Parents dealing with wayward teens can get tired, beat up and worn down. They may think, “I’ve been pushing against this wall forever…I just can’t do it anymore.” But don’t quit… keep at it!
Dealing with troubled teens can be extremely confusing and tiring. People who have spent their lives working with troubled teens have discovered, however, that in the midst of the worst storms, we can still have peace, and that peace can be infectious.
If you could have fixed the problem with your teen, you would have done so by now. So, maybe it’s time to get some outside help and perspective. Seek the help of your pastor, a counselor, or a truthful friend. Read books or attend classes on the subject. Don’t be afraid to try something different, and keep trying. It may even be that something within you or your spouse needs to change before you will see any change in your teen’s behavior. If so, be open to whatever change needs to take place.
Learn to Recognize Progress
It’s easy to focus on the broad range of problems with your teen so much that you fail to recognize progress. Progress is not “problem solved.” Progress means steady improvement. So, if your child is screaming at you every day, and then only yells at you once every other day – then that’s progress! Finishing some of his homework, when he previously did no homework, is progress. Effective parenting requires that you look at the big picture while focusing on just a few problems at a time – then applauding any progress, no matter how small. Refuse to make your teen’s lack of a complete turnaround to be a disappointment. Turnarounds rarely happen overnight. Instead, a few slight turns here and there should be applauded. Eventually, over time, they’ll build up to be a turnaround.
Dealing with issue one a time also moves the discussion from “changing them” to focusing on a few specific things they can do to improve their life. Teens bristle at the thought that their parents or authorities are trying to “change” them. They may or may not be comfortable in their own skin, but they’ll fiercely defend who they are now and how they think. After all, in their minds, they’re smarter than adults, and they’ve already changed themselves to be accepted by their peers. Changing themselves back could forfeit that success. If they ever get the idea that you are trying to “change them,” then you’ve got a real battle on your hands, because that becomes very personal to them.
Adjust Your Expectations
Huge expectations hardly help anybody. It is better to realize that parenting teens is more like a marathon amidst a minefield, than a sprint through a flower garden. Chances are actually quite high that your teen will not have a smooth run down the road of adolescence, and it is better to expect it and prepare for it than believe that it will remain easy. In case you think this is meant for someone else’s child, it isn’t.
Parents are mostly great parents. Kids are also usually great kids; they’re just experiencing a blip on the radar screen of their life. Their spin-off into another realm has caught their parents by surprise, and they are at a loss to know what to do. All you try to remember is “Don’t quit.”
Remember this…teen problems are usually short-lived. They have to do with hormones and immaturity and lobes of the brain that are not yet fully developed. They are struggles for identity and purpose and testing out beliefs.
In the midst of it all, you need to stick with them. Even if you feel your teen doesn’t deserve it, or you have no clue how to change what’s happening in your home, keep trying. Recognize that it is a battle to keep your relationship with your teen alive, and it is a battle that must be won.
Over time, your relationship with your child will change for the better, but only if you don’t quit on them. Yes, the temptation is to just give up and let them run their own life, but for the rest of your life, knowing you hung in there will be a rich reward. So decide right now, “I’ll never, ever quit.”