Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teenagers are the Greatest!

“Teenagers are the greatest people,” was the title of an article written many years ago by Phillip Wylie. He wrote, “The finest people on earth, the finest there ever were, are America’s minor citizen, our kids, teenagers included. They have better health, are taller and more attractive, are better educated, have traveled more and read more, are more candid and direct with their relations with each other, and are more willing to fight for the ideals we adults only pay lip service.”

In thinking about Wylie’s positive words about teens, some of his phrases are right on. However, if you are raising a teen, you may often be frustrated and concerned about them. What can help?

Be honest with teens because they can be severe critics of adults they think are hypocritical or two-faced. Most teens see through dishonesty or pretension in adults. Before you make hasty decision, look at both sides.

Be open. Teens want and need to talk about things with their parents and with other adults. They also need to be allowed some privacy and independence. Therefore, adult-teen conversations cannot be one-sided, with the teen baring his soul and the adult listening and offering advice. Teens need to know that some of the same concerns they struggle with are concerns of adults, too.

Set clear and consistent limits. Teens are more likely to want to know why a particular rule has been made. Adults should respect this need for explanation and allow for some negotiation regarding rules for behavior, such as curfews. Parents should also not hesitate to say what they believe is absolutely essential and is not open to negotiation. I call these “pen” or “pencil” rules. Teens should be able to negotiate about pencil rules.

Remember that growing up means becoming independent. Effective parents accept young people making choices that they, the parent, may not have made. That is what independence means.

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