There are days when you feel as though you are on top of the world and there are those days when it feels as though everything is crashing in. For teenagers, we’ve seen so often that a lot of the time they feel as though the world is fighting against them and they often feel helpless. Teenagers always come to us with a problem and majority of the time they aren’t necessarily looking for an answer, but rather they are looking to be heard and understood.
"No one understands me"
Have you ever heard this before? Maybe from someone else or maybe from your own teenager? The truth of the matter is that teenagers often feel as though the only people that understand them are their friends. The scary thing is, if their friends don’t understand, they will enter into the mindset that no one understands them and that leads to a dark place.
Now here is something that you need to know as a parent…some of you may be offended. Teenagers don’t listen to their parents opinions. Remember as soon as your child hits the stage of adolescents, your opinion becomes minimal and their friends’ opinions become vital. Teenagers thrive mostly on their peers’ approval, if some of you don’t think this is true than do a little listening or sighting test: Look at the mannerisms of your teenager (be it a word or gesture), more than not, their favourite saying or movement is as a result of their friend or friends.
So what does this all mean for you as a parent or guardian of a teenager? Now I must warn you that you need to be careful of what type of parent you become from knowing this. I’ve seen various types of parents that tried to either hold tight and micromanage ever action their child does or goes to the other extreme and cares, but allows the child to have free reign. The suggestion is to meet somewhere in the middle. Allow the teen to make their choices and allow them to make mistakes, but also be sure to guide them when they do something wrong.
How to parent a teen that doesn't listen
Last week we spoke about relationships and how important this is for nurturing your teen, this week it’s all about listening within a relationship. The foundation of every relationship is… well relationship and in order for a teen to confide in you they need to be able to trust you. Be the disciplinarian, but also be the parent that is prepared to have fun and make an effort to encourage them. As soon as a teenager confides in you, that means they trust you and from there your opinion matters. Now the warning: don’t get too excited and than overload them with advice, but rather express their feelings back to them. So today here are some steps that we use as counsellors to help teens feel as though they are heard and help them feel empowered:
- See – Look and listen to how they are responding. If they are closed off (arms crossed or feet not faced towards you) They either feel embarrassed, shy or uncomfortable. At this point you need to try (in a different way that they have stated) reiterate their feelings – in other words, ask if they are feeling in a certain way (e.g so are you feeling annoyed, maybe angry?) if you’re right you can ask them to explain further, if not than they will explain what they actually feel.
- Judge – After you feel that you’ve gotten to the bottom of what’s bothering them than at this point you are now suggesting – NOT instructing – various ways forward. Try have more than one way or allow them to figure their own way as this will give them options, which will empower them when they feel as though they’ve chosen for themselves.
- Act – Allow them to act on their decision, even if it isn’t your favourite choice offered.
This is a patient method, but works effectively and please don’t expect miracles the first time but at all times pray that God works through your time and through your words.