Eye-rolling, door-slamming, chore-evading, back-answering, stony silences, and “whatever”s. If you’re a parent of teenagers, you may be familiar with these phenomena.
But how much “grumpy teen” behaviour is provoked by parents?
According to author, psychologist and parent-of-teens Collett Smart, our 13-to-19s are often judged unfairly for their imperfect ways.
She believes that parents need to give their teens grace and respect, in order to have a more peaceful and happy relationship with them.
In a chat with Hope Media’s Emma Mullings she offered the following advice.
Tip 1 – Listen To Your Teenagers
Teenagers have opinions and parents benefit by listening to them, says Collett.
“When our children reach teenagehood it’s a good time to actually stop and listen more,” she said.
“I think as parents we want to give lots of advice. And obviously there’s certainly times when children and teenagers need to know things from us.
“But I think if we’re trying to talk at our teenagers too much, they won’t actually listen, or even ask us for advice.
“So sometimes, it’s good to just listen to your child’s opinion. Asking their opinion as a teenager is very important. “
Tip 2 – Pick Your Battles
Remember not to criticise your teenager too much.
“There’s areas I think we all need correction in, even as adults,” says Collett, “but I think we need to stop and pick our battles.
“Pick the important things that we would like to change or advise our children with.
“Don’t criticise them for everything.”
Tip 3 – Pick Your Moments
Avoid trying to pass on sage advice or instructions in the middle of your teen’s favourite TV show or X-Box game, when they’re with friends, or during a heated discussion.
“In the heat of the moment, when something’s going on or you’re having a blow-up, that is not the time to try and instil some of your advice,” said Collett.
“It’s actually better later – in the evening over a coffee or a milkshake.
“Talk about some of the issues that have come up, when everybody’s calm.”
Tip 4 – Allow Time For Them To Talk
When having a one-on-one chat with your teenager or addressing an issue, don’t assault them with too many demanding questions, and allow room for their answers.
“Don’t grill them with questions. Just ask a question and let them talk.
“And allow for the silences, too. That’s something I do with my uni students. There’s times I will just wait and allow for the silence.”
Collett said parents shouldn’t be uncomfortable with their teenagers’ silence.
“We know that the frontal lobe is not fully developed until the age of about 25,” Collett said.
“So our teenagers are actually taking time to process and they need some time to think.
“So don’t always expect an immediate answer. Let them think about what their opinion might be.”
Tip 5 – Allow Grace For Their Flaws
Teenagers are still developing, and will make mistakes. Don’t come down too hard on them for it.
“The frontal lobe is still developing in teenagers, and that is actually the part of the brain that we use for forward planning, and thinking through decisions.
“Sometimes our teenagers will make knee-jerk decisions, and we might want to say to them, “what were you thinking?”
“But actually, the truth is that at that point, they weren’t thinking. And I don’t mean that to be mean.
“Because their brain is so busy developing and changing, there are some things that take slower to process.
“So we need to allow for that in our parenting.”
Tip 6 – Hold Back Your Criticism
Collett believes teenagers are given too much of a “bad rap”.
“So often we hear people say, “Oh teenagers are such a pain”, or “They don’t think”, or “They’re always doing the wrong thing”.
She suggests that parents be careful not to speak too negatively of their teens.
“I wouldn’t like to be a fly on the wall and hear my husband saying “Oh my wife is such a pain”,” she explained. “We’ve got to think of it from that perspective.
“We don’t like to be criticised and told when we’re doing things wrong all the time.
“So it’s important not to be labelling our teenagers as bad or lazy all of the time either.”
Tip 7 – Give Them Time To Respond
If you ask your teenager to do something such as a chore or their homework, it’s OK if they don’t respond instantaneously.
“Let them finish their video game, or let them finish writing or typing or whatever they’re doing,” says Collett.
“Give them a few minutes, and then after ten minutes or five minutes you’re still asking them, then you can put consequences in place.
“But give them time to wrap up what they’re doing.”
About Collett Smart
Collett Smart is a consultant psychologist, qualified teacher, lecturer, author, wife and mother of three children. She writes on many issues affecting teenagers, at Familysmart.com.au.