Conflicts and misunderstandings between parents and teens are not new. In fact, in recent times, it has been on the rise. Oftentimes, the sources of the conflicts are not easily identified. Parents don’t understand their teens, and the teens equally do not understand their parents.
The greater the bond and understanding between parents and teenagers, the lesser the conflicts they would have. Here are 8 ways in which parents can improve their relationship with their teens:
1. Live by example
You are their first role model and whether you like it or not, or you know it or not, they are watching. Modelling is an effective tool in parenting. Young people learn very fast. They don't do what you say; rather, they observe and do what you do. They are like sponges, soaking in everything they see you do. Say NO to the duplicity of life. Avoid it like a plague.
You confuse them when you say one thing and do another, or be one thing at home and something else outside. Be consistent with your words and actions, and let your word always be your bond. You may be the only example they would follow, and this is why you must make up your mind to live and lead by good examples. Be an example of integrity, purpose and excellence to them.
2. Be their best friend, not their boss
Build a solid relationship with them from childhood that would translate into a solid and lasting friendship. The truth is, teenagers talk to their friends when they have problems and need advice. You need to be that go-to person they can run to when they are in trouble, and this can only happen when you are their friend.
They won't talk to you if you're not their friend. Friendship is not earned because you gave birth to them. You earned the title of father or mother when you gave birth to them, but the title of friendship must be earned from every responsible behaviour from you. Your teenagers need a good company, not somebody bossing them around.
3. Create a loving, bubbly and friendly atmosphere at home
This is the soil that's needed for your teenager to develop successfully. When the atmosphere at home is toxic and unfriendly, it breeds angry, depressed and unbalanced teens. And guess what, you are the one that’s responsible for creating a joyful atmosphere in your home.
Make your home a haven for them in trouble, a shelter in the storms, a no-judgement zone, a place where weaknesses are turned into strengths, and strengths into opportunities. Let it be a place where efforts are complimented, no matter how insignificant. Let the aroma of love and discipline fill your home.
4. Spend time working on yourself and developing yourself
They are looking up to you as a standard of excellence. So, from the moment children come into your life, start straightening yourself. Transform your life into an enviable personality so that your life challenges them to become better than you. Set high but attainable standards for them. Don't expect them to transform when you've not been transformed yourself. Your transformation or lack of it will reflect on your teens.
"Make your home a haven for them in trouble, a shelter in the storms, a no-judgement zone, a place where weaknesses are turned into strengths, and strengths into opportunities."
5. Understand that you don't own them
Your teens don't belong to you. You were only given the privilege for them to have come through you. They only came through you, not from you. They came from and belonged to God (their Creator), who gave and entrusted them to you.
This means that God chose to use your body as a vehicle to bring them to this planet so you could nurture and train them. And since they didn’t come from you, you would give an account to the One who created them. Don't treat them as your property or future investment. When you do this, you're setting yourself up against their Creator, and there is a price to pay for this.
6. Live with legacy in mind
Here, I’m not referring to money or properties. Bequeath such to them if you can. The important legacies you can leave for them are the choices you make/making, the actions you take/taking and the words that you speak/speaking. This will create a more lasting impact on them. See a beautiful article on passing down ethical values and traditions in your family.
Are your choices, actions and words inspiring, impacting, memorable, incontestable and commendable? How do you want them to remember you long after you are gone? What legacy will you leave behind for them? How would you want your name to be remembered whenever it is mentioned? Think about this. So, as a parent or guardian, you need to be intentional about building a positive and great legacy for them. Start now, and do it today, every day.
I remember the words of Fela Durotoye: “Legacy is the testament of how you used your time. To those who bear your name, a good legacy is a key that opens the doors of opportunities to them while a bad legacy is a padlock that shuts down opportunities.” Your legacy is your brand, your name and your reputation. Make it great and positive for your children.
7. Don’t underestimate the impact of technology on your teens
It can change them forever, whether for good or for evil! You’ve got to understand that times have changed.
See the changing times as an opportunity to teach your teens about boundaries, self-control and how not to abuse something while using it. It’s no news that technology and social media is now a part of our lives, including that of your teens. As parents, you must live with the fact that this has come to stay.
Also, you can’t stop your teens from using technology, else they’ll use it behind you and learn its usage from people they are not supposed to learn from. It’s best they learn it from you. Be the first to introduce technology to them as they grow up and teach them how to harness it for their benefit.
Don’t let an outsider or a third party do this; it’s too risky! Technology is neither good nor evil; it’s an awesome resource designed to make life easier for everyone.
8. Manage your use of social media – your teens are watching!
According to Common Sense Media, a teenager spends an average of nine hours a day online. How then can you ensure that your teens are responsible in their usage of technology and social media? Frankly, it starts with you. You’ve got to model boundaries in the way you use technology. Asking them to do what you’re not doing is deceptive and a waste of time.
You won’t be effective in helping your teen cultivate a healthy use of technology if you are always glued to your phone at home, during dinner, in the car or while watching TV.
Another way is to start early to promote and encourage healthy and positive use of technology, as well as the importance of developing social skills. For instance, you can decide not to give them a smartphone until they reach a certain age and are mature enough to handle it. Be intentional about it.
Set the limit for screen time together with your teens and stick to it. Let the expectations be clear and consistent. Also, be tender and tough when it comes to technology with your teens. Monitor but don’t snoop. Let them know upfront that, as their parents, you’d be monitoring their online activities and that you’re doing this because you care about them. Make use of social networking, Internet and media safety resources such as YouDiligence, Covenant Eyes, Accountability and Filtering, Safe Eyes, Internet Parental Control, Plugged In Online, and several others.
It takes time, effort, and understanding to build relationships, especially familial relationships with spouses and children. The best time to start practising the tips mentioned above was the first day your child arrived on the planet Earth. Assuming the tips were not practised for whatever reason and you’re facing challenges raising your teenagers, don’t worry; the next best time to put them to practice is NOW. Start today and do it every day. With time, high expectations, consistency and hope in God, your relationship with your teens will significantly improve. I see your teens dazzle into adulthood!
I would be happy to hear your thoughts, experiences and how you are managing your teens.
Tom Ekpo is a Teens Life Coach at The Citadel Global Community Church®, Lagos, Nigeria. He is a professional copyeditor, proof-reader, and a prolific writer. Tom is the CEO of TACT Editorial House® - a foremost editorial organisation that
provides professional content development, copyediting, proofreading and copywriting services for individuals and corporate clients.