Parenting Your Teenager: 4 Things to Do and 4 Things to Avoid

Jeff Herring

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How to be the enemy

1) Assuming - this is when you assume how your teen will act and then act according to your assumptions. The problem is this ignores the ability of teens to learn and grow.

2) Rescuing/Explaining - rescuing prevents them from experiencing the consequences of their behavior. Explaining prevents them from discovering the meaning of things for themselves. This is what could be going on when a teen says “Stop treating me like a two year old!"

3) Directing - Think about how you feel when your boss tells you how to do every little detail of a project that you already know how to do or could figure out for yourself. What happens to your motivation and sense of responsibility?

4) Expecting - This is different from having appropriate expectations. Expecting is setting too high a standard and then criticizing everything that falls below.

How to be a guide

1) Checking - This involves respecting a person enough to ask what their understanding of a situation may be. It's “What do you think you will need for your trip" vs. “Now remember to take this and that and don't forget the other thing!"

2) Exploring - We explore when we ask questions such as, “What was your understanding of when you were to be home?" vs. “Do you know how late you are?!" (Of course they know!) Getting their understanding puts the responsibility on them and off of you.

3) Encouraging/Inviting - This sends the important message that we believe the child to be valuable and intelligent. It's “What do you think. " vs. “This is how you should believe and think. " Asking “What's your opinion?" can work wonders for self esteem and communication.

4) Celebrating - This can simply be noticing progress. In our performance based society, it's easy to focus only on huge achievements. Communication is enhanced when we also celebrate what I call the “small successes. " This is “Good job, see what you can do. " vs. “Why didn't you do this. " Having said all that, it's important to emphasize that the parents are the ones who need to be in charge. It's simply a matter of being in charge in a manner that builds barriers or in a manner that builds bridges.

Visit for tips and tools for thriving during the teen years. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 5 day e-program on The Top 5 Things to Never Say to Your Teenager, from parenting coach and expert Jeff Herring.


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