Being a parent has it’s challenges, and one of the big ones is the teen years. However, I’m a firm believer that the things you do when your kids are young can make the teen years much easier. It is possible to raise teens who talk to you, who are honest, and who are awesome people to be around. But the foundation starts when they are young!
Right now in my house I have a 19 year old, a 15 year old, and a 9 year old… it’s a little crazy to have one in college, one in high school, and one still in elementary. It gives me an interesting perspective as I see my parenting style evolve, and change how I have done things from one child to the next.
The thing is, I feel like I have a great relationship with my boys. I believe part of that has to do with the fact that they are just awesome people… like I had great raw goods to start with. I believe another part is having homeschooled them. It’s given them a chance to become exactly who they are without a ton of influence of peers, other people’s ideas, and a lot of pressure. I also believe that as they grow into teens our relationship is based a lot on things I did when they were smaller, that I continue to do, that encourages an open, honest, fun relationship.
I give credit where it is due, and owe much of my parenting style to my mom, she’s awesome. My sister and I always knew we could talk to her, she showed me how to be a parent while still being a friend.
Related Post- Yes, You Can (and should) be Friends With Your Kids
Here’s the cool thing about life, you can always make changes, even if you are nearing the teen years, or in the midst of them, you can alter what you are doing and begin to move your relationship with your child in a better direction. If your kids are little you can lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the teen years.
Want to raise kids to be teens who talk to you? Here’s my advice.
#1- Learn to Listen – When your kids are little it’s going to be things like a million stories about Minecraft, something cool they saw on YouTube, or a game they played with a friend. Sometimes we can tune them out, or rush them through their stories. But learn to take the time to listen. When you show them that what they are saying is valuable to you it sets the tone for them to want to tell you things. The Minecraft stories will give way to stories about troubles friend are having, issues they need to talk about… important things. When they know from a young age that they have your attention they will become teens who talk to you. Listening means hearing them even when they’re being honest about things that may upset you, or if there is something that you have done that they want to talk to you about. When they get to be teens sometimes you have to bite your tongue to listen without responding immediately, but developing the ability will lead to them being honest and knowing they can talk to you about anything
#2- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff & Don’t Over Punish– Ok, this is kind of a big one…. and one not everyone might agree with. I have known parents who punish their kids over the smallest things, who micromanage, and nit pick, until their kid is either afraid to do anything, or acts out because they figure they’re getting punished for it anyway! Let me put it out there, if your kids know that they’re getting punished, or yelled at, or you’re going to freak out over small things, then when they are teens they are going to be more apt to keep secrets, sneak around, and hide things from you. If your 9 year old runs outside in his socks, is it really that big of a deal? Did you have to ask 5 times to get your kids to clean their room? Yes, its frustrating, but think before you throw out a punishment. When your kid is 16 and scrapes the side of the car do you want them to tell you, or do you want them to hide it or figure out a way to fix it behind your back, or lie for fear of repercussion? There are ways to teach your child respect and responsibility in a positive way without freaking out over little things, or punishing for every small infraction.
#3- Reward Honesty- This goes hand in hand with not over punishing. If your child has done something wrong, made a mistake, had an accident, or knows something they seem to feel nervous about telling you, they need to know they can come to you without fear. It’s hard as a parent, especially when a rule has been broken, or they are telling you something that upsets or disappoints you. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any consequences, but sometimes it’s best to reward their honesty with a lesser one, or even let them slide. Fostering a space where they can be 100% honest is something that is important to do. You want your teens to feel they can talk to you about anything, and be honest even if it’s something questionable.
#4- Model Character Traits- I’m always puzzled when I see things about teaching your children character traits. See you can try and teach them all you want, but if they don’t see you doing them it won’t work. Children learn through example, so if you want them to be patient, loving, giving and kind, those are things you’re better off showing them then trying to teach them!
#5- Be Honest With Them– Did you screw up? Apologize. Are your kids not able to do something because your family can’t afford it? Let them know. Do you feel uncomfortable about something that happened or was said? Have a conversation about it. Letting your kids see that you are a real person helps them relate to you. Being honest with them about family stuff, relationships, money, allows them to see that honesty goes both ways and that they can be honest with you! It also lets them understand that you’re not just saying no for the sake of saying no but for a reason. Open, honest communication, is key to having teens who talk to you!
#6 – Ask Questions- Part of letting your child know you’re listening is asking questions and engaging with them when you talk. As they get older ask them questions about their day at school, their visit to a friends house. If you know they’ve had an issue with a friend or teacher ask them about it, show that you care and that you are interested in what they have to say. It’s amazing the conversations that open up from a simple question. If you start when they are young when they get to be teenagers they’ll know that you’re not just pestering or prying but that it is just something you do. My son recently brought home a girl he’s dating smiled and said, “Go ahead mom I told her you’d have a million questions.” I always talk to his friends and girlfriends, make it a point to ask questions to get to know them, and he knows I will, and is ok with it, because he knows it’s coming from a place of my caring.
#7- Give Them Freedom to Make Decisions- My middle son currently has purple hair…. last year it was blue. My youngest’s hair is down to the middle of his back and he often gets mistaken for a girl. My thinking, their heads, their choice. You see I know that letting them make decisions about their hair, their clothes, what they’re having for lunch, and other minor things gives them a sense of freedom, a sense of control of their lives, and is practice for making more important decisions down the road of life. Whenever possible I let them make a choice, and sometimes I don’t necessarily agree with the one they’ve made but as long as it’s nothing that can hurt them I let them see it through. Making good decisions is like a muscle that needs to develop and strengthen, its not something you can do for them. You can offer them guidance, and let them make choices so that they can learn!
I love my teenage boys, and their friends. I think that by raising your kids in a way that they become teens who talk to you makes these years enjoyable instead of difficult. We have faced challenges, and of course have ups and downs but for the most part they know they can come to me with anything, and that I am here to listen, laugh, and enjoy these years together!
Do you have a teen who talks to you? What advice would you add for strentgthing that relationship?