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  • Writer's pictureJohn Clymore

Guiding Our Teens

As a parent or caregiver there comes a time when your role as a rule-maker becomes more of a guide. There are times when we must hold our adolescents accountable. During adolescence it is important we allow our children to make choices but still be safe. Sometimes those choices are not the best. This means there will be consequences when negative choices are made. As difficult as it can be, we have to let our teenagers make these choices. For us as parents, the best guidance we can provide is to employ strategies that include being supportive and having empathy, while still having structure.
When a poor decision is made there are many actions we want to take. This can range from hugging them to grounding them for life. There were many times as a parent, I wanted to yell and sometimes I did. What I found is I needed to compose myself before making any decisions on consequences. Below are a few examples of healthy discipline and things to consider when guiding your adolescent into adulthood.
Here are a few guidelines:
1) Have rules and expectations with consequences. For example, “do not lie.”
2) Consequences can mimic real world experiences of breaking rules but also be a teaching opportunity.
3) Give calm consequences. Take time to calm down before giving consequences. Let your teen focus on words, not behaviors you are showing. You should do this in a private conversation. Having an audience can create shaming and resentment.
4) Grounding can be an effective tool but make sure we are not isolating our teens. Isolation can contribute to depression.
5) Behavior does not define your teen. Do not forget to acknowledge the good. Even when we do wrong, we all need to hear that we are not bad people.
6) Do not lecture. You should give information but make sure we are not repeating or name calling.
7) Give clear expectations. Often, I hear parents say, “until you earn my trust back.” The problem is neither the parent nor the teen knows what that looks like or even how to begin. Have some examples.
8) Do not forget to let your teen teens know that you love them, just not the behavior.
Remember that adolescence can be a very challenging time. Your child is experiencing mental, physical, emotional, and social changes. There will pressures to use substances and potentially have sex. As parents or caretakers, we want to be the people our teens come to when they have questions. These are only a few examples of navigating healthy discipline. Remember we are parents, but we can make mistakes too. Give yourself permission to apologize if you do make a mistake. These years are challenging for parents too. If you need additional support with learning to parenting your teen, contact a licensed therapist for support.
By: John Clymore
LCSW, LSCSW
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