Parenting your child through the adolescent years can be tricky, even when their level of experimentation and defiance fits within normal boundaries. You have to walk the line between letting them develop independence and make their own mistakes while also being the failsafe between them and consequences that could be life altering. When your teen is struggling with an issue like depression, anxiety, defiance, anger or substance abuse, it can be even more difficult to get through to him.
The phrase ‘tough love’ is often used in reference to parents and their children because it encompasses the intent to do what is best for them in the long run, even if it causes stress or unhappiness in the meantime. Most teens require tough love on a regular basis because of the generally combative relationship they share with their parents during the adolescent years. Parents should strive to make the most of these years because they are a formative and important part of becoming an adult, after which parents have far less influence. There are a few strategies to follow when it comes to implementing the kind of tough love that will be effective:
- Be Clear – One of the best ways you can get on the same page with your teen is to make sure that he is clear on what is expected of him and what the consequences are when he breaks the rules. Some parents find it helpful to write these down, so they and their teen can refer to the discussion when issues arise.
- Be Calm – Anyone dealing with a teen knows how hard it can be to hold their temper when provoked, however, yelling and fighting will only give your child the power in the argument and give him a feeling of controlling the situation. When you can, be calm and when you can’t, walk away until you can pull yourself together. If nothing else, your behavior will be a good example for how he should react to frustrating situations.
- Be Consistent – Your teen will not forget if his sulking, whining or wheedling has worked to change your rulings in the past and being inconsistent with the rules you have laid out will only make parenting harder. It’s tempting to give in sometimes, but teens (especially those that are troubled) need to know what to expect. Being consistent may make him mad in the moment, but will ultimately help him see you as a safe place because you are predictable.
- Be Curious – The urge to simply avoid your teen every time he talks back or acts out is tempting, especially when you are emotionally exhausted, but keep in mind that most teens don’t struggle without a reason. Tough love parents should be constantly interested and curious about what their teen is doing, who he is hanging out with and what interests him at the moment. Demanding information isn’t helpful, but making sure that he knows you love him too much to not know what is going on in his life is crucial.
- Be Caring – During the tumultuous adolescent years, you may not like your child temporarily, even if you know you love him. Because of this, it is important to remember to take moments to put your arm around him, be complimentary or remind him that you love him. He needs to hear it and you need to say it in order to recall that there is more to him than the behavior he is showing.
For more information on ways that you can help your troubled teen, please visit our site at Sundance Canyon Academy.