Nobody ever said parenting was going to be easy and I doubt that any parent made it through the teenage years without having a “moment.” Teens can be tricky, tiresome, trying, and in the end terrific!
If you’re a parent who survived the teenage years with your son and/or daughter, you undoubtedly know the path that lies ahead for your friends, coworkers, and family members who’ve not crossed that bridge in life yet. If you’re the parent about to cross that bridge, you may be contemplating jumping. Have no fear, strap on your life vest, and enjoy the journey. It can be one of the most rewarding times in your life……and one that you want to relish every moment before they’re gone.
I must say that I feel blessed each and every day that I awake to enjoy another day with my two teenage sons. Yes, I said enjoy and blessed in the same sentence. Although they can be challenging like any child, they are also a constant reminder to me of what I’ve done right in raising them. There have been a few challenges along the way but nothing that I’d complain about – except perhaps the fact that they each use (1) towel a day which means loads of laundry at the end of the week. Overall, I am truly blessed and you may be too.
Obviously we all have to deal with the effect that hormones have on teenagers. Add to that the impact that peers will contribute to the mix, a few bumps and bruises, the result of “young” relationships, and academics, and you have quite a recipe. Like all recipes, it can either be one for success or that of failure. I strongly believe that everyone can achieve success if they begin early enough in the game – try infancy.
Although I’m in the middle of the game, in terms of raising my teenagers, I have a few pieces of advice that were given to me by my elders who’ve risen between them sixteen teens themselves. Perhaps this advice will assist you in raising successful, independent, respectful, responsible, considerate, compassionate well-adjusted teens yourself.
Ten Tips to Raise Successful Teenagers:
- Begin Early: If you start early in your child’s life with clear, concise, and a mutually agreed upon set of rules and consequences that are enforced when an infraction occurs, your child will always know the parameters within which he/she must operate. Children need rules and regulations to assist them in establishing themselves, moral fiber, and limits that they will be expected to conform to. Waiting until your child is a tween or teenager will be more difficult to enforce newly introduced rules, and consequences. Not only will they NOT be familiar with having to conform to a particular set of expectations, they’ll be more resistant when you attempt to make them.
- Be Consistent: As with anything, consistency is the key. For instance, in an effort to lose weight and keep it off, you’ll have to follow certain prescribed dietary and exercise routines and methods. When raising children, you’ll want to be consistent in administering rules, consequences, and other elements that are significant to raising responsible, successful children. One slip, although usually easily redirected, can lead to potentially dangerous ramifications. If you establish rules, make certain that your children follow them. And if they don’t, have consequences in place that will reinforce the rule and be more likely to influence your child to abide by the rule the next time they have to make a decision.
- Be a Role Model: This one is sometimes difficult for parents to acknowledge in their child-rearing ways. If you establish rules that in effect state that cursing, cussing, or obscenities aren’t allowed to be spoken, you need to make certain that you as an adult are following those same rules. When driving children from Point A to Point B, modeling safe driving habits should be second nature. In other words, practice what you preach or what you expect your children to do when they are in a position to behave a certain way. You cannot expect children to take seriously rules and expectations if you’re eating chips, cookies, and dip before meal time.
- Talk to Your Children: If you don’t open your mouth and communicate with your children, in a non-threatening way, they won’t know what you expect of them. Establishing a line of communication with your children, beginning early in life, will help pave the path that you desire they take. There are many topics that parents feel uncomfortable discussing with their children – anything from drugs and alcohol, to self-pleasure and sex. They are your children and feeling comfortable to address these topics and others will assist you in making certain that your children are comfortable coming to you to discuss topics as they arise instead of seeking answers from individuals who are less capable of answering them, or perhaps provide answers that don’t conform to your set of beliefs.
- Learn to Listen: Many parents are busy and as a result will “cut-off” a child who is attempting to ask questions or discuss subjects needing attention. Some parents don’t give their undivided attention when their children talk and actually miss the underlying point of the conversation. Parents should learn to provide their children 100% when they are being spoken to. It could make the difference in critical decision making processes that are going on in your teenager’s life. If you don’t demonstrate the ability to listen when your children are young, they’ll take that with them into their teenage years and simply deduce that you won’t listen now. Do yourself a favor and listen.
- Discipline with Respect: When children make mistakes, poor choices, and wind up in a situation that smells like trouble, consider how they are feeling when you address the topic. Most children experience remorse, some high anxiety, and others fall apart when they’ve done something wrong, or perhaps broken a rule. Parents should take into account the different personalities of their child when dealing with the infraction. Maybe a child broke a vase when walking through the house carrying a backpack. The act was a mistake and should be handled accordingly. On the other hand, a child throwing a ball in the den resulting in a broken vase may require a different type of consequence. Yelling, ranting, and threatening children will prove ineffective when children are young, and will lead to children being dishonest and hiding their mistakes when they are teenagers. If you want your children to “come clean”, you’ll need to think before you speak!
- Hugs, Kisses, & More Hugs: It has been proven that affection helps to establish a bond between parent and child. Children who are raised within affectionate families learn to respect themselves, members of their families, and others more so than children who aren’t hugged or kissed at all or minimally. When a child feels secure in his/her relationship with others, he’ll/she’ll be more likely to want to follow the rules, and achieve the expectations set in place.
- Establish Expectations: If you read the article about “Self-Fulfilling Prophecies” you’ll find this easy to understand. Children learn to achieve if they have expectations established. For instance, encouraging your child to succeed in school is easily accomplished if you establish early in life that he/she will attend college. Obviously as a parent there will be more to it than simply saying, “One day you’re going to college” but I think you probably get the point. Children need to have a clear set of established expectations so that they’ll know what is expected of them. This practice of establishing and achieving expectations should begin early in life. For instance, telling your child to “clean their room” is meaningless for a child if he/she doesn’t know what you expect. Telling your child to 1) pick up and put away his/her toys on the shelves where they belong; 2) place his/her dirty clothes in the laundry basket; 3) place his/her shoes in the closet or shoe rack; 4) make up the bed (and demonstrating how it is done); 5) sweeping or vacuuming the floor (after having been shown the proper manner in which to do so – if age appropriate) – would establish “what” you expect of him/her. It would allow the child a clear and concise set of standards to achieve. Small steps lead to big successes.
- Provide Encouragement: All human beings need to be encouraged. In the workplace, adults are encouraged to produce, succeed, or perhaps meet deadlines in many different ways. Children need encouragement in much the same way. Whether you choose to provide external encouragement in the form of rewards, an intrinsic reward like posting an “A” paper and preparing a child’s favorite dessert for dinner, is up to you. Whatever works for the differing personalities that your children exhibit is what you should do? Obviously, verbal praise is enjoyed by most, but a pat on the back, a hug, a big song & dance routine, all goes a long way in encouraging children to succeed.
- Never Give Up: Being a parent is difficult especially when you find yourself in the position of having to deal with one that is rebellious, doesn’t conform to the rules and expectations that you’ve established, frequently gets into trouble, is disrespectful, and seems to be headed down the wrong path. No one said parenting is easy, although it can be if you begin early enough. If you have a child who frequently bucks the system, my advice to you is “never give up.” As difficult as he/she may be, they are your responsibility – you brought them into this world so you need to do what you can to assist them in learning to make better decisions about their future. This means, allowing them to suffer the consequences for their actions, attitudes, and behaviors instead of “bailing them out.” If you become an enabler, making it possible for them to move forward without learning from their mistakes, or being responsible for their choices, they’ll never learn to be accountable for them. Although you may not be able to control what they say and do, you can be there for them to provide words of encouragement, model the appropriate behaviors, offer words of advice, and to listen when they want to talk.
Parenting will be the most rewarding, frustrating, and wonderful experience in life. It will seem nearly impossible at times, and at others you may feel like you’re the “King/Queen of the Hill”. Every experience will be different as you deal with the personalities of individuals since no two children will behave, think, or develop alike. But, if you begin early and employ the ten tips above, you’ll certainly pave a smoother path for yourself and your teenager(s). So, even though parenting isn’t easy, just know that it can be! Parenting has been the most rewarding experience of my life and it can be yours too!
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