Why is upgrading the way we parent teenagers of concern to everyone?
If you are a parent, teacher, social worker, counselor, nurse, family court attorney, or anyone else who interacts with families and teenagers, you need to upgrade your understanding of what is behind the behaviors in the children and teens you are working with.
Without that upgrade, you will continue to do what you have done, which doesn't work because science and research have proved that the assumptions you are working under have changed. Assumptions become judgments, which become rules and laws, which lead to our current methods of operation. The growing number of incarcerated youth and, later, adults; the growing number of unhealthy children, teens, and adults; the continuing number of high school drop outs and other social problems; are big red flags that keep getting missed.
We need a common language
I hear it said that our systems are broken. I don't agree with that. The system's design is not the problem; the beliefs and judgments of the human beings in the system are the problem. Humans operate with a variety of predetermined thought processes including: survival of the fittest; people cannot change; the "bad seed"; competition within and between systems; martyrdom; I win-you lose; intolerance for what one doesn't understand; paper before people; CYA; and if it isn't written down, it didn't happen.
We have become so specialized that people in different systems (home, school, social service agencies, the courts, etc.), don't have a common language to understand each other.
Recognizing our common goal
Without sharing a common goal how are we going to find solutions for our problems with our teens?
Don't we all want to help our teens? Are we so overwhelmed by all the stresses in our own lives that we have become reactive, ineffective, and even helpless when it comes to understanding and helping teens? Yet aren't they experiencing exactly what we did? They want to belong; they want to have friends; they want to be free to be their own person; they want to try on new beliefs and behaviors; they need to understand themselves, others, and their place in the world; they want to make a difference; they want to know what they're going to do with their lives. They want to feel loved, respected, and accepted. Sound familiar?
Today's teens have all this technology that we didn't have. They talk differently than we did. They dress differently. They pay too much attention to the media, to their friends, to celebrities. They have crazy ideas and dreams. Sound familiar?
Weren't these the same feelings our parents had about us?
Those outer things about us were no more about the heart of us than what we are seeing is about our teens today.
It is true that teens have access to more information than many of us did as teens. However, not all the information they are exposed to is healthy or helpful. Information for good or ill is not nearly as important as being able to process that information and use it to create a healthy life style that includes one's self as well as others.
Tips for dealing with teens
Teenagers have inherited a complex and toxic world from us. We need to own that, upgrade our thinking, re-connect with our heart and soul, apologize for our failings and ask for forgiveness as steps to heal the chasm between us. We need to model the behavior that we expect from them.
If we want them to tell the truth, then we must. If we want them to respect us, then we must treat them with respect as we guide them and set limits for them. If we want them to have compassion, then we must create the experience of compassion from ourselves to them. If we want them to understand us, then we need to understand them. Whatever we want and are asking for from our teens, we need to be that. Our behavior will be an influence for good to show them the way to move from adolescence into the maturity that adulthood needs to be.
Our teens need us to get off our cell phones and iPads, turn off the TV, the computer, and other distractive technology and activities and be with them. We model first, then we guide them to do the same with limit setting. We can't be a model for them when we are doing the same things we tell them not to do. "Do as I say, not as I do" teaches lying, manipulation, and deception.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, speaker and life coach and have helped many men and women learn to parent from a place of love, rather than fear. Over the years of my counseling practice, I have witnessed parents who didn't make a shift in their thinking and parent from this paradigm based on love and understanding. By the time their children were teens, the gap between them begun in childhood was a chasm. I offer a 15-minute free life coaching session exclusive to YourTango readers to help you identify what steps you can take to connect with your teen.
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