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Toughing Out the Teenage Years

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Toughing Out the Teenage Years

Sep 08, 2015

Teenagers are growing to become more independent, which can lead to clashes with parents. In this podcast, Dr. Cindy Gellner gives some helpful tips for maintaining a healthy and respectful relationship with your teenager. She talks about how to balance your teen’s freedom and privacy with house rules and expectations. She also gives advice for what not to do in a disagreement with your adolescent.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: So you've got a teenager in your home now. Congratulations. How do you deal with normal teenage rebellion? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner and I've got some tips for you today on The Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: During adolescence teens work on becoming more independent, but before he can develop an adult relationship with his parents, a teen must first separate from the way he's related to his parents in the past. That doesn't always go easy. That usually means there's going to be a lot of normal rebellion and defiance. Emotions run high and mood swings are common. This rebellion continues for about two years, but it's not uncommon for it to last up to six years.

So how do you deal with your teenager's rebellion? First, you want to treat your teenager as an adult friend. By the time your child is 12 years old, start working on developing the kind of relationship you would like to have with your child when they are an adult, and treat them the way you would like them to treat you when they are an adult.

The goal is mutual respect, support, and the ability to have fun together. Strive for a relaxed casual conversation during times together. Use praise and trust to help build self-esteem, and recognize your child's feelings by listening and making nonjudgmental comments. Remember, listening doesn't mean you don't have to solve your child's problems.

Next, avoid criticism about no-win topics. Most negative parent/teen relationships start because the parents criticize their teenager too much. Dressing, talking, and acting differently than adults helps your teen feel independent from you. Your teen will probably like to do the things their friends do, not necessarily what you do. This is an important step in your teen's development.

Try not to attack your teenager's choices in clothing, hairstyle, music, room decorations, use of free time, use of money, and speech. That doesn't mean withholding your personal views about these subjects, but rather allowing your teen to rebel in these harmless areas. This often prevents testing in major areas, such as drugs, skipping school, or stealing. Step in and try to make a change only if your teenager's behavior is harmful, illegal, or infringes on your house rules.

Another common error is to criticize your teen's mood or attitude. A negative or lazy attitude can only be changed through good example and praise. The more you dwell on nontraditional behaviors, the longer they are going to last.

You can let society's rules and consequences teach responsibility outside the home. Your teenager must learn from trial and error. As they experiment, they will learn to take responsibility for their decisions and actions. Speak up only if your teen is going to do something dangerous or illegal. Otherwise, you must rely on the teen's own self-discipline, pressure from their friends to behave responsibly, and the lessons they've learned from the consequences of their actions.

City curfew laws will help control late hours. A school's requirement for being on time will help your teen want to get enough sleep at night. School grades will hold your teenager accountable for homework and other aspects of school, such as extracurricular activities and sports. If your teen has bad work habits, they'll lose their job. If your teenager makes a poor choice of friends, they may find confidences broken or get into trouble. If they don't practice hard for a sport, they'll be pressured by the team and the coach to do better. If they misspend their allowance or earnings, they'll soon be out of money. Teens need plenty of opportunity to learn from their own mistakes before they leave home and have to solve problems without an ever-present parental support system.

With regards to house rules, you have the right and responsibility to make the rules regarding your house and other possessions. You pay the rent, you make the rules. A teen's choices can be tolerated within their own room, but they need not be imposed on for the rest of the house. For example, you can forbid loud music that interferes with other people's activities or incoming telephone calls after 10:00 at night.

While you should make your teen's friends feel welcome in your home, clarify the ground rules about parties and activities in your home. Your teen can be placed in charge of cleaning their room and washing their clothes. Reasonable consequences for breaking house rules include loss of the telephone, TV, stereo, and car privileges if your child is driving. If your teenager breaks something, he should repair it or pay for its repair or replacement. If he makes a mess, he should clean it up. If your teen is doing poorly in school, you can restrict television time. You can also put a limit on telephone privileges and weeknights out. If your teen stays out too late or doesn't call you when they are delayed, you can ground them. Remember, in general, grounding for more than a few days is looked upon as unfair and it's really hard to enforce as a parent.

Give your teenager who is in a bad mood his space. Generally, when a teenager is in a bad mood they won't want to talk to you about it. If teenagers want to discuss a problem with anybody, it's usually their friends, not their parents. In general, it's best to give your teen lots of space and privacy.

Some talking back is normal. We want our teenagers to express their anger through talking and to challenge our opinions, but in logical ways. We need to listen. Let go of the small stuff. It's only words, but don't accept disrespectful remarks such as calling you a jerk. Unlike a negative attitude, these mean remarks should not be ignored. You can respond with a comment like, "It really hurts me when you put me down or don't answer my question." Make your statement without anger, if possible. If your teen continues to make angry unpleasant remarks, leave the room. Don't get into a shouting match with your teenager. This is not the type of behavior that's acceptable in outside relationships and it won't get you very far.

By working on developing a healthy relationship with your teen, you both can survive this difficult transition period.

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