Parenting Tween to Teen – Less is More
“Why won’t my teenager listen to me anymore” is an often heard refrain in my counselling office. And, “why don’t my parents trust me and stop telling me what to do”. The distress is genuine.
Parenting is an ever changing challenge. When our children are little we protect and step in often to redirect or intervene. We talk endlessly to them, with lots of repetition to ensure they get it. We patiently explain why. We tell them what to do and show them how to do it.
So what happens when they become teens? They resist our interventions. They don’t want to talk to us. Their peers seem to have more influence than we do. What used to work parenting them as children no longer does.
What has happened is developmental, and we have to adjust our parenting style to be more age appropriate. Instead of telling our teens what to do and how, our parenting job is to teach them how to solve problems for themselves. Instead of giving them our answer, we have to guide them to find their answer.
We have to achieve more with less: less answers and more questions; less talking and more listening; less telling and more “help me see what you see”; and less demanding and more requesting.
One of the hardest things for parents as children move from tween to teen is letting go of external control over our children and transitioning them to internal control. This is the only way to grow successful resilient adults who know and trust themselves from the inside out. They are motivated by connection and caring rather than fear. They self-monitor in doing what is appropriate, rather than hope they won’t get caught.
But the foundation for this developmental dance is the attachment and connection you had with them as babies, toddlers, children and tweens. More on my next blog.
NB: A tween is a child between the ages of 9 to 12, not babies anymore, but not teens either.