Guest post by Michael Hawton, registered psychologist and author of Engaging Adolescents.
Parenting teenagers is harder now than it used to be.
Parents are going through unprecedented times, simply because the parenting ‘landscape’ has changed so much. There are more complicating factors to take account of than used to be the case. Parents are also struggling to define what they think is important and to not feel characterized by their teenagers as being out of touch. There’s also been a bit of a shift in societal values that is making it harder for parents to define what their family values are.
I don’t think parents need many rules with teenagers. Just a few that really matter – and probably forget the rest. The ones that really matter are maintaining respect of each other, not hurting one another and yourself, and looking after things at home.
Technology has affected the way that parents have to look after their child’s best interests and this is different to what it was, say, ten years ago. Parents not only have to make sure that the internet nasties are kept at bay but they also need to limit the effects of digital devices on their teenager’s well-being. For example, we know that phones and devices are keeping a lot of young people awake, and that tired teenagers are more on-edge. As it stands, seventy percent of teenagers aren’t getting the required minimum of 8.5 hrs sleep they need, which means parents are dealing with crankier and probably more anxious teenagers. Without the right sleep, they’re going to be more irritable, and less able to tolerate stress. Less sleep, while not the only factor, is often associated with anxiety.
But, the research is clear: the kids who do best have parents who are warm and firm! Warm means going for walks together, eye-balling them every day – and getting out and doing some fun stuff. Kids are more likely to take your guidance, if you’re not always on their case.
The research is clear: the kids who do best have parents who are warm and firm!
The first thing that parents need to recognize in efforts to manage teenage behaviour is coming to terms with the fact that we have ‘the fully-adult-psychological-mind’ and that teenagers are not yet fully-functioning adults. Teenagers need adults with wiser heads for guidance, support and security.
At times parents will be better at assessing the risks of a situation better than a teenager and they will need to be firm.
I teach parenting programs and I tell parents they have three jobs:
- Helping kids reach maturity and learning how to keep things in proportion.
- Helping them know what is ‘Appropriate’ vs ‘Inappropriate’ in behaviour.
- Protecting their well-being.
Protecting their well-being might include taking their phone off them – and putting it on the charger in the kitchen overnight, if you think they’re not getting the right amount of sleep. Or, it might mean saying no to that party if you assess it’s too risky.
Remember, the teenagers who do best have parents who are warm and firm….
About Michael Hawton: Michael is a registered psychologist with over 30 years of experience. He is a listed clinical expert with the NSW Children’s Court and an expert witness in the Family Court of Australia. A former teacher, Michael has spent much of his career working with parents and their children, and has been teaching family services workers and educational leaders in the area of behaviour management for over a decade.
Michael has developed parent education programs that have been taught to over 100,000 parents and professionals since 2006. A father of two, Michael brings a clear and unambiguous method-based approach to ease the distress of parents experiencing difficulties with their teenagers’ behaviour.
Parenting tough issues with teenagers
Parenting teenagers can be tricky at the best of times. But when the tough issues arise - behavioural problems, unacceptable risk-taking, bullying, alcohol abuse - things can get extremely difficult and parents can struggle with what to do. Drawing on psychologist Michael Hawton's 30 years of experience, Engaging Adolescents is a practical guide to help you steer your teenager through the challenging times with confidence.
The book covers the following areas: teenagers and what helps them develop personal control, how to sort out behaviour so you don't over react...