I’m not sure what qualifies someone to give advice on parenting teens, but it seems that there is a lack of advice out there. Maybe no one wants to admit they need it. To admit failure at this point isn’t something you necessarily want to shout about. Besides, everyone knows its just a blip, right? These years … it’ll all work itself out in the end—and I’m sure it will—but until then there’s nothing wrong with sharing what we may have learned so far about parenting a teen.
With my son turning 15 next month, I thought I’d share my experiences so far. I was a young mother, and still don’t look much older than 15 myself. This means that, outside the internet, parents would rather ask their pet goldfish for parenting advice. But I actually remember quite clearly what it was like to be teenager, and the upheaval I caused along the way, and I think this has been an advantage in parenting my own teenager.
Here are my top ten tips for parenting early teens—feel free to ignore them but, to be fair, I don’t think I’ve completely fussed up yet! My child already has a whole GCSE to his name and every now and then, when he’s bored, he’ll shout ‘love you’ at me! Now, you can’t ask for much more than that.
- Be nice to their friends* It helps. And maybe one day when they’re moaning about you, a friend will chip in and remind them that you aren’t so bad.
- If there is an older teen in your extended family, adopt them. Like, not legally, but just listen to them and learn from them and look out for them. Think of it like a trial at parenting your own (but don’t tell anyone that and always back up their parent unless there are serious issues there). You never know: you might appreciate someone adopting your teen one day too.
- Don’t embarrass them in front of their mates. I know it’s hard (or is that just me?!) but try and save it till their mates aren’t around!
- Pound the extra-curriculars. Hopefully in the pre-teen years you will have signed them up to every extra-curricular activity you can possibly afford. That’s good—any of these that you can salvage now are a bonus and you will be extremely thankful when it is the only thing separating them from the XBox. Of course, don’t make them continue hobbies they hate, but do learn the difference between hatred and laziness.
- Give them space. Always knock before entering their room.
- Don’t relax your rules until you’re ready. Each time you relax a rule you have to consider the precedent. Note that when they tell you their mates can do whatever they like, they aren’t always lying, but think about which mates you’d rather your child had things in common with.
- Chillax about the little things. Don’t get into silly arguments about the tone of voice they said they would tidy their room in—just try to be clear about what you expect them to do it, and leave them to it. Don’t ask for it with bells on.
- Expect them to be good. You don’t have to say anything but just believing this can help—I don’t know why it works, it just does.
- Set minimum standards, and keep them. Even when you’re pissed off or a bit drunk or tired or whatever, always say please and thank you.
- Give them your time. When they want your company, give it to them. Treasure these times—don’t waste them.
- Set an example. Stand up for what you believe in. They will remember it when they are old.
- Teach them how to argue. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but learning to get your point across rationally, and calmly, is a good life skill. At times you will regret having taught them, but do it, anyway.
- Tell them when you’re proud of them.
- Don’t try to be their best friend. Don’t stress that you’re not their best friend. You are their parent. That’s much more important.
- Have a sense of humour. You’ll need it!
Now, if anyone has any constructive advice for the next five years I would really appreciate some….
* Not so nice that you end up unknowingly habouring run-aways as I later found out I was when writing this post. Oh, well, none of us are perfect! (Extra bonus tip: Keep in touch with the parent’s of your child’s friends as much as possible.)
—Photo credit: Good-looking mom and son from Shutterstock