Kaya Drive: Parenting teenagers, is not the minefield you think it is

parenting teenagers
Image: Ian Dooley Unsplash

By: Natasha Archary 


Parenting teenagers is often called a minefield that needs careful navigating but it doesn’t need to be.

They’re no longer taking wobbly steps towards you, if anything, every action seems to take them further away from you. You’ve survived the sleepless nights, toddler tantrums and have now graduated to the “annoying parent” stage. Well done, you are now raising a teenager or tween.

There’s a difference yes, a few years below the thirteen that is required to be a teenager, a tween is slightly younger between the ages of ten and twelve but equally as fiesty.

This afternoon on Kaya Drive with Sizwe Dhlomo, the team broached the topic on teenagers and it was a broad approach, enquiring about whether listeners were difficult teens or raising them.

Listen to the teams’ perspective here:
Parenting teenagers

According to Carl. E Pickhardt, Ph.D, teenagers and adult conflicts arise due to adolescent rebellion. Teenagers seem to have two common types of rebellion: one against social norms and fitting in and the second against adult authority. Yes, parents have everyone’s best interests in mind when rules are set and boundaries laid out but the biggest conflict arises when there’s a lack of trust.

Parents are protective and rightly so, with so many social ills affecting our children today how can one expect parents not to be? It’s one thing to be protective and another to show that you don’t quite trust your teens’ judgement just yet. Be it worrying about the friends they keep, a change in behaviour or just not believing a word out of your child’s mouth, means that you can expect to be met with their backs against the wall.

Rebellion does make your role as a parent more tricky. How do you set up a structured home environment or provide guidance and supervision when your teenager rebels against that very foundation? This experimental phase does come with its own risks and self-destructive behaviour does need to be curbed. But how?

Allow your teenagers to own their independence

When parenting teenagers remember just one thing. Independence. They want to be given an opportunity to figure things out for themselves. Parents on the other hand who have made their fair share of mistakes in their teen lives, project this onto their kids and in turn, it only alienates your child. A teen who is attempting something difficult (read: outrageous) or impossible in your eyes, needs support more than judgement.

This is a step that many parents get wrong. A teenager who is engaging with a parent on these challenges doesn’t want you to try to transform these challenges or “show them the way.” No, they want your support.

Parents want things done their way and often a teen acting out is not rebellion against the parent, it’s just directed towards them. The teenage years are a hodge podge of mixed emotions and hormonal, pubescent changes, a confusing time indeed. They’re dealing with a lot, so instead of enforcing the rules, which are bound to be broken anyway, switch up your approach and instead offer, “Can you help me understand what you need?”

When parenting a teen, a little compassion and understanding go a long way. You have to deal with being unwanted and the awkward silences and as difficult as it is, you’ll have to let the consequences of their actions play out. Isn’t that how lessons are learnt?

Listen to Kaya Drive listeners share their experiences on parenting teenagers:

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