When embraced and utilized consistently, they allow parents to work smarter, not harder, in guiding teenagers to make positive and tangible changes in their lives.
1) Be present. Position yourself as an advocate and an as-needed co-pilot as opposed to an authoritarian micromanager. Listen. Absorb. Question, but doesn't solve. Use reliable proximity to build trust and break down invisible communication barriers. Achieve this by carving out "safe spaces" in your typical interactions with teenagers free from conflict-inducing topics. Avoid discussing school achievements and to-do lists while in the car, on the way to school, at dinner, or when they first walk in the door from school, practice or rehearsal. Give teenagers time to be. To breathe. To decompress. If they expect confrontation (however subtle) when they see you, they will undoubtedly shut down and avoid your presence in their life.
2) Be pragmatic. If your teenager seems less than inspired or motivated, take a slow approach to help them self-correct rather than zipping in to save the day. Embark on a fact-finding mission to discover and explore the layers of your teen's life. Aspects to consider include their educational environment, friendships, habits, notable mistakes, and commendable successes. By helping your teen self-assess their current state of being, and how they arrived at this current reality, it's easier to help them formulate both short-term and long-term goals. Information is power and by proceeding strategically, using an approach free of judgment, a treasure trove of useful information and data points from which to proceed is garnered.
3) Be pliable. The predictable thing about teenagers is that they are unpredictable. Where one teenager may thrive, another may exhaust themselves simply trying to survive. It's important to maintain flexible and nimble footing when approaching and addressing teenagers. Forget what's worked or not for older siblings or neighbors. Be mindful of what worked for the teen at hand in the past, but not solely. Previous school years can feel like an eternity-ago to adolescents, and constantly rehashing the old interferes with the new. When strategies or interventions fail, resist frustration-fueled fits and keep looking for a solution. One is out there, and you will find it!
4) Be proactive. The best defense is a good offense, and it's long past due for parents to abandon the "not my kid" philosophy. It's well documented that the teenage mental health crisis is increasing in both its vigor and veracity. Visits to the therapist should be similar to trips to the dentist: minimally twice per year. Simply waiting to see a dentist when your child has a cavity is as ineffective as waiting to take them in for a wellness visit until they have fallen into an abyss of significant mental health symptoms. Mental health professionals are an amazing resource in teaching teenagers to self-address their trials and tribulations while learning coping skills that will be useful for the rest of their lives.
5) Be patient. Teenagers develop and find their strengths and hit their strides at different times. Grant them the gift of patience. Strengths and talents are not always packaged as a 4.0 GPA or making a Varsity sports team. Some of the greatest gifts teenagers present to the world will never be in-step with social norms. Simply stated, there is far too much emphasis placed on the credentials of teenagers as students, and not enough on teenagers as people of character and compassion. While resume line-items have validity, they are not the defining characteristics that determine a teenagers potential as an adult. By initiating the five steps, and consistently weaving them into your parenting toolkit, Patterson is confident that changes can and will be seen.
For more tips and strategies, grab a copy of Daniel Patterson's book The Assertive Parent. https://www.amazon.com/Assertive-Parent-Strategies-Raising-Authentic/dp/1942545967
Contact Daniel: https://www.instagram.com/pattersonperspective/