If you grew up in the 90s going backwards, you know it was taboo to talk back to your parent. In fact, back then, children were to be seen not heard and in some homes, even being seen was a sin. In the 21st century, things have changed and children, especially teenagers, have learned to speak their minds, sometimes without filtering the words that come out of their mouths.
Unfortunately, raising such a strong-willed and assertive teen can be quite an uphill task. Nevertheless, in some parts of Africa, they say, a born child cannot be thrown away. Therefore, it is paramount to know how to deal with your teenager without severing your relationship.
While every parenting experience is different, here are a few tips you can try.
Allow them some independence
Your teen is transitioning from childhood to adulthood. During this time, all they want is to be in control. Allow them to make their own decisions without completely neglecting your duties and as a parent but at the same time resisting the temptation to hover.
You can check in with them from time to time to keep them accountable. Make sure your language is respectful and your tone is not accusing at all.
Let your child know what is acceptable and what is not. Where possible set boundaries before you need them. In the same breath avoid setting rules and boundaries when emotions are running high. Otherwise, you end up making unrealistic rules which may give your child more reason to oppose and even become rebellious.
Also, when setting rules, do not leave any room for ambiguity. Instead, be as clear as possible.
Do not be pulled into a power struggle with your teenager
Even when your teen is driving you crazy, do not stand and argue with them. Always remember that you are the parent. As long as your child knows the rules, make your point and walk away. However, do not sound demanding. The more demanding you sound, the more your child is inclined to rebel.
Asking for your teen’s opinion especially when making decisions that concern them tells them that you respect them as individuals and that you trust them to make the right decisions.
Mind your communication
The communication style you used when your child was younger may not work with your teen. Therefore, mind your language and try as much as possible to get your child’s thoughts and input as opposed to imposing things on them.
Spend some time together
Teens value their independence. However, this does not relieve you of your duty as a parent. Your child will always need you regardless of their age. Therefore, ensure that you spend time with your child. You can choose an activity that both you and your child loves and use this time to bond. Whatever you do, ensure that your child is fine with it and that you are not forcing yourself on them when they would rather be hanging out with peers.
Again don’t hover and don’t be clingy!
There is a common joke in Kenyan households that all of our parents topped their classes. Almost no one has heard of a parent who came the second position let alone failed their classes. Unfortunately, this puts unrealistic pressure on children and makes the parents less relatable.
Sometimes, it’s good to be vulnerable to your teen. For instance, when you are trying to stop them from doing something that you know has dire consequences, you can share your experience with them. Vulnerability makes you relatable and opens the lines of communication between you and your teen.
When is said and done…
Raising a strong-willed child is not impossible. You just need to remember that they are trying to find their place as they transition into adulthood. All they need is a listening ear, respect, some level of control and lots of love and patience. Most of the time, it’s just a phase that will soon go away.
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