One of the hardest challenges parents face when raising adolescents is… no it’s not Fortnite – although you could be forgiven for thinking that right at the moment. It’s navigating the all-too-painful shift so many of our children make as they transition away from our influence and towards their peers.
We all know this is normal, natural, and healthy. But sometimes the transition doesn’t feel it because of rebellion, or because of the choices their friends (and in turn, our teens) make. We see our children start to toy with behaviours and attitudes that are not always in harmony with the values we have taught them; values we know will stand them in good stead as they move through their adolescence and into adulthood.
A major developmental task of adolescence is to develop a sense of identity. This is accompanied by a shift away from parental influence. And at this point most parents hang on to their kids tightly. They start saying things like, “My house, my rules” or “My way or the highway!”
But power struggles are not inevitable. We can rely on more effective strategies for communicating with kids, even into their teens (and beyond). I call it the “Three Es of Effective Discipline”. We Explain. We Explore. We Empower.
Explaining means we spend time providing a clear rationale for our requests. It can feel time-consuming, but when our kids know why we want them to do something, they’re more likely to comply. If they roll their eyes, we can ask them to explain the rationale to us instead. That way we can spot any gaps in their knowledge… and there are always gaps.
Exploring means we see the world through their eyes. We take their perspective. We truly ‘get’ why this is a big deal to them.
Empower means we defer to them. We ask them how they think we can move forward, where we should go from here, or what they’d do if it were their younger sibling wanting to do what they’re asking.
We don’t always get a perfect result, but these discussions preserve respect, build our children’s discussion skills, and empower them to think for themselves in wise ways with our gentle scaffolding to support.
I’ll be expanding on these ideas in great detail on Wednesday 15 August when I visit Christ Church Grammar School, and I look forward to meeting the many already registered for a thought-provoking, entertaining, and impactful evening as we discuss how we can help your adolescent thrive – and you to survive!