One thing I’ve learned as a parent of a now 14-year-old is that parenting teenagers can be both challenging and rewarding. Positive Discipline has literally changed my relationship with my son and helped me form a healthy dynamic even in the mist of the chaos that comes with raising teenagers. As parents we aim is to foster a happy and healthy environment for our teens while helping them grow into responsible adults. I understand that every family is different, and each child has their own set of needs. However, I do believe that there is a foundational set of strategies that can help keep your teen happy during their teen years. Keep in mind that happiness is a state of mind, so while you won’t “make them happy”, I do believe you will reduce some of those unnecessary arguments.
1. Have Open and Non-judgmental Communication
A huge part of maintaining the peace with teenagers is open and honest dialogue. Instead of immediately reacting when your teen shares something surprising or concerning, take a deep breath and listen, and I do mean actively listening. For instance, if your teen confides in you about a low grade on a test, resist the urge to scold them. Instead, ask questions like, “What challenges did you face while studying?” or “How can I support you in improving next time?” I know that is something that can require lots of discipline, and control but trust me it allows them to trust that they can come to you and tell you anything. This doesn’t mean that you are free from advising them, but it does mean that you save the judgment and the input either for another conversation or another time. When you maintain open communication without judgment, your teen feels more comfortable sharing their struggles and successes. This fosters trust and a closer parent-teen bond.
2. Set Clear Expectations with Consequences
This point is so important because many people confuse positive discipline with permissive parenting. Parents assume that being intentional about parenting means that you allow your teen to do as they want with the expectation of alleviating all conflict. I can give an example with my teenage son. He wanted to our local community center with his friends. Now this is new territory for me especially with no adult supervision aside from the counselors at the gym. I can give him clear expectations of having his phone off silent and to be ready at 6:30 pm for me to pick him up.
Around 6:00 pm, I called him to let him know I would be on my way. After about 4 missed calls I started to get angry because he was not picking up. After about 7 missed calls I began to get worried. I immediately drove to the recreation center. When I got there I saw my son watching a basketball game that was going on with a few of his friends with his phone on silent. Instead of shouting at him in front of his friends I let him know it was time to go.
When we got in the car, he let me know his phone was indeed on silent and he didn’t see any of my calls, which I already suspected. Instead of a lecture I gave him this example: I asked him if he was given a precious diamond how would he treat it. He told me he would take care of it and make sure he kept it safe. I then explained to him that he is my special diamond. I love him and want to keep him safe and how it would devastate me if something happened to him. This example was able to put into perspective why it was important for me to get in contact with him. It wasn’t a control thing, but more of a safety factor. The consequence he had was leaving from the game early, but more importantly understanding the importance of keeping his phone off silent and answering my calls.
3. Encourage Independence and Responsibility
Getting teens to be independent and responsible must be one of the most mentioned topics for parents. It is possible but it does require some on the job training, along with some hands-off practice. Yes, you heard me correctly. My middle child just entered middle school and went from having one teacher to now having seven. At first this was a major adjustment, but she eventually got into the swing of things. She still, however, had a habit of procrastination. Let’s admit we all put things off especially when we don’t deem them to be exciting.
Well, she had a major project that was given several weeks in advanced. The teacher also gave weekly check-ins to make sure the students stayed on track. I would remind her to work on her project and she did a pretty good job until she started to slack off. The night before one part of the project was due, she was up crying because she was tired and wanted to go to sleep however, she didn’t finish her work. I could have emailed the teacher and asked for an extension, however, I didn’t.
In that moment she had to make a choice, sacrifice her sleep, and not finish or stay up and get the project complete. She chose to complete the project and the next morning she was exhausted. In that moment she learned a very valuable lesson. She learned that she didn’t like the outcome of putting things off because she then would have to scramble at the last moment. I had to be hands-off in this situation to help her take ownership of her education.
It is so easy to want to jump in a save our children from every inconvenience life may throw at them. But it is important for us to allow them room to grow. Fostering independence helps teens develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility. It also prepares them for the challenges of adulthood.
Incorporating these three strategies into your parenting can significantly contribute to your teen’s happiness and overall well-being. Remember, it’s essential to maintain open communication, set clear expectations, and encourage independence. By doing so, you’ll help your teen navigate their teenage years with confidence and positivity. The goal is to prepare you teen to grow into responsible, capable, self-sufficient loving adults. Let me know are there any other things you can add to this list?
-Written by S. Arellano