Monday, 23 September 2013

Living with teenagers part 2 ~ parents who've been there, done that

Living with teenagers

Last week I wrote about what it's like being the parent of two teenagers. As I said at the time I certainly don't have all the answers, after all I can only talk about my own experience, and I'm far from being an expert on the matter. So I asked a few blogger friends for their input and they very generously had a think about what it's like parenting on 'the dark side' and this is what they had to say.

Toni Hargis writes as Expat Mum and has three children aged 20, 18 and 10.

Family dinners - Although it's hard to have family dinners together when everyone's doing something after school, it's important to try. If you can't do it during the week, have a family meal on a Sunday evening before the start of the week, or a family take-away on a Friday. Leaving food out for them to eat as they come and go, not only leads to stinky bedrooms, but it allows them to stay in their rooms and be as uncommunicative as they want. 

Don't sulk - Yes, you, not the kids! Too often, when there's an argument, we stomp off to our corner of the ring and a deafening silence kicks in.  You may be right that "they need me more than I need them" but you're the adult. Closing down the lines of communication is never a good ploy with teens. 

Don't expect them to tell you everything - This can be a tough one. You might think you're their best friend but their loyalty often lies with their real friends.  The grey area comes when you worry that they might be in trouble; the best you can do here is instill in them the knowledge that if they really screw up, you'll be there for them. 

You're the boss- Don't be afraid to have rules - it's your house and you're in charge. Just because they "can't see the point" doesn't mean you can't insist on a rule being followed. (And have "consequences" up your sleeve for repeat offenders.)

Limit the stuff you know you should - When we first got PlayStation for my almost-eighteen year old, the rule was that it was only for weekends. Because that was all he knew, he rarely complained about it - until last year when, at the age of almost seventeen, he finally asked for more of a say. (We agreed!) When they're early teens, limit bedroom access to computers if possible. There's an age (particularly with boys) when they will try to troll through the "sexy" sites and they'll look you in the eye and deny it too! The problem here is that no, it's not just like the Playboy mag under the bed; these Internet sites have pop-ups that lead to truly shocking images and videos and the kids are too young. Ditto with Facebook; it's up to you whether you insist on them Friending you, but you need to make sure they're not engaging in online bullying and other nefarious stuff. 

Becky writes at English Mum and has two boys aged 18 and 15. 

It's all about compromising.  We have basic 'house rules' that we've thrashed out together over the years covering everything from talking to each other with respect to what time everything electronic needs to be switched off at night.  Everything else is discussed as and when issues arrive.  

I'm a firm believer in not sweating the small stuff.  As long as they're polite and respectful, I'll often overlook the odd one-off strop or last minute inconvenient request for a lift.  I think it's generally about picking your battles. 

Kate writes Wit Wit Woo and has two sons, aged 18 and 9.
  • I try to lead by example - I have a strong work ethic and went to university so my sons could see it's possible (my 18 year old has just started at uni!)
  • Laugh together
  • Guide and support them and try not to judge
  • Teach them to respect others
  • And the whole 'be their friend' thing is a myth. You're their parent. (That Robinsons ad annoys the hell out of me!)
Chris Mosler writes Thinly Spread and has 3 sons aged 17, 15 and 7, and a 13 year old daughter.
Teenagers are like toddlers but bigger. Unexpected mood swings and tantrums, a phenomenal need for sleep (usually at the wrong time), massive appetites, irrational behaviour, hating you one minute and loving you very hard the next. They don't need you AT ALL MUM and then they need you very much indeed.

In order to live with mine I have had to learn to listen without prejudice, to take time before I speak and to treat them with the respect I would extend to anyone sharing my house. I try hard to retain my sense of humour and not to laugh at them but with them. I persuade my husband that their wants and needs are as important as ours and that we have to accept that they will not always want to do what we do; that we need to find a way to make them want to be with us rather than just making them be with us.

Feed them, run them, love them (much like puppies) and remember, they will leave all too soon and you will be sad. (And invest in pegs - for your nose - teenage bedrooms, boys or girls, are fetid places!) 
I don't do 'Must Do's or advice, my only bit of parenting advice is 'Never say never'!

Tattooed Mummy has a 14 year old daughter.
  • Raising a teen doesn't start when they get to 13, it starts years earlier at birth. If you have a good/open relationship with your child you have much more chance of keeping that going than suddenly expecting a teen to share things with you.
  • Share things about your teen years. Let teens know that we were all there once.
  • Don't be scared to make rules. Rules can apply to all or some of the people in the house but they need to be clearly explained, no one can guess the rules! Ensure everyone knows what happens if a rule is broken. Sudden sanctions with out warning will just invoke rows and division.
  • Don't be afraid to say sorry if you are wrong or if you overreacted. Teens will learn from you - if you never apologise neither will they. That said, if they break a rule and knew the result/sanction then don't be afraid to follow it through!
  • Choose your battles (it's old advice but still true) Does it really matter if a book was left on the floor? Save the anger for important things.
  • Talk about stuff before it's an issue, even if that's embarrassing. Including, your views and advice on online safety, smoking, drinking, parties, sex, curfews, etc
  • Let your teen know that they are loved. And that you are proud of them. Don't expect them to 'know'. Tell them.
  • Ensure your teen knows they can always come to you - no one can (for example) blackmail them online because what ever they have done you are there for them.
  • Teens are hormonal. Give them a break, but don't let them rule the house. Anger is normal and to be expected, rudeness and violence however are not.
  • Talk to other parents. Twitter is great for that.
Thank you ladies!
After reading through these accounts of raising teenagers and realising how much other parents' experiences can help I decided to ask some other parents to contribute a bit about their own experience, and I'll be posting those next week.
Are you the parent of teenagers? What works for you? And what doesn't work?