Last week, I talked about the 8 worst ways to treat your teens. These were nagging, telling them what to do, punishing them, lecturing, screaming/shouting/yelling, using guilt, begging and bribing.
As I promised, I will dedicate this post to the best ways to treat teens. I do hope you get lots of inspiration and understanding from it and establish a better communication with your teens.
#1 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood
One of teen’s difficulties is the negative image they have regarding grownups. For some reason, which I will not discuss in this post, they think they are in constant conflict with grownups. Even if parents, teachers, bosses and other grownups agree with them, they start the communication in a defensive position. In their mind, there is negative self-talk, saying “They won’t understand”, “They won’t approve”, “They’ll be upset” or some other variation of it. This self-talk gets them into any communication with grownups with an inferiority mindset that only makes thing worse.
If you want to help your teens get out of their negative self-talk, use the words “I understand” whenever you communicate with them. You do not have to agree, but you can still understand. Using this phrase will also help you separate between agreeing and understanding and help you establish respect to your teen’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. This respect is like a boomerang – it comes back. If it is too hard for you to say “I understand” because you strongly disagree, Say “I understand that this is how you see it/ feel about it/ understand it”. After a while, your teen will be convinced you are not in a war zone.
When you express an idea, take responsibility for your communication. If something goes wrong, ask yourself “How can I say it differently instead of blaming my teen for not understanding?” In education, we say that kids’ success is all about what we do in our teaching. We need to match our teaching style to the learning style of our students. As a parent, you need to do the same with your parenting style.
#2 – Ask questions
The Socrates way of asking questions works very well with teens. When you tell your kids what to do, you are not respecting their ideas, thoughts and feelings about what they think they should do. When you want to persuade your teens to do something, ask them about it instead of telling them to do that.
“What do you think about telling him how you feel about it?” is better than saying “Just tell him what you think about it”.
“How do you feel about taking evening classes?” is better than saying “I think you should take evening classes”.
“What do you think about getting an ‘F’ in Math?” is better than saying “I am not happy about you getting an ‘F’ in Math” and much better than “I work very hard to pay for your school”…
Questions leave the choice in the teen’s hands. Asking questions is also one of the best ways to teach responsibility.
If you find it hard to ask questions, sit down and write what you want to say to your teen on a piece of paper or on your computer, then edit it into question style and notice how the tone changes from war to support and encouragement.
#3 – Reward good behavior
Rewards work much better and faster than punishment and promotes a fulfilling and happy state of being.
When we get upset our kids have not done the “right” thing and give them attention, in the form of punishment, they still get attention. Bad things are best ignored. Good things should get all the attention instead.
Instead of punishing your teens for getting an “F”, celebrate when they get an “A” or a “B”. Instead of forbidding your kids to go out with friends because of something they have done, find opportunities when they are responsible and cooperating and reward them for those with kind words, physical contact and a smile.
Instead of stopping the mobile phone payment when they exceed the monthly allowance, reward them for being responsible and talking within the budget.
Instead of being angry and not talking to them when they have done something you do not like, take them to a movie when they do something important you have suggested.
Many times, when I say “rewards”, people think of money or presents, but rewards can be time, a nice word, their favorite food for dinner or school, a secret card, spending time together, a bear hug or some help at the right time. You do not have to buy your teens a car because they finished high school with flying colors (though, if you have the money, it is a great gift).
#4 – Say “Yes” or “OK” to your teens’ requests
One of teen’s biggest complaints is that parents always say “No”. I can say the same thing about my dad. Everything I asked for, he said “No” and then the fighting started. Everything was a fight – going to sleep at someone else’s house was a fight, buying a pair of jeans was a fight, going on a field trip was a fight and even going to a party was a fight. My dad, I am sure, added a bit of bad reputation to parents by saying “No” to everything his kids asked for. He thought that if you want something badly, you will fight for it and we just felt helpless and gave up many times, because we just did not have the energy to keep fighting.
Teens have so many things to “fight” over that fighting at home only make it unbearable. My dad said “no”, but he meant to say “convince me”. We asked many times until we became sick and tired of doing it. Later on, when we needed to do new things or when we had problems, we never went to talk to him. I remember that in high school, I was so afraid he would say “no” to going on a field trip, I did not even tell my family about the trip at all.
As a parent, you need to choose your battles. If you say “No” to every request, you create a wall between you and your teens and decrease the communication between you.
Not every request needs to be hard work. If your teens tell you there is a party, say “That’s great. I’m happy you are going to have good time”.
If your teens say they want to buy something, say “Yes, it’s about time you got new sneakers”.
If your teens ask “Can I go to…” and you are not sure, tell them you need time to think about it. If you agree, say “I thought about it and it is fine”.
Make sure that your approval is not conditional, as in “You can go on one condition…” This is almost like saying “Yes, but no” and it will work against you. Instead, say “Yes” and state your concern at “eye level”.
#5 – Remember “please” and “thank you” (’cause they’re the magic words)
If you want kids to be respectful, be respectful to them. Teens with good manners are more successful than rude ones. Friends, teachers, bosses and other grownups relate to them better when they are polite. If you want your teens to relate well to grownups, use the words “please” and “thank you” as often as you can.
The more polite you are, the more you pass on the message of using respectful language to your teens. When you thank your kids for their help, you teach them to be appreciative. Appreciative language towards your teens will attract appreciative language back and more help.
#6 – Remind your teens how much you love them
“Love is all we need” are the famous words of the Beatles’ song. Many parents say “Of course I love my kids”, but forget that hearing it again and again is one of the sweetest things. We all need to feel love. Every expression of love adds confidence to our life – confidence in our relationships, confidence in ourselves and confidence in our environment.
Count your expressions of love to your teens every day. Unfortunately, one of the most common expressions – touch and hugs – declines during the teen years. Kids are hugged a lot as babies and, as they grow older, they get fewer cuddles and less loving physical touch.
We all need hugs. Just think of how you feel after a loving hug with your partner and realize that your teens need it even more, because they do not have a partner who hugs and kisses them whenever they go to bed.
Hug your teens 12 times a day and make sure that no day passes without saying how much you love them.
If you need ideas, here are a few:
- “I am so proud of you for…”
- “I love you”
- “You are my angel”
- “You are the best kid in the world”
- “I was given a gift – you”
#7 – Encourage your teens
Without much experience, teens’ life is hard. Research on emotional intelligence has found that young kids have a natural drive to try things because of lack of experience. They will try doing things that seem impossible long after teens will give up. Unfortunately, the older the kids, the less motivated they are to try – failure experiences will discourage them easily. By the time they get to their teen years, kids are so discouraged that they will not even try to conquer assignments that seem too hard at first glance.
This is where parents can help a lot. Encourage your kids to try one more time, to push themselves just a little bit more and to try another approach. Teach them that you may not know the answer but you certainly know that giving up means they will never find the answer either. Tell them stories of bravery and remind them that bravery does not mean doing dangerous or stupid things but standing up for what you believe, even if you are not the majority, even if you are not chosen, even if you are not the winner and even if you have to work harder than others.
Teach your teens the importance of the process and not the end result. Remind them it is important to learn things during the year, regardless of the final score on the end-of-year exam. Remind them that after an unpleasant event, they are wiser and know more than before. Help them erase “giving up” from their dictionary.
#8 – Compliment your teens
Everyone loves a compliment. Though we need to learn to fill up our own compliment tank and not depend on others’ “charity”, we all love to get a helping hand from other sources who tell us we are good, wonderful, caring, passionate, understanding, successful, and the list of complements is endless.
It is very important to highlight our teens’ positive sides, to help them see them on their own. We do not need them to win a prize and have millions of people around them saying how wonderful they are. We can tell them we think they are wonderful to their face. Some parents are embarrassed to say it to their own kids, only because they have never heard it from their own parents. My parents are a wonderful example of this. I only ever heard that my dad thinks highly of me from other people. Though I enjoyed it greatly, whenever he says something nice to me himself, it is worth 1,000 times more in my compliment tank.
Some compliments are worth more in the tank, depending on the teen’s needs. Most parents can tell which compliments mean more than others. If a teen is not fussy about sport, but they love to sing, telling them “Wonderful basketball game” will not be as valuable as “You sang well”.
It is simple and you think these thoughts anyway. Just say them out loud! Make sure to give your teens compliments every day. Before you go to sleep, ask yourself “Did I declare my love to my teen today?” or “Did I add something to my teen’s compliment tank?”
It is never too late, either. Even if they are sound asleep and you remember late at night, you can always write them a love or a compliment note for when they wake up in the morning.
Here is another great way to