How do I bring up teens successfully?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My son is 16, he is a very intelligent boy but does not do that well at school, he gets mainly C’s. He can be very moody and is grumpy a lot of the time. My husband and I try and encourage him but we are told we are controlling. We both think he spends far too much time on the computer and his mobile phone which he cannot be without! I think he is addicted to games on the computer He is very independant – meaning he feels and thinks he should be allowed to do what he wants to do when ever he wants to. He doesn’t really cause any real trouble, just minor things like not doing homework, forgetting things etc. but can be nasty to me or my daughter.

My daughter is 12 and a has just changed schools as she is in Middle School now. She is experiencing some problems with friends as they are “catty” and say things behind her back. She is soft hearted but won’t really talk to me, I just want to teach her and protect her.

I have read many articles about teenagers and I really do not know how they tick. I just really want to know if I have hang-ups from my childhood which shaped my personality and my husband has his own hangups; one being a distant father-son relationship, how can we bring up our kids to be happy, well adjusted and successful poeple? I am terrified of doing the wrong thing – what is the right thing?

I am an honest person and tell my kids the way I see it, I try to be open about things but they do not usually come to me with there problems, I usually find out about it later via a neighbour or an incident! I have told them they can talk to me about anything and ask me anything.

I am very loving and affectionate with my kids, I kiss them goodbye every day and good-night every night, tell them I love them at least once a day – sort of give them what I never had, that is basically my only compass, whatever I got I don’t want my kids to experience that!!! Is that enough? I really worry that I am so clueless and am doing the wrong thing, I only want to do the right thing by them, not hinder them. Thanks!

A: Unfortunately for us parents, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. We all do the best we can and hope, hope, hope that love and our best is enough. Usually it is – eventually. In the meantime, perfectly normal teens go through periods where they detach from us, where they are embarrassed by us, where they make it clear that we are the last people they will talk to — all while wanting us to take them places and provide things for them. The teen years are a crazy time!

I like your compass. Sometimes a really bad example is actually a good one in that it tells us clearly how we don’t want to be. Your honesty, openness, and love seem to be working. You’ve got essentially good kids who sound pretty typical.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t need you to be maybe a little more assertive about the things that concern you. Internet and text addiction are real problems these days. If you think computer gaming is taking too much of your son’s time, I want to remind you that you are his parent. You can limit the number of hours he spends on the computer by insisting that he take part in other activities as well in order to gain access to it. There is no law that you have to provide him with a cell phone either. If his use of minutes is astronomical, you can also put him on a “minute diet” with only so many minutes paid for per month. After that, it’s up to him. If he has to pay for the minutes, he may be more careful with them.

If you think your daughter is being mistreated or bullied by the other kids in her school, I urge you to talk to the administration about what they are doing to make sure that bullying isn’t tolerated. All kids deserve to feel safe. It can be tough for a kid to be the “new kid.” Please talk to the school counselor about what the school and you can do to help her transition in. If she knows you are talking to her school, she’ll probably be upset with you. That’s okay. Sometimes we have to upset our kids in order to keep them safe. The bonus for her is that she can complain to the other kids about how lame you are – which will win her instant sympathy by some of the other girls.

If you’re still feeling shaky, you might want to see if there is a parent support group at either of the kids’ schools or sponsored by a local church or agency. There’s nothing quite as reassuring as talking with other parents who have the same age kids. The collective wisdom of the group is often what we need to get us through the rough spots.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 May 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). How do I bring up teens successfully?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/12/how-do-i-bring-up-teens-successfully/