Do you ever feel like your tween or teen isn’t listening to you?
Understandably, our relationships with our growing children change over time, particularly as they enter the teen years and start establishing their own identity. For most parents, their greatest struggle is a sense of loss of influence.
But, while teens are listening to many other voices during this season (e.g., their friends, acquaintances on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, celebrities, parents of friends they see as “cooler,” etc.), they are not necessarily cutting ties or rejecting their parents’ ideals. In fact, many times what feels like rejection is really a re-negotiation of their former parent-child relationship.
Your teen isn’t necessarily saying, “I’m rejecting you.” Rather, he or she may be saying, “Hey, I’m almost grown up. It’s time to cut a new deal,” or “Give me some credit; I get it!” or “Come on, let me try and figure this out on my own!” Whether we’re talking about curfews or communication, relationships or jobs around the house, what we want to avoid is burning our bridges. If you recognize and react to this new reality with trust—and they handle it well—you can build an even greater platform for parental influence and relationship in your teen’s life. This matured relationship can be a source of great benefit and pleasure to all parties in the future.
Be encouraged! Statistics support the idea that, despite appearances to the contrary, parents are still the number one influencers in a young person’s life. The majority of teenagers report that they have values and general beliefs similar to their parents and consider their parents as being highly significant in their lives. Seriously!
Your children will make some not-so-great choices throughout their adolescent years, but they will also make some wonderful ones. They will stumble and make great strides. Sometimes, they’ll want you to pick them up, dust them off and set them straight again. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it on their own. If you’re worried about the other voices influencing your teen’s life, or if you’re struggling to get through to him or her on your own, try the following:
1. Make a list of the five most influential people in your teen’s life. Are you happy with the list? Whom would you like to add? Is there anyone about whom you have concerns? Come up with some strategies for ensuring there are strong, positive third party voices in your teen’s life. Proactively introduce them to great role model adults.
2. Ask your teen to identify the top five people he or she admires most and why. What are the common denominators? The people they admire can be an indicator of your child’s priorities and values. Do they align with your family’s?
If you have the benefit of a variety of positive, encouraging, and healthy voices in your child’s life (coaches, mentors, relatives, teachers), you’ll be able to navigate the tween and teen years with a greater sense of peace. Your child will be all the more prepared for the real world, where we all have to sort the good voices from the bad. Hopefully, they’ll surround themselves with the good.
That’s all part of the journey on the road to adulthood. Just remember, no matter how tough the going gets, YOU are your children’s main influencer and they DO value what you think! Even if they might not always show it.
Arlyn Lawrence is the co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, and What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead (available as a leadership and life skills curriculum for teens in standard and Christian editions). Arlyn is the mother of five grown children and grandmother of two. She and co-author Dennis Trittin speak and provide resources for parents, teens, educators, and mentors about building “life literacy” in children and young adults. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter!