Teens are so fun to work with in therapy! They are actually one of my favorite types of counseling clients. Although, raising teens can feel not so fun because the bigger they are the harder they are to control.
Parenting should not center around power and control or else you will find yourself in a power struggle!
Power struggles are exhausting and inhibit you and your teen from connecting relationally. Here are some things to consider if you are wanting to make a shift in your house from power struggles to peace:
1. Brain development matters for your teen now as much as it did when they were babies. Understand basic brain development and the reason’s behind your teen’s behaviors will become clear and you will in turn take their actions and inactions less personally. Your teen’s brain functions differently than yours. You have a fully developed brain and you are able to access the prefrontal cortex which enables you to make well thought out decisions. Your teen’s amygdala is quite active which is a part of the brain that processes emotions, so their decision making is expected to be more emotion based.
2. Feeling seen and heard increases the quality of any relationship. Empathize with your teen. Empathy does not equate to agreement at all. Empathy is the ability to understand where your teen may be coming from and simply reflecting it back to them. For example, maybe your 16 year old wants to go to a concert and hour away with her boyfriend. You could say something like, “I understand that it is an event you really want to go to and you are really into your boyfriend. It makes sense that you feel like you are missing out.” If you really think about it, much of what your teen feels is emotionally logical. It really does make sense that a teen, who’s brain feels everything extra, would have an intense feeling of FOMO when missing a concert with the BF. When a person is seen and heard, no matter the age, it feels good. You will never convince your child to be happy about missing out in some way but they will appreciate feeling seen and heard by their mom and dad.
3. Let go of the idea of control. Never in your life will you be able to control anyone, including your child at any age. Whatever they do, they are making a choice to do so. Shift from control to having discussions with your child about expectations, boundaries and consequences. Teens are actually quite reasonable when accessing their reasonable mind. Actually, humans in general are quite reasonable when they are not put on the defensive by dictatorship. If you talk to your teen and expect them to understand and create an atmosphere where they start buy in to the flow of life your life will in turn become MUCH easier. For example, if your teen would benefit from being on their electronics less because they are missing out on their sleep talk about the importance of sleep. Ask questions and collaborate on how to solve the problem, Teens have an awareness around needing boundaries put in place by their parents and will be surprisingly cooperative when they are allowed in to the boundary making process.
4. Educate yourself and your teen. The rules parents put into place are hopefully not something meant to torture rather to guide. Although, your teen may feel otherwise! Educate yourself and your teen about the brain, drugs, relationships, time management, anxiety, depression, etc. so they can begin to understand the why and the real science behind the boundaries you provide.
This may all sound very Pollyanna or utopian to you if this is not an approach you are used to. I completely understand because I used to be a strung out, anxious and abrasive parent. Yes, me. I promise you, these adjustments will work but also take time for you to grasp and for your child to respond to. Any change takes at least 30-90 days to really take hold. It helps to read books like Never Split The Difference, and The Teen Brain.
Have patience with yourself.