Raising teenagers has been likened to rebuilding a boat halfway across a river or traveling in a foreign land where you don’t speak the language. As advocates for dads (and as dads ourselves), we’re uniquely qualified to tell you it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. Here are five tips for navigating the terrain.
Honor the Hormones
We all went through the teen years, and most adults are thankful never to have to endure them again. They are full of emotion, angst, hormones, horribly unreliable bodies, and perpetual changes.
As a dad, you need to stow away your own ego for a while — five or six years should do the trick — and try to see the world through your teen’s eyes. Forget all the stereotypes others may ascribe to your child:
- Computer Geek
- Moody Goth
- AV Nerd
- Prom Queen
Instead, see the future in your son or daughter. That future, after all, will be upon you both in just a few years. Is he always tinkering with his beater car with your tools? Maybe he’s destined to be a mechanic. Does she refuse to buy gifts at holidays, even though she has a part time job? You could have a future financier or accountant there.
Excuse the temporary to stay focused on the permanent:
- Ignore the bad skin and focus on inner beauty and strength
- Ignore the hormonal rages and focus on her assertive core
- Ignore the changing voice and respect the developing young man
Some experts recommend easing up on all the rules and regulations so you can start to cultivate a near-adult relationship with your teen. Your teen is driven by nature to rebel against you anyway; why feed that beast when you could be instilling important lessons about money, integrity, or personal safety?
Boy, Oh Boy
Your little guy is no longer a small boy. You see he wants to keep his distance. Yet, under the scow and mop of unkempt hair, your young man still seeks your approval. Find new ways to tell him you love him, sometimes without using any words at all.
Expect to be rejected, harshly and repeatedly. That is a young man’s immaturity, where he knows he can get away with pushing you away because, from the time he was a little boy, you were always there. Even for all their pushing away, teens still want you to look out for them.
Sure, tell your teenage daughter she is beautiful, but tell her something else at the same time. For starters, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and at times in her young teen life your precious little Peanut is going to be downright … er … not-so-pretty. Then what do you say?
Of course she is always beautiful to you, but notice her other, more enduring qualities. Is she athletic, artistic, empathetic, imaginative, or ambitious? Can she cook, construct, carve, or calculate?
She may not even know how deeply a compliment about her emotional intelligence will resonate with her, until you tell her: “I really admire how you tune in to your friends’ moods and help them even when they don’t ask.” Then, wow! She knows you love her for who she is.
Tell her of the intangible greatness you “see” in her, at least as often as you say she’s beautiful.
Silence is Golden
If you monitored your teenager for a day, you would hear a lot of adults talk at her or him. Teachers, bus drivers, traffic cops, fast-food managers, coaches, principals, cafeteria workers, other teens’ parents — they all shout orders and issue judgments, all day long.
Kids of all ages become exhausted by exhortations. Be brave! Do your best! Work harder! Think how you would feel being barked at for ten hours a day.
Sometimes, your sullen teen is sullen simply for the joy of hearing quiet. Honor it.
If you accept that your own needs fall by the wayside while raising your teenager, you will not be upset to have your TV show, mystery novel, or woodshop puttering interrupted by the Urgent Talk.
The Urgent Talk is that moment when teenagers must unburden themselves about:
- That anime character they like
- Boyfriends, girlfriends, or LGBTQfriends
Embrace the opportunity to simply listen when your teen wants to talk. No matter the hour, listen with your heart. If you listen to their ramblings, they will trust you to hear them during the scary stuff, too. Once you hear their fears and failings, validate their feelings. Avoid patronizing them or dismissing their concerns.
Struggling with Dad and teenager issues? Perhaps the family law attorneys at The Firm For Men can help. Please contact us, or call us at 757-383-9184, to learn more about child custody, parenting time, discipline, property settlement agreements, child support, and other family law issues.