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Parenting Teenagers - Playing The Freedom Game And Winning

Oct 28, 2007
Do you have a teenager who is begging for more freedom? Are you uncertain how much freedom is too much during the teen years? Parenting teenagers requires a parent to walk a fine line between boundaries and letting go. Out of four children, I am currently parenting my third teenager and I'd like to share some simple guidelines that will soothe your parental anxieties and help your home life be calmer.

-- Know your teen.

It's easy to say everyone is different; it's more difficult to describe, in detail, those differences. You will find parenting teenagers less-stressful and your teen will respond better to you if you spend serious time knowing your teenager.

Yes, this is called relationship and it's spelled T-I-M-E. There's nothing new here. But are you doing this? Are you building the relationship with your teenager that will last a lifetime? Here's a little test: think of your two best friends. Calculate how much time you spend weekly with each, whether in person, on the phone, or online. How does that amount of time stack up with what you give your teen?

Another worthwhile relationship test is to think about who knows you the best in the whole world. Who would you trust to go to when you have a problem? You want your teen to think of you in this way. If you're not there, start building that today.

-- Acquiring freedom is a process. Not an event.

Once you feel you have an accurate understanding of your teen, you can measure his or her maturity levels. This will tell you a lot about the amount of freedom your young adult is ready for. If the maturity level is still young, give limited freedom. Be intentional about helping your teenager grow appropriately and add the desired freedoms at each level.

-- Practice. Learn from failures. Repeat.

That's the simple formula for parenting teenagers into the adult world. It's the way we all grow and develop. Be your teen's mentor for this process (as opposed to being their best friend). Support and encourage them; go over where they failed and together strategize on new solutions they can try.

-- Look ahead.

In our home, we look to the future and project, approximately, when our teenagers are going to be leaving home. For us, usually that's college age. They need to be able to handle a considerable amount of freedom (be pretty much independent) by the time they leave home. Then we work backwards and start looking for ways to grow them into that much freedom step by step.

Since all teenagers are different, we've needed to be flexible in the 'how' not the 'what'. We've had one teen who was always ahead of the process. He wanted total freedom upfront. So we established boundaries (guidelines) he had to meet to EARN the freedoms he eagerly wanted, one at a time. As he displayed the responsibility necessary to achieve those guidelines, we rewarded him with more freedom and explained the new boundaries at each level.

Another of our teens needed coaxing to move forward. So we looked for strategies that would increase his self-confidence and cause him to look forward with excitement. Again, boundaries were discussed and implemented. He blossomed quickly when he discovered he was in charge of his own future. We were simply there to support, guide and provide a safety net (plus a whole lot of cheerleading).

Parenting teenagers is an exciting thrill ride that can be highly satisfying as you watch your young adult mature and be ready to face the world. As a parent you are building the future in vital ways through your influence in your teen's life. As you stand up to that honorable challenge, your teen will respond to your leadership.

That's when you realize you truly have built a wonderful relationship with your teenager.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and learn more about parenting teenagers today.
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