Sometimes, the key to changing your teen’s behavior means making changes in your own actions first.
Over the years, we’ve worked with many parents who were desperate to see a change in their child’s unhealthy or even dangerous behavior. Normally, it is easy for parents to recognize their child heading down the wrong path – the warning signs are everywhere. What is much harder is for parents to recognize the ways their own actions may be making the problem worse, or at least not helping.
For some, it is especially hard because it feels like letting the kid “off the hook” for their behavior when we as parents take responsibility for our actions and address parenting issues that may be hindering the process of change.
Instead, focus on the outcome. Do you want your child back on the right path, making better choices and having healthier relationships? If so, work together toward that end, even if this isn’t exactly the approach you’ve had in mind. Parents who humbly decide to address their own parenting and actions as part of the process of redirecting their child’s behavior find much more success in seeing growth and change in their child.
In Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries With Teens, he devotes a section to learning how to be a parent with boundaries. He emphasizes the importance of the parent revisiting his or her own adolescence. It is important for parents to remember what it was like to go through this stage of life. By remembering the conflicts, relational problems and emotional and behavioral issues that come with the territory, parents can increase their empathy and take a more supportive, relational approach. It’s really important for your teen to know that you want a relationship with her more than you want to change her.
Setting healthy boundaries for teens also means separating ourselves from our teens. Sometimes we want to be enmeshed with our children – but we need to be the parents. There should be some natural distance in your relationship. You don’t want to be your child’s friend – you need to be a parent.
Facing our own guilt as a parent is another key step to changing behaviors. Sometimes, we avoid conflict for whatever reason – we don’t want our child to be mad at us, or we don’t set limits because we feel guilt over mistakes we’ve made, such as divorce, addiction, etc. As a parent, when we see our child having problems, it’s tempting to accept blame for it, rather than helping the child change their own behaviors.
Keep hope – you and your teen will both get through this phase! To help, form connections with other parents who are having similar issues, or contact us today.