Have you ever thought of asking your teenager for advice?
“What???” you might reply. “Why would I do that? What could she possibly know about life that I don’t know better?”
And here’s the answer: herself. Your teenage daughter knows herself better than you can know her – what she feels, what she needs and what she’d love to have from you. And your teenage son may be dying to tell you about himself – if only you would ask the right questions, show genuine concern about him and be willing to listen to what he has to say.
Most kids want to have a good relationship with their parents, so it’s our job to open the doors for better communication and be ready to hear what they have to tell us.
Here’s what Vanessa Van Petten, one of the nation’s youngest experts on parenting and adolescents, has to say. “Whenever I interview teens, I ask them one important question: ‘If you could give me one piece of advice for every parent, what would you tell them?’ Interestingly, their tips tend to be quite similar, highlighting the fact that most teens and parents do, in fact, struggle with the same issues. Here are the top 5 tips we hear from teens that they wish their parents knew.”
1. Do not pretend you know everything about us.
“My mom thinks I haven’t changed since I was 11. Just because I liked a certain TV show then, doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. I wish she would ask me about myself more instead of assuming she knows what I am like.” –Carey, 13
As adults, I think we forget how rapidly teens change their interests, friends and identity. After all, for most of us our favorite color, best friend and hair color haven’t changed in a few years. Teens are all about experimentation, and as they grow their interests change – even week to week. A common complaint I hear from teens is that they wish their parents would take a continued interest in their lives beyond just their grades and that they would recognize that their interests are continually changing.
2. We do listen, even if we pretend we don’t.
“I sometimes roll my eyes at my mom and pretend I am not listening. But I do hear what she says and I think about it later.” –Jeremiah, 15
It is very un-cool for teens to listen to their parents. And sometimes they feel they have to pretend they are not listening. But over and over again I hear teens encourage their parents (or other parents) that they do listen.
3. If you treat us like kids, we will act like kids.
“If my dad let me have some freedom, I could prove to him that I wouldn’t do anything stupid. But he won’t even give me the chance.” –Leslie, 14
Many teens tell us that if their parents were to put some faith in them, they feel they would rise to the occasion. However, when their parents treat them like they are going to break the rules, they often do.
4. Our friends matter – a lot.
“My friends are more important to me than my parents.” –Mariah, 12
This is a hard one to swallow, but when kids hit age 11 they begin to spend more time with their friends than with parents, and this can greatly increase the amount of influence their peers have. Many teens lament that parents don’t understand how important their friends are to them – their tastes, their needs and their judgments. It is important for parents to realize how important friends are, not only to keep negative pressure in check, but also to show their kids they respect their good friendships.
5. We do come back.
“Sometime around 19 I realized my parents weren’t so bad after all.” –Jackie, 23
If you are going through a rocky time with your teen, just know it will not last forever. If you let them know you love them, the values you instilled in them will blossom. Every teen I talk to speaks to the ups and downs in their relationships and their faith that, if it is hard right now, one day it will get easier.
Vanessa Van Petten, is a youthologist and teen author. She manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 120 teen writers from ages 12 to 20, to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and minds of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, Real Housewives of Orange County and much more! She won the Moms Choice Award in 2009 and her work is read by over 300,000 adults. Her next book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” has launched in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA. Check out Vanessa’s work on: RadicalParenting.com