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13 Ways You Might Be Ruining Your Relationship with Your Teenager

One evening my sons came home with the same exclamation, "It's amazing how many kids hate their parents!" We talked for an hour or so about why, and I've interviewed several teenagers over the last few months for further clarity.

The good news: most teenagers are very forgiving of parental missteps; they recognize their own faults and readily forgive others'. Even better, in a healthy relationship, teenagers love you for who you are. Yes, they might act embarrassed when you hug them in front of their friends or even drop them off in front of the high school. But they really don't care if you're overweight, frumpy or wear outdated clothes.

Even the best of us will recognize our own failings in the following list, but look at it as an opportunity to improve rather than berate yourself. All relationships take work, but your communications with your teenager can be lifesaving. The largest problems can be solved when you have a good relationship, but even the smallest problems can cause disaster when your interactions are filled with tension.

1. Not Listening

Years ago, I heard invaluable advice: "Once your child reaches the age of 13 or 14 they know your opinion of everything under the sun. Your job from now on is to shut up and listen." I remember feeling a bit defensive the first time I heard this counsel. I had so much knowledge yet to share! And besides, things change—how would I offer my wisdom on future problems? But there's the crux of it all. Things change. As adults, we think we know all about the teenage world, but our swiftly moving planet has spun beyond our intimate knowledge of the '70s, '80s, '90s. And here's what I've learned: when you take the time to listen, truly listen, your kids will ask your opinion.

2. Criticizing Excessively

I think we all know the evils of fault-finding, but in parenting, criticism (to some degree) is a necessary evil. Parent to child is one of the very few relationships where you do need to offer correction. It's our job to teach kids to comb their hair, take out the garbage, do their homework, etc. Censure should be given kindly and sparingly. No one can handle a barrage of disapproval; especially teenagers. And remember, kids are criticized all day by teachers and peers; home should be a haven of acceptance and love (as well as occasional reminders to trim their fingernails).

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