I attended a parenting session recently and the topic of conversation was teenagers. Many parents expressed concern with the communication they have with their teenagers. It seemed that all of these teenagers were exhibiting the same symptoms! Do these guys actually collaborate with each other?!
The common thread seemed to be:
- Nothing we do seems right to our teens
- We are losers
- We know nothing
- They know everything
- They appear inherently rude and disrespectful
As parents, we are often left reeling: “How can this child be ours?” I thought that we had taught him / her all there is to know about manners and resect? More often than not, the answer to this is, “You did!” So why then has our lovely child turned into this monster?
Have we ever stopped to think that how we are continuing to communicate with our teenagers might actually be contributing to the problem? There are undoubtedly many factors that influence their changing attitude, many of which I have discussed in previous blogs.
This session was spent collaborating; discussing and looking at the ways we currently deal with and react to our teenagers. We explored alternative ways to interact with and to treat teenagers in order to perhaps elicit a more favorable response from them and more importantly maintain the connection and relationship we have and so desperately want to preserve and keep with them.
The light bulb moment for many parents in the room came when they realized that for the main part, when dealing with teenagers, they would often default to the Authoritarian Parenting Model, especially during conflict. We often resort to telling teenagers what they have done wrong, criticizing them and generally talking down to them in an accusatory, patronizing kind of way.
I invite you to put yourself in their shoes and see it from their vantage point. Could this be why they perhaps switch off, don’t listen, are rude, feel humiliated and embarrassed that they screwed up AGAIN? Just imagine how we would feel if our boss stormed into our office, pointed his finger at us and started ranting about all the things we said we would do but hadn’t, the mess in our office and the look and style of our clothes! I know what I would do, I’d resign.
Respect is or should be a two-way thing and as the parent, hard as it often is, we should be the first to role model this. If we become disrespectful in our approach towards our teenagers, we cannot really expect respect in return. Alfred Adler, the man behind the Adlerian Parenting Model was all about mutual respect.
Teenagers are at a point in their lives where they are becoming young adults and, as a result, perhaps they resent being talked to as if they are still children. Just when they are trying to shed their parents as custodians of their childhood and to develop their “sense” of self as young adults, their parents continue to treat them the same way as they did when they were children. I am by no means suggesting that an authoritarian means of communicating is the right way for anyone, child or adult, but when dealing with younger children, parents can perhaps get away with being a bit more authoritarian in their approach. With teenagers, perhaps their attitude and disrespect towards us is their way of telling us that we need to change our ways?
- What if we were to try and talk to our teenagers with the same respect as we do when we talk with our friends or work colleagues?
- What if we were prepared to step out of the “control seat” and into the “support seat” with them?
- What if we were to try and guide them with guidance rather than dictate and tell them what to do?
The general consensus in the room was that it might not be so much WHAT we say to our teenagers but HOW we say it to them that holds the key. This might be what is needed to give us the best chance of staying connected to them and them not “resigning” from us and totally cutting us out of their lives in favor of their peers.
In other words, perhaps we need to look at the way in which we are parenting our teenagers and start treating them and communicating with them more like the adults they are slowly trying to become. I encourage you to “try it” and see what happens.