Parenting a teenager can be quite challenging. Peacefully parenting a teenager is even harder.
As a mom of 3 headstrong girls who are all in the double-digits now, I can tell you first-hand that some days it really isn’t pretty. Some days the mascara runs, and our eyes get all squinty and puffy from just trying to sort through all the emotions.
When my husband and I began transitioning to peaceful parenting, we had no idea what we’d be in for in the years ahead. Once our girls got older, any time we ran out of ideas we’d search for help on the interwebs, but quickly found that most of the resources available online on peaceful parenting only offer suggestions for how to deal with little ones, not big cranky ones with big attitudes.
My mother-in-law, whom I adore, likes to quote one of her mother’s favorite phrases when talking about parenting teenagers. With a knowing look she’ll say to me, “Mother always used to say, ‘Little ones, little problems. Big ones, big problems.” Well, her mother certainly knew what she was talking about; after all, she raised 4 children (3 girls and a boy) and they all went on to live productive, happy, healthy lives and raise their own beautiful families.
5 Lessons for Peacefully Parenting Teenagers
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned so far on how to peacefully parent teens (it’s definitely a work in progress):
- Good ideas don’t require force. Parents should never coerce (force) their child into doing something, or not doing something. Instead, use the power of persuasion to influence your teen. Even if they don’t seem to accept your sage wisdom immediately, the seed has been planted and they may consider what you’ve said after your interaction. Give them time to process your advice and consider it. The best way we can teach them to solve matters with persuasion rather than coercion is by modeling this method for them. Use this challenging time as an opportunity to work on your argumentation ethics. Be the change you want to see in the world.
- With greater freedom and independence comes more responsibility. Teens are looking for ways to assert their independence and show us that they’ve got this, even if we think they clearly don’t. Find out what their goals are, and even if they’re not the goals you’d pick for your son or daughter, talk to them about ways they can work toward those goals. The payoff will be great for you both (and for your sanity)!
- Privacy is paramount. Respect your teen’s need for privacy. This is contrary to conventional wisdom, I know, but do not go through your son or daughter’s things. This sows seeds of distrust and disrespect. If you’re going to get through these difficult teen years, trust and respect might just come in handy.
- Hold space for their freedom of expression and communication. If your teens are anything like mine, they’ll begin to express themselves in all sorts of delightful new ways. Try to remember when you did the same thing. Upholding their inherent right to express themselves how they choose means you may not always like what they have to say. Listen anyway, and model the kind of communication you’d like them to use. Communication is better than the dreaded silence.
- Support their self-determination. Respect your teen’s inherent right to choose their own identity and how they want to live their own life (even if you don’t like their choices).
Last night, I sat down at the kitchen counter with my 17-year-old and talked to her about her goals for her upcoming first year of adulthood. I want to make sure that she knows the steps she can take to reach those goals. Together, my daughter and I worked out on scratch paper exactly how much things like rent, utilities, phone service, internet, car payment, gas, food and other essentials would cost, and then we calculated exactly how much she would need to make in order to provide those essentials for herself. We created a budget, and doing so gave her an idea of how much she’d need to save and how little she’d have left over to spend. It also showed her that I care about helping her work towards her own goals and independence.
At least this way I know that even if she decides to leave home the day she turns 18, I’ve given her the tools and support to take charge of her own life, and I’ve shown her that I want her to succeed. The rest is up to her. I think she’ll do great!