Thursday, October 23, 2008

Help Your Teen Foster a Sense of Responsibility

AS teenagers become more mature physically, they demand being treated in adult ways. Though teenagers strive to rely more on themselves and less on their parents in making decisions, the parent-teen relationship remains vital in helping your child to become an independent, responsible individual.

The urbanized environment exposes the adolescent to the negative influences of modern society. As a result, the adolescents’ power of reasoning often gives rise to family tensions.
Parent-teenager disagreements are usually center on mundane issues such as clothing styles, dating, friendships and schoolwork. However, beneath these disputes lies the parents’ concern to protect their teens from poor school performance, auto accidents, substance abuse and teen sex.

Throughout your child’s adolescent years, the quality of the parent-child relationship is crucial to teen’s mental health. In well-functioning families, teenagers remain attached to parents and seek their advice, but do so in the context of greater freedom. They tend to spend more time with friends and in social activities.

Consistent parental monitoring of the teenager’s activities through a cooperative relationship in which the teen willingly discloses information, will favor the latter’s smooth transition to independence.

This also helps foster the psychological well-being of the adolescent. To prevent communication gaps, the parent should remain a respected role model and confidant, while protecting the teen from the negative aspects of peer pressure and modern society. This is best accomplishing through an assertive parenting style.

There are three different styles of parenting: authoritarian, assertive and permissive. Authoritarian parenting will leave your teenager feeling no sense of self-growth or independence. Authoritarian parents do not trust their teenagers. They are always checking on their child, and making decisions for them. In turn, this leaves the teenager feeling dependent on his parents or very rebellious.

Permissive parenting is the opposite of authoritarian parenting. Permissive parenting will leave your teenager with too much decision-making on his own which he is not mature enough to handle. As a result, the teenager does not learn appropriate boundaries.

Assertive parenting will build trust, communication between parents and teenagers, and a sense of autonomy and self-control within the teenager. It will validate the teen as a responsible person, and develop a parent-child relationship which is safe. The teen feels free to air his concern to his parents without being judged, ridiculed or belittled.

Assertive parents set appropriate boundaries, but give the teenager freedom within the boundaries. They educate (not lecture) their teenager about the dangers of drugs, sex and delinquency. This enables the teenager to keep himself safe from negative peer pressure.

Assertive parents know their teenager’s friends and friend’s family, monitors schoolwork and progress, knows the teachers and works as a team with the teachers. More importantly, assertive parents realize that teenagers need guidance and are willing to balance their career and social schedules to accommodate this need.

Assertive parenting should practice throughout the entire span of child development. Let’s look at how we can implement assertive parenting during the teenage years. An assertive parent will:

  1. Acknowledge and except the natural interests and abilities of the teenager. If his teenager wants to take guitar lessons instead of piano lessons which are the wishes of the parents, this has to be OK.

  2. Celebrate when his teenager is doing his best and improving in the academic sphere, though he may not be doing as well as his siblings or peers.

  3. Unconditionally accept the teenager as a unique individual and not compare him to other people.

  4. Encourage the teenager to choose his own hobbies. If your son wants to take ballet lessons instead of joining the soccer team, he needs to do so with your best wishes.

  5. Encourage and facilitate the teenager’s exploration of higher education and career choices. Allow the teenager to make his own decisions, provided the decisions are base on a mature understanding of himself, his strengths, interests and goals.

  6. Have a sense of self-satisfaction and does not try to live out what he missed in his youth, through his children. Remember, it is never too late for parents to take piano lessons or join a soccer team.

  7. Not use his teenager as a buddy or confidante when struggling with adult issues.

  8. Not load the teenager with too many responsibilities such as taking care of younger siblings or doing household chores.

  9. Work as a team with his spouse in making decisions in the child’s best interest.

  10. Be an advocate of his teenager’s schooling and not allow him to treat unfairly by teachers and other authority figures.

  11. Not rescue his teenager, but allow him to experience the consequences for his actions.

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