in a particularly dangerous area.
Remember, you can’t keep your kids safe forever. One day they will grow up and leave the nest. Don’t fight nature…go with it.
It’s never easy for a parent to give up their authority but as in my experience, most parents are fighting a losing battle.
Teenagers are no longer kids, they don’t simply accept the rules any more. They are testing their limits; physically, mentally and emotionally.
It’s not always easy being a teenager and having a parent that REALLY listens and TRIES TO understand is rare indeed.
I encourage you to be that parent.