If you’re a parent of teenagers or preteens, you’re probably very worried about their transition from cute kid to terrifying teenager. Perhaps you’re seeing this metamorphosis take place already. They often land into adulthood all right, but it’s hard to feel like you’re not making a mistake at every turn. When they hit the terrible teens, they get a mind of their own and start throwing around their weight. Y’all, I struggled through this, but I found that distilling the mistakes to avoid when raising a teen into a couple of concepts was helpful. Here’s hoping they help you too.
Being Too Afraid of Their Failure
I looked into my oldest daughter’s eyes the day she was born, and my first thought was “I don’t want you to ever be sad.” I felt so protective of her, but later I tried to protect her by doing everything for her. By the time she was a teen, I was still in the habit of telling her how to do her homework. I wasn’t letting her fail because I didn’t remember how valuable failure was for me. For example, I struggled to have confidence when learning to drive until, thanks to my patient dad, I learned from my little driving missteps. There are many considerations when teaching your teen driving skills, but it’s especially important to get your hand off the wheel and let them take control like my dad did, though it’s frightening. This principle applies in all kinds of situations. Preventing failure is a surefire way to get them to fail later in life. When they do inevitably fail at something without preparation, they’ll also find it harder to rebound.
Letting Them Discover Things Themselves
Another mistake to avoid when raising a teen is not inserting yourself into their lives more. At times I was afraid that my kids would shut down if I tried to ask them about their private lives. What I found, though, and this seems relatively universal, is that keeping a casual but honest dialogue going allows parents to better guide their teens. Making yourself available builds trust, and when there’s trust, you can demystify sensitive topics they’re concerned about by talking about them. When you’re the one talking about them, you can also make sure they get your perspective before their peers’.
Focusing Too Much on Not Making Mistakes
As a send-off, my last parenting mistake is focusing too much on not making a mistake. There are so many lists of ways parents go wrong—strive instead to define your parenting, not by the negatives you avoid but the relationship you’re building with your teen. Praise the heck out of their accomplishments. When you’re disciplining them, make it clear you care about their character. Voice how they’ve grown or navigated a tough situation with wisdom. Praising them at their best will help them trust you more when they’re at their worst during adolescence, which will make their teenage struggles easier to bear—for both of you.