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Listening key to parenting teenagers

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  • 1. Listening key to parenting teenagershat‟s the matter with Adults today?We‟ve been hearing a lot from teenslately. They appear to want to talk, and someadults seem to be ready to listen, and what teenshave to say may surprise you.It‟s easy to assume their lives consist only offriends and parties and generally goofing off andletting their parents down. But who‟s lettingwhom down? According to today‟s teens, they arestarved for guidance, for good examples, rolemodels, and morality. Or, as one teen put it, adultsare no longer behaving like adults.The teen years are difficult for everyone. Thekids are putting all their energy into finding outwho they are and where they fit in. Their world isfilled with friends with common interests. Weadults often shake our heads in despair when wewitness the latest trend in clothes, or have our earsassaulted by the latest music. We forget that par-ents called the Beatles „noise‟, and that belongingand being understood were the only things thatmattered when we were that age.There seems to be some sort of internal wiringin our emotions that almost forces teens andparents to be at odds. Teens push the limits, aspart of learning what the adult world is all about.Some parents react by pushing back. They clampdown on the teen by increasing their demands andexpectations, by arbitrarily implementing morerules. And then they wonder why the teen rebelseven more.Some teens don‟t get any reaction. Oh, momand dad react alright in their own way. But theydon‟t communicate to their teen how they feelabout the new behaviour. So the teen has no feed-back, no way to gauge if this new behaviour isright or wrong.Teens pay more attention to adults than werealize. In fact they learn more from our actionsthan from our words. Their dismissal of ourlifestyle and their feigned disinterest in ouropinion doesn‟t mean they haven‟t observed adultbehaviour closely, and drawn conclusions aboutappropriate/acceptable adult responses toeveryday situations.So often parents are shocked by sons anddaughters who shoplift, steal from home, andprovide artful lies to school administratorsSometimes these are the same parents who lieabout kids‟ ages to save theatre admission, packhotel towels and blame their traffic tickets onpolice or politicians.The lucky teens - and there areplenty of them — have parents who listen. And,while they may not fully understand, they will atleast tolerate. At the same time, these parents willreinforce their own limits.“You can stay out late, but only if we knowexactly where you are and how you plan to gethome.” “No, you‟re too young to go camping withyour new boyfriend.”These parents know how to stand their groundfor their child‟s sake and their own. They manageto stand firm on their beliefs and values while notcompromising their child‟s need to begin to makehis or her own way. These parents are not theirchildren‟s‟ buddies. They are parents uncondi-tionally and therefore manage to survive the salvostheir children assault them with. For example:“You don‟t care.” “You‟re the only parent whodoesn‟t allow their kid.” “If you were my friendmom you would let me.” “You‟re the meanestparent”.So the next time your teen seems to want totalk, listen without judging and without criticizing.When your teen accidentally manages to hit one ofyour buttons, don‟t make the mistake of blowingup because that will only let them know where tohit again.Your teen is trying to communicate with you,and listening may be all you have to do to turn atense relationship around. Remember what lifewas like when you were that age, and how im-portant your friends and interests were to you.Then tell your teens that you trust their judgementand that you‟ll stand by them. And be sure to setlimits that are reasonable. You may be surprisedhow well your renewed interest in their welfare isreceived.Hamilton Spectator September 18, 1999W• RAY PIDZAMECKYAND PENNY SMITH

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