Dr Patsy Mok Tsang, an educational psychologist at Think Kids Intervention and Developmental Services points out, “The teenage years are often fraught with drastic body changes, perplexing peer relationships, and a new surge for independence. All this can make adolescence very stressful for a child.”
Many often feel frustrated as they struggle to deal with the diverse emotions occurring around this time. They can become passive-aggressive (“Whatever!”, accompanied by eye-rolling), self-conscious (“Why are you staring at me?”) and doubtful (“I told you I can’t do this!”).
Teens may start to rebel against their parents, and end up engaging in risky behaviour or activities that do not benefit their development. Sums up Dr Mok Tsang, “As parents, it is very hard to watch your teen figure themselves out.”
“You want to protect your child and do what’s best for him. However, what you think is best may not always be the best for him. Sometimes, you may set expectations or goals that are too unrealistic for him.”
It is important, she stresses, that parents remember they were once teenagers, too. “You want to protect your child and do what’s best for him. However, what you think is best may not always be the best for them. Sometimes, you may set expectations or goals that are too unrealistic for them.”
Meanwhile, your teen may be feeling angry and sad as they think you don’t understand them. They may feel you are being ‘selfish’ and trying to ‘control’ them. This is how communication breaks down between parents and teens, she adds.
Are you making any of these mistakes with your tween/teen?
#1 You don’t talk about adolescence with your teen
You were once a teen, so don’t let your child go this phase alone. Look for an opportunity to start sharing as to what happens during adolescence ― this will help prepare them for what to expect and lets them know that they can look to you for support and counsel. Point out your successes and failures and encourage them to learn from your experience. Try to spend more time with thems and find out how they are coping.
#2 You don’t let up on their grades
Pushing your teen to fulfil your expectations may create more stress in their life and worsen their problematic behaviour, for example, a gaming addiction. Understand why your child seeks solace in these activities and examine if he’s trying to convey any message. As you start to understand his perspectives, you will learn to communicate better with him.
#3 You don’t know their friends
As junior will feel anxious about being validated by their friends or being left out by them, a strong social circle and acceptance by their friends can smooth your child’s transition into teenhood. So, when you make the effort to get to know their friends, they will appreciate it. Find out whom they are close to and ask them to invite them home.
#4 You don’t respect their privacy
Never try to look in on their WhatsApp messages without their permission. Allow them to close their bedroom door if they need to call a friend. If they have accepted you as an Instagram follower, resist the urge to comment. All this shows you trust them. And if you need to install a monitoring app, explain that it’s to keep them safe. Respecting their privacy enables them to learn to become more independent and confident.
#5 You aren’t consistent with discipline
Establish rules, set down the consequences and stick to them, so that they know what acceptable behaviour is. This will reinforce a sense of security in your adolescent. Never punish out of anger because it may lead them to perceive that punishment is your habitual response. Parents must work together as a team ― and show a united front ― on this. For example, if your husband has grounded your teen for being rude, don’t try to get him out of it.
Establish rules, set down the consequences and stick to them, so that they know what acceptable behaviour is. This will reinforce a sense of security in your adolescent.
#6 You don’t allow them to try ― and fail
Since you don’t want your child to get hurt or disappointed, you try your best to prevent situations in which they might fail. But it is often through failure and overcoming the setbacks that a person becomes tougher and stronger. Talk to them about their dreams, motivate them to work towards it, and remind them that you will always have their back.
#7 You don’t involve them in making decisions
Where should the family spend the year-end school holidays? Your teen might have made plans. Asking them for suggestions show that you respect them and value their opinion. You can also take demonstrate how they should make good decisions, which is a good way to boost their sense of responsibility, a trait that’s essential in adults.
3 WAYS TO RAISE A RESPONSIBLE TEEN
Parents must approach teens with an open mind. To cultivate trust, you must learn strike a balance between rules and independence, advises Dr Mok Tsang.
“Don’t take it personally if your child ends up disobeying or breaking his promises. Use these situations to teach him how to correct the situation, so he has an opportunity to regain your trust.”
Here are strategies some parents use:
* Encourage them to contribute to the family. When her daughter learnt to cook scrambled egg as part of her home economics lessons, Joan Chan thought the 13-year-old would find it fun to make the dish for the family during the weekend. “It was quite tasty and we told her so. I even offered a few suggestions for her next egg dish, such as a sunny-side up.”
* Remind them how their actions can affect others CH Teo once heard his 14-year-old call his younger one “stupid” and “lazy”. “I was furious at first. But instead of scolding Ryan, I wanted to try and set his attitude right. I took him aside and pointed out that his actions hurt his brother and to imagine how he’d feel if he had been described in the same way by someone else!”
* Show them how you do it When John Goh told his 15-year-old he would not allow any phone calls and texting during dinner, he felt it would be more effective if he led by example. “I wanted to teach my boy to take the rule seriously, and that one should always mean what one says. It allows us to spend the time more fruitfully as we can focus on catching up with one another.”
Other great stories on SmartParents.sg…