As children approach those dreaded teenage years, their parents are forced to confront new challenges. Some parents liken themselves to the hand that guides a toy car across a bridge or even a bystander watching the car go by, but in reality the ideal place for the parent is the railing of the bridge. Parents can provide guidance for children without smothering them. Can you imagine driving a car across a bridge with no railings? One simple movement could send you soaring through the air, ready to crash into the unknown. A simple guiding force can change all of this.
Adolescents need some semblance of independence. Identity is important, especially in these vulnerable years. Adolescents who do not understand their own identities struggle more than those who do. If your child needs some support, sometimes talking to a therapist can help them figure out his or her place in life while still maintaining a good relationship with their parents.
Pick your battles. If your teenager has a messy bedroom but is otherwise a great student, nit-picking can do more harm than good. Get involved when it matters, offering yourself as a source of support. Getting caught stealing, failing courses and refusing to communicate are matters that require more intervention.
Be flexible. Sometimes you have to adjust rules and consequences. Curfew, bedtime and allowances are reasonably changed throughout the years. In addition, parents must understand which punishments may actually hold water. For instance, sending a teen to her room when she has access to a computer, phone and television is no longer a punishment. Limiting driving privileges and taking away the cell phone are more effective.
Just as punishments can make an impact, positive reinforcement can too. Use praise to show how proud you are of your child for excellent grades and impressive moral fiber. When the only words a child hears are negative, it strains the relationship.
Parenting is no cake walk, but that does not mean you cannot have a healthy relationship with your teen. Remember your role as the railing of the bridge. This helps you focus on providing guidance for your teen.