We don’t claim to be parenting experts and never will. But between us we’ve raised 5 teens to be really good and kind people. So we’re keen to share our personal parenting tips. They’re based on what has worked for us and what we believe is really important – it’s advice that we’d have loved to have heard ten years ago, when we were working out how best to parent teenagers. Here are our 10 top tips on parenting your teens:
1. Pick your battles
Not new advice, but just as important for teens as it is for toddlers. So don’t get caught up in constant conflict about the wet towels on the floor, the dirty cups in the room, the always leaving the lights on. They’ll stop doing that when they leave home. But instead think about their sense of responsibility, their time management, their kindness. Fight about that instead!
2. Take that call
Even if it feels as if it’s the most inappropriate moment for your teenager to call or text you, please just make your apologies and go and take their call or write that reply. Because what’s happening in that moment is so important to them, even if in the scheme of things it doesn’t seem that important to you. The teenage years are just a phase and the biggest opportunity that we have to influence them is communication with them when they’re actively seeking our input.
3. Help them not to rush into tackling problems
When things aren’t going particularly well for your teen, whether it’s problems with friends (and there will be loads of those!), issues at school or fights with siblings, encourage them to get into the habit of pausing and waiting for everything to calm down before they wade in and try and resolve the situation. Make sure they don’t fire off messages in the heat of the moment that they’ll later regret. Even better, a good night’s sleep gives puts everything into perspective and it also gives them the chance to come home and talk to you about it. It’s the equivalent of waiting 24 hours to reply to a controversial email and it really, really works.
4. Make the most of mealtimes
Often the house is like a complete railway station, with people not around to eat at the same time. But when an opportunity comes around, whatever day of the week it is, and you manage to get everyone – or almost everyone – around the table, just remember that this is an opportunity for memories to be made. So slow down, put on some music and start a music debate, or whatever works for your family, and at the end of the meal take the time to get out a pack of cards too. You’ll be amazed how much natural conversation occurs.
5. Involve your teens in setting the rules
Teenagers need rules and boundaries as much as younger children, and this tip is about involving them in setting those. Once they get a little bit older, you can have a really good discussion – not negotiation, but discussion – with them about what works well for everyone. This has got loads of advantages. They’re much more likely to follow rules they’ve been involved in setting. They’ll feel really listened to and heard. And you’ll know they’re gaining independence while doing everything they really need to do to stay safe and sensible.
A tiny example – when mine were younger, they sometimes decided they didn’t want to do something they’d originally committed to enthusiastically (or we’d paid for!). We would sit down and work out together that they’d go for the first hour, say, before deciding if it was for them, but that they would definitely go for at least a little bit. They always stayed. And they always loved it…
6. Daily lists
When mine were younger teens, they used to come into the kitchen, especially in the morning, behind schedule, anxious about all the things they had to achieve, including homework. So I used to sit and write my shopping list or organise my day and subtly suggest that they did the same, either on their phone or on a bit of paper. So from quite a young teenage age, both of them wrote lists of what they were trying to achieve. And I think it’s something that really helps to relieve anxiety and develop their independence as they go through the teenage stage of learning to organise their own lives.
7. Don’t be afraid to apologise to your teens
You don’t need to be perfect for your teens; you don’t need to be infallible. It’s really important that they hear you say, “you were right and I was wrong, and I’m sorry”. Teens need to see this happening in everyday life, they need to know it’s ok to be wrong and it’s really important to say sorry. And equally, if you say no to something, and then they say “well, can we just have a look at it this way”, and you think, actually they’re right, then go with it. Say to them, “ok, let’s try it your way this time” and if all goes horribly wrong, they can be the ones saying sorry to you!
8. Involve them in feeding the family
Get your teens involved in the kitchen early. Particularly on special occasions, it’s a great idea to include the teens and give them responsibility for a meal, or for one element of a meal. My teens have really enjoyed having complete accountability for feeding us on occasions, and it gives everyone else a break.
9. Tell them how (uniquely) wonderful they are
Praise your teens regularly and consistently. Not just the ‘well done, good job”, or “you look especially great today”, although of course that’s important too. But rather, really careful comments about what they’re particularly brilliant at. All teens have something to celebrate, whether it’s being really good at understanding how other people feel, or especially willing to fight their comfort zones or finding their own style without worrying about peer comments, or… whatever might not be obvious to everyone but you notice every time. You know your own teens better than anyone else and if you make an effort to think about and point out what makes them wonderful, they’ll feel absolutely on top of the world (and you’ll feel so much better thinking about the good stuff!).
10. Understand the impact of peer pressure
The tween and teenage years pass by so quickly. When children are small, it’s often easier to stay in touch with their emotional needs. But after they turn 11, we can become more focused on their growing functional and operational needs. Have they got their sports kit, have they got their cooking ingredients, what time do they need picking up? So it’s important to remember that all teenagers, whether they’re confident or lacking in confidence, are faced with some type of peer pressure on a daily basis and this is a HUGE issue for them. We can help by looking for opportunities to start conversations about how they’re feeling about the situation with their peers and what’s happening in their world, and then advise them accordingly.
Hopefully, you’ve found our 10 top tips on parenting your teens useful. We upload a new parenting tip every other Monday on Instagram (we’re @equippthem) in our Equipp Tips series. And if you’d like to read more advice – from real experts too! – have a browse through the Parenting Teens section of the blog.
And do leave us a comment with your top parenting tip 🙂
Louise & Anna x