With Melinda

Single mum lifestyle blogger

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Having a teenager in the house can sometimes feel like living with an alien. As their hormones fluctuate and needs change, parenting can be challenging. To help our teenagers on the rocky road to adulthood, we need to adopt some positive parenting strategies for the teenage years.

Six rules for parenting a teenager

Every child needs boundaries as they grow. Babies enter the world not knowing anything and rely on their parents to teach them right from wrong and what is acceptable in the society they live in. But when a child is becoming a teenager, parents almost have to tear up the old rule book and write a new one. To save the time that would take, here are a selection of rules for active parenting of teens.

1. Establish household rules for teens

By this point, your teenager will be more egocentric and focused on building social relationships. This is an important part of their development, but they also need increased responsibility to help them mature. The easiest way to do this is to give them a timetable that factors in homework, clubs, and chores around the house. This can be introduced as a new routine with more responsibility, a new bedtime and more freedom. This demonstrates to your teenager that you are acknowledging their increased maturity and age. It also changes the boundaries but keeps some in place, keeping your child safe.

2. Give your teenager space

This is one area that changes as your young child becomes a teen. A common complaint a mother of a young child has is that she cannot do anything on her own. Even going to the bathroom! Young children are not aware of personal space. Their sensory needs demand that they touch and hug to show affection. Therefore parents get used to the lack of personal space and can find it difficult to change this as the child gets older.

Teenagers develop a zone of physical proximity which is the area around them in which they would not feel comfortable with another person invading. Adults have the same zone but can sometimes find it difficult to accept in their growing child.  

To give your child more space of their own, make their bedroom a safe haven. This can be achieved by drawing up a set of ‘bedroom rules’ with your teenager. For example, adults have to knock first. By doing this, we are acknowledging that we respect their growing need for privacy.

3. Give your teen social freedom

Allow and encourage your child to build a social life outside of the home. As they negotiate the tricky world of friends, this can be painful to watch but have confidence in your child’s ability to create a social circle that will nurture him or her.

Give them physical freedom. It won’t be long before they leave home, so this is the time for them to navigate the outside world. You can start by letting them go out locally with friends and getting a bus or train. Giving them a bank card for children will teach them how to pay for things, how to manage what they want to spend their money on and how to start saving.

4. Learn how to talk to your teenager without arguing

Yes, teenagers are often not logical and can be very annoying. But have you noticed that if you raise your voice, they will feed off your emotions and the situation will deteriorate? If a teenager is being rude, then they need to be told so as this is part of them learning what is not acceptable. But apart from that, a conversation should be positive and not full of ‘because I told you so.’ Allowing the teenager to speak and give their opinion shows that you are recognising that their opinion matters and showing them respect.

5. Understand a teenager’s hormones

Puberty is a tricky time. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. Boys and girls both experience a build-up of hormones, albeit different ones. Although puberty is a slow process taking several years, it is enough to change your child into the above-mentioned temporary alien. These hormones affect a teenager’s brain and therefore their behaviour. As a parent, we must take the time to understand what is going on with them and have patience. After all, it is not us going through this monumental change!

6. Praise don’t criticise

None of us want to hear constant criticism as it is exhausting. Teenagers are still learning to navigate their world and social settings, so we should praise them for their positive behaviour. Instead of criticising something you know to be wrong, you could suggest alternatives. This gives your teenager something to think about and the power to make the right choice themselves. This way, they don’t feel they are being told off but treated as young adults with free will.

Don’t be a helicopter parent

These six suggestions for positive parenting strategies for the teenage years have been learnt by parents all over the world through a combination of blood, sweat and tears. Being a teenager is difficult, being the parent of a teenager is a minefield. You want your children to grow up into fine adults and need to trust that you have the skills to help them on their journey. Even if you are co parenting with different parenting styles, using these strategies will help your teen.

Try not to be a helicopter parent who is always hovering around their child, too afraid to let them learn or explore on their own. It can be tough as we have been used to doing everything for them and don’t want them to make mistakes. However, the best way they can learn is by making mistakes then discovering the right way.

8 things you should stop doing for your teenager

One way in which we can encourage our teenagers to learn and mature is by not doing so much for them. This will help them grow their skills and also give them more responsibility. Having a chore list will help them stick to the routine. Here are some ways in which you can encourage them to grow and thrive.

  • Making their bed
  • Putting away clean clothes and picking up dirty clothes. They know where the laundry basket is!
  • Packing their bags. Whether it is their school bag or a weekend away bag, your teenager needs to take responsibility. This includes ensuring they have the correct general equipment for school, e.g. pencil case, calculator, and clean PE kit.
  • Polishing their shoes. Giving a child pride in their appearance starts with chores like this one.
  • General housework. Give your teenager a set chore. Whether it is hanging out the washing, washing the dishes etc., make this their responsibility. Not only will this teach them, but it will also make them more aware of what you do for them.
  • Cooking. I don’t mean stop cooking entirely for your teen! After all, that may cause a meltdown. Rather, get them to cook with you once or twice a week. As well as increasing their responsibility, this will give them a much-needed skill.
  • Taking your child everywhere. As they grow, teenagers need to learn navigational skills. Walking independently, and getting public transport is a necessary part of spatial and social awareness.
  • Giving hugs. I know, I know, it sounds harsh. And I don’t mean stop showing any affection. Rather, respect your child’s boundaries, don’t embarrass them and they will reward you with a hug of their own.

Mental and emotional changes during puberty

Puberty typically starts in girls at about 10 and boys at about 11. This is an average age, and your child could start earlier or later. To support your children and also retain sanity, it is important you know what they are going through.

During puberty, the child’s brain develops. Although it is almost the size of adults, at this time it is being remodelled. The neural connections develop and are connected which leads to improvements in a child’s thinking and processing skills.

The corpus callosum connects the two areas in the brain. This thickens which allows stronger connections between the frontal lobe and the back of the brain. The hippocampus forms a stronger connection to the frontal lobe which means the child’s memory capacity increases which in turn leads to better decision making.

Hormonal changes during teenage years

If there isn’t already enough going on for the teenager, their levels of dopamine and serotonin also change. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which allows us to feel pleasure and also increases our level of decision-making. During puberty, the level of dopamine increases which is great in one way but can lead our naïve teens to take risks and also increase their levels of boredom. On the other hand, serotonin regulates behaviour and moods. It is the calming chemical in our brains and can help with stress. It is the Ying to dopamine’s Yang and regulates the reckless behaviour that dopamine can produce.

Now we know what is changing your teen’s behaviour during puberty, we can be a little more sympathetic and adopt some positive parenting strategies for the teenage years. A good way for parents to get through this time is to take our understanding and turn it into patience. Or just escape to another room with a glass of wine. Balancing parenting and marriage can be tough so you want to approach both with patience and love.

Why do teenagers have mood swings?

The primary reason for mood swings is due to the brain development mentioned above. The levels of dopamine and serotonin also play an important part in this and if they are not increasing in tandem, this can cause mood swings. Along with this, teenagers are also trying to establish their self-identity. This is why establishing boundaries and giving your teenager space is an important idea. They need to be able to express themselves and discover who they are independently.

How parents can help moody teenagers

This is where parents can step in and help, by using positive parenting strategies for the teenage years. If we react to their mood swing by becoming agitated ourselves, then they feed off our emotions. This is because their brain sees our response as a potential threat. Which in turn affects their ability to self-control. This ultimately leads to shouting and slammed doors.

Five ways a parent can respond to a teenagers mood

  • Keep your expression neutral during a mood swing. As negative expressions from us can trigger mood swings in them.
  • Help foster new talents. This is the time the creative part of a teenager’s brain develops so focusing their interest on new areas may help regulate their moods.
  • React carefully when your child is about to take a risk. Again, at this time their brain makes our teens more open to risk-taking but instead of a negative reaction, explain why this may not be a good idea and suggest alternatives.
  • Be constant. Whether or not they know it, your teenager will appreciate that there is a constant, calm presence in their life. Be consistent with your approach to their moods.
  • Introduce new boundaries that teach them the limits of acceptable behaviour. They need to be able to express how they feel but your teen also needs to learn when to stop and regulate their behaviour.

How to raise a successful teenager

As we give and our teenagers take more freedom, this can be a worrying time for parents. We are not used to our children going out on their own or with friends. It’s a big, bad world out there and we worry. This is where you can rely on the positive parenting strategies for the teenage years.

Your teenager is just beginning to learn who they are away from the home. Social interaction, having to look after themselves, and maybe seeing a boyfriend or girlfriend can all help them learn and grow. Although their sense of risk increases, by having more freedom their maturity and experience will also develop.

By using the positive parenting strategies for the teenage years, your teenager will become secure and confident. Their new role in the home will become established. They will confidently be able to make their way in the outside world knowing they have the guidance they need from their parents.  The reward for you, as a parent is to watch your child develop into an amazing young adult.

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