I once was given some good advice by a parent further along in the parenting journey than I was. He said, “Teach your children to ask questions that you can say Yes to.” Teens tend to hear “No” a lot, but the relationship can be turned around when we learn as parents to focus on the positive and find ways to help them discover their purpose.
The teen years are hard because as parents we are watching our babies turn into mini-adults right before our eyes. Teen years are those years when our child is preparing their way out of the nest. How much freedom do we give? Do they have the maturity and self-control to handle these new freedoms? For so many years, we did everything and now we have to change the strategy. Parents want to say “Yes” to our teens, we just aren’t sure how much to let go.
Three ways to get a “Yes” answer:
#1 Pick your battles
Determine your negotiables and non-negotiables. This step begins younger than a teenager. But it is the one thing you will keep asking yourself during the teen years. Is this a battle I want to enter? Your non-negotiable list should be short and fall in line with your family value system. Your negotiables list can be longer. My husband and I had 2 non-negotiables–being respectful and being truthful. These two things we did not negotiate. All others could be negotiated and possibly get an answer of yes.
#2 Join in on their favorites
Find out what interests your teen. Parents are no longer the focus of the relationship–friends become priority. One thing I did with my teens was find out what they were into and join in. My son had a favorite band, and it wasn’t my style of music. I read up on and listened to them so that I had a topic of conversation with him. It allowed for more than the one-word answers he would give. We could sit and spend time together. When I took that time to learn about his favorite band, it opened a door to learning about other things going on in his life. With my daughter, she loved the show, Laguna Beach. So, I would watch it with her. That opened lots of opportunities to discuss what was happening in the storylines and how it applied to her life.
#3 Say yes to the hard conversations
Don’t fear the uncomfortable conversations. Those toddler years when they say “poop” and “buttcheek” for a reaction are over. As a teen, the issues they deal with can be tougher to navigate. As parents, we need to create safe spaces to let them ask the tough questions and have the hard conversations. We need to learn to control our facial expressions and reactions. The more we can remain calm, the more they will talk. They are allowing us into their world because we are listening. The teen years are more about parents listening and coaching.
The infamous saying the “years fly by” was true. I heard that the discipline that I was doing during the first 5-10 years was an important foundation for the next 10 years. It was building trust and consistency that my Yes was yes and No was no. Then they became a teen and they were as tall as me and beginning to enter pre-adult life: driving, dating, peer pressure, college choices, etc. And yes, they would make mistakes and wouldn’t get it all right every time. But home should be a safety net and a place to learn from their mistakes. Parents want to say yes and give our teens the world. But more importantly, we want to know they can make good decisions for their future. And our teen wants to know we have the confidence in them to get it right as they become an adult!