Being a parent to a teenager can be difficult.
There is confusion and a lot of gray areas, and not every decision has a clear cut answer. There is no guidebook or formula to raising a teenager. Sometimes it can feel like you are going along with your teenager and that you’re on the same page. Other times, it can switch and you may feel like you’re reading completely different books.
Sometimes, when parents feel like they are in a different universe from their teen, they can turn strict. For example: some parents let their kids go days or weeks without doing chores, and then, one day, they say, “That’s it! No one is allowed to watch TV or use their phones because chores have not been done!” This is not an effective way of changing behavior and teens do not respond to this.
Parents and teens can get stuck on different ends of the spectrum on a lot of things – such as what time to be home, what time to go to bed, and how long they are allowed screen time. It can feel like a constant battle – but, never fear! Here are some ways you can find a middle ground with your teen.
At times, parents can find themselves being “too loose” or “too strict” when navigating how to handle a situation with their teen. It can help to stay flexible, be willing to negotiate, and, at the same time, have clear rules that are consistently enforced. Setting constant rules and being open to negotiation allows teens to feel like they have a say in their own lives.
Having conversations with teens about rules and expectations regarding phone usage, time spent with significant others, and school work is essential in order to set clear rules and expectations. This way, teens are aware of what is expected, and the open dialogue can allow them to feel like they have a say in what is going on in their lives. For example: if a teenager wants to spend time with their significant other, it can be helpful to have a discussion about the rules, such as: “you can spend time with them during the day, but you cannot have a sleepover,” or “you can spend time with them as long as another adult is present in the home.”
Sometimes it can be confusing if your teenager’s behavior is normal or not. Some parents may see behavior as a huge problem, and other parents may not view it as a problem at all. For example: if a teenager hates public presentations and expresses this to their parents, some parents may jump to the conclusion that their child has social anxiety – when in reality, they might just hate presenting in class. Another example includes if a teenager hates presenting in class to the point where they skip school, and the parent does not think anything of it. These are two ends of the spectrum, and it can help if a parent is involved in their teen’s life by having conversations, knowing their friends, and spending time with them. If you are concerned about a problem, close monitoring (such as knowing their whereabouts) is essential.
Guide and support while also letting go
It can be difficult to figure out how much support parents are supposed to give. How involved are parents supposed to be? How much do they actively try to solve problems for their teens? The term “helicopter parent” comes from being overly involved in a teenager’s life – where a parent tries to solve problems for their teen before they have a chance to do it themself.
As a parent, you want to be able to guide your children while also giving them the independence to make their own decisions and mistakes. If your teen comes home one day and says they got a C on their exam, being overly involved may look like a parent calling the teacher, asking the student to be able to retake the test. Guiding and supporting your teen with this may look like talking to your teen about how to communicate with their teacher on the reasons why they would like the opportunity to retake the test.
Finding a middle ground with teens can allow them to feel like they are more in control of their lives and allows parents to be involved with their teen’s life if they are not already. Staying flexible, opening a dialogue, and being able to guide and support your teen while also giving them more freedom and independence can help families find a middle ground with their teen.
- Dr. Lauren Kerwin, P. D. (2019, November 13). Parenting teens: Why it’s all about finding the Middle Path. Thrive Global. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/parenting-teens-why-its-all-about-finding-the-middle-path/ ;
- Rathus, J. H., Miller, A. L., & Linehan, M. (2017). Dbt Skills Manual for Adolescents. The Guilford Press.