From the time my teenage daughter was a toddler, people have often commented on how “good” and “polite” she is when we are in public. When she comes home from a sleepover, the parents tell me she is welcome back at any time. Other parents often ask me how I raised such a great kid. I chalk it up to the fact that I made sure that my daughter and I remain close throughout the years, and she tells me she loves me daily.
Many will argue that raising a child is one of life’s most difficult tasks for those who are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to experience it. Most have their opinion as to which stage is the hardest – newborns, terrible twos, tweens, or teenagers. My vote hands down is teenagers. They encompass all of the bad things that come with the other stages – they sleep too much and are lazy, they talk back, they overreact to simple things, the world revolves around them, and they feel entitled to certain luxuries that life can offer. I somehow successfully got through that first half of the teens and entered into the most wonderful phase full of pride and laughter and fun. I do not have the key to raising kids as there is no “how to” book, but I can share some tips that kept my daughter close while letting her explore the world without fear.
1. Quality time at home is key
Teenagers like to text, talk, and do everything with their friends, not mom or dad. I made it mandatory for us to have our own quality time that consisted of dinner together with a movie or a TV show that we keep up with. TV shows are better because it guarantees you at least one night a week with your kid. During this time, cell phones are not allowed. Only snacks and us.
2. Always be involved
Teenage drama is never ending and they love to gossip (yes.. boys gossip too). Even though I could really care less who is dating who, who broke up with who, who’s mad at who, etc., I remain in the know because these things mattered to her. This works like a charm because when you ask if something is wrong with your child, you don’t get told the famous “nothing”, as the reason for that answer is because you (an adult) would not understand. But if you already know the story and have invested time in the situation, they will always let you know what the latest is. Note that this technique also gives you MUCH insight to who your kid is hanging out with. You will know who is the liar, who is the snitch, who is the fair-weather friend, who genuinely cares about your kid, who lies to their parents, who skips school, etc.
3. Use all situations as a learning tool
Any situation can be a lesson learned if you take the time to explain. Whether it’s something that happened on the news, or in real life, take the time to discuss it with your kid. You’d be amazed of how much conversation can come from this. It’s a great way to learn your kid’s stance on certain things going on in the world as well as providing lessons on how to handle certain issues.
Take your kid out of their comfort zone and allow them to try new foods and experience different cultures. So many of my kid’s friends come to my house and end up trying something new for the first time by simply ordering in from a Thai food spot or a Greek restaurant and it is so obvious they’ve never ventured out past American foods and culture. This is very important for them as it allows them to build a tolerance for things that are not “normal” for them and it broadens their horizons to the point that they are not afraid to try new things.
Now with all that out of the way, I can also say that my teenager, like all others, has made several mistakes in her recent years. I’m talking huge mistakes that jeopardized her future as well as small mistakes that resulted in disciplinary actions at school and by me. I am not here to say that I know exactly what it takes to raise a kid, because let’s face it – nobody knows that. But I do know that my sweet 16 year old represents a lot of my child rearing philosophies coming to fruition.
I raised her with no assistance from her father, but kept several role models around. I see my daughter handling adversity the same way I taught her to (although at times she has trouble calming down first). She says please and thank you without my prompting. She now values her grades and her worth for the future. She has formed goals, immediate and long-term, and has become her own person right before my eyes. When I look at her, I think “wow..I did that!”, and I couldn’t be more proud.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.