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How I Learnt To Connect With My Teenage Son

by Vidya Sury May 17, 2016 6 comments

As a Mom I tend to be a little laid back. I am not the kind of person who nags. I remember when my son was in the third standard/grade, his teacher asked the class to name three things they liked about their Mom. I still recall how excited I was to see his list! He mentioned that I never scolded him in public, was always loving and smiling and hugged him a lot.

I must have been doing some things right!

I focus on parenting with love and logic because children, no matter how old they are, deserve to be loved and treated with respect.

Let’s face it. For parents with a growing child, the stage that seems the most challenging is when the children become teenagers. At this stage, they are in the “too old for… and too young to….” slot, making it tricky to deal with them, yet maintain a comfortable relationship with them where communication is open.

I’ve found that one thing that has worked for me in helping me connect with my teenage son is unconditional love. I used to find it amusing when my Mom would talk about it – but obviously it worked for her as well, and it was only natural that I would learn a few parenting techniques from her.

Right from when he was a baby, I had some non-negotiables – spending focused time with him,  cuddling, being present, and 100% listening. At the end of the day, children value presence more than presents, don’t they? Well, it all seems to have paid off!

As he grew up, I like to think that I learned as much from him as he learned from me. Of course, like everyone else, I too looked for parenting advice, but found that invariably, I had to rely on my intuition to kick in and show me the way. While this was successful in many instances, sometimes I too learned the hard way. I secretly feel proud of myself for being open to the learning.

So, coming back to what I said earlier – unconditional love has been the foundation for my relationship with my son. Unconditional love eliminates or at least minimizes issues such as resentment, guilt fear and feelings of insecurity. Parenting becomes easier when we love unconditionally and it also makes us feel more confident in ourselves. It has helped me understand my child and enabled me guide him as best as I could. It has also made me feel good about myself. And when one feels good about oneself, everything is possible!

Today, I enjoy a warm relationship with my 18-year-old son. We feel free to talk about just about anything. We joke together, tease each other, scold each other, advise each other – all from a place of deep affection. We often play hooky – me from work and he from studying and end up listening to our favorite songs, eating junk and having a good laugh through it all. Then we feel guilty and get back enthusiastically to what we have to do, refreshed and happy.

What is my secret?

How do I connect with my teenage son?

Here are some things I practice and never deviate from. I am not saying I never freak out, but I don’t freak out so much that we can’t hug and make up!

Listening, mostly with eye contact

I let my son know he has my full attention and care about what he’s saying or feeling. I see things from his point of view without being subjective or making it personal. Do we have to find common ground to get along? Not necessary. I rejoice in his growth and delight in everything he learns and I am eager to know when he feels like telling me. At every stage, it is a pleasure to get to know each other.

I have learned to exercise emotional self-control

This is not easy, but doable with practice. We all tend to react quickly. And we all need to learn to respond rather than react. When I can’t find the right response, I just pause.

I keep communication open at all times

I hug him a lot; sometimes touch can convey so much more than words. I trust him and respect him and he knows it. I remind him that with freedom comes responsibility and to use it well. I give him space and this reassures him that I am not breathing down his neck, but that I am available, should he choose to share something.

I encourage him constantly

I never hesitate to say I am sorry if I’ve done something that calls for an apology and he has learned the importance of forgiveness. I point out good behavior and praise him for his achievements, yet I am quick to tell him that he can do better, if things didn’t go as expected.

I maintain a sense of humor at all times

Of course we’ve set boundaries. He knows that some things are just not okay to do, for example, profanity, being unduly aggressive or displaying anger.

I ask him open questions

Not how was your day and end of dialog, but “Which was your favorite class today” and we have a conversation. I have taken my Mom’s advice seriously – eyes and ears before mouth, so observe, listen and then speak so I notice what’s happening.

Parenting is a journey and a learning experience, so I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. I know I don’t have to be perfect, and it is more important to be affectionate and loving. I know I use trial and error to find out what works best, and when. The same goes for my son. I understand he’s learning all the time too and does not have to be perfect. I have the authority to set limits and decide what is acceptable. But I also know that no parent can or should try to control their teen. So, I let go of control long ago.

I focus on parenting with love and logic because children, no matter how old they are, deserve to be loved and treated with respect.

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6 comments

Vishal May 19, 2016 at 4:29 pm

What a delight to read, Vidya. The world certainly needs more parents (moms and dads) like you.

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Vidya Sury May 20, 2016 at 11:49 am

Thank you Vishal! So kind of you to say so. I had many good examples to watch and learn from! 🙂

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Asha May 31, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Good pointers Vidya. I will soon have to learn how to manage a teen-ager 🙂

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Vidya Sury June 7, 2016 at 11:56 pm

He he. It will be a breeze, Asha. You’ll see.
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Anagha Yatin November 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Useful and practical tips Vidya. Thanks for sharing. I liked this one in particular… “Take a pause” if the right response is not available at hand.

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Vidya Sury November 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Thank you Anagha! Yes, the power of the pause is fantastic!
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