By Purvi S. Mody
Being a parent is probably the most challenging role that a person can take on, and being the parent of a teenager can take stress to epic proportions. Working with so many families throughout the years, I have seen examples of parenting that I hope to aspire to. So this week, I reached out to several families whose children are graduating or are already in college to give my readers some tips to get through the high school years.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Teens have the capacity to chat with ten of their closest friends at a time, while updating their Facebook with their most intimate thoughts and secrets, but as soon as a parent walks in the room, the ability to communicate dwindles down to a couple of shrugs. It is not always easy to talk to a teen, but let your child know that you are there to listen as much as you are there to guide
Understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Your child is a still a work in progress, so allow them to not be perfect. Applaud her for her strengths and gently point out areas where she can improve and give her the tools to do so. This does not always mean shelling out big bucks. It can be as simple as quizzing her on vocabulary, having her practice a speech in front of you, or giving her a quick tutorial on how to use Outlook so that she can manage her time.
Don’t compare your child to others.
Teens hate to be compared to one another. And while you might compare your child to motivate her, you may have exactly the opposite reaction. She might rebel against the behavior you want her to model. When talking about positive attributes of others, recognize your child’s strengths as well. This is especially true if that model citizen or scholar is a sibling.
Teach your child to be independent.
A past student of mine was not allowed to walk anywhere – school, the park, or even a friend’s house down the same suburban street. By the time he was a Senior, he was so afraid of change that he insisted on only applying to colleges at which he could live at home. In the end he sacrificed the chance to experience new ways of life and growth for comfort.
While this might seem like an extreme example, I so often see parents taking charge of their child’s schedule, checking their grades online daily, or talking to teachers on the child’s behalf over minor issues. Let your child be in charge. It will build his confidence and your confidence in him.
Encourage your children to excel at more than just academics.
While academics are important, it is just as vital to teach your child to pursue his hobbies and curiosities. Doing so will help him to develop into a well-rounded and fulfilled individual.
Don’t criticize your child publicly.
I have had parents tell me that their child is dumb or lazy when he or she was sitting in the same room. I have had parents say that their child’s interests are not worthy. I have had parents say that their child will not amount to anything and will have to be supported his whole life. I keep a box of tissue in my office for exactly these types of moments, which are not as rare as I would like. Your child looks to you first for support and affirmation. While I don’t believe that you must always agree with your child’s decisions, support and encourage him publicly and share your concerns privately. Your child will be less willing to come to you if he is afraid of your reaction.
Parenting, while challenging, should also be fulfilling. And while the gratification may not be immediate, one day, your child will appreciate all that you have done.
Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the country and internationally to achieve their educational goals. Get in touch with her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @InsightEduc.