Why should parenting teenagers be so difficult

Puberty: A Guide for Parents

Puberty is not just a difficult time for teenagers. Parents, too, are often at a loss as to how to deal with their offspring, which have become difficult

1. Teens need praise!

"You did well!" is a sentence that parents should say more often. A teenager desperately needs approval and recognition of both. Without appreciating himself and his abilities, he will become unhappy, bitter, and insecure. Praise helps over hurdles, strengthens self-confidence and motivates. Provided that it is meant honestly and comes from a competent source. Researchers have found: Success leads to success. Failure, constant criticism and control have a negative impact on a young person's self-esteem.

Nevertheless: "Nowadays, praise for children is all too often the fast-food approach of the generation lacking in time," claims motivation researcher Reinhard K. Sprenger. That sounds nasty, but it's not all that wrong. Two or three generations ago, children were often kept in fearful dependency by excessive hurtful criticism. But today parents tend to keep their offspring happy with unreserved approval and sometimes exaggerated appreciation.

Because, of course, praise has to be given in the right dose and said on the right occasion. Has your child set the table? Have an Abitur average of 1.0? Won a soccer match? These are very different important occasions and they have to be recognized differently in each case. But whoever keeps saying "You did a great job" is almost as bad as someone who punishes his child with disinterest. In addition, praise is by no means always the best means of increasing performance. Because praise can even paralyze curiosity and interest because sometimes performance is only provided for calculation, i.e. for the reward. Behavioral research has found that children who take on a task with no prospect of reward do it better than children who are rewarded for it. Because they soon lose interest and overall lower performance because they do not consider the activity to be important in itself, but because the reward replaces the meaning.

2. Teens need tenderness!

The thought is stuck deep in us adults: teenagers are already too big for parental tenderness. So it fits very well that they act scratchy. So you can do without cuddling without a guilty conscience. Only: It's not a good idea. Because physical tenderness is vital for children and adolescents. Hugs can overcome anger, heartache, depression, stress, loneliness, and fear. And in many cases better than some in-depth conversations. Because love and tenderness are basic human needs. They connect with other people and create a sense of belonging to the world and life.

But it is not enough just to tell your child, "I love you." Rather, it must be able to feel this directly and on its own body. From an early age. The anthropologist Ashley Montague describes the skin as the most important organ next to the brain. A child experiences love primarily through the skin, its largest sensory organ. A tight hug causes endorphins, happiness hormones, to be released, which have a calming, pain-relieving and exhilarating effect within a very short time. At the same time, the stress hormone cortisol drops. So a child who seeks refuge in the mother's arms, frightened or hurt, instinctively does the right thing. But hugs and caresses also strengthen immune functions and promote intelligence. Stroking and cuddling makes aggressive and hyperactive children peaceful and sad children happy. In children who are kissed and cuddled a lot, there is a significantly increased activity in the left frontal hemisphere of the person responsible for joy and serenity.

Children gain security and self-confidence through a solid, reliable relationship with someone they trust. And that includes the "Twelve Hugs a Day", which the famous American doctor and psychotherapist Virginia Satir says every person needs to grow and mature. Because children suffer when their parents cannot be tender.

3. Accept your teen's clique!

The grouping of children or teenagers in the gang or clique in almost all cases has nothing to do with violence, but is simply part of the normal development of an adolescent. After a child has learned to befriend individuals, according to American psychotherapist Lawrence E. Shapiro, the ability to join a group is the second important pillar on which children must build healthy social relationships. While two-person friendships are primarily about communicating, membership in a group builds children's trust and a sense of belonging. In doing so, they usually develop an intense sense of loyalty, whether the group is playing football together or doing handicrafts. Over the years, it becomes as socially important as family.

It is not for nothing that the most beautiful children's books and films are about gangs: "The Red Zora", "The War of Buttons", "Emil and the Detectives", "The Little Rascals". Certainly some things are glorified in the process. But it is just as certain that children experience community and common sense in their walk. Here children have the opportunity to behave in solidarity and empathy and also to fail hard for once. Because children learn limits through borderline experiences. For this they need freedom, where mean things are possible, where they can give in to their lust for breaking and annoying, punishing and being punished without having far-reaching consequences. Parents, on the other hand, have to accept that there are different rules in their peer group than among adults.

And the concern that the gang could have a bad influence on the children is in almost all cases unfounded. Children get on the wrong track when their parents' home is loveless, disinterested and shattered. On the contrary: the group often even protects the teenager because he is no longer traveling alone.

4. Teenagers need strict rules!

An education without standards and boundaries leads to selfish behavior. A family is a living organism. And that needs a dash of chaos, but also structures and rules that everyone can adhere to. Only then can children develop the wonderful art of muddling through and improvising. A certain chaos is inevitable anyway, because children always live in the here and now. They don't care about yesterday or tomorrow, and only after many years can they fall back on experience and then hopefully plan and act with foresight. But until that happens, they need rules and rituals, but of course also generosity, imagination and flexibility.

In order to learn all of this, however, you need a family with support. The Canadian educationalist Barbara Coloroso writes: "The family with support is comparable to a backbone, it is firm and yet flexible. It offers the necessary support that enables children to fully recognize and experience their unique and true selves." But parents have to be sufficiently strict for this. "Good parents don't give their children everything they want and teach them manners." This is not what an adult said, but rather the result of a representative survey of teenagers. Almost 70 percent of all eight to 18-year-olds, according to the results, want parents who have authority and role models.

But everyday coexistence needs rules, even if some of them seem so banal. For example: everyone says when they will come home; each has respect for each other's property; every family member has the right to be undisturbed for a certain time during the day. This is the only way to turn adolescents into stable adults with a sense of humor, perseverance and common sense.

5. Teenagers must be allowed to argue!

Children quarrel among themselves, they quarrel with their parents, their siblings and with their teachers, with their classmates and with their friends. That is normal. Children have to fight. Quarreling is just as important to their personal development and maturity as eating and drinking and regular school attendance. Because nobody can always be nice and nice. However, children must have learned long before they start school that they must never hit anything, that it is forbidden to pull someone by the hair or stick your finger in the eye. However, when siblings argue, parents should avoid taking sides. If you have an argument, give each child the opportunity to present their point of view. Do not comment on the mutual allegations and encourage the children to find a solution to their problem on their own. Even if older children sometimes push for an arbitration decision by their parents, for a decision as to who is right and who is wrong, do not make yourself a judge!

However, sometimes it looks like some children and teenagers are extremely aggressive. Many educators are now of the opinion that the conflicts among teenagers are increasing and far more often than before in a form that far exceeds the level of the bearable. In addition, there are hardly any films on television or cinema that are not about tangible arguments. In view of this, children learn to deal with conflict and to be peaceful especially when they experience with their parents that sometimes one, sometimes the other, is behind. That mothers and fathers can laugh at themselves, are not resentful and do not constantly throw past mistakes at their partners. When parents argue, they should always be fair, because a child observes the parents' argument very closely. And in the case of bigger disputes, children belong outside the door anyway. Because they get scared and are usually not involved in the subsequent reconciliation.

6. Don't patronize your teenager!

Parents know many things better than their teenage children. But that's not an argument for patronizing the children. Prohibitions and blind obedience belong in the educational moth box. All people have the fundamental desire to feel at least in some areas of life as the author of their own actions and not to act according to instructions, but self-initiated, and this of course also applies to teenagers. Commands like "Stop it!" or sighs like "It doesn't work that way!" deprives a child of this author's experience. When good deeds are dictated by a complete system of rules and commandments, they are more likely to be hindered than encouraged in this way. When everything that is good is already prescribed, adolescents switch to infantile or destructive behavior in search of the author's experience. And: If a child is constantly being signaled "You can't do this", it usually leads straight to a neurosis.

In positive terms, children stand for constant surprises and spontaneous changes. Seen negatively, they stand for chaos and sheer anarchy. Parents therefore have a legitimate need to use norms, principles and rituals to bring order to this chaos with a certain regularity. But children want to appropriate the world for themselves and not just advance in the well-trodden and marked paths of their parents.

So giving your child a set of rules along the way doesn't hurt. However, it must not be too narrow and too rigid. But pleasant manners, an understandable expression and the containment of certain wild impulses should be. Sometimes teenagers just need to be made to think: At this age, it doesn't work on its own. Therefore, parents should also be interested in what motivations their child might have had to do something. The best way to criticize without appearing patronizing: a short, personal statement. So not: "You don't do that. How old are you actually?", But "I don't like it when you mess around at the table like that."

7. Education: Don't just talk about sex, talk about feelings too!

Children today are certainly better informed than their grandparents, but that didn't help them either. Society has thoroughly disenchanted love and sexuality in recent years; on the other hand, teenage pregnancies are increasing worldwide and the number of people infected with HIV is also increasing. On top of that. Some teenagers are already completely disaffected by excessive sexual tolerance and permissiveness. Of course, the clock should not be turned back in times when it was said that girls "have a reputation to lose" or that boys "should gain as much experience as possible". Today parents want to educate their children in such a way that they will later experience sexuality and love as beautiful and fulfilling. You want to give him a lot of knowledge because that is the best protection against bad experiences. But that doesn't mean a nine-year-old has to know exactly what SM or oral sex is. He can't handle that yet.

Parents should talk more about feelings with their children again. And we must not hide the fact that if the experience is too early or bad, your heart can possibly be broken. Because every day in Germany a child or young person takes their own life. Not always, but very often out of lovesickness. Therefore, teenagers urgently need to be educated about the emotional turmoil love can trigger. And that security and security, as would be necessary to cope with it, can only rarely be given by 13 to 15-year-olds.

Even so, of course, a child needs to know about certain things like sexual abuse. Also, talk to young people more than once about contraceptives, protection against AIDS and the like. Because some things are quickly forgotten in teenagers' minds. And if you have difficulty talking about sexuality, you should contact paediatricians and gynecologists: there are informational talks there.

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