“What they want their parents to know.”
- Teen problems are much deeper than their music, body piercing, messy rooms, and inappropriate friends. Their real root problems are often low self-esteem, poor communication skills, inability to deal with pressure and stress, and low spirituality.
There are biological reasons for teens’ behavior. Not only are their hormones surging, but their brains have not developed completely. Their prefrontal cortex, the brain’s center for moderation, impulse-control and the understanding of consequences, is still under construction. This is why teens are impulsive, risk-taking, and quick to anger. The adolescent brain processes visual stimuli or body language differently than grown-ups do.
Teens must learn to control their behavior, and it’s a parent’s responsibility to help, because the experiences a teen has right now will have a big bearing on how he eventually learns to manage his own emotions and impulses.
Teenagers are built for power struggles, but parents must keep their cool if their child doesn’t. When it’s time to enforce a consequence, do it calmly. To reduce the level of misinterpretation between kids and grown-ups, tell them how you feel, prefacing statements with, “I’m not angry, but it does irritate me when…” or “I’m not angry, but I do worry when…”
Teens want parents to express love often. Tell them: “I love you” many times a day—and it will make their day.
Teens want parents to touch them. Hugs regulate their emotional systems, and help them have more regular heartbeats and temperature. When they are stressed they need hugs. When they are mad or have had a hard day, put your arms around them and comfort them.
Realize your teens are not just rebelling—they are trying hard to be their best and stand apart from everyone else.
Compliment teens often and give them positive support–and they will want to be good. See their great potential, and help them see it also. They can be easily influenced by others, and that includes you!
Make home a place of comfort and safety from the outside world–not a war zone—and your children will want to be there.
Set a good example. Teens learn more by what they SEE you do than by what you SAY to them. What isn’t good for teens usually isn’t good for adults, either.
Be available when teens come home. Be there BEFORE they go out. Be there for them when things go wrong. Be there when they are ready to open up. One of the best times to talk to teens is late at night. Go into their room and sit on their bed, and they’ll open up and share in ways they won’t in the middle of a busy day. Teens want more time and communication with their parents. “I love you” can make a kid’s whole day.
Listen…Listen…Listen! NEVER stop listening! Listen more than you talk, and really be there. If you don’t listen when the opportunity arises, you’ll miss the opportunity. Spend a lot of time listening with love in your eyes, biting your tongue and zipping your lips–and the communication line will stay open. Don’t allow distractions—once you turn to the newspaper or TV, you have left them and sent a message that they aren’t important.
Slow down, listen, and care. Kids don’t ask parents to be super-heroes or have PhD’s in child rearing. Many just ask parents to look at their eyes when you talk to them. Do not be distracted, or you will send a message that they aren’t really important.
Be empathetic of their challenges. Remember how you felt as a teen, but don’t pretend you don’t have any questions. Don’t pretend you have it all together. Teens want parents to listen well, and hear what is really confronting them and what they are concerned about. Parents went through teen years, and understand somewhat— so talk to your teens, because their trails are generally much harder than their parents were.
Talk more to children, so everyone is more comfortable talking about serious issues. Teens want you to also talk to them about serious things. They really want to know the purpose of life and discuss some of their deep questions. So, sit down, look at them, and ask, “How is your life going?” The main key to conversation is–not preaching to them.
Don’t try to give them all the answers. After you have taught correct principles, ask, “What do you think you should do?” (Confirm their correct choices.) You have taught them correct principles...now help them know that they can make correct decisions.
If a wall is up, learn how to talk to teens. Rigid interviews don’t work. Find a loose brick–look beyond the wall. What the teen is saying isn’t necessarily the message that’s coming through the wall to you. When having difficulty communicating, bring in another teenager (child’s friend) to help talk and tell it a different way.
What are they experiencing? It’s often not what they are saying. They often look irritable and angry—but underneath all that, they may be scared or sad. Listen, and validate their feelings. (Don’t tell them how to solve their problems.) Say “You look really angry, but you are probably feeling scared, or sad, or things didn’t go well today.” This will teach them to be aware of their emotions and to be able to express them.
Have a wide angle lens. Mothers are known as the Home Improvement Committee, because they are often critical of the condition of a teen’s bedroom, or the way they dress. So, when big problems come, they have made such an issue over messy rooms, that the teen has nowhere safe to go and talk.
Attend church as a family. Teens know if their parents have a good relationship with God.
Plan more family activities. They want a stronger bond with parents. Help them spend more time at home. Make memories with your children—work together, invite them to help cook meals, and teach them skills.
Share more about what is going on in your life. Although parents want to look good to their children, most children want to be included in family situations and problems. They notice more than you think. As teens see parents deal with life’s problems, they can understand where their parents are coming from, have empathy, and learn it’s OK to have a few struggles. Let teens know who you are by sharing what you think and feel. (Bradley Ray Wilcox, BYU Professor of Education)
- “Teens can give the impression that interacting with the family is an imposition….So, here’s a complaint one might not expect…They wish their parents were around more often.” That doesn’t mean they want to interact, but they just want their parent around. Connecting for teens means, “I know where you are, and if I need you I can get you; but in the meantime I am doing my own thing.”
Connecting Teens and Parents:
- Teens want parents around more than they let on.
- Teens may not actively engage with present parents.
How to be a “Potted Plant Parent” to Teens:
- Be around without an agenda
- Trust that they value your presence, and don’t be discouraged if your teen ignores you.
- Know your availability helps them feel secure; your presence boosts teen’s emotional well-being.
- Seek new levels of emotional & physical distance from parents
- Rely on parental availability and accessibility for security.
- Parents are used as a dependable base. (Source: Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior, 2013)
Research suggests that securely attached toddlers are monitoring where their parent is in the house, even as they do their own activities. There is good reason to think that teenagers are kinda dong the same thing. They want to know where their parents are, and they are tuned into where there parents are, but they don’t seem to be paying attention to that or they don’t care.
Regarding tablets, devices and technology, parents are using that to stay connected to their children, and to be present even when they are miles away.
Parents working away from home. A huge study just came out of the University of Western Australia, regarding parents who work long-term away from home. They were called “Fly in, Fly out” parents. The kids whose parents had to be away a lot were more stressed, they had higher levels of depression, and more difficulty with peers; and this is borne out in more studies as well. In other words, it is stressful for parents to be separated from their children, and for children to be separated from their parents.
Teens with less parental presence
- Have more emotional and behavioral problems
- Still have connection despite challenges
(Source: “What Do Teenagers Want? Potted Plant Parents,” by Lisa Damour, New York Times; “Teenagers Seeking “Potted Plant Parents,” CBS News, December 14, 2016)
Teach your teenagers about the importance of sexual purity - of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage.
One mother in a Wall Street Journal editorial observed: "With the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily...Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd 'experimented' more." (Jennifer Moses, "Why Do We Let Them Dress Like that?" Wall Street Journal, Mar. 19, 2011, C3)