Parenting a teenager

Alternatives to hitting, yelling and name calling for parents and teens.

As any parent of teens can tell you, parenting teenagers is often a bumpy road. Michigan State University Extension suggests that developmentally, teens are struggling with an innate desire to be independent accompanied by hormonal ups and downs and rapid brain development. As parents we like to think we are in control of our emotions and can handle any behavior in stride. However, when teens are going through a rollercoaster of emotions, a seemingly minor confrontation about curfew can deteriorate very quickly into a not so proud family moment of yelling, name calling or even hitting.

What do you do when your teen is blatantly defiant or disrespectful without resorting to hitting, yelling or name calling? Dr. Steven Bavolek, author or the Nurturing Parenting Programs suggests some practical strategies for parenting teens, without resorting to verbal or physical violence.

Avoid power struggles: Teens want control over their lives, and parents want to be able to control their teen’s behavior. In fact, control is often at the root of most parent-teen conflicts. Who has it and who wants it. An authoritarian style of parenting does not work with building cooperative, healthy and respectful teens. Instead, model good communication skills you expect from your teens like respect, cooperation, negotiation and compromise. You can find articles on parenting styles, and other topics related to parenting teens by visiting the MSU Extension website.

Physical violence has no place in parent-teen relationships: Violence breeds violence. Parents want respect from their teens, and teens want to feel respected. True respect is a two-way street based on mutual trust, and cannot be beaten into or forced on anyone. When you are feeling physically frustrated to the point of wanting to lash out, take a physical step back, fold your arms and take some deep breaths. This safely gives you a minute or two to decide how you can better react to the situation. When you are feeling calmer, you can try to talk it out. MSU Extension has an online class called RELAX: Alternatives to Anger that could help you and your teen learn to manage anger and stress, and learn better communication skills.

Do things together: Through fun activities parents and teens can learn from each other, learn more about each other and form lasting memories. Go for drives, go bowling or just take bike rides or walks together. Talk to your teen about things they are interested in learning about, and then learn something new together. Maybe it’s taking a karate class, learning yoga, pottery, archery, a new language or whatever sparks their interest and yours! Michigan 4-H has some great opportunities for youth and adults to get involved in healthy activity options.

During this phase of parenting it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the day to day monitoring and worry that goes along with raising healthy and safe teens. You could find yourself finding more fault than positive in many things. MSU Extension’s Building Strong Adolescents has wonderful ideas on how to approach parenting teenagers, focusing on building assets and nurturing the things you do want in your teen.

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