One of the biggest myths is that teenagers are self-absorbed. The passion, loyalty to their group and friends, as well as assertiveness of their opinions, if appropriately interpreted, paint a completely different picture.
Sociologically they have a strength that is seldom recognized: they are highly capable of meaningful contributions to help those around them. The cognitive and emotional changes in a teenagers’ mind are priming them to be an effective support to others. The fact that they take pride and self-satisfaction from it warrants that we allow them to act, to be heard, and to help. We know now that giving is a great mood lifter used in therapy and adult coaching for depression and trauma counselling and, less dramatically, simply for enhancing wellbeing. Giving has more impact on teenagers since their brains are so much more impressionable. It is a fantastic antidote to their own anger and other negativity that may incur and, potentially, a healthy way to navigate this tricky life phase.
Teenagers are all about flow; they can slip into attention or un-attention, they seemingly listen while they are not, and they can divide concentration with the astuteness of a sharpshooter; well…, most of the time. Behind all that, they stick to their clan while forming solid attachments to interests, friendships, and the freedom to pursue their habits without being adjusted and moulded into what the parent wants instead of what they are becoming.
Their impressionability is one of their strengths, and adults have much to learn from that.
For many parents, the switch from controlling a child to interacting with an adolescent is an exasperating path that brings discord and frustration into the home. To smooth up the interaction and avoid that, both parties need to make changes, particularly the parents. This is what the 20/30/50 rule is all about.
20% spend quality time with them and build their habits
Let’s be realistic; even 20% is a tough ask .. but think of it this way, if you can get 10% off their time, you’re doing great!
Meals, sharing, outings of a different kind, bonding. That’s what you want. Have a place for that, a constant place in the home, or few, where good bonding memories happen. Make an effort, and you go to them. Let them be in the area they like most, let them be comfortable and safe, and join them there. Don’t drag them where you are comfortable.
30% delineate space: carve your own, let them have their own
Clearly figure out what spaces is who’s. Boundaries are essential to them, and it is normal. Place-making has formative potential that you want to use as a parent. Give them room to build those kinds of connections early and learn how to use the energy of their places to strengthen them.
50% let go of the “obvious”, non-treatable behaviours that eventually will correct themselves.. or not..but ultimately, it’s not your call anymore
I say “obvious” because it’s only apparent to you, the parent. Not the teen.
Messiness, sleeping in the morning, late nights, and the ubiquitous disorderly fashion that dresses pretty much all teens’ actions are not a lack of maturity but the wiseness of best prioritizing skills available.
To a teenager, none of these tasks matters. If household cleaning matters to you and you’re doing it yourself, nothing is wrong with that. In fact, you’re lucky because you will have a clean home without the mental pressure of choring your life away. The problem ensues when, in a shared house, you expect others to maintain your neatness level. When not met, you let yourself be bothered by things that fall outside of how you want them to be.
By eliminating all these repetitive tasks that are never-ending and never satisfying, teens are left with so much more time to focus on what actually matters to them and perform those tasks at their own pace and optimal time in the day.
They are amazing at blocking out the unpleasant visuals that upset most adults and truly focus on what matters to them most. It is bliss, not a problem, that their brains can detach from the trivial constructs of societal and familial norms of neatness when there is simply not enough time to deal with all they are supposed to deal with.
The high regard toward their interests makes these more valuable, cherished and worthy of immediate attention. On the other hand, adults treat teens’ interests and, sadly, sometimes their own, as frivolous and less critical, allowing duties to take precedent. Demographically speaking: dealing with responsibilities first, then with all else, is how most alive adults have been brought up, not questioning enough where this has or not merit and to what extent. While there is evidently benefit and truth to this, there is also a downplaying of the importance of personal development that some of these apparent frivolities offer. Many studies now show how the formative path of a sane and healthy adult that passes through marshes is often better than that of the one that does not.
As a parent, do yourself a favour: consider that your teenager’s behaviour may contain some advice for you, instead of all being construed as inadequate and ineffective and in need of your intervention. I’m not saying parents need to turn their own behaviour around, nor that they should not intervene. But, before any action is taken, at any time, for each instance, thought should be put into how and where you choose to adjust yourself to them or them to you. It should not always be a one-way street.