Updated: Aug 2
While we are all trying to survive the current Covid-19 and residue of level 5 lock-down, surviving your teenager or young adolescent may take some additional work. Communication and the "how" is key in this regard. The four parenting styles that play themselves out are usually authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved, and potentially also through much of our own attachment styles, as parents we don't always fit one style and may fall into several dependent on the context. However, it is even more important to understand that it does have an impact on a child or adolescent, the authoritative parent suggests a high responsiveness and high demand from the child, adolescent or young adult, making it the most holistic approach around parenting and teaching your child life skills, and navigating this world through a conscious approach.
Young humans are dealing with physical, emotional and behavioural changes and may sometimes seem alien to themselves, the world at times appear scary to them, with many unknowns. In addition there is also a notable change in the development of the brain which results in mood swings, fatigue and generally difficult behaviour for parents to cope with. Add digital communication which has an effect on the way teenagers communicate with their parents, siblings or even romantic interactions. Some young people may even be oblivious to social interaction and cues, and may even lack interpersonal skills. This is a tricky terrain to navigate as adults and parents, potentially more difficult if you are separated or divorced, and idealise or wanting to be the perfect parent in all scenarios.
Once you cover the biological part of feeding and clothing. The effort of teaching and guiding young people in making life's choices and helping them acquiring the skills necessary to operate as adults will take patience, and consequent belief that the skill will assist them in making positive, appropriate choices.
A child who is skilled at consciously making choices will understand her/his own needs, start understanding the value they hold within themselves and gain a sense of control over her own life. Choice-making also helps teach internal discipline, organisation and prioritisation (this is an empowered human).
Children learn how to make choices by watching their guardians, parents or other adults in their community, and then gain the experience by doing it themselves. Teaching choice to a child is as much a learning experience for the child, as it would be for you as a parent, you may find yourself struggling with past concepts of how your own parents did it, what society suggests and how you just want to ensure that your children get the best.
As parents, if you going to provide them with a choice, you going to have to make good on your promise, else you will lose credibility really quickly. So if it means "do this, and then this can happen" make sure you are covered financially, physically and emotionally for it, while they may not remember what they had for breakfast, they will surely remember a choice in which they could gain.
As the provider of their physical wellness, and the choice still remains with the child, if the child does not understand health or making healthy choices, then limit unhealthy options. Healthier options does not mean you a bad parent, it just means you taking an unhealthy variable away from them. If bad snacks and 20 liters of coke are causing stress, increased weight gain, effects on their mental ability or interfering with their anxiety levels, then eliminate it from the geographical pinpoint of the house, except if it's for you, then my suggestion is hide it or reconsider what behaviour you are teaching.
Choices should be dealt within boundaries, giving a child or adolescent the option of "no limits barred", means you will end up in Mexico drinking tequila with your 10 year old, or swimming in chocolate on a remote island. If it is going to be open sesame, prepare for anything that a teenage creative mind can conjure up. Remember you are still the parent.
Behavioural choices and this is the big one, when the discussion happens either before or after an event, it is important to discuss the consequence of choice with the child, and this could be a positive behavioural display or a negative display of event. You have chosen to binge watch TV before you exam on Monday and what that means now that you have failed, or you have chosen to stay dedicated to your goal this month and how that has an impact on you now.
The above also feeds into how older children use their ability around channeling their neural pathways for decision making, choices and prioritisation. If there is a list of things to do the child can find the ability to reflect on what is important right now, what is next in line and so on. Freud's psychoanalytical theory of personality, explains that the pleasure principle is the driving force of the id which seeks immediate gratification of all needs, wants and urges. This is referred to as the pleasure-pain principle, this motivating force helps drive behavior but it also wants instant satisfaction. If we are to stay with this principle then the child will start to use the super-ego as the moral conscience, and the ego as the mediator between the desire of the id and the super ego. So the id is trying to get in as much gaming as possible, the superego is pushing towards being the best son/daughter. The ego is the mediator.
Once the choice is made, as the parent don't offer additional options, this is where the secret sauce lies in learning to live with the choices one makes, and then starting again or changing the direction, if it was not the correct one.
With choices comes time and how that plays a part of adulthood, once you make the choice, you cannot procrastinate. "Strike while the poker is hot" comes to mind. The younger human will have to understand that a decision need to becomes a final result as analysis paralysis in this case is also not producing any result.
Where is the learning? As much as the child will learn about choices, the parent will have to create the space to be there if the choice was wrong (which no parent wants). However, this is the learning. If you offering rescue opportunities all the time, you are teaching this nearly adult that there will always be a bail out on choices, which is often not the case. Hitting the target with a good choice will be liberating and provide self esteem, and constructive mental capacity for learner on so many levels. Disappointment is a good teacher for growth, coming 2nd or 3rd just means that, or making wrong choices, and the young human will start to understand that choices have consequences.
Avoid the "I told you so", "You're on your own", "because I said so", or "Lets do this as friends". You will be affecting their perceptions of the world as adults.
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