for www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org on May 3, 2013
"Frequently, older children can shock you with their self-centered, rude, irrational, ungrateful, lazy and defiant behavior."
You’ve heard it before and may be experiencing it now: Parenting an adolescent or older child can be tough. Frequently, older children can shock you with their self-centered, rude, irrational, ungrateful, lazy and defiant behavior. Believe it or not, these characteristics are not rare tin the confusing and uncertain period of adolescent growth and development. As the parents of 19 children altogether, we want to share some thoughts that helped us raise the wonderful children we have.
1. Read and study some of the available scientific information about adolescence and the teen-age syndrome. Read magazine articles about the physiological and mental changes that adolescence brings. In this way, you will become familiar with the developmental stages of adolescence, understanding that there are specific feelings, attitudes, physical changes (including brain and other metabolic/hormonal transformations) that will give you insight into the very real challenges accompanying the growth and development of your older children.
2. Clarify in open, clear terms what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Make sure there is a clear understanding of the consequences of unacceptable behavior. When possible, let the children share in identifying suitable consequences. Give your adolescent or teen-ager some things that he or she can have charge over (for example, their bedroom with certain oversight by parents). Sit down and review the rules for visits to and from friends, curfew, television time, chores (every adolescent /teen-ager should have some regular daily and weekly chores, allowance. It’s a good idea to have your child write or type these rules out. Try to avoid being rigid or harsh. Firmness is not rigidity. Negotiate when you can and try to be creative and flexible with your demands of your children, giving them more responsibility when they demonstrate they can handle it. Model the behavior you expect from your older children. They can smell a hypocrite a mile away. If you require honesty from them, and you should, be honest yourself. If you tell them that smoking is bad for their health, then don’t smoke. If you want them to listen to you, listen to them.
3. Acknowledge to your children that you too went through the puberty/teenage syndrome. Share some insights, challenges and hard lessons you learned. Set ground rules for discussions.
4. Reach out to a support system of friends, teachers, community folk who are experienced and or trained in dealing or caring for teen-agers themselves. Ask for help when you need it.
5. Realize that this stage, this teen-age phase, shall pass away. Pray for patience and more patience. As your adolescent strains to become independent, grapples with choices and comes to see that he or she “knows much more than you,” about everything, be patient. Sometimes teenagers just need to vent. Even though as parents, we wish that we had a mystical remote control to fast forward past the challenging time of adolescence to a more mature, considerate young adult, there is no such magical remote.
6. Re-create your relationship with your teen-ager periodically. Do some fun things with your adolescent/older children. Often parents are so stressed with their older child that the thought of spending recreational time with them is not at all appealing. Additionally, older children often want to be far away from their parents and prefer the company of their peers. While peer association is important and should be allowed (although screened,) parents should gently but firmly insist that once a week, they play a game, watch a movie, cook, walk, shop, or engage in a hobby with their older child. Give the child the opportunity to choose the activity when possible.
7. Practice the communication technique of respectful speaking/reflective listening with your adolescent. This invaluable technique will counteract one of the most common complaints of teenagers: “parents don’t listen to them”. This technique, although perhaps initially awkward, really works. You listen to your children and they listen to you. As parents, the Reflective listening/Respectful speaking technique can and should be learned. Attend a communication workshop or order a DVD from a family program that will show parents how to implement the technique. Parents will learn how to “talk so that their child will listen and listen so that their child will talk”.
8. Let your children understand that there are consequences for every choice they make. Sometimes, we’re tempted to shield them from these consequences, to bail them out of a difficult situation they have created. Try to avoid doing this because such shielding or bailing out can tremendously interfere with their sense of responsibility and their mature learning. Remember, as the philosopher, Kahlil Gibran has stated, “Your children are not your children; they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for Itself”. At worst, we become weak or negligent caretakers. At best, we can become good stewards, taking excellent care of Life’s children by imparting the necessary love, character and environment for the healthy growth and development of these interesting children called adolescents or teenagers.
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