Too many adults have forgotten their own teen years and find relating to or understanding the thoughts, behavior, and priorities of adolescents confusing, misdirected, and reckless. Luckily, a lot of research has been done in recent years to shed light on this seemingly mysterious time of life.
The art of parenting is to fearlessly let go of trying to control someone you would give your life to protect
This is such a great statement that often describes parents of teens. Parents, teachers and others often say it would be so much easier to communicate with teens if they would just talk to them! Therein lies the dilemma because kids of this age actually have not yet mastered the art or brain skill of communicating thoughts and feelings coherently. It can therefore often feel like a major guessing game. This can be especially true if a teen is arguing and fighting against every effort by adults to be supportive. It is vitally important to remember that each child is unique and teens want to be seen that way.
Listening to a teenager without trying to fix or change them is important! Sometimes all they really want adults to do is to listen; to really hear what they're trying to say. Kids will often say they want parents to stop trying to “fix” them. The teen years are a time of massive brain growth as well as physical growth. The early teen years are sometimes referred to as the second “terrible twos”. As toddlers it is an important time to expand their world which also means resisting and saying “no”. Of course this aptly describes most teens as well. As difficult as this may be for adults to deal with it is ever so important a stage for children to go through and master. There is a lot to learn by practicing saying no with those you love and who love you first rather than waiting until adulthood. I always say that the family is ideally much like a scientific laboratory where experiments are safely contained and restrained. A lab, like a family, is the place to make the mistakes. It is up to the parents/adults to hold those mistakes and then provide guidance (not lectures) on how to work toward perfecting the experiments.
Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had
All parents plan and hope for the children of their dreams. Unconsciously parents often see having a child as their chance for a “do-over” for themselves. But, this is about this child, in this time. Parenting is a chance to help each individual child be their own best, not someone else’s best. Lecturing any more than at very brief times does only the parent good (by getting rid of frustration). Lecturing rarely teaches anything. Continuing to bring-up a child’s past mistakes also only adds to low self-esteem (for kids and parents) and drags the entire family into a hole of negativity. Helping a teen see own their role and responsibility is important. Taking personal accountability for owns own actions is a sign of true maturity.
As for new knowledge about what is inside the head of a teen there are several books that provide insight. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is a well-respected author, clinical professor of psychiatry, lecturer and more. Dr. Siegel’s latest book, Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (2013) is a powerful insight into why teens do what they do. Many myths and misconceptions are also addressed. He gives us biological and the neuroscience understanding of such common questions as to why adolescents commonly engage in risky behavior, why they retreat to their rooms, and why their friends are so much more important than parents.