Healthy Teenagers

The most demanding time for parents is when your child becomes a teenager.  Parents have to face some of the toughest discipline challenges during the teen years.  It is that time when your teen is making discoveries about himself and the world around him.  

Negative habits cannot be avoided such as sulking, arguing, lying and rebeling.  There is always a good explanation behind such negative habits.  Your teen is growing and developing, becoming more independent, but he lacks the emotional maturity to make decisions that are suitable or acceptable to you as parents.

Effective parenting skills need to be applied so that your teen does not develop these negative habits into something that is not only harmful to him as an individual but also towards his loved ones and the society at large.  As you work towards gaining more control over your teen, you must not be misunderstood as being overpowering.   

Some suggestions to help reverse your teen’s negative habits:

Empathetic listening

Also known as active listening or reflective listening, this skill requires you to listen and to respond to your teen in order to improve mutual understanding and build trust.  Your focus is only on your teen and all other things should be put on hold during this time so that you receive and interpret your teen’s problem accurately.  It is important that you listen non-judgmentally.  Make sense of what triggered the negative habit in the first place.  If it is something new then it is best you be more forgiving but if it is a recurrence, then you need to apply a smarter and stronger strategy of disciplinary action.  You are providing a space for your teen to release his emotions and reduce the tension surrounding the negative habit in question.  Moments like this encourage the surfacing of information and at the same time help create a safe environment for sharing and problem solving between the two of you.

Unconditional positive regard

This term is used by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers which simply means showing complete support and acceptance of your teen no matter what he says or does.  The last thing you want to create in your teen is negative beliefs about himself.  Your teen needs a safe platform where he can drop his pretenses and confess his worst feelings and still be loved and accepted by you.

Role-model

This is one area that many parents fail to look at, or purposely choose to ignore.  It is always easy to tell your teen not to pick up your bad habits but this is very selfish and impractical.  If you do not want your teen son or daughter to smoke, but you yourself smoke, chances are they will also smoke.  You can give all the reasons under the sun why you cannot quit smoking but it just does not work.  Your teen will definitely model after you.  Your teen may not listen to you but he will surely pick up all those bad habits running in the family.  Practice what you preach.

Be firm and consistent

Both parents need to be on the same page.  If one parent favours a decision that is pleasing to your teen, then he will always go to this parent.  He knows exactly which parent to approach.  Your teen can easily pick up any sign of parental weakness and he will know exactly how to negotiate and manipulate you into giving what he wants.  While you are being firm and consistent, do not forget to be also be fair and understanding when disciplining your teen.  You must do all you can to avoid any serious backlash responses.

Set acceptable and clear rules

It is important to set acceptable and clear rules for your teen to abide by.  Let him also know the consequences for breaking those rules.   It is best that you get your teen to sit down with you before you enforce those rules.   Let him draw out his own rules and consequences.   In this way, your teen is learning to be responsible for his negative actions.  Always allow flexibility if your teen wants to change those rules and consequences for one reason or the other.

Be involved

It is good that you be an involved and interested parent when it comes to your teen’s circle of friends and his hang-out places.  You do not need to force any information but make it a practice to spend quality time with your teen.  Look for any signs that indicate your teen is in some sort of trouble. 

Seek professional help

Do not hesitate to seek professional help if you are unable to assist your teen in reversing bad habits that are detrimental to him living a normal and healthy life.  You do not have to be ashamed to approach professionals who can help your teen to break those bad habits.

Reversing bad habits at a very early stage will contribute to your teen’s well-being.  He will begin to understand how his bad habits can be detrimental to his future.  Every parent should provide understanding, acceptance and support in bringing about this change.