Focus on the Family

How to Get Things Done With Teens

Here are tips on connecting with teens and getting them to pitch in.

by Sabrina O'Malone

What about when the kids get older? What if you have teenagers or preteens right now, and can't imagine battling over chores when it's so hard just keeping the peace?

Kimberly Chastain, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is the author of Help! My Pre-Teen/Teenager Is Driving Me Nuts (an e-book available at http://www.kimberlychastain.com/). Kimberly shares the following 15 survival tips for parenting preteens and teens:

1. Your children are on an emotional roller coaster due to hormonal changes and mood swings. You do not have to ride the roller coaster with them. Don't allow your child's mood to affect yours. Acknowledge their emotions, but avoid taking on their mood.

2. Develop a thick skin. Adolescents often say mean and hateful things. Although it's unacceptable, it does happen. When kids are preparing to break away, it can be quite messy as they try to push their parents away with words. It still hurts, but don't take it to heart.

3. Set clear limits. It's tempting to give in rather than stand firm. (Adolescents are great at arguing.) But this age group still needs boundaries and limits. No one else is going to meet that need but you.

4. Do not engage in a long discussion after you have already given your decision. All teenagers are attorneys-in-training and will argue a point to its death. They hope if they bug you long enough you will give in. Inform them it's the end of the discussion and walk away.

5. When you find yourself raising your voice, take a time-out. Someone has to be the adult . . . you! All too often, parents end up acting like teenagers themselves. Even if they push your buttons, remember, someone has to remain calm. Instead, try lowering your voice whenever your teenager raises his or hers.

6. Have your own support group. When kids are little, parents share everything with their friends. Once they become teenagers, parents don't share as much. Talk to other parents and find out what "everyone else" is doing. Decide to establish a group curfew, keeping everyone on the same page. There is strength in numbers. (Just look at the teenagers!)

7. Enlist other adults who share your values to talk to your children. As hard as it is to admit, often teenagers will talk to anyone except their parents. Sometimes it helps to have another adult to confide in whose advice you trust.

8. Take each and every opportunity to listen when they want to talk. This may not happen very often, so it's important that you drop everything to listen. It may happen late at night. If your child finally decides to open up with you, then you need to be all ears. Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth. That means you should be listening twice as much as you speak.

9. Choose your battles. Are you on your child's case every day about something? At some point, let it go. Don't be a permanent nag. The big battles are: drugs, alcohol and sex. Since kids listen to a limited amount of what parents have to say, better that they hear the important messages, not just that their rooms are a mess. When tempted to nag, ask yourself "Will this matter 10 years from now?"

10. Use captive moments in the car to talk. It seems teenagers do their best talking when they don't have to make eye contact. And in the car they can't run away. Some of your best conversations can take place while driving to the next activity.

11. Get to know their friends and be willing to allow them to come to your home. You'll know what's going on better than if they were at someone else's house. Often, your teen's friends will tell you things about your child you didn't know. It helps to keep you informed.

12. Find the actions and behaviors your child is doing well and tell him. Look for opportunities to praise your child. Call attention to his admirable personality characteristics. Even a headstrong, stubborn child has a positive aspect. Determination, persistence, and a stick-to-it mentality will benefit him later in life. His ability to persevere is admirable.

13. Be prepared to admit when you're wrong and ask your children for forgiveness. After all, it's what you expect from them. You will gain a great deal of respect from your teenager by admitting when you are wrong. All too often, teenagers tell me their parents have never asked them for forgiveness because the parents have not once admitted they were wrong.

14. Teenagers want to spend time with their parents, but will rarely admit it or ask to do it. Make sure they are on your to-do list, especially when things have been difficult. They need reminders that they are a priority in your life.

15. Remember the famous saying, "This too shall pass." Sometimes a parent needs to just hang on until they get through a difficult time. It will get better. I know there are times when it doesn't seem possible. But this too shall pass. Remember when your children were babies and it seemed they would never get out of diapers?