"Communication isn’t just in the words that you speak but also in the way that you present it."- Allison kidd
Being a parent of a teen isn’t easy. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how to be most effective. People often say “I’m not going to parent my child like my parents did”. With that, doing the opposite might not be the best tactic either. You have to find what works best for you. Some of the techniques that your parents used might not always have been applied in the BEST way, but they must have had some positive effect as you turned out the way you did!
Whichever way you chose to guide and discipline your child, keep a few of these tips in mind.
Keep your COOL:
It’s easy to react when your teen has done something to lose your trust or jeopardize their own safety. Anger is referred to as a “secondary emotion”, meaning that it’s often what’s shown versus the underlying emotions of fear, disappointment, or confusion. However, when you lose your cool and react, your child is also going to react.
Dysregulation carries over. Be aware of your emotions and make efforts to express them appropriately.
As a parent, you don’t always know what you are doing, or if you are doing it right, or what will work with each individual child. When you’re not sure of your direction, you might talk in circles trying to hit every point you think you have. This creates more confusion for your teen. Because you are unsure of the expectations or consequences, they are now also confused. As discussed previously, your thoughts can be irrational when you are upset.
Take the time to clearly think about how you want to address the issue and be concise in the way that you communicate.
It’s important to have ongoing communication with your teen in order to have more balance. Simple acknowledgment for their efforts, asking their opinion about something, letting them be a part in decision making, and praise for trying all go a long way in opening a child up to sharing their life with you.
Kids want to be heard. They know when you are listening to respond and might censor what they say in order to please this.
How many times have you heard your teen say, “I’m grounded for no reason”? They either don’t know what exactly they did (or haven’t acknowledged it) or have a consequence that isn’t reasonable in their minds.
If the only time that you are communicating with your child is to negatively make note of what they didn’t do or punishing them for what they did wrong, you’re setting them up to not communicate with you. They won’t trust to open up and share a mistake or ask for help because they already know they’re going to get in trouble for it.
For some parents, it can be difficult to give their child praise for little things they’re doing when they are slacking on the major things. Simple acknowledgement for the efforts that they are putting forth goes a long way. They need you to see that they are at least trying as this often motivates them to continue. Because you demonstrate being proud of them, they too will feel a sense of pride for themselves.
As humans, we become accustomed to expect something and are more comfortable when there is consistency in our lives. Although these tips are focused on a parent’s role, the techniques can be reciprocated if done consistently. Children will start to acknowledge you being calm or your communication style and model this in their own interactions. They will allow them to be vulnerable if you too demonstrate this in a positive way.
I encourage you to evaluate your parenting style, reflect on what has and hasn’t worked in the past, and start to be mindful of applying these skills in the future.
Allison Kidd, LMSW, LMAC