Your child isn't a little kid anymore. They're a teen, or a tween -- and it's time to tweak your parenting skills to keep up with them.
Yes, they're probably moodier now than when they were young. And you have new things to think about, like curfews, dating, new drivers, and friends who make you raise your eyebrows.
No doubt about it: Your teen, or tween, will test your limits, and your patience. But they're still your child. And, though they won't admit it, they still need you!
The key is knowing what efforts are worth it, and which ones backfire.
1. Expecting the Worst
Teenagers get a bad rap, says Richard Lerner, PhD, director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. Many parents approach raising teenagers as an ordeal, believing they can only watch helplessly as their lovable children transform into unpredictable monsters.
But that sets you -- and your teen -- up for several unhappy, unsatisfying years together.
“The message we give teenagers is that they’re only ‘good’ if they’re not doing ‘bad’ things, such as doing drugs, hanging around with the wrong crowd, or having sex,” Lerner says.
It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Negative expectations can actually promote the behavior you fear most. A Wake Forest University study showed that teens whose parents expected them to get involved in risky behaviors reported higher levels of these behaviors one year later.
Lerner's advide: Focus on your child's interests and hobbies, even if you don’t understand them. You could open a new path of communication, reconnect with the child you love, and learn something new.
2. Reading Too Many Parenting Books
Rather than trusting their instincts, many parents turn to outside experts for advice on how to raise teens. “Parents can tie themselves into knots trying to follow the advice they read in books,” says Robert Evans, EdD, author of Family Matters: How Schools Can Cope with the Crisis in Child Rearing.
It's not that parenting books are bad.
“Books become a problem when parents use them to replace their own innate skills,” Evans says. “If the recommendations and their personal style don’t fit, parents wind up more anxious and less confident with their own children.”
Use books to get perspective on confusing behavior -- and then put the book down and trust that you've learned what you need to learn. Get clear about what matters most to you and your family.