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6 Ways to Raise Awesome Teenagers

Really, the first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parentsSome do that (that’s when parents call me), but the overwhelming majority do not.  I’ve worked with thousands of teens so I can testify to this.  Expect more from your teen than a lousy attitude and lazy work ethic.  Teens are awesome so expect awesomeness!  Here’s how, according to Christie Halverson but with my commentary.

1. Love Them Fiercely

Yes… fiercely.  As in everything about them as much as you can imagine loving another.  Love their whit, their quirks, their messy hair, their scattered minds, their funky style, their type A, B or C personality.  Love it all because they are growing in to glorious humans and you get to be a witness to that and you get to profoundly influence what they are growing in to.  But just loving them isn’t enough.  Love them so much that they are overwhelmed by it, inspired by it and  propelled by it.  Love them so much that they can’t help but experience it and be comforted by it.  Demonstrate this love regardless of their performance.  Love them fiercely just because they are yours.

2. Listen Extravagantly
 
When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes when they will divulge the secrets of their day with you.  Be excited to see them. And if that is hard or impossible because of bad behavior then call me and we can work that out.

Put down the cell phone. Don’t waste this time making dinner or taking a phone call or working on the computer. Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying. Be empathetic. It is really hard to navigate high school and middle school. Don’t offer advice at this time unless they ask for it. Don’t lecture. Just listen. It makes them feel important and valued. We all need to feel that way.

3. Say Yes More Than You Say No

The world is forever going to tell them no. For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave after wave of “you’re not good enough” and “you can’t do this” crashing down on their heads. As adults, we experience this often.  It’s draining, discouraging and defeating.  Don’t be that voice in their life.  Of course, there are things they can not do.  But do you need to be the one to point that out?  Or can they learn that on their own with you still being their cheerleader?  If nothing else, instill in them the belief that they are not limited and they can do anything if they’re willing to work hard enough for it.  Be the YES, YOU CAN in their lives. Help them leave the house every day feeling invincible.

4. Say No Often

I know.  I’m killing you with “say yes” then “say no”.  There’s a reason so stick with me.  This is more about saying no to experiences that will be harmful to them or expose them to too much, too early in their life.  

You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness. Don’t let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice about alcohol at age 16 in front of their peers . Don’t let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex… or anyone for that matter.  Teenagers need to be home and asleep in the middle of the night.  Be the parent. Set up rules for their safety, both physical and moral. You would think this rule goes without saying, but trust me, I’ve known a shockingly large number of parents who don’t. 

5.  Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the living room or the socks on the sofa as laziness. Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible. And sometimes it is.  But sometimes it’s not.  Instead, and before you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes. Find out about their day first. Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it. Ignore the mess for a bit and put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug. Talk to him about his world. Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing. THEN, and only then, ask him to pick it up and put it away.

That being said, do you completely ignore the state of their bedrooms all the time? No, you do not. But pick your battles, and and pick the appropriate time to fight them. Once every seven to 10 days or so, tell them their bedrooms need to be picked up. Which they will do more happily because it’s not the running loop of a nagging mom. They know when you  ask, it needs to be done.

6. Stand Back and Watch the Magic Happen

If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine. They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness. They are hilarious and clever. They are thoughtful and sensitive. They want us to adore them. They need us to adore them. They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.  I know, I know… it doesn’t always feel that way.  But it’s almost always that way.  If you go at it from that perspective you will find yourself responding differently to them, embracing them instead of trying to remake them.  Imagine the power in that and the impact it will have on them as a human and on your relationship!  

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

The 3 Things Your Teen Fears Most

What your teens fear most is quite different from what may keep you awake at night. Most parents’ worries are theoretical and future-based — fear for their teens’ safety at school and their ability to compete in an increasingly tough world, college applications and their kid getting a job.  Teens, in contrast, fear what is already directly in front of them. While social media stretches their global perspective, what’s on their minds most is narrower than what you might think.

Dr. Kevin Leman believes that three innate fears drive teen reactions. He also believes there are antidotes to each of those fears that only you can provide.  When you know those fears and what your teens need most from you, you can provide what’s already within your control — lasting antidotes to help them power through and develop resilience.  Let’s get to it!

Fear No.1: REJECTION
Who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? But with teens, this craving trumps all else. Worse, in the peer jungle, liking is based on who’s highest on the food chain for the day, so rejection is hard to escape. I’ve had many clients who’ve been ditched by a best friend then refuse to leave the house for days because they were so crushed.   I’ve had others who lived and breathed sports only to get cut from a team then want to quit everything and change schools.  Not exactly demonstrating resilience.  Here’s the rejection antidote… unconditional love and acceptance at home.  Since rejection is part of life, learning how to handle it positively is critical. If your teens end up in the dirt of the peer heap or fail to make a team or club, listen, empathize, and then offer perspective. Do not judge their feelings or compare them to your own.  With this kind of love and support your teens can learn to take rejection in stride and become resilient.

Fear No. 2 UNCERTAINTY
Your teens may act like nothing bothers them, but they worry constantly. Ever-present on their minds is the survival-of-the-fittest peer environment in which even those on the highest rock can be dethroned at any moment. That makes their world outside your nest rocky, but throw in uncertainty at home — like a parent who has unpredictable work schedules or whose parents are getting divorced — and the uncertainty can be paralyzing.  The uncertainty antidote… stability at home.  When your teens arrive home, they need a safe, calm atmosphere where they can sort out their thoughts and the events that threw them a curveball that day. You are the constant in their rapidly evolving universe. They need to know you’re there, not leaving, will accept them and that they are a priority over your work.  And remember, role-modeling unchanging character, priorities, and most of all, a rock-solid presence guarantees a foundation stronger than any uncertainty your teens face.

Fear No. 3 BEING THE TARGET
Fear can reign in competitive or vicious peer groups. Anything “different” about your teens, including clothes, “loner” status or the simple fact they’re breathing next to an insecure guy who needs to ensure he’s top dog, paints a big target on their backs. With the ease of spreading rumors on a smartphone, it’s not just face-to-face bully encounters anymore. Social media’s anonymity and few , if any consequences mean anyone can say anything about anyone at any time and share it at the press of a button, and it’ll remain indefinitely in the electronic universe and your teens are acutely aware of this, all the time.  The antidote… is a balanced perspective and a “we’re in this together” guarantee. Bad things do happen, and people can be so mean sometimes.  Both are facts of life, so it’s better to prepare your teens before it happens, if possible. Share a time when you were targeted. Point out that many bullies behave as they do because they’re insecure, and taking someone down makes them feel temporarily important. Knowing that truth and knowing you have their back removes some of the sting.

Every time your teens step out your door, that trio of fears hangs heavily over them. Is it any surprise, then, that they sometimes react to that high stress by picking on a sibling or even you? But when you understand what’s really going on behind the attitude-of-the-moment, you can provide support for their daily trek into the teen jungle.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith