When we talk about parenting a teenager one of the things that I hear a lot is um like this example. You're a parent and your parenting a 13 to 16 year old boy/ so this is your son and this boy is has quite a free spirit, is well liked at school has a lot of friends is a little bit rebellious and very much likes video games. Multiplayer games are his favorite and; he could spend all day all night playing these games with his friends. This 13 to 16 year old boy gets good grades but they're not like outstanding. It’s not like C’s and D’s but it's definitely not straight A’s. You truly believe that if you just put forth a little bit more effort he would totally be a straight “A” student. He's kind of not living up to his potential. There's a habit of or a pattern let's say of not telling you the whole truth about homework. He says there is no or homework or it’s done. Then later you look online at the grading system and find out that there were a ton of assignments and they're not really great showing up as incomplete or marginal. Again he is not living up to your expectations or to his potential.
Then let's say that he's not really interested in doing homework but he definitely like wants to get home and start gaming or being on his phone. Then there comes a point where there's a big test at school and your son gets up in the morning and says oh I don't feel good. I have a headache, a stomach ache and I’m Not going to go to school today and you know what I didn’t really study for my exam today and so what I'll do is I'll just stay home and then I’ll do studying and then I'll take the makeup exam tomorrow and this kid is very convincing and so you decide “alright fine I can't force you to. I can’t pick this kid up who's probably just as big or bigger than you are by now and drag them in the car, drag him out of the car and take him to all his classes. So you come up with this agreement that if he's allowed to stay home then he has to study and he has to go to school tomorrow and he's agrees, no problem. Then a few weeks later maybe a month later it happens again and it just keeps kind of cycling through and then the next thing you know your son is in danger of failing not in danger of not graduating or our culminating to the next grade but just missed a lot of school.
What Do We Mean by Setting Boundaries?
When I think of this example I think whoa this is a great example for setting boundaries and discipline. What do we mean when we're talking about setting boundaries? Setting boundaries equals discipline. Maybe, maybe not but they're very closely related so when we think about this example here we have the that is not doing homework and that is basically too big to force to do anything too big and too smart so in our example what's the issue is the issue that he is lying about doing his homework or maybe having a stomach ache or headache is the issue that he's not studying Studying he's just not standing enough is the issue his phone is it that he's spending too much time texting friends and face timing and snap chatting and all these other things that is being distracted or is it the video gaming there are probably if I really looked at this five or six other issues that come up in this example but those are the four main ones that I think we should discuss which issue is it
How Do You Know When a Child Respects Their Parent?
In my opinion it’s none of those. The real issue is respect. So how do you know when a child respects their parent? I think most of us know you just know because there's this feeling there's this it's kind of like when you um when you're witnessing parents and kids interacting and you see there's one situation where the parent kind of has a look and then the kid has a look like and then they like straighten up, stand a little straighter and they get their act together and then the kid that the parents upset or kind of gives a look and the kid either rolls their eyes doesn't pay attention or there's absolutely no change in their demeanor which one do you think has more respect? Yeah it's the one that is standing at attention. The one that is listening is the one that's showing respect and understands that their parent is in charge.
How Do You Gain Respect from Your Teenager?
So how do you gain or earn respect because is not something that you are just given. You actually have to earn it or you need to gain it. So how do you gain respect? Well the first thing I can say is I know exactly how you can gain disrespect and that's by yelling, screaming, forcing and just saying “NO!” That's a great way to not be respected because that's more like a dictator. You do not want to be a dictator in your family. If we're talking about trying to get respect in your relationship being a dictator is not the way to go especially with boys. Girls are very similar though don't get me wrong and we can talk about that at another time but to be respected means that you need to earn it and you earn this respect first by having appropriate boundaries and second to be consistent and third is be collaborative. So for number one: “What is a boundary?” There is an exercise that I like to do with clients is when we talk about boundaries. I like to talk about the rope exercise and this is a good way for you to practice and see where your boundaries are at. Get a jump rope or just a piece of rope that 6-10 feet long and you the make this rope into a circle or something a shape that was going to go around your body and that was going to represent your boundary. It's really interesting to see that sometimes when people are setting their boundary there's a huge gap in the back so the front is nice and protected but the back is wide open so when we're thinking about our boundaries you have to be conscious if you want the back to the open that's okay but if it's open because you run out of rope that's not okay. When you're creating boundaries for kids make sure you’re creating guide rails. These guide rails are firm but also can be flexible depending on the situation
What Is a Good Boundary For My Teenager?
Firm does not mean that it's immovable. It does not mean “my way or the highway.” It does not mean this is the only way to do it. The boundaries we create for our kids are guide rails now. Let’s go back to the example of the 13 to 16 year old not doing his homework, skipping school a little bit and is little bit of a rebel and doesn't really want to listen to you. We talked about what about tree is right it's the invisible kind of bubble or invisible wall that you carry around with you and we talked about how setting boundaries for kids is like setting up guard rails. So what is a good boundary? I think it always kind of depends on the situation but in general a good boundary says “no thank you” So for an example I think I mentioned this before but a good boundary is not saying “NO”; a good boundary is saying “no thank you” When somebody insinuates by action that “can I walk all over you?” instead of saying “NO” you say “No thank you” They say “can I take advantage of you?” you could either say “NO!” or you could say “no thank you” so saying no thank you is a way to appropriately set a boundary.
Now if somebody's doing something completely inappropriate to you then responding appropriately is actually okay. In general an appropriate response to a boundary push is something that feels like a “no thank you.” When you're setting your guard rails up for your kids and they start pushing up against one of the rails do you imagine it's best to say “NO! That's no okay!” or do you think they would respect you more if you said “Oh hey no thank you. You can't go that way. Let's get back over here” and then they kind of swirl back into the middle. In my experience working with kids teenagers and parents; teenagers really appreciate it when we say “oh no that's not okay let's move back over here” rather than having the hammer crush down on them. Now sometimes you have to use the hammer. You have to use a big voice you have to bring down the hammer but not always. So if our son is gaming a lot do we bring down the hammer? Maybe we try to develop more of a relationship of respect and understanding and set rules and guidelines to try to get your child to respect you, understand you and understand where these rules are coming from. How do you set boundaries for respect? In our example you decide what’s best.
So what is “What’s Best?” In my opinion it's going after respect. But sometimes maybe what's best if we use the gaming example and if there's absolutely no control over the video gaming and it's becoming an issue where he's dysfunctional maybe what’s best is taking away the game console but it's not just unplugging the game , removing and saying “sorry you know you messed up kid and your game is gone.” It's more about coaching. You want to coach your child. When you're coaching your teaching, you're trying to get your athlete to understand what the best form is, the best body positioning, how to best utilize their skill to get the best out of them. That's what we want to do with our kids. We don't want to make them “run laps” we want them to understand, learn and appreciate why the rules are there. What makes this a rule? Does it have to be a rule and what happens when rules are broken?
Are You Coaching Your Teen?
When we're thinking about coaching we're coaching them, training them, teaching them how to stay within the lines. If the lines allow too much space they're just going to do whatever they want and they’ll never going to learn anything. But if your lines are too narrow “your way or the highway” this your way actually might not be the best way for your kid. It might be the best for you but might not be the best for your kid. The best way is somewhere in between and it's going to fluctuate depending on the situation and depending on how old your kid is depending on a lot of different things. To coach or teach or train means to ask questions and problem solved. You can't solve a problem if you don't have all the facts. If you don't have all the facts how do you get them? You ask questions; talk to your kids.
Talk to your son and say “I'm noticing that there's a pattern here where there’s some lying or you're not telling me the truth about your homework. I could see it in school issue or whatever it is. There's not enough studying going on and I don't think that using the phone up until midnight or one o'clock at night is really good for you so what do you think we should do about this like what what's happening is this helpful do you feel like this is the way to go? What do you think we should do to make things better or different? Why do you think it's important to get enough sleep? What is enough sleep for you? What happens when you don't get enough sleep? Do you feel super productive when you're in class? Do you have a lot of energy? When do you get more energy? When you slept well and you ate breakfast or you eat lunch. So Sleep seems kind of important. I know gaming is fun and I know you really want to hang out with your friends but what are your responsibilities? What do you want to do for the rest of your life, play video games, not go to college, and not have a job? Mom and dad can't support you for the rest of your life. We're just not going to; it's not the way that this works.
Hard Conversations with Your Teenager
So hard conversations like this are going to give you information that you can continue to set the guard rails and help your child understand why that guard rail is there and why they can't I go beyond the guard rails. It's not because as a parent “I said so.” It's because if you focus only on gaming then you're going to be missing out on your education. Without an education you're not going to be able to be a fully successful adult. necessarily it's going to be harder do you want your To be hard or easy we expect you to be self-sufficient when you graduate from high school pretty much you're going to go to College and you're going to be responsible for yourself how are you going to do that if you're all your practicing right now is gaming. Try to get them to understand why these boundaries important. Once they can understand then they buy in. They respect you because you're actually communicating with them and they're going to respect the rules because they understand them.
Discipline vs. Punishment
When we talk about discipline we have to understand discipline does not equal punishment. I think that's where some of us get kind of mixed up or caught up discipline is to teach a lesson or to train to obey rules. Punishment is the consequence of the action or inflicting a penalty. There's a consequence to everything that we do so trying to teach discipline to children to understand what the potential punishment is going to be is really important and that again is where you develop respect. And that again is how you can set boundaries and get your kids to follow the rules because they're going to understand that now when you do have to and there are consequences I'm not saying there are no consequences; there are definitely
consequences. But it's hard to put in a consequence if your child doesn't understand why. What is this for. As opposed to “Oh mom is just in one of her moods so she took away my game moms just upset about something so she's going to take away my phone. That's how they think because that's all they get from the action. The punishment they get but they don't understand the discipline behind it. Why is this happening? Oh mom’s just crazy or dads mad.
Often times we'll forget about the discipline and go straight to punishment so in order to develop this respect that is going to get your child to not lie as much they're going to study harder they're not going to spend as much time on the game they’re going to respect the rules that you have about their phones they're going to over all just be good little citizens if we can encourage more discipline than punishment. Set your guard rails teach, coach, train, and collaborate especially when you have a teenager. When you've got a little kid it's different but when you have a teenager these are half adults sometimes it's like 13 going on 30. So treat them with respect and you shall get respect back. Treat them as mini adults because they're going to be adults in just a matter of years. we're running out of time so start now, set your guide rails, teach, coach collaborate ask a lot of questions, get your kids involved in their learning and understanding of what it means to be a fully functioning adult and the key to all of this is setting great boundaries and communicating.