Raising teenagers is never as easy as the 80’s sitcom Full House made it seem.
I used to watch that show, and Danny Tanner, the father of three girls, could literally resolve any concern that his teen daughter was going through by the end of a 30 minute episode. Each time the TV family ran into trouble, things would almost always follow the same pattern: the girls would do something predictably unwise, Danny would not find out about it until 24 minutes into the half-hour episode, and the girls would finally be discovered or come clean with the “devious” or problematic situation just in time for Danny or Uncle Joey or Uncle Jesse to swoop in and save the day. Cue the confession, the moral of the story, the inevitable “let’s go fix it with some ice cream” maneuver, and the sappy reconciliation music. They must have been parenting geniuses!
The truth is that the pathway out of the drama of raising kids is almost always a process of persistence. But besides the persistence required, there are actual tools that make the process work more smoothly. By the time most parents have earned their stripes and raised their teens into adulthood, they often don’t remember what actually worked–instead, they usually just remember some good times and the hard times. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a roadmap during (or even before) the “Terrible Teen” years? Today I will offer 4 golden suggestions that could just get you one step closer to your own Full House family.
1) Don’t Be Afraid to Be the Parent
Kids need parents even more than they need friends, and although most kids would never say this out loud, they actually WANT parents more than they want friends. A solid, consistent, loving, compassionate, and firm parent can bring more self-confidence and security to a teen than any peer friendship ever could.
2) Don’t Forget to Follow-Through
Believe it or not, kids thrive on consistency. Really! They may rant and rave about how they hate your stupid rules, how rules are unfair, and how you have no idea what the world is like today, but they still thrive when they have structure and consistency. Never EVER forget to follow-up on a consequence or a rule that is broken by a teen. They remember, and it’s never in an “I’m so glad my parents didn’t catch me that time–I think I’ll now obey them even more because I really respect their leniency” kind of a way. Want to love them? Follow-through!
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Show Emotion to Your Kids
A lot of parents get so tired from their busy lives that they unintentionally operate in either a “superficial happy” state or in anger, and in both cases harboring an underlying sense of feeling overwhelmed. If we don’t PURPOSEFULLY SHOW a healthy spectrum of feelings, and the healthy coping skills for those feelings, then our kids will do whatever we do. We can show our kids how we may feel frustration and anger within healthy limits. We can model sadness, from a hard day at work or from a funeral or a loss, with a healthy sense of hope and a willingness to call it what it is.
4) Don’t Show Your Teens the 3 Bad Reactions: Hurt, Anger, & Fear
Of course, you are supposed to feel those things. And if those emotions hit you because of life stressors or pressure, then by all means, let your kids see you show those feelings, within careful limits. BUT, don’t show those 3 emotions in reaction to your teens’ behaviors. That will do more damage than you realize. If we show them these three emotions in reaction to what our teens say or do, it’s like we reinforce the bad behaviors. If we show them anger or fear, it gives our kids the sense of control in the situation because now they know they can push our buttons. If you feel angry at your kid, show it in WORDS, not in tone or volume. If you feel hurt, say it CALMLY like a message that Danny Tanner would say at the end of a Full House episode. Let the words of your disappointment do the impact, not your words of being shattered with grief or shock or utter disgust. Hold your ground, keep your limits, express your frustrations and disappointments, but do it calmly and matter-of-factly.
Of course, there are plenty of other Dos and Don’ts out there when it comes to parenting teenagers. We’ll get to many of them in later blog posts. But in my experience, these 4 provide a foundation for parents to start from.
I’ll be posting about each of the 4 points of this series in more detail in the coming days. Stay tuned!