Mistakes Parents Of Teen Can Avoid – Part 1
I am a parent of a pre-teen now and I am always doubting my parenting skills. Should I be strict or cool? Am I nagging or just giving advice? Should I be a friend or a mother, is it really possible to be both? Should there be room for negotiation?
All these questions arise when I get into a conflicting situation with my daughter. The frequency of mood changes has risen. I have made mistakes in the manner that I respond at the time when the situation is a bit tense between us.
As a teacher, I have had the experience of interacting with teens and I remember 40-45-year-old parents thanking me for giving the right guidance to their children. But I am talking about a time when I was a young 25-year-old teacher, with whom the kids could relate and share anything. And while I was a cool teacher to my students, I am the 40-year-old parent now. So, doubts.
However, I have learnt a few lessons while facing these pitfalls. And I am hoping that by the time my daughter is officially a teen, we have developed a bond which makes the teenage years easier for both of us.
Because yes, teenage is confusing for the teen as well as the parent. They tend to test your patience and though they may behave as if they don’t need you but in reality, they do.
So, here are few pointers based on my learnings
The mistake of not listening
One mistake I made which my daughter pointed out to me just recently was that I am not listening to her. I was looking at her but she could read my expressions and understood that I am not attentive. Listening is a very powerful tool to improve your relationship with anyone. It’s an expression of unconditional love. Don’t just listen because you know that listening is important but listen to understand. Listen beyond the words that are spoken by your child.
When your child is talking, do not interrupt and try to understand her perspective. If your child is talking about her low grades at school, do not ever question them about why they scored less, rather ask how is the child going to try to improve the performance. Try and find out if she has a plan in mind or wants your suggestions or help. Do not offer help without being asked because the child might feel that you are not trusting her and doubting her capabilities. It is all about how you respond while your child is talking to you.
Not being good role models
If you snap at every frustrating moment, your child is going to embody your behaviour because they feel this is the way to react in a tense situation. Mood swings and anger issues in tweens and teens are common. I will share one very recent experience of mine. I had promised my 11-year-old that I will play badminton with her during the evenings. One day I was running late with home chores and I tried to excuse myself from my commitment to her. She started throwing tantrums and went to the extreme of saying that I never spend time with her. It was frustrating for me to have to listen to this allegation because every day, I had spent my evenings with her. There have been instances earlier that I have snapped back at her but this time I restrained myself. I was cooking at that time but I stopped it for a while and agreed to play with her. After an hour of playing, she was hungry and had to wait for dinner because it wasn’t prepared. She realised her mistake and immediately apologized.
Adults need to stay calm so that they can employ ways for effective parenting to manage their child’s behaviour.
Do not force them to engage in activities of your choice
I have always wished my daughter to be a reader. I have been a decent role model too. She has grown up watching me read on most of the days. Yet she doesn’t read regularly. Initially, I used to force her to read. I would criticize her too, taunt her that her language skills will remain weak if she doesn’t develop a habit of reading every day. This was a huge mistake I did because she becomes averse to reading because of my nagging.
This was like a wake-up call and during this lockdown, I gave her space to explore all the activities of her choice. She took fancy to cooking. We were extremely surprised by her natural cooking skills. She started preparing dishes without any adult supervision. She started exploring various recipes on youtube. She prepared savoury and sweet dishes. One day she prepared Ras malai. We were shocked. I asked her how she learnt it and she said she watched youtube videos and she read various recipes online. She started writing recipes on her own with the variations that she incorporated in the recipes she watched online. This helped build her language skills too.
My learning was that there could be different ways to master a skill. Integration is an ideal way to make teaching-learning an effective process. I have learnt this as a teacher but had forgotten while parenting my daughter. I learnt it at the right time, I guess.
And yes, now she reads every night for 10 minutes, I think it’s a good start.
Do not micro-manage your tween/teen
Do not protect your child with a fear that they might fail. Give them space to learn from their mistakes. Being a sportsperson since the age of four, my daughter is extremely carefree and confident about her decisions. And though I should have been confident about her choices, I fear that she might become overconfident and make bad decisions. Being a parent, it’s natural you want to protect your child but for how long. They will eventually grow up and they will make their decisions. If we give them the freedom to do it now during their teenage, they will develop essential life skills at the right time which will help them during adulthood.
Do not withhold information pertaining to menstruation, Sex and substance abuse
I was having a chat with my friend, whose 11-year-old daughter is already menstruating, yet she didn’t have a clue about the science behind menstruation. My friend has told her that’s it’s just a part of growing up. Now this child has started discussing with her peers about menstruation, boy crushes and has come to her mom looking for answers but her mom (my friend) is reluctant to answer.
I had to tell her that you need to discuss the science of menstruation. You have to talk to her about ovary, ovulation and sperm as well. This is vital information and you should be glad that she came to you looking for answers and didn’t rely on the information given to her by her peers.
You have to find age-appropriate methods of discussing it with your child. Read books or visit a gynaecologist. Take expert help if you don’t have answers but do not withhold any information.
To be continued.
Part 2 on the blog soon. So do come back.
This post is a part of My Friend Alexa Season 5 with Blogchatter