parenting relationships

Raising Teens, Lessons Learned

raising teens vidya sury

As someone who is raising a teenager, I secretly enjoy reading parenting columns related to raising teens. Not that I actually have any problems – but you know how it is to be a parent. As my Mom would constantly point out, one does not need to be a parent to parent someone. In fact, most of the strategies extolled by experts apply to almost all relationships. The thing is, teenagers yearn for independence, but it is our duty as parent or guardian to make sure they get it along with a sense of responsibility.

Tricky job, because teenagers at that stage where they assume they know everything, most of them are over-confident and all of them want to impress. Such a natural part of growing up.

It is not easy being a parent. I am always conscious of the fact that I must exude a combination of love and authority without seeming like a pushover. Mostly, I like to think I succeed. But there are times….hey, nobody’s perfect…and…good news? Nobody has to be!

Here is what I’ve learned – or think I have!

Giving power, with responsibility, is good

The power makes him feel important and enthusiastic to do what is expected of him. Of course we have expectations! And so does he. When we give, we get. It also helps him become a better decision makers, make better choices and helps him grow. When he makes not-such-a-good-decision, he learns from the experience.

Boundaries are good. So are limits

Just like we set limits for safety when he was little, and taught him to be kind, to be compassionate, and set boundaries in relation to others, we continue to do it now, except in a broader way, simply because he’s older and understands more. This, I believe, influences his individuality as he realizes who he is, what he’s capable of. He knows the choices he has and experiments with them, adopting those that align with what he wants. And we respect it.

Our job is to present the choices

And the consequences, in a relaxed manner. No yelling. Never works in our house anyway. We don’t believe in rudeness. If one of us does slip up, we have the rewind technique. We just go back to that point and start over. It also breaks the ice on that situation. We’re usually rewarded with “I know you did it for my good”. Imagine dealing with an angry teenager – because that is what we would end up with if we were pushy.raising teens vidya sury

Reason. Always

In general, I’ve found that most children will listen when you tell them why you want them to do what you tell them to do. I remember, one of my teen’s issues would be to get up from the computer in exactly 2 hours. We’d remind him and he’d say “one min” and continue to sit there for the next half hour. We had to find a way to make him stick to his 2-hour commitment. Here’s what I did. I said “Wind up at 6 o’clock” (the rule). Then, together, we discussed ways he could do it. He chose one that looked do-able. If it didn’t work, he picked another. Over the years, he’s become pretty good at time-management.

Blind them with science

My best friend’s advice. Always present facts. Not empty threats. Give them statistics. Info that isn’t straight out of your head. With all the peer pressure they live with, someone has to draw them out and show them there’s a world out there. No lecturing, no preaching. Just plain information-giving.

No spur of the moment filler responses

Never give in to the urge to respond impulsively. It is okay to admit you don’t know something. No need to have all the answers. But it IS important to be calm. When I can’t decide right away, I simply defer it. It leads to safer decisions. Sometimes, it feels like being at the end of the rope and we commit to things we regret later. No need to do this. I learned this the hard way. When I am stuck for a response, I just take a few deep breaths.

Never sweat the small stuff!

Avoid nitpicking. Avoid nagging. Luckily, it is not in my nature to do either. Fighting with teenagers especially over minor things is a no-no. Rather than get irritated and whine about what he’s not doing in spite of being told hundreds of times, I gently remind him. I leave notes all over the place. Putting away those clothes, tidying up that shelf, making the bed – are all important but not so much that it messes up relationships. The energy is better spent over things that matter.

When I feel low, I talk to other parents

Not only is this highly therapeutic, it also gives me the warm feeling that I am not alone. It helps me learn more about behavior patterns. Nothing like peer support to make you feel better and take the panic away.

Include them in everything

Teenagers have a tendency to isolate themselves and do their own thang. While space is important, so is participation. I’ve seen families where the teens are indulged so much that they get away with not doing a lot of things – not eating together, not attending family events or dropping out from a trip. So there will be certain things they don’t want to attend – but it is good to discuss what is acceptable and what’s not. We’ve always insist on sharing our day’s events and eating together. This is non-negotiable and I believe it keeps us close.

Sleep

Above all, teenagers must get enough zzzz to learn and function efficiently. I think I am lucky that my son takes this seriously and is in bed by 10.00 – reads for a little while and then sleeps and is up around 6.30. I make sure he eats well and enjoys his food.

So far, so good. While we don’t know what the future holds, we’re confident we’ll tackle whatever we’re faced with together, with understanding.

What do you think? Are you raising teens?

What parenting moments have made you smile?

raising teens vidya sury

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels
    July 8, 2014 at 2:11 am

    I’m not raising teens, but I think these would have been helpful when I was growing up. I am sure your son will greatly appreciate you when he is older. I love my parents dearly now and at the same time there were many things that were lacking in my household while growing up. Keep up the great work Vidya. I think reasoning with your child and giving them responsibility and show them there are consequences if they don’t follow through are so important.
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  • Reply
    Laurel Regan
    July 8, 2014 at 4:41 am

    I’m not a parent, but these sound like very wise words indeed. 🙂
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  • Reply
    Rachna
    July 8, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Loved this post, Vidya! Very handy pointers. You are right. Teens are slightly tricky in handling. Loved all the quotes too.
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  • Reply
    Sreeja Praveen
    July 8, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Ah, well ! What a relevant list, this is ! I appreciate the way you’ve gathered the pointers at one place and quoted examples that make them practical. I feel most of the pointers here are useful to adults as well. Even we tend to nurse teenage tendencies at times, don’t we ? 🙂
    Hugsssss, V Mom 🙂
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    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 8, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Oh Sreeja, parenting is no cakewalk. But what a rewarding relationship! 😀 Yes, next time around you’ll be around! Hugs!

  • Reply
    Shailaja V
    July 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

    This was the first thing I read this morning and I was so glad. Lot of the strategies you discuss here also work in most relationships. They would just need to be tweaked to suit the age. I love the concept of self-regulation when it comes to tasks. Good tip, that!
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    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

      You are absolutely right Shailaja! Standard Operating Procedures for most relationships 🙂

  • Reply
    Melissa
    July 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Love this and with raising 4 kids this comes in handy. I especially love this “Giving power, with responsibility, is good” Thanks Vidya!
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    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      July 8, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Thanks Melissa! I’ve always found the learning comes after we’ve struggled through a situation. Thankfully, parenting is a lifelong activity. 😀 And there are many moments of instant gratification!

  • Reply
    Tina
    July 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Very wise words Vidya
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  • Reply
    Shalini
    July 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Not a parent, but these words would surely help me! Makes me think of my Mom and Dad. Inspiring, Vidya 🙂

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  • Reply
    Sulekha
    July 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Great points, I should know after having raised two kids, they are now in their early to mid twenties 🙂 My dad always told us, I trust you to do the right thing. We never betrayed his trust.

    • Reply
      Betsy/Zen Mama
      July 9, 2014 at 1:54 am

      All very sound advice Vidya. And often this works. I believe it is very difficult to raise teens in here in the US. There are many temptations and not much positive. Many teens fail, especially our young men. Perhaps that’s why we have so many school shootings. I often think about it since I’m raising three boys myself. I’m not sure how to fix our culture’s problems but it is necessary to start doing something positive in our culture for teens, and for our young men in particular.
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  • Reply
    Roshni
    July 9, 2014 at 3:31 am

    I need to bookmark this to recall in the near future!! Thanks so much for the practical tips, Vidya!

  • Reply
    Rajlakshmi
    July 9, 2014 at 6:19 am

    hahaha I could see myself in your description of teenagers. Made my mom pull out her hair 😛 but my Dad was pretty calm in these matters. All through my life he made me realize that I have made him proud 🙂
    Beautiful points Vidya, I see my aunt follow some of the methods you wrote. Maybe she too reads parental columns 🙂
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  • Reply
    Payal Agarwal
    July 10, 2014 at 12:04 am

    My daughter is about to be a teenager and this post is very helpful.Thank you. I do believe that giving power with responsibility is good!:)
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  • Reply
    sitara nair
    July 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I have two small daughters and its is difficult to tackle them too.
    I have a habit of yelling.. Loosing patience when they don’t listen to me after repeated soft reprimands…
    Please advise how to go about it…
    Loved reading your post
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  • Reply
    Karen Hug
    July 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Vidya, great information. Raising kids is difficult… period, I have twin teens, fourteen years old, and it’s like walking a tightrope somedays trying to get through to them. I try to let them be themselves, be here for them when they need to talk, and use lots of humor 🙂
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