Jonathan Wolf: Parenting a Teenager Made Easier in 5 Steps

Parenting a teenager can be a challenge and require a lot of skill and energy. However, there are a few tips that can help make it a lot easier.

Step 1: Be positive about your expectations.

Studies show that people often perform and act according to what is expected of them. If little is expected, little will be achieved. This is known as the Pygmalion effect, and it has been seen with the expectations a parent has of a child.

If you expect that your teenager is going to fail in school, for example, this increases the likelihood that they will fail. However, thinking the opposite can have a positive effect. It’s important not to have expectations that are too overwhelming (become the President) or too specific (my son is going to be a quarterback), because expectations become limiting, but rather to have positive expectations based on the teen’s interests, skills and personality.

Step 2: Use rewards, not punishments.

It has been shown that punishments have a varying effect on discouraging a negative behavior, but rewards are guaranteed to work to encourage positive behavior. Rewards don’t have to be material, as many times sincere praise will work very well to encourage the teen.

Usually, with teenagers, parents tend to focus on the negative behaviors, sometimes taking the good things for granted. This actually serves to perpetuate the negative behaviors more. However, shifting the focus and being generous with praise can help you achieve better results.

Step 3: Adjust limits

Teenagers need different limits than children, and what is more, they need limits that are adjusted as they grow up. However, it often happens that parents don’t revise the limits until a serious fight happens or something else equally out of the ordinary occurs. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to revise limits consistently to maintain a balance between the teen’s freedom and responsibility.

Step 4: Remain calm

Teens are dramatic, as their emotional experiences are often extreme. They say they “hate” their parents, which is something no parent wants to hear. However, in the face of these emotions that the teen yet can’t control, it’s very important to remain calm and be there for them, as these outbursts usually don’t reflect actual hatred, but pain and anger that the teen doesn’t know how to handle yet.

Step 5: Keep communications channels open

While the teen needs more freedom, they still need guidance and help. It’s very important that they can feel as if they can receive it in their own home with their family. Teenagers need to be able to come to their parents with different problems and situations, so they shouldn’t feel like they would receive only blame or anger. Rather, they need to feel that they will be supported. For this, it’s important to reinforce these ideas through words and actions.

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