Parenting a teen can sometimes feel like a constant battle. can parents minimize the time spent in power struggles? By choosing your battles.
Have realistic expectations
It’s important to remember that the teen brain has not fully developed. Teens can be smart in some ways, but predicting consequences and assessing risk, are not things they are good at yet. Teens will make mistakes, and this does not have to be the cause of a major battle if you expect this and do not overreact.
How important is this issue? One question to ask yourself is, what are the possible consequences? Are they beyond child’s ability to cope or comprehend? Is my child or someone else in danger of a life threatening or life changing consequence (drunk driving, unprotected sex, for example)? If so, it may be worth staying involved until the issue is resolved.
Is this still my job?
Asserting themselves is an important part of how teens mature. Sometimes parents, feeling their role changing from boss to advisor, feel that a small argument is a chance to re-establish authority. In cases where a youth really is out of control and putting him or herself in danger, it may be necessary to get family counseling to improve boundaries and communication. If not, though, parents should decide if the power struggle is really about their own struggle to let go of an old role.
Will it be OK in two years?
Sometimes behavior may be ok for now, but doesn’t set a good pattern for the future, like following through on commitments or understanding how their behavior affects others. Ask yourself, will this behavior still be ok in two years? If not, you may want to address it now.
Know your own issues and triggers
Parents are people, with our own histories and sensitive issues. you know that a particular issue affects you emotionally, check yourself to make sure you aren’t over-reacting or imposing your own wishes, regrets or fears on the situation.
Use good communication
When a conversation is becoming heated, it gets hard to hear what the other person is saying. Both people can start to feel like the argument is about “no one can tell me what to do” or “you don’t respect me”. Those feelings can push you and your teen into extreme positions that are more about egos than issues. If one or both of you is feeling this way, it may be time to take a break and come back when tempers are cooler. Remember how you want to be talked to by others. Feeling respected and heard is important to everyone.
Address it sooner rather than later
When something is bothering you, talk about it before you get too frustrated. If you decide it’s not worth addressing, then work to really let it go, not just stuff it away till you explode.
Manage your own stress
Parenting a teen is challenging at the best of times, and work, family and personal issues can pile on the stress. If you are overly stressed, irritability sets in, and small problems seem like crises. Manage your own stress and you can choose battles more wisely.
Don’t be afraid to come back or re evaluate
You may decide something is not a big deal, and then the situation changes and become something that does have to be addressed. that seems like a big problem can suddenly work itself out without much help from you. Don’t be afraid to let something ride for a while and see how it develops, or to go back and change your mind about how something needs to be handled.
Remember! Relationship with your teen is a balancing act. Trust your instincts, check yourself, and stay in touch with your and your teens feelings. Some of those battles may not need to be battles after all!
By Lara Palay, LISW
Places to Get Help
1421 Hamlet St.
Columbus, Ohio 43201
Franklin County Children’s Services
525 E. Mound St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
700 Children’s Drive