September 6, 2021
Parenting Support: Teens, Positive Parenting, & Navigating the Change
Written by Clara Jennison
Parenting is hard.
It’s a simple, universal truth, but those teenage years are a whole other game. That is why we will be talking about why your teen seems crazy right now and how you can use positive parenting skills to work towards a better “normal” than whatever this is.
At the moment, your teen is going through a lot, and they will continue to do so for years. Also, they are often the most underrated age group out there.
For example, teenage rebellion is seen as pent-up angst and a useless pushback against authority for no reason. But research has shown us that it is so much more than that.
Your child has never been more stressed, pressured, or misunderstood in their lives. And we know now that your parenting skills need to evolve as your children age because teens rebel for particular reasons.
What makes this even more confusing for parents was how fast this change occurs.
It seems like just yesterday, they were a toddler stumbling around the house, saying things that made everyone laugh. Today, you don’t even recognize this person.
Positive Parenting Skills
As your child grows older, it can be confusing to see her appear more and more like an adult yet act in a way that feels more immature than ever before. You have a right to feel confused.
Maybe you even feel a sense of loss. Where did that loving, carefree child from a year ago run off to?
Did something happen while you weren’t paying attention? We can assure you that that is not the case.
During this entire phase of their life, change is happening around them and within them. There are social pressures, new friends coming, old friends going, puberty is weird, different school/teachers, and chemical changes, to name a few.
Despite change being a part of life, dealing with it can be challenging. Everything your teenager is undergoing is necessary to becoming a healthy, normal adult—but they are not an adult yet.
Our therapists recommend using positive parenting skills at this and every stage of your child’s life.
What is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting is a style known for being compassionate and patient yet firm when deemed necessary.
It creates and sustains a healthy relationship between you and your child. It involves things like guiding, teaching, and leading.
Some of the skills and qualities you’ll seek to cultivate in this process include listening, support, validation, and balance. Of course, as mentioned above, such qualities shift and evolve as both you and your child age.
Fundamentally, positive parenting is rooted in the belief that “all children are born good, are altruistic and desire to do the right thing.” Nowhere in there did it say that we think you should let your kids take advantage of you or others or practice poor behaviors because their “intention” was good.
It means that you “teach discipline in a way that builds self-esteem and supports a mutually respectful parent-child relationship without breaking the child’s spirit.” These skills can be learned and implemented at any time by anyone willing to put in the work.
9 Reasons for Teenage Rebellion
And we don’t know exactly what you and your child are facing today, but we do have a fair bit of experience working with kids who are overwhelmed. The following reasons are what we found to be the most common.
1. Social Pressures
The social pressure to fit in, and be a part of an identifiable group, isn’t silly to teenagers; it’s dire. The social drama that plays out in your teenager’s life is the stage on which they figure out who they are as a person.
And it’s pretty cutthroat. In front of you, their teachers, their friends, kids they don’t like, and kids they don’t know, they have to figure things out like their values, what they’re good at, what they like, and what they dislike.
Talk about intense. And if they dare to be different, they have to deal with the ramifications of that.
2. Environmental Influences
One of the most difficult things to experience as a parent is your child’s defiant assertions of independence as a teen. You might think that you have done something.
In truth, your child’s push away from her parents doesn’t necessarily have anything at all to do with you. They are learning who they are apart from you—something that’s just as hard for them as it is for you.
No matter who their friends are or what they see, that separation is going to happen. We don’t want our children to be children forever, so we need to support them through this time and give them the space to become who they are going to be.
3. Changes in Their Brain
Different parts of the brain mature at different rates. The mental center, which doles out rewards for behavior, is up and running before structures that will eventually help inhibit risky impulses.
In other words, when your teen considers a potential situation, reward speaks up, while consequence stays quiet. Scientists are also learning that the amygdala, the area of the brain processing fear, develops earlier than the area that allows your teen to reason and control her emotions.
What this means is that your newly unrecognizable teenager is likely experiencing more impulsivity and more anxiety than they have the tools to manage. Perhaps your teen becomes over-emotional during a conversation you view as perfectly normal.
Maybe you think the gravity they place on relationships at school or on a comment you made is disproportionate. Yet to them, the abundance of emotions–often fearful–she’s feeling is real.
If your teenager is making decisions that make you uncomfortable, it can help to understand that they don’t have the same faculties you use to weigh a potential action.
4. Discovering Who They Are
A very well-known reason why teens rebel is because they are discovering who they are as individuals. Adolescence is when teens are trying on different roles as they search to understand who they are.
That journey of discovery can mean completely transforming their identity or simply getting into an argument with their parents. It’s experimentation as the world begins to open up around them.
Remind yourself that your teen needs to differentiate herself from you. Keep in mind that some rebellion is normal and part of their development. Your child, like all of us, needs room to grow.
5. Learning to Speak for Themselves
For many teens, a little rebellion helps develop them into critical thinkers who are willing to ask questions. There are plenty of examples out there where teens have harnessed the energy of youth to fight injustice, create positive change in their communities, or challenge the status quo.
The motivation for this kind of rebellion can come from a desire for equity and fairness. These are actually positive qualities that can help parents guide their teens to learn how to become productive and engaging members of our society.
We ultimately want our children to look out for justice, so when you see this kind of behavior begin, don’t shy away from it.
6. Peer Influence
The influence of friends is another source of teen rebellion. Teens will resist authority if they know that they will gain acceptance from their peers.
For instance, breaking curfew to hang out with friends instead of being home on time. Again, some of this is part of the typical experience of growing up.
However, it becomes a problem when your teen prioritizes peer acceptance over the expectations of their parents. Perhaps look at your child’s relationship with you. Is it easier for them to be accepted by others than it is you?
7. Feeling Depressed, Fear of Emotions
Anger and teenage rebellion often have roots in sadness and even depression. Instead of communicating what they are feeling, it’s easier for a teen to lash out or shut down.
You may have found yourself in arguments that became really heated and personal; kids like to throw daggers. You may probably have touched a nerve (whether you realized it or not), and your teen is pushing back.
They want to be left alone and not have to face those emotions. Of course, the reaction makes sense, but it doesn’t help either of you in the long run.
Reacting back at them is only going to make the situation escalate further.
Some of the warning signs that your teen may have something more serious than the blues are:
- Showing less interest in his/her appearance.
- Seems to feel hopeless.
- Seems to hate him/herself.
- Seems indifferent about most things.
- Seems numb.
- Lacks energy.
- Talks or thinks about death and dying.
- Changes his/her sleeping or eating habits.
- Loses interest in his/her friends
- Stops caring about pets or cherished possessions.
- Has a sudden change in grades at school.
- Complains of extraordinary stress.
- Withdraws from people.
8. A Desire for Power and Control
If teens don’t feel that they have the power or control to make decisions in their lives, many will push back. They may not listen to direction, flaunt rules, and even minimize the adults in their lives who try to provide structure.
You can put them in controlled situations where they have the opportunity to take their own direction. Keeping them in situations where everything is determined by you or another adult will not help anything.
It’s also not going to teach them how best to decide for themselves, which you’ll want to prepare them for because that time is absolutely coming, whether you fight it or not.
9. Not Feeling They Belong
Everyone is allowed to be different, but not all situations or groups of people allow that. Feeling a part of something allows them to have a support system that they can rely on.
And sometimes teens feel they just don’t fit in, even in their own families. In these situations, it’s not enough to just tell them they belong. You have to show them.
Everyone wants to feel like they belong. So when teens don’t feel accepted by their parents, families, or peers, they will most likely rebel.
Positive Parenting Skills for Teens
When we have teenagers, anything can happen. But the most common things parents experience are a lack of communication; when there is any conversation, you are almost speaking different languages and general behavioral changes.
They are stepping out and trying things, and they do not want to talk to you about it. Drugs are becoming more available to them, the landscape of their social life is changing, grades are getting harder to maintain, they might start dating and having sex, and the internet has a bigger presence than ever.
Fundamentally, you will need to level with them and work to understand them through these changes. “It’s like my kid isn’t even in there, now.” Well, in some ways, they aren’t.
The foundation you built is there, but the structure is something new. We encourage parents to fuel the connection that will support your relationship these next few years.
You’ll have to ease off the reins, but don’t ever relent on loving them, accepting them, and letting them be this person developing in front of you.
The following contains nine positive parenting tips to enhance your relationship with your teen:
#1. Set a Good Example
With all of these inevitable changes come feelings of stress and anxiety. Often, these feelings can be overwhelming to both adults and children alike.
To best help your child deal with life’s challenges, it’s vital to productively cope with your own feelings. As a result, your child will take cues from you on how to feel better themselves.
Children, especially teens, can provide a fascinating look into your own feelings and behaviors. Your child will likely mirror the way you respond to emotional triggers and stimuli.
Be sure to set a good example of regulating your emotions, even when the situation may be difficult for you, too.
You can’t expect them to know how to do or be anything without showing them. If you want to communicate, you have to be a good communicator. If you want them to be loving, you have to show them how to be loving people.
When you are having difficult conversations, stay mature and in control of your emotions. Keep in mind that you are your teen’s rock. Be solid, strong, stable, and unconditionally forgiving.
#2. Be Supportive and Accepting & Foster Open Communication
As we have said, your child is going through a lot right now. They are learning, growing, and adapting every day. It’s important, if not imperative, for them to know that you have their back.
We see many parents come in with kids who don’t like to spend time with them, don’t want to communicate with them, and really resist their parent’s presence in their life. When we see this, we have to ask parents about what they are providing for their kids emotionally.
Yes, you feed them and house them, but do you support them? Are your interactions ending with underlying respect and acceptance?
Some questions to ask yourself:
- You want your kids to respect you. Do you respect your teen?
- You want your teens to listen to you, but are you taking the time to listen, really listen to them?
- You want your teens to communicate openly with you. Great, but are you providing space for them to feel free to do so?
Parents need to consider how they are interacting with their children. Ask yourself and your child if they feel accepted by you.
Are they looking for that acceptance somewhere else? Try to understand what are the negative sources of teenage rebellion among teens.
Not feeling accepted for who you are as a person is terribly alienating. But as parents, you can help counteract this feeling by reinforcing to your child that you accept and love them.
- Show them more about your family history and highlight commonalities between them and other family members. Let them know that your family wouldn’t be your family without them.
- Support their growth as an individual by talking to your teen about inspires, riles, or spurs them to get involved.
- Listen well and encourage them to champion a cause they believe in.
- Pay attention to the small things along with the significant things. If you are generally a good listener, your teen will be more likely to talk to you.
- Ask questions for clarification, but watch out for coming across as critical. If your teen sees your questions as disapproval, stop asking them.
- Expect your teen to change his mind frequently. Avoid commenting on the inconsistencies.
- Listen to and acknowledge your teen’s opinions and perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Watch your reaction to things your teen shares with you. If you react strongly, they may be less likely to be open in the future.
- Expect good things from your teen. This builds a self-esteem and emotional well-being.
#3. Offer Age-Appropriate Explanations
We aren’t talking about the kind of “age-appropriate” language you might be considering. We are asking you to level it up.
Sometimes, parents of teens want to shelter their kids from pain or hardship by softening the blow. A change comes, and they let their teen know what is happening, but it’s definitely the cookie-cutter version.
Change comes in all forms—a friend moving away, changing schools, divorce, relocation, a new teacher, parents changing jobs, etc. Keep in mind that your teen is developing into an adult who will constantly have to deal with changes they don’t like.
They will respond to these changes in their own unique way. Even in the same family, siblings respond differently.
To help them deal with change, try to explain exactly what will happen during the change. By “age-appropriate,” we mean, think about what they encounter at school, amongst their friends, and out in the world. They can handle less sugar coating and more hard facts.
Open, honest communication is a key step towards developing a more trusting relationship with your teen. You want them to know that they can come to you and get the truth.
#4. Put Your Ego Aside
There is little that will challenge you in life the way parenting does. But when those cute kids that just want to impress us care a bit less about our opinion, it hurts.
Very little of what they are going through has anything to do with you. Ultimately, they have a whole life removed from you, which is no easy to accept.
Positive parenting styles only work when respect is the foundation, and your teen is mostly hormones with little thought for anything other than what they are going through. You will have to accept that to some degree.
We are not advising that you let them hurt you, insult you, or walk all over you. Just remember that this is not about you.
#5. Stick to Your Routine
It may sound funny, encouraging you to stick to your routine. Nevertheless, any part of the routine you can stick to, do so.
Maybe a part of your daily routine is eating breakfast with your teen each morning. It may be possible for you to eat a little later and your child eat a little earlier, continuing to embrace that daily tradition.
As you may know, children and even teens thrive on routines. Sticking to as much of your old routine as possible instills a sense of security in your kid.
Although it may not seem significant to you, children perceive things differently, which may be incredibly important to them.
#6. Give Them Some Freedom
Your teen is trying to figure out who they are. They won’t be able to do that if everything is planned, mapped, and handled for them. There needs to be a good deal of choice and exploration involved. Relinquish some control.
It doesn’t have to be drastic and sudden. But we can guarantee that your future self will be glad you did this.
The day will come when they won’t have you to protect or guide them. You’ll want them to be able to handle not making their own decisions.
They may not be ready for the adult world and adult decisions, but you can help them gain wisdom and experience. Give them opportunities and options intentionally with teaching rather than controlling in mind.
Discuss appropriate choices as they get older while still maintaining firm expectations.
#7. Deal with Change Alongside Your Child
Positive parenting is a shared experience. Most importantly, be supportive of your child as they deal with change.
Some children are resilient, responding positively to change. Others have a more difficult time with it.
Whatever the case may be with your child, do what you can to emotionally uphold them as they learn to adjust. Remember to let them know that you’re in this life change together—bumps and all.
For example, if one of their friends moves away, practice empathy and compassion. Talk with your child about how they feel.
Validate their emotions and encourage them to express themselves by asking open-ended questions. Simply having a parent in their corner will uplift and help your child deal with change in profound ways.
#8. Have Boundaries
There is no way to raise a kid without laying down some boundaries. They are going to test limits, they probably have from the day they were born, but easing the path for them might bite you in the butt down the road.
Positive parenting is informed by a belief that our kids want to do the right thing. It is guiding, teaching, and supportive, but it is also firm.
In life, when you don’t do the right thing, sometimes even when you do, there are consequences. It would be best to enforce boundaries now rather than allow them to discover what they are down the road blindly.
Practicing positive parenting does not mean you act like nothing is wrong for the sake of an easier conversation with your teen. Consequences will exist, and they need to be familiar with them.
Pretending they don’t or placating them will only make things worse. If they cross a boundary, something needs to happen. Because without that kind of understand, the rest of their lives will be a lot harder than it needs to be.
#9. Spend Time with Them
We saved the best for last. Your child is experiencing rapid changes, and it’s important that they feel understood and connected to you.
Schedule time together regularly and work to develop common interests. Let them enjoy being with you.
If there are subjects that have been ailing your conversations, you might choose to set them aside for the day and give your teen space to have a day without worrying about what you’ll say regarding that thing.
Also, encouraging and partaking in healthy habits will be helpful too. You can develop hygiene and health-related habits together.
But remember the freedom aspect. Try to let the event, activity, or habit be something you both enjoy and want to do.
And always make it crystal clear that you are available for any conversations that need to happen. You don’t have to get into anything, but you are there if they need you.
Have You Considered Parenting Skills Support Groups?
No one said parenting would be easy, but if the skills we mentioned above still aren’t enough, there are always other options.
One thing you can be certain of is that you are not alone. Parents struggle, and sometimes, parents come together to help each other.
This is the dynamic behind Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) support groups. CPRT is an evidence-based parent education program. In a 10-week group setting, CPRT can help you:
- Tune into your child’s specific needs — emotional and developmental
- Refine your skills when it comes to discipline
- Become a better listener and communicator
- Normalize and accept that parenting is difficult
- Decrease stress
- Increase closeness with your child
Whether you prefer a group or individual setting, counseling can enhance and encourage your positive parenting skills. No one should always be expected to get things right.
Counseling CAN Help
What you are experiencing with your teen is very common. They are going to push back, they are going to fight, and they are absolutely going to rebel.
But everyone has a breaking point.
If it seems like you are past the point of no return, don’t lose hope. A therapist can help you and your teen work through the changes together and build a relationship more honest, open, and loving than ever before.
At Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX, we have therapists specializing in teen counseling and family therapy to help you get to the bottom of this and help you move forward. Call us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
You can also apply to our positive parenting support group here!