I often say to friends and other parents that I meet, that I feel I am back in parenting 101 with my first teenager now. I didn’t for one minute think I had the parenting gig completely sorted, but having done the rounds a couple of times of the different age groups, I was certainly comfortable with my parenting for these ages and stages.
Not so for my parenting of the teenager. And he is a good kid. He is just kid who is testing the boundaries, looking to explore his world, forming his own views and opinions and fairly regularly driving me crazy with attitude and behaviour.
At a New Year’s eve party, (thanks Cath and Pete for a wonderful time!) I was lucky enough to catch up with a friend, Maria, who I had not seen for some time. Maria has a daughter one year older than my son. I find when I am in social situations now I am quite drawn to parents with older kids and seeking out their experience and advice on handling teenagers.
Maria had some great advice that she had picked up the year before at a presentation at her daughter’s school. She said that teenagers at this age (14) want to do one of two things when it comes to having a discussion with them:
They want to either have the last word or be the loudest.
And I have found this to be so true. In discussions where I was talking with him about something he has (or hasn’t) done, I had noticed that they would go on for such a long time, for what really should have been a very short conversation. I had been falling into the trap of engaging in further discussion when it wasn’t needed because I would want to respond to his last word.
Now I am listening to his last word, but letting him have it. Most of the time there is absolutely no need for me to respond to what he is saying – responding is just being drawn back in to debate or talking semantics of my request, which he just needs to get on and do.
Similarly with the loudness. I had also fallen into the trap of increasing my volume to his. Our discussion are so much better when I remain calm and use a quieter voice. It prevents the complete ramp up in our conversations that had been happening.
This is one you know about boys, but I think it is particularly relevant for our eldest at the moment – he needs to get physical. When we were away he was constantly wrestling his younger brother in the pool, who being 2.5 years his junior, did get pretty sick of this after a while. He likes to pick up the 4 year old and chuck him over his shoulder or carry him upside down. He like to grab the 6 year old and put him in a headlock and pretend to trap him.
The physicalness is all well intended – he just wants to play with them, but it doesn’t always work out that way. At one point during the time away I said to the 11 year old that we needed to hire another 14 year old boy, so he could wrestle him!
My approach to this one, is to make sure his dad is providing some of this for him (he wasn’t with us for most of our time away) and that he has plenty of time with friends his own age. We have also had many conversations about tempering his strength and listening to what his siblings are telling him. If they ask him to stop – he has to stop.
So these are my key tips from my journey as a parent to a teenage boy at the moment. I will update more through the year as I learn more!
And as I do in real life, I would love to hear your tips on parenting teenagers, so please let me know what has worked for you.