4. Counsel but don't control.
Most parents would love to be able to transfer their own set of guiding principles, developed through the years from both bitter and sweet experiences, to their teenage children. But young people must internalize their own beliefs, values, and ideas. Physical maturation, life experiences, influences of trusted friends and teachers, coupled with loving parental guidance, all contribute toward making teenagers who they are.
[Here are] suggestions as to how parents can maximize their influence on their teenager’s emerging personality. One of the most important things parents can do to foster maturity is to help their teen develop emotional independence.
Don’t Withdraw Love or Induce Guilt
The first suggestion for fostering psychological independence is a “thou shalt not.” Most parents discover that withdrawing love and inducing feelings of guilt are effective ways to control the behavior of their children. But children, particularly teenagers, would rather take a beating or lose privileges than have their parents withdraw their love, acceptance, and association. . . .
Guilt induction and love withdrawal may be highly effective in controlling behavior in the short term, but they have devastating long-term consequences on young people’s feelings about themselves and their abilities to manage their lives.
Encourage Children to Share Feelings, Opinions, and Ideas
One important thing that parents can do is to create a supportive environment in which they invite their children to share ideas. Time should be set aside for the family to gather and discuss what is going on in each other’s lives. The mood should be relaxed and supportive so that teenagers feel comfortable and confident in sharing ideas and feelings. Dinnertime, family home evening, rides up the canyon, family service projects, and similar activities offer an opportunity for this type of environment.
Accept Your Child’s Ideas and Opinions
Occasionally children may say something or express a feeling that is totally off the wall. We may wonder how our own flesh and blood could express such a stupid or outlandish idea. The real test of effective parenting at such times is to bite our tongue and fight the temptation to put teens in their place, letting them know in no uncertain terms that their idea is unacceptable.
If we react with, “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” we will soon discover that our children will not be willing to share ideas and feelings. We need to remember that children are children—whether they are nine or nineteen—and allow them time to grow and mature.
Help Your Teenager Explore Ideas and Consequences
Once parents have calmly listened to their children’s ideas, feelings, opinions, or perceptions, they should focus on why they feel or believe as they do. “That is an interesting idea. Why do you believe that?” is one way to continue dialogue. Questions such as “What if everyone felt that way or believed that?” will encourage youth to think about the consequences of their ideas. Within the context of such a discussion, parents should share their feelings, ideas, and opinions and why they feel or believe as they do. Relevant experiences from mother and father add insight to a topic. Such discussions provide ideal settings to teach values and principles consistent with the gospel.
For more powerful tips and tools to help your relationship with your children, check out 10 Secrets Wise Parents Know: Tried and True Things You Can Do to Raise Faithful, Confident, Responsible Children.
When it comes to raising your children, how do you know what works? One way is to go to the kids themselves and ask them, which is exactly what researchers and authors Brent L. Top and Bruce A. Chadwick have done. Based on a major, 10-year study they conducted with more than 5,000 LDS teens and an additional 1,000 young adults, they have honed in on 10 parenting principles that surfaced again and again in the happiest families.