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Los Angeles Teen Therapist | Article

Parenting Teens Vs. Parenting Young Children

12/9/2012
How is the parenting of teenagers different than parenting young children?

When a child becomes a teen and embarks on the journey of forming a separate identity, a parent’s role changes. Parents must make the transition from being a parent who provides for all their child’s needs to one who coaches their teen to handle their frustrations and needs for themselves.

Parents need to be able to deal with their teen’s expressed aggression or dependence in straightforward, honest ways that affirms the dignity and power of both parent and child. The parent who cannot tolerate their teen choosing to defy them by wanting to do things independently of their parents will make that child feel as though the price of their own freedom is abandonment and the loss of love.

Successful navigation of this phase of life involves setting boundaries and enforcing consequences without becoming punitive, angry, or judgmental. Respectful parenting involves seeing the frustrations teens encounter when pushing against imposed boundaries as opportunities for them to exercise the muscles of self-control, self-respect, and respect for others.

The parenting role must shift during the teen years to supporting their growing independence and preparing them to meet the challenges & frustrations of daily life. Your responsibility as a parent is to teach your child the skills they will need to succeed in the world prior to leaving your home. Respectful, conscious and positive parenting is fair, flexible, and has learning, rather than submission as its goal. Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth.

Hearing and respecting feelings, allowing choice, yet setting fair and clear limits on unacceptable behavior is the healthy balance that we should all strive for. Some parents use authoritarian parenting strategies that do not allow the child an independent voice or sense of efficacy. Other parents overcompensate with overly permissive parenting that doesn’t teach kids about limits and self-control. Research shows both extremes can interfere with kids’ ability to regulate their emotions and form healthy relationships as adults. Learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings is a crucial part of developing into a mature adult.

Ideally, by the time your teen leaves home they should have:

* Learned how to put others’ needs before their own
* Learned how to put themselves into another person’s shoes
* Learned to treat others as separate individuals who have rights that should be respected, including their parents.
* Developed realistic goals and plans for their future.
* Learned to make ethical decisions that go beyond what any of their friends think

The ultimate goal of becoming an autonomous young adult is being able to meet one's commitments and obligations - while designing a life that fulfills them.