Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let Teens be Teenagers – The Ten Commandments for Parents

My Fashionista, Book Worm, Daddy's Girl & iPod Geek Teens
Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

You’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t fight City Hall.”  Based on my own adventures with 4 teens (TRIPLETS, plus one more all born within a year), I've grown to realize that you can’t fight the teenage years either.

Instead, use this tenacious time in any parent’s life to inspire yourself and your adolescent to each master your own individual roles in this saga.  After all, with a wink on the eye, you’ll soon be an empty nester hopefully looking back on all the opportunities you seized on behalf of raising your family well.

Wondering how to survive?  Just try following some of these ideas and you might change your attitude toward your teen.

Daddy & Our Two Daughters, Summer Vacation 2010
Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

Your Teen's 10 Commandments for Mom and Dad

1- Thou shalt NOT argue with your teen.  It’s never really productive is it?  Listen more to your teen’s perspective and talk (or yell) less – you don’t always have to respond, just hearing them out is all that's needed.

2 - Thou shalt NOT write your kid’s papers or do their other schoolwork for them.  Rather, be there on-call as their brainstorming partner and editor.  Do this because we all know the sense of pride that comes with saying “I did it by myself.”

3 - Thou shalt NOT steal your teen’s sleep or when they take flight to retreat when they need to.  It’s a scientific fact that teens need a lot more rest, both in deep sleep mode and in just kicking back and relaxing to de-stress themselves, than many grown adults.  There’s no harm but only good in letting your teenager sleep late whenever it’s feasible and also just indulging him by allowing him to spend time alone holed up in his cave room at home whenever he needs to.

4 - Thou shalt NOT pry and be overly curious about everything your teen talks about with his/her friends or does with them.  They have every right to the same privacy that you do, don't you think?  As long as you’ve done your job and instilled good morals and character traits to live by in your child, you likely will have a limited amount of worrying in this department.

My Two Sons and I, November 2010
Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

5 - Thou shalt NOT let the refrigerator, freezer, and panty ever get bare.  You know how grouchy you get when you are either hungry or thirsty with no relief in sight so it’s easy to see where they’re coming from on this.  Besides, your teen’s body and mind needs to eat and drink more than they ever will right now.  Your job as a parent is to keep the foods and drinks at home well-stocked being sure to have a lot of their favorites on hand, hopefully leaning toward a plentiful supply of healthy choices to them to munch out on.

6 - Thou shalt NOT disappear from being there for your son or daughter.  They may make you feel invisible a lot during this developmental stage in your kid’s life, but that doesn’t mean that your teen won’t benefit merely from your presence – albeit standing in the background off stage – waiting to be called in to help if you’re needed.

7 - Thou shalt NOT be over controlling when it comes to your teen’s acquisition of responsibility.  Sometimes the best way for a kid to learn is simply allow them to stumble and make mistakes without you always being there to catch them.  Handled this way, you increase the chances that your teen will grow into a much stronger and agile adult if they are allowed to workout and build their own muscles for dealing with life's ups and downs.

8 - Thou shalt NOT change the rules mid-game.  Once you've established guidelines for your teen in what you expect from him/her in the way of academic performance, physical fitness, chores, and any other areas (religious, musical/artistic, etc), don't backtrack.  Rules are rules and consistency in enforcing them will pay huge dividends to your sanity now and to your child as he/she moves into young adulthood.

9 - Thou shalt NOT serve as an uninspiring role model.  In other words, don't practice a double-standard between the way you behave and the behavior you expect from your teen.  "Do as I say and not as I do," is not lively to work here.  If you want you want your kid to act a certain way the most non-confrontive approach is to model for your teen by living the same sort of life that you desire your son or daughter to live.

10 - Thou shalt NOT stop learning from your teen.  Yes, that's right.  Your teen has a thing or two to teach you, too, about enjoying life more, living in the moment, and really having fun with just about anything that life throws your way.

So parents, what's stopping you?  Go for it.  Make a difference if both your life and your kid's starting right now.  You'll both be a lot better for it in the present and into the future.

Please Comment
Now it's your turn.  What other commandments could you add to this list for helping us parents to better understand and support our teens? Leave a comment and share.  I look forward to a lively conversation here on this hot topic.
Me with My Two Daughers and Oldest Son
Coors Brewery Tour, Boulder, CO - Summer 2010

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