Parents! Don’t make the critical mistake of exploding on your teens all of the time. This is a quick way to establish huge walls with them. While sometimes they certainly do things that warrant a good old freak out, under normal circumstances they should be few and far between.
I’ve done youth work for more than 20 years and am in the thick of raising teenagers of my own right now. Here are 3 simple, guiding principles I hope will help guide you in the future. I’ll be back with a specific article in the near future to unpack each of them, too:
Nudge often. Coach sometimes. Explode rarely.
Your teens need nudging more than anything. A nudge can be a recognition of something or someone good – literally a little kick under the table or slight elbow to increase attention. You hear a particular good point in a movie, give them a budge. They’re about to take a big leap of faith, give them a little nudge. See an example of a good friend or a particularly bad friend? Help them see it more clearly with a little nudge. Effective parents have scores of moments like this throughout the week. These are beautiful, simple moments that make a huge difference while the teenagers hardly notice they are being parented.
There’s nothing better than a great coaching moment – these are longer interactions than the quick nudge, where you unpack the behavior that was unacceptable or identify something that was noticed. You coach them to get their homework in even though they’ll get zero points because it builds good will with the teacher. You push them to stick out the cross country season because it teaches them to finish what they start. These type of interactions happen weekly, but be careful they don’t happen too frequently or they could easily degrade into lectures and stump speeches.
Often times the “go to” reaction of parents, a fiercely passionate parent has its place, but needs to be used rarely to remain effective and not characterize the parental style. My goal is that my teenager feels the urgency of the situation without a full on verbal brawl, but if it has to come to that I will go there. These are reserved moments, that must happen rarely, saved for those life-altering trajectory moments that deserve it.
Take a few minutes and thing about your default reaction. Do you notice those little moments, words or details and nudge often? When there needs to be a little more push, do you coach well? What consequences has the explosion caused in your family? What would you go back and change if you could?
Good stuff to think about as you live out the blessing of raising teenagers!