What’s a Parent to do when they feel their teen is making bad choices?
Over the years you have shared your words of wisdom, your personal failures, examples of your poor choices — the PG-13 versions — and how you grew from those choices. Every day since your teen was born, you have diligently molded, shaped, and guided them into becoming capable, responsible adults.
You’ve told him from the scriptures and shown him by your example, everything you felt he needed to grow to be a morally decent, and successful adult. His conscience has trained him to know right from wrong, good from bad. He’s suffered heartbreak which taught him the difference between a real friend and a user. Armed with all of that knowledge, he/she still has been making choices that are poor.
How can a parent bring a teenager back on track without resorting to placing him on a parent-imposed house arrest until his 21st birthday?
Many parents have a tendency to think of teenagers as younger versions of adults. We think they should be able to make wise decisions and clearly see the consequences of the choices they make just because we have told them how it is. The problem is that they are not adults yet and making some poor decisions is part of the process of learning and growing into adulthood.
Watching the results of these poor choices play out in a child’s life is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting.
However, there are some ways to make the process as painless as possible and guide teenagers towards making better choices as they become well-equipped adults.
When teenagers make poor choices, parents must take charge of the situation. This means establishing high standards and letting kids know exactly what is expected and what won’t be tolerated in the home. It helps to think these things through ahead of time and have a clear set of expectations and consequences for not meeting them. Ideally, the conversation about these expectations has happened long before a problem arises, but it is never too late to do it. Teenagers don’t need another friend in the home. They need a parent who sets limits and guidelines in order to help them establish their own boundaries for living as they mature.
Knowing your teen’s peer group and making them an ally can help. Friends have a big impact on adolescent social decisions. Making your home the one where friends feel comfortable and want to hang out can be beneficial. Don’t hover, but be around. Your presence may be the quiet force needed to open the lines of communication. While friends are extremely important in a teenager’s life, recent research shows that parents still have more influence on teens than peers. They are listening to you even when they are acting like they aren’t.
Being really present in your teenager’s life is still the most effective way to help your child make better choices and stop making poor choices that have already been made. Teens are extremely adept at recognizing phoniness, disinterest, or a lesson in disguise. One of the quickest ways to make a teenager stop talking is to respond with a lecture or a personal story that has a hidden lesson behind it.
Really listen to what they have to say and let them talk when they are willing. Just being around and being available sets the stage for this to happen more naturally. Use television shows, song lyrics, and news stories as conversation starters and teachable moments. Let your teen question you about your opinion on situations or “what would you do if…” topics. Allowing them to think through and express their opinions and beliefs will help them make the right choices when real-life situations arise.
Teens are going to make some poor choices. It is part of growing up. A parent’s job is to provide unconditional love with a strong set of guidelines along the way.
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