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The Parent Teen Relationship: How Effective is Yours?

It was the homework that did it. Each night became a challenge in how I was going to get my son, a non-academic, to do his homework. I tried patience, encouragement, and teaching, all to no avail. I moved on to bribery, threats and punishment, still no success. Finally I tried anger, frustration and tears, but still no joy. At the end of my tether I knew it was time for a change.

Looking back on my behaviour I could see how I had changed from a calm, encouraging parent into a demanding, controlling tyrant. This was a true wake up call; I could not believe I had turned into the very thing I hated to see in others. I asked myself, "what is more important, homework or the relationship with my son?"

The parenting relationship is a tricky one; one that needs to continue to evolve over time. It is made doubly tricky by the fact that the child uses this relationship as a role model for future relationships. As a child they see that adults have the control and power in a relationship; as they grow into adolescents they want this control and power for themselves. No wonder there are so many battles between parents and teens.

However, the desire for control and power is also reflected between the teenagers themselves. Mixed with the self-centeredness left over from childhood and the need to belong, a potent mix is created; otherwise known as peer pressure. This pressure can take many forms, from daring someone to do something that you haven't got the courage to do, to manipulating someone to give you what you want. Standing up to this pressure, particularly from their close friends can be difficult,

Teenagers need to learn how to get their needs met but without resorting to using control, power or manipulation. Just as importantly they need to learn how to resist pressure from others. If parents can change the relationship they have with their teen so that each other's needs are dealt with using respect, understanding and appreciation, then teens can experiment and realise the benefits of such a relationship.

Fortunately, the tools required for such a relationship can be easily taught, although putting them into practice will take a little more effort. Just telling teens what to do rarely works so parents will need to initiate the change and use the tools with their teen. Once your relationship has changed with your teen, you will both be in a better position to tackle the other relationships in your teen's life.

How to Improve Your Relationship With Your Teen

  • Listen to their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. Ask them how it makes them feel.
  • Understand what makes them tick. Look for the differences between you and them and then learn more about them.
  • Accept them for who they are. Differentiate between them as a person and their behaviour. Ask for behaviour to change but accept them as they are.
  • Acknowledge their presence. Look for what they do that's positive and verbalise your appreciation. Appreciate what they don't do as well as what they do.
  • Give them space. Teens need privacy, not just in their bedrooms but also in their thoughts. Avoid interrogation techniques and opt for genuine interest.

    Carol Shepley has been involved with teenagers for over 10 years and, as the parent of a teen herself, fully understands the pressures placed on parents and teens today. She now shares this knowledge and experience through her website so that parents can help their teens become resilient, resourceful and responsible adults. Now offering a fun quiz so you can rate you listening skills.

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