Over the years, thousands of parents have asked us how they can get their teens to make better decisions on their own. We listen carefully and really try to get a grasp on their situations before offering any type of advice. And while each situation is completely different and unique to the people in that situation, there is one big common denominator that is present in every – yes every – situation. Lack of listening! Not just on the part of the teens – we’re talking about the parents too!
There is a huge difference between hearing someone speak and actually listening to what they are saying. Most people want to be listened to, not just heard. That goes for parents and teens. Many parents want the words they speak to be respected and understood, but fail to really listen to what their teens have to say. Teens are guilty of exactly the same type of behavior! Everyone wants to be listened to…they just fail to listen to others.
Just to clarify things, listening is not the same thing as hearing. The truth is that listening = understanding. Your teen may be upset that they are not allowed to go to a concert with their friend, and while they still need to obey your rules, they also need to understand your reasoning. They do not have to agree with it, they just need to attempt to understand your reasoning. Many parents live under the “just do what I say”, or the, “I don’t need to explain myself to my kids” mentality without trying to help their teens understand why these rules are in place to begin with. This can cause future problems in ways you may not expect.
Teens who have “strict” parents often grow up and vow to raise their children with much less rules and structure – less “strictness”. The result of this lack of structure can be a new generation of teens who have no rules to live by, or feel that their parents don’t care enough about them to impost any rules for them to live by. Parents originally perceived as “strict” may actually have good reason for the rules they impose. But by refusing to share logic and reasoning with your teens when you are parenting them, teens just hear you say “no”. If you truly want your teens to make better decisions on their own, share your logic and reasoning with them…even if they do not agree with it at the time. It will pay off as they mature and end up raising children of their own one day who have a greater understanding of expectations and logic…which results in teens who make better decisions on their own. Take the time to help your teens gain a better understanding of your reasoning, and listen to theirs as well.
Remember that explaining yourself does not mean that your teen has to agree with your reasoning. You are not asking for permission to make rules, you are simply explaining why the rules are in place to begin with. At the same time, it is important for you – the parent – to listen (understand) your teen and why they want to go to that concert to begin with. Understanding is the key to better relationships. If you can set aside your “I don’t have to explain myself” pride, and try to help your teens understand why you make the rules you make, they will be much more effective decision makers as they mature.