Remember back in school when the teacher handed out the test and you just knew you hadn’t studied hard enough? You wished she would allow a cheat sheet with the basic formulas. Man, that would have been helpful. Parenting tweens or teens can feel like a test you’re not prepared for, too, and there are many days you’ll find yourself wishing for a parenting cheat sheet.
Well, good news—for this test, you don’t have to keep your eyes on your own paper! We can work together. And, better news, we’ve got a quick-reference, save-your-sanity, keep-your-patience cheat sheet for you. This parenting cheat sheet has 5 shortcuts for understanding and dealing with how your tweens and teens think.
1. Make your boundaries clear.
Your teens and tweens likely will push back against your standards. That’s normal. Child expert Dr. Haim Ginott said to make sure your children know that your boundaries aren’t arbitrary, but are “anchored in values and aimed at character-building.”
Focus on redirecting your child’s actions as they relate to your standards; don’t focus on changing their opinions. Remember, tweens and teens are still really new at life, their brains aren’t fully developed, and they aren’t good at cause and effect yet. Let them know your boundaries exist for their own safety and wellbeing—but don’t expect them to like it.
2. Don’t squash their dreams.
When your teens open up to you about their dreams, listen without judgment. Don’t point out why it won’t work or how it’s unrealistic. Try to see what attracts your children to their dreams. If they start taking action to make the dream come true, then you can start talking to them. Address the actions, not the wishes.
3. Respect their opinions and attitudes.
We don’t have to agree with our tweens and teens, but we can always treat them with respect in the way we talk to them. Avoid sarcasm as much as possible. If they say something outlandish, avoid saying something like, Oh, right, you’re the expert. Instead, you can say, We disagree on this, but I want to hear what you think. Or, I see that we have different views on this. I see it this way…
4. Be strict with unacceptable behavior.
Again, don’t micromanage what teens or tweens feel or say they want. They’re learning and growing. But, when their behavior becomes unacceptable, redirect, and restate what you expect and tell them that you base the rules on your family’s values.
5. Be willing to be disliked.
There will be times when our tweens and teens won’t like us. Parents have to make choices that we know will protect our kids in the short run and build character in the long run. As long as we are firm but kind, avoid sarcasm, and respect their feelings, they’ll like us again—one day!
Parents have to make choices that we know will protect our kids in the short run and build character in the long run.
What would you add to a parenting cheat sheet for tweens and teens?