Parents of teens sometimes see their position of parental authority disappear as their children grow. A 16-year-old is beginning to see her ability to act freely, especially because she can now legally drive. While it’s natural for parents to feel less in control, this phenomenon is not one you should just accept. Teens need the assistance of parents in developing a sense of respect for rules and boundaries. By learning and engaging in effective strategies to counter out-of-bounds behavior, you teach your teens to not only respect the rules of the house but to respect their own ability to meet their parents’ expectations.
Avoid being a know-it-all. Instead, express interest in your teen’s life without giving her your opinion on what she’s doing. A teen will lose respect for her parents when she finds her parents believing that they know what teens go through. Because a teen believes her life is unique, she will often react negatively and rebelliously to information that comes from what she considers to be know-it-alls. According to Psychologist Michael Riera, author of the book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” giving unsolicited advice or trivializing a teen’s problems will only push a teen further away. To keep your teen close, keep an open mind and ask many questions.
Maintain your position of authority. Do not pretend to be your teen’s friend, as doing so will make him lose respect for you as a parent. By making your role in the family salient, you indirectly remind your teen that you have the final say and control in decision-making and other family issues.
Engage your 16-year-old in cooperative decision-making. Rather than doing the decision-making for him or simply giving him advice and letting him have free reign, talk through important decisions with your teen. Often, a parent’s feeling that his teen is out of control is more out of a lack of cooperation than anything else. To many parents, “loss of control” or “growing apart” just means their teens aren’t involving them in life decisions. But because teens will rarely be proactive in calling you into joint decision-making meetings, you must be the proactive one. Find a good time and place to sit down with your teen and thoroughly discuss important decisions with him.
Emphasize your family rules and expectations. Joint decision-making might help you set the rules more easily, but you have to be the one who accentuates the importance of following through with decisions. When your teen becomes hard to deal with, bring up the reasons behind the rules and values of your family, stressing the benefits that come with adhering to a decision made. For example, if you and your teen agreed that she would have one day with her friends on the weekend and one day with the family, reiterate the reasoning behind the agreement if your teen attempts to ditch the family on family day. Highlight the importance of the life skills of following through with decisions and meeting expectations. According to Neuroscientist Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, of the Brain Imaging Laboratory in McClean Hospital, teens are not as capable as adults when it comes to self-regulation; they are more likely to give up long-term benefits for immediate pleasure. This is why your role as a parent is so important in the teen years.