March 11, 2020

Having worked as a high school teacher, a hostel parent and now a high school Principal all spanning about twenty years now, I have come across different behaviours amongst the adolescents. Some of the behaviours I encountered left me confused; some frustrating, others revealing and yet others appear really beautiful, encouraging and adventurous. I have also met and worked with a lot of parents in the course of my duties as a high school principal. Most of these parents are going through crucibles trying to understand their adolescent children in order to give them the best direction in life. A lot have expressed the fear of losing grip on these young men and women and losing them completely into the world of oblivion.

Who is an Adolescent?

An adolescent is an individual within the transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs during the period from puberty to legal adulthood. Adolescence is usually associated with the teenage years. We are looking at the age range between 13 and 17 most likely.  Physical, psychological and emotional expressions of an adolescent progress as the age progresses.

Although an adolescent is part of a family, he/she wants to establish his/her independence and identity yet still strongly connected to the family.  They make effort to prove that they have left the teething age where parents make choices on their behalf without consulting them.  While the parents are so sure that these young men and women have not seen anything; they need to be controlled, the adolescents believe they have seen it all; they want their independence; so the tussle is actuated.

Parenting an adolescent, be it a boy or a girl is a huge task that requires separate (though connected) parenting skills from what is required to parent children.  This article looks at eight proven strategies parents can adopt to make their relationship with their adolescence children strong and fulfilling.

  1. Be Present: One of the greatest challenges to parenting generally is physical absence of parents. Being physically present as often as possible is a sure way of laying a very solid foundation towards building a solid relationship between parents and their teen children. Every other tip is dependent on availability because presence accounts for spending quality time together. A lot of parents believe that provision of needs would suffice for presence but what is a present without presence?
  2. Let them be Heard: Every teenager, a boy or a girl needs a listening ear. They’re always in need of someone to talk to; someone to share ideas with, someone to share dreams and aspirations as well as disappointments with. Through empathic listening, you can understand their feelings and they will be willing to always talk to you. They’ll confide in you even when danger lurks in the corner. When you listen to them, you’d hear what exactly they want and why; and even when you think your views and opinions are better, having heard them would create that opportunity to explain your decision and why it’s superior. Feeling fully heard is a way of earning trust that you are indeed interested in the person’s affair; it’s a way of saying, “you can always talk to me.”
  3. Avoid the Use of Force: Whipping, beating, yelling at, harsh words and all other forceful, violent and aggressive approaches have proven counterproductive in parenting adolescents. You have to be firm but you must be friendly too. State rules of engagement clearly, let them be part of setting up the rules. For instance, you have to be clear about keeping late, waking up – time management generally. Rather than say “I want everybody to wake up at 4am” you can ask, “What time do you think is okay for us to wake up?” you would still achieve your 4am plan; this is also another way of making them feel heard.
  4. Separate the Issue from the Person: Seeing adolescents from the point of their actions would lead you into making wrong decisions. Do not bundle the individual with his actions; this is tantamount to throwing the child with the bath water. See the adolescent as an image of God, a promising future, a son or a daughter but see his/her negative actions as bad. This will assist you in addressing the issue and not the person. Condemn the act; don’t condemn the actor. For instance, a teenager is rude; explain to him/her many reasons why rudeness is not a quality to imbibe by anyone who wants to succeed in life.
  5. Entrust them with Responsibilities: One of the desires of every adolescent is to be in charge. Having a sense of being in charge is a way of having a sense of being accepted and approved. It’s a form of an endorsement. It’s a way of saying, “I can trust you.” Put them in charge of something and give a clear direction of how to go about it. Every adolescent desires freedom; let them also understand that freedom comes with responsibilities. When they are in charge of something, let them accept the results and the consequences of the outcome be it praise or blame. By this this, they will learn that all actions have consequences and that people must take responsibility and bear the consequences of their actions.
  6. Be an Example: Many of the adolescents I’ve encountered said their parents are their role models. This implies that most of their actions are influenced by their parents. Most boys are influenced by their fathers while girls are mostly influenced by their mothers. Now, when a parent knowingly or unknowingly influences an adolescent negatively, the effect is always devastating on the child later in life. Parents must be aware of this and give a thorough explanation of their actions and apologize to their teenage children if need be. Adolescents are quick to understand and appreciate apologies especially from those they look up to-parents and school teachers and by so doing, they also learn that it is right to apologize for our imperfections.
  7. Explain Your Displeasure: It is better to explain to adolescents especially when you are displeased with their actions. They should understand why you are so displeased and angry. Don’t just show that you are angry, explain why and by so doing you elicit remorse, apology and a true change of behaviour from them. If you are just yelling or shouting, behind the doors, you’d hear things like, “why is mommy shouting?” or “who has made daddy angry again today?” The truth is that they did not see what they did wrong to warrant such an outburst; explain to them.
  8. Offer Alternatives if Possible: When you disagree with a teenager, offer an alternative if possible. After explaining why he/she cannot visit a certain place- a park, a mall, a movie for instance, suggest another place you consider less harmful (if that is what you were trying to avoid) An alternative is better than nothing.

What do you think I’ve missed out? Drop it in the comment box please. A lot of parents and would-be parents really need these tips. Knowledge is power; ignorance is deadly.


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