How To Deal With A Teenager

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8 months ago



Sometimes, they are nice and easy to work with. Other times, you wonder if there's an underlying mental illness causing their difficult-to-handle behavior. The fact is, the teenage years of your child can vary from being a bit tricky to downright difficult to navigate. 

Most times, you find yourself saying "Oh I know I wasn't this much of a handful to my parents." (Yeah, *wink*, sure you weren't). And other times, you don't know whether to go hard or soft - information from your peers and parents can only do so much because every child is different, and there is no way to predict how they will receive - and more importantly - respond to your approach.

You're trying to pull, not push, remember.

The point is, that there are various factors you should take into consideration before you try to take any approach.

One of these is the sex of your child.

One thing is common, whether it's a male or female child. The Prefrontal Cortex, or the part of the brain that's responsible for decision-making, does not mature until one's mid-20s. 

What does this mean? It means that while you, as an adult, with lots of experience from your teenage years, perspective on how these decisions and their effects could shape your life, and a developed prefrontal cortex are almost certain to make smarter decisions, your typical teenager is largely unaware of these things. 

Puberty comes with hormones and a lot of other factors that change the way your child sees the world. It's a lot more than a deeper voice and a change of underwear.

For girls, who usually enter Puberty at age 11, and PHYSICALLY mature between the ages of 14 and 16, you might find them emotionally unstable - a whole lot is happening, and the changes they experience are more than just within. Mood swings featuring anxiety and sadness may likely become a normal occurrence. 

They will want to be independent - they're past the ages where their parents held their hands and told them what to do, when, and how to do it. They are learning about responsibility, and are shaping their personalities from their response to societal influences. This independent phase can be seen in their choice of music, clothes, and hobbies.

Social Media plays a huge role in how your children feel, and what they do. The concept of body image affects females more, and your girls might become more obsessed with how they should look - according to the sometimes not-so-subtle cues from their idols on, say, Instagram and so on.

For the boys, it can quickly escalate from walking on eggshells to walking on a minefield. The infamous testosterone., as well as music, movies, and older men around them all contribute to how they chose to act. One thing is clear, boys are more likely to participate in risky, and often harmful activities. These can pose a major threat if your child already has issues with controlling their impulses.

There is an all too familiar yearning for acceptance. A need to be a 'bad boy, so to speak, may arise. An attraction to the other sex accompanies the development of secondary sexual characteristics - all of a sudden, they don't hate girls anymore. Crazy isn't it?

Peer pressure is real, and more often than not it leads to decisions that may change your son's life for the worst, such as reckless driving, substance abuse, smoking, drinking, recreational activities that could cause harm, fighting, and weapon-involving violence et al. These risky behaviors are more common among boys.

Your teenage son often leans towards excitement, anger, and other emotions which bring about an adrenaline rush. Independence leans towards rebellion, and if left unchecked or mishandled, clouded judgment can lead to bad decisions.

Now you know the WHAT, and the WHY, but the HOW is in question. It looks like you have a situation on your hands, so how do you address your teenage child and make sure that as they go through all of this, they remain on track and don't do anything drastic?

Monitoring. I'm not talking about the 1984 Big Brother-esque monitoring, but keep an eye on what your child is watching. The sites, the TV shows, as well as who they are interacting with. As much as they are taking your advice into account, for all you know, there might be a friend - or friends - undoing all of your beautiful work when they go to school. You must monitor these things and take action where necessary.

Education. It's a different ballgame from when you had to convince them that veggies were important so that they would eat broccoli. Their bodies are changing, and their world is changing. Let them know that you have been there, and let them know what to do and how to go about it so they can settle in faster.

Limits and Boundaries. Whether it's a written agreement or a spoken one, it is important to set clear boundaries for acceptable behavior. Let your child know that while it is okay to explore their new world to a certain degree, and develop themselves, there are lines not to cross. Also, while you're at it, establish consequences. In the real world, actions have consequences a lot worse than grounding - simulate such consequences in your home and make them act the wiser.

Moderation. You know your child better than anyone. You have watched the, grow all these years, and coupled with advice from parents and peers - which can be more useful when their cases seem similar to yours - you should know when to blow hot or cold, when to talk and when to act (enforce consequences), and of course, positive reinforcement. 

Moderation would also mean that severe punishment should be avoided. Severe punishment, especially in the lives of teenage boys, leads to a feeling of rejection, and loneliness which can lead to anger, and more rebellious activity which can further destroy the parent-son relationship, and their lives. A warm approach - while setting firm boundaries - is required. Lighten up, and be more flexible!

Communication is key. Girls enjoy such separate times with their parents in a calm, serene environment. For boys, it might be during a videogame, or at an actual sports game - an engaging environment nonetheless. Either way, find time to communicate with them that's not when there's a situation and emotions are flying.

One thing you should avoid is coming off as condescending. Yes, you've been there. Yes, you have seen or maybe even experienced the end of the path on which your child is on. You have the advantage of perspective. Do your best to convey this along with the perspective without trying to sound like a god.

It is easy for your child to feel like you don't understand how they feel - you have been a teenager, but not in their times, but then you probably felt this way at some point. Did your parents get it right? What did they do, and how can you incorporate that into your approach?

Did they get it wrong? What do you wish they had said or done?

When you start thinking like this, then you're on the right track. The teenage years can be difficult for both parties, so you must let your kids know that you have been there, and while you'll allow them to take in the experience and develop themselves, you will tag along, steering them on the right path.

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