Parenting Teens: Five Mistakes to Avoid
We all make mistakes, and parenting is… well, really hard. Most parents’ instinctive reactions to their teens tend to be unconscious, stemming from their own experiences as young women and men. Reflection and recognition of common parenting mistakes (because we’ve all made them) can be the first step toward a more healthy partnership with teens. Here are our top five most common parenting mistakes to avoid.
Parenting Mistake #1: Bulldozing
Psychologists call it over-identifying when parents experience the same emotions at the same intensity as their kids. Most parents respond by rushing to remove all obstacles their teen may face in order to avoid pain. The result is that teens are never free to live with their own experiences and work out ways to own mistakes or cope with painful feelings.
What to do instead: Empathize and show support (stop short of fixing).
Parenting Mistake #2: Minimizing
It’s easy for parents to respond to what seems like run-of-the-mill teen angst with the canned, “deal with it,” or “life goes on,” or nothing at all for fear of fueling the drama. Instead of minimizing an angsty comment, ask open ended questions to unpack what they understand about a situation and how it is making them feel.
What to do instead: Listen and create space for teens to open up.
Parenting Mistake #3: Dodging
Another cop-out is the old “they’ll figure it out” mentality. It is a slippery slope from allowing anxiety to fuel ambition to letting anxiety spin out of control. Don’t assume someone else has already had the conversation with teens about goals and steps to attain them. This is especially important leading up to an important transition or decision, or recovering from a mistake.
What to do instead: Coach your teens. Help them visualize a good outcome and brainstorm the first few steps in that direction.
Parenting Mistake #4: Labeling
Experimenting with personal identity is one of the most exhilarating aspects of the teenage years. How parents react can make or break a kid’s confidence. Playful ribbing can break the ice, but be thoughtful about words and labels, especially when mistakes are made. Parents’ words can perpetuate negative stereotypes and limit teens’ freedom to imagine their own version of a successful future.
What to do instead: Address actions and choices, not the individual.
Parenting Mistake #5: Commanding
Let’s face it, not many teens get excited about chores or hosting guests for a nice dinner. The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is very real. As teens expand independence, so does their will to exercise it. Do not attempt to engage teens in a battle of wills when it comes to a disagreement. Instead of playing the role of the dictator, give teens real options to choose from, even if all of them are unthinkable in their eyes.
What to do instead: Offer choices.
UpStreet is a mental wellness program that offers free drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens ages 12-22. UpStreet aims to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support, to avoid escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhance teens’ quality of life. Reach out to an UpStreet team member now using the chatbot at upstreetpgh.org.