Raising digital kids: 10 tips for improving parent-teen relationships

by Annie Fox, M.Ed. author of Teaching Kids to Be Good People. http://AnnieFox.com

You know your child is an adolescent (semi-formed human) when she or he:

  • Gives you attitude over stuff that’s never been an issue before.
  • Refuses to do what you ask.
  • Agrees to do it and then (un)wittingly “forgets”
  • Denies they ever agreed to anything.
  • Says “You don’t get it!” at least twice a day.
  • Insults you under his/her breath.
  • Mocks you to your face.
  • Doesn’t text you back then swears they never got the msg.
  • Slams doors, screams, roars, cries regularly.
  • Is not much fun to live with.

Experts tell parents of teens, “Don’t take their words or behavior personally.” Stellar advice. Realistic? Not so much. We want a hug. They want to break up. Try not taking that personally.

So, what are our options? A) Keep fighting to get them to change. B) Change yourself and give teens space to become more human. HINT: The sane response is B.

Here are 10 ways you can improve parent-teen relationships starting today:

  1. Remember that you are the parent.

Your job is to prepare your child to become an independent, fully functioning adult. Being a clear-sighted, compassionate mentor is way more important than being your teen’s friend. They don’t need your friendship, anyway. What they need is your moral leadership

  1. Remain calm in the winds of change.

Nothing gets resolved when you’re too stressed to think. if you can’t respond rationally to something your teen did, take a break until you can.

  1. Talk less and listen more.

Just like us fully-formed humans, teens want to be listened to with respect. Always be a “safe” and available person for your child to talk to. That doesn’t mean you have to accept or agree with everything, but letting your teen talk openly (without interrupting), gives them a chance to hear their own ideas played out loud. It also provides a window into their problem-solving strengths and limitations. You can use that to help them.

  1. Respect boundaries.

It’s often a challenge for parents to grant their teens increasingly more privacy and autonomy. But in order to develop good judgment, they need lots of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Encourage their learning.

  1. They’re always watching. 

You want your child to be trustworthy, responsible, honest, resilient and good-hearted. Make sure you’re modeling those values in your own life. And while you’re at it, talk about the walk as you’re walking it.

  1. Make your expectations clear.

When kids know your core values, have bought into the family rules and are aware of the consequences for breaking them, they’re more likely to make healthier choices online and off. No guarantees, but your voice will be in the mix.

  1. Catch your child in the act of doing something right.

Teens struggle with self-confidence. When they aren’t dumping on themselves, their peers may do it for them. Don’t add your voice to the chorus of negativity. Actively look for things your kids are doing right. Your praise shows you notice more than their faults. It will also increase their feelings of competency.

  1. Be real.

Father/mother do not always know best. Admit your own confusion and mistakes. Apologize when appropriate. Show your kids that just like them, you too are also “a work in progress.” That’s all any of us can expect from ourselves and others… progress, not perfection.

  1. Schedule regular unplugged time to enjoy being a family.

Cook. Eat. Walk. Bike. Bowl. Whatever. The point is: Relaxing together without screens in the way is a gift with long-lasting benefits.

  1. Lighten up!

Humor is a great de-stressor. Remember, no one stays a teen (or the parent of one) forever!