When someone mentions that their child is turning 13, the conversation usually turns, almost without exception, into how they will soon transform into Harry Enfield’s character, Kevin. If you’re the parent of a teen (or even a preteen, in my case), you’ll recognise those patterns of behaviour as being so familiar.
For our children, the thought that we were ever their age seems ridiculous. We have literally no idea what they are going through and are being so unfair. And yet, most of us can remember going through the same patterns of behaviour that our children now display and feeling so misunderstood. The stereotypical teenage behaviour is, in fact, nothing new. Socrates is famously quoted as criticising youth: “They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Current research is uncovering the reasons for this behaviour and this is something we will be looking at over the coming months. Development of the pre-frontal cortex, within the brain, is at a crucial stage and the impact of this is that we can find ourselves living with a, seemingly, non-caring, argumentative and aloof adolescent.
It’s fair to say that this is one of the most challenging stages of parenthood. When faced with an angry or obstructive child, the temptation is to shut down conversation until they learn to show more respect.
However, there are some simple ways to improve communication and relations and Holly and Su from the Study Bubble share their top tips with us:
- Recognise that adolescents live in the moment, so asking them about events happening more than 24 hours in the future can hard for them to fathom.
- Focus on, and commend them, for what they do right. Try to avoid commenting on the things they aren’t doing. Praising them gets to the right part of their brain, enabling effective communication.
- Be positive and encourage their hopes and dreams, despite your own judgments and thoughts. Fostering an ‘anything is possible’ attitude builds confidence, self-belief and a willingness to explore possibilities.
- Be aware of your own language, fears, limiting beliefs and behaviour patterns. Have a look at the language you use and practise turning negatives into positives. A good example of this is changing ‘Don’t forget to…’ into ‘Remember to…’ The brain will focus on the final part of a phrase, so ‘don’t forget’ converts into ‘forget’.
- Remember to have fun and laugh with them – this will encourage your children to feel happy and relaxed around you and reinforces the idea that you can get along. If you can, find a common passion that you can enjoy together.
Be kind to yourself, as a parent. Parenting adolescents can test the strongest of us and, if you’re taking the time now to learn different ways of supporting your child, the chances are you’re already doing an amazing job!
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