We are worried because the grades of our two teenage boys are deteriorating. Also, their consistent bad behaviour results in shouting matches at home.
Parenting a teenager can be exhausting. There are so many hats you have to wear; you’re the rule maker, the referee, the adjudicator, the holder of the purse strings, the ‘killjoy’ – and the person they still need to navigate them through to adulthood. You’re seemingly either racing around after them, in a state or perpetual rage because of them, or you’re constantly worrying about what kind of future lays ahead for them! Then of course there’s their studies, their assignments and the big one – their exams to be agonising over. All pretty tiring stuff.
So, at what point in all this full-on teen-nurturing do you set aside any time for yourself? And I mean real time that you’ve specifically reserved just for you? In my experience, probably none or as near to none as will barely register. Ensuring that you ring-fence some ‘me time’ or some ‘us time’ is vital to allowing yourself time to fully disengage and recharge. It doesn’t need to be a two weeks’ vacation (although that would be nice!), it can be a morning or a couple of hours. Whatever form it takes, you need to make it yours and not theirs. They’ve got into the habit of being ‘takers’ and the notion extends to the point that they imagine your time is their time. Not so, not always anyway.
So, when you’ve had chance to recharge your batteries a little, how best to tackle the challenging behaviour from your teens? I always start with two questions. Who’s in charge? And where do the boundaries lie? The answer to who’s in charge is likely to be that they think they are, you think you are, and in all probability that means the boundaries are too blurred.
The thing about teenagers is that – and although they hate to admit it – they are in fact still children. Your children. You are the adult and you’re in charge. So, it’s now time to set out some ground rules and come up with a clear and fixed set of boundaries for them to adhere to.
When setting your boundaries avoid becoming overly draconian in your approach or creating an unhappy space. That’s not the objective here. Still allow them to have their own space and their own privacy. You should also allow them the chance to voice their ideas and opinions. But then do remember – as you’re the one in charge – you make the decisions and you have the final word. Now to the challenging part; you must always maintain a calm, clear and consistent approach when dealing with confrontation, conflict and bad behaviour from your teens. Be clear about the consequences and you must follow through with them. You will be tested, your boundaries will be challenged, but you must remain steadfast and stick it out. Once they know where they stand, many of the other issues you mention will fall back into place.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist