by Linda Fulmer
Parenting Positive Teens with ABC – Appreciation, Boundaries, and Courage
“If you think it’s hard now, just wait until they’re teenagers.” What parent has not heard this warning from well-meaning friends and relatives, not to mention the media? It seems adolescence suffers from a cultural “bad reputation,” and too many teens and their parents suffer needlessly by buying into it.
Although there are unique challenges during the transition between childhood and adulthood, the most beneficial message for parents is that raising positive teens without constant struggle is possible. For enlightened parents who are able to express the best in themselves and see the best in their teens, the parenting journey can be pleasant and rewarding and teens can learn to be confident, capable, and caring.
It may not be as easy as ABC, but the following A. B. and C will go far to ease the parenting journey and promote positive, responsible teens.
Appreciation is powerful. First of all, appreciation and positive attitudes go hand in hand. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to be negative when we regularly and sincerely find things to appreciate. Research proves positive people are happier, healthier, and wealthier.
Positive, appreciative parents are much more likely to find things to like about their teens, and nothing brings out the best in people more quickly than letting them know what you like about them. Given the social, emotional, and biological challenges of adolescence, being appreciated is especially important to teens.
Far too often adolescents are discouraged and disheartened by adult focus on problems caused by teens and their choices in general and by specific focus on their own shortcomings by parents and teachers.
Appreciation, on the other hand, energizes teens, frees them to be themselves, and empowers them to try new things. Being appreciative also energizes parents and helps free them from the resistance that interferes with healthy relationships.
Much of that resistance comes from noticing what we don’t like, pointing it out to teens, and expecting them to respond by changing. Although parents have good intentions, fixing weaknesses is slow and inefficient at best. It is through strengths, not weaknesses, that human beings have the best opportunity for positive growth.
Appreciation is possible even when things are not going the way we would like them to go. No matter what is happening around us, we can choose our attitude. For example, we can see rain as spoiling our picnic or growing our flowers. We can complain about our teen’s weird preferences or appreciate our teen’s growing sense of self.
By consciously looking for and frequently appreciating what teens do well and their positive attitudes and actions, parents reinforce the best in themselves and their teens. The easiest way to get more of what we want is to notice and appreciate it in small doses.
Again, what we focus on expands and appreciation expands that which is appreciated. It also makes it more likely that teens will feel appreciative toward others and pass the gratitude on.
Boundaries are limits and the most effective boundaries are reasonable ones, preferably agreed upon through dialogue with teens. The best boundaries are those that are clearly defined with equally clear consequences if boundaries are not respected.
Boundaries can also help teens choose positive behaviors. Specific boundaries regarding parties, for example, can increase the likelihood that teens will make wise choices about what parties to attend and be courageous enough to leave parties where behaviors fall outside the agreed upon limits. A reasonable curfew can help teens avoid compromising late-night situations.
Boundaries, however, should still allow teens room to explore their world, express themselves, and expand their horizons while they grow into themselves.
Boundaries are not shackles; they are outer safety limits that expand with experience and trust during the adult apprenticeship program we call adolescence. Parents cannot guarantee safety with limits, and boundaries that imprison usually spur adolescents to look for escape routes.
Instead, boundaries that positively guide decision-making honor teens’ need for independence yet provide scaffolding and reinforcement for teen brains and bodies still “under construction.”
Courage is essential. While we ascribe it to firefighters, police officers, and survivors of disasters and disease, nothing is more courageous than quality parenting.
Parents need courage to find characteristics and behaviors to appreciate rather than weaknesses to complain about. Parents need courage to set and monitor reasonable boundaries in the face of pressures to conform. Parents also need courage to maintain both their standards and their cool when it’s easier to give in or blow up.
Courageous parenting requires follow-through with agreed upon consequences, too. Courageous parents avoid rescuing their teens. They know we all learn best by experience. They appreciate how importance it is for everyone, including teens, to take personal responsibility for their actions.
Finally, parents need courage to allow their teens to be who they are rather than what others want them to be. Many of the struggles between parents and adolescents can be avoided when parents courageously honor their teens’ individuality.
These ABC’s–appreciation, boundaries, and courage–are basic essentials for good parenting. Just as letters are the building blocks for words, appreciation, boundaries, and courage build healthy family relationships and promote positive teens.
Linda Fulmer is a seasoned educator, an enthusiastic speaker and consultant, and a free lance journalist who revels in sharing “good news.” Nearly three decades of middle school teaching and directing high school theater have given her an “up close” view of the challenges and rewards of education.
Now “refired,” Linda continues to share her deep convictions about learning and pursues her passion for helping people of all ages thrive personally and professionally through her partnership with Ruth Grass in Yellow Moose Perspectives. Their company envisions a world where people express the best in themselves and find the best in others. To that end, Linda and Ruth help people choose beliefs and behaviors that allow them to thrive. They base their work in emotional intelligence, strength-based strategies, and brain research applications. Learn more about them at [http://www.yellowmooseperspectives.com] as well as [http://www.positivepointofview.com] and [http://www.forenlightenedparents.com]
Linda earned her B.S. and M.A. in Ed. from The Ohio State University and lives in Ohio with her husband Mike.
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See Also Parenting Articles by Dr. Randy Cale at www.TerrificParenting.com