challenges while parenting a teen

The small playground was bursting to the seams with children. Little children were sitting in the sand pit with their tiny baskets to play to their heart’s fill with sand, very comfortable with the mess and the dirt. Their mothers hung around keeping a watchful eye on them while chatting with other mothers. Some of the mothers were perched on the park benches and carrying on long, agitated conversations on their mobiles. The roads were populated with young kids on tricycles and bicycles, mothers or fathers in tow. And then there were the older kids. Some of them playing in the larger play area sports like basketball or football while some others formed groups and played on the roads. A regular scene in a regular neighbourhood.

In contrast to the gurgling younger kids, the teens are more guarded, their laughter stifled, their words hushed. They are at an age where they want to be seen as cool, as fitting in and as desirable. Some of them mouth words in faux accents that seemed positively juvenile but to them hep. Teenage is that time in life when you feel more sensible than an adult but are still a child within just getting the taste of freedom. It is also an age when the adults need to loosen their grip and try to be more friendly and understanding. But it is also the time when discipline is required. Deadlines to come back home and a general vigilance about the activities your teen indulges in. A classic dilemma on how to strike the balance.

It is an accepted fact that our children are way smarter than we were at their age. They have more access to data, are more aware, are pros at gadgets and have internet at their disposal to refute your every fact. The other side is that these may end up exposing them to issues and information that are much ahead of their ages. After all they are still children whose bodies are transforming into those of adults. This age of 13-18 is very tricky. It is a time when most parents are taken aback by the mood swings and open disagreements of their till now agreeable kids. It is a struggle for parents to stay involved yet hands off, to give them enough freedom to thrive, experiment and mature and yet pull in the reins when they sense danger.

This is the time when peers assume paramount importance. Teens start feeling pressured to conform by their peers. I have seen many teens transform from being down-to-earth, mature individuals to brash and awry teenagers. Some of them find it fashionable to cuss even in front of adults. There are yet others who get addicted to watching objectionable content on their mobiles because it is cool. Yet others get caught into the spiral of picking up habits like smoking, drinking, abusing substances and becoming physically intimate with very little understanding of protection or safe sexual behaviour. You find them shifting focus from studying and having fun to completely losing their way. The sad part is that some of them will never realize how precious this wasted time is till it is too late.

The challenge for parents like us is that we are busier, less around to monitor our children’s activities and sometimes do not know how to cope with an irreverent generation. It was easier for our parents to show us the cane or to cut down any dissent just by raising their voices. We would disagree but give in never having the courage to talk back or rebel openly. Besides we never really had access to gadgets and internet. But today’s teens are not so easy to handle. They have a mind of their own. They will fight you tooth and nail, challenge your authority and will not hesitate to defy the boundaries you set.

Some approaches that I feel may work: It helps to always keep the channels of communication open with your children. To let them know that they have your trust but as parents you have the right to set boundaries and discipline them. It is also important that they be provided adequate guidance and a willing ear to help them through their own confusing phase. It is important to be kind and empathetic and clued in to what your teen is up to. Keep a close watch on how much time they spend online, doing what and who they are interacting with. It is also important to know who their friends are and what do they do when you are not at home. It may feel like you are monitoring too much but it is better to be safe than sorry.

I have seen some teens go completely off track and that made me more conscious of how I am parenting my own children. One realization is that, teenagers need a lot of time from their parents. Let’s be around in the evenings for them to have a parent to share their angst and joys with. Be also careful of who they interact with, of what age and what is their influence on your child. If you spot a rotten apple, it’s best to try to nip that association early on in the friendship.

Let us facilitate an enjoyable teenage for our children. Let them not grow up before they need to. After all this is really the best time of their lives.

Do share your views on how to parent teens?



34 Thoughts on “Challenges while parenting a teen

  1. It’s not easy to be a parent , is it? But there are ways to do it right..I have nothing to add here because I have no experience except of course of being a teenager and I was a boring teenager and didn’t really trouble my parents…Atleast I hope so..But I’m going to look back at your posts when M reaches that stage

    • I was a boring teenager too. Didn’t really rebel or trouble the parents. But some of the teens these days make me shudder and I wonder how to keep their influence away from my children. It is scary. So constantly second guessing myself.

  2. very well said 🙂

  3. Since I’m not yet parenting a teen, not quite sure I can say much on the subject; But I do agree with this point, Rachna – let them grow up at their own pace. And more than any other phase of their lives, teens need plenty of time from their parents – they need their parents to be both the ‘parent’ and the ‘friend’ – to guide them, to nudge them along and often, just to give them some space.
    Knowing you, I know S & G will do just fine 🙂

  4. Nice post, Rachna. Bringing up teenagers is akin to walking a tightrope 🙂 As you’ve mentioned – keeping the lines of communication open and being there is extremely important. Something I learned was when my daughter said she wanted to be left alone, was actually the time she needed me the most. Watch their actions and moods, don’t go by words.

    • Thanks, Kamini. Wow, l will remember that. I guess we really must watch their behavior closely to know what words are not conveying. So much is happening in teenage years that baffles both the kids and the parents.

  5. As much as parents need to be watchful of their teenagers, they need to be given their space too. Many a times parents’ understanding of situations may be far from truth.
    For instance, I was told to keep away from some peers who turned out to be the only trustworthy friends I have today.

    Like you said, constant communication is the key, and both the parent and the teen must listen to the other’s point of view.

    As a teen, I’m glad for all the freedom mom gives me, on the condition that I tell her everything. 🙂

    • True, there has to be a balance between space and monitoring. I grew that parents may interpret the situations very differently. Listening to each other’s point of view as you pointed out is very crucial. Thank you for sharing your valuable opinion.

  6. Being a teenager, I can assure you that what you’ve said is absolutely true. Parents need to be there for their teenage weirdos at all times. I know it gets difficult with work pressures and all, but I feel that one should make an effort to be available at all times for their kids. Like, WhatsApp offers a really good way of communicating, and is preferred by teenagers. So they won’t feel awkward about having to call up their parents the moment they reach a party or something. And the parent, in turn, is notified duly.

    Of course, parents also need to have a say in what type of friends their child makes. I know it firsthand. Every time I tell my mom about a new friend that I made, she offers her verdict about whether the friend is going to be a true one, or a fake one. And she’s proven to be right every time! *hides face*

    • Thanks, Mithila. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to read your comment. Especially your vote of confidence about your mom’s judgment. Thank you for validating my views.

  7. As a teenager, my parents gave me enough space to do what I wanted to and yet were aware of what was happening in my life. It is important for teens to involve their parents in their lives at times and not shun them away completely. Same way, the parents should take it easy and not try to control every move of their child.

    I think the trick is finding the right balance between holding on and letting go.

    • True, Soumya. I had a lot of freedom growing up as well. And I intend to give the same to my kids. Like you pointed out, it is all about the balance.

  8. Mine aren’t even there yet and I can identify with some of things you mentioned. Gawd! It is hard! They seem to know everything and yet they’ll be so naive sometimes. Mixed age groups are the hardest to handle. I find mine go berserk in the company of their friends – that scares me so. You’re right about talking to them – that’s all that we can do and hope that what we’re saying is registering.

    • Thank you for understanding, Tulika. Mixed age groups are indeed an issue. The younger ones picking up topics and views clearly not for their ears. I think the next few years will be a test of how well they have been raised. Talking always helps and listening as well.

  9. I think teen parenting is the hardest stage in any parent’s life. If the teenager is rebellious , then even more so. Peer pressure is a big influence in a teenager’s life and it’s difficult for the parents to nullify the impact of that. I used to think that right parenting can solve the problem of teen problems, but I am staring to think it’s the right mix of the child’s individuality, the parenting style and luck that can play a role in making sure that the child doesnt fall into wrong ways. As you have said, communication is the biggest channel that should always be kept open, come what may.

    • Asha, you have hit the nail on the head. What l’ve seen around me makes me think the same. It’s not only our upbringing but a child’s individual personality, peer group and luck which have a huge role to play in how they turn out. Yes, continuing to stay involved and communicate with them is just the only way to deal with these years.

  10. It’s the most confusing age. I had many weird thoughts in my mind when I was at that age. You are right, as teenagers we try to fit in and want to be desirable. I guess, listen to your children and tell them the logic behind situations. Most of the teenagers are lost finding reason. They opt what they see, as they don’t know what is right.

    • True, Saru. Such a weird age this is. Teens are confused but high on showing that they know. Some of my friends have shared sorry tales about their children where no logic or reason worked. I guess their peer group has a huge role to play in how they turn out eventually.

  11. Completely empathise on the fact that we are a generation caught between our kids and our gadgets. Kids with gadgets are a deadly combination too.

    It’s positively important to keep channels of communication open and visible. Gy is just 9 and uses the Tablet under supervision. I had a very open chat with her on the kinds of objectionable content available online and that it is not appropriate for her. I also speak to her about cyberbullying. It helps that the school does the same as well. To date, she has always been very open with me and asks me before opening a link on a web page and even insists I sit with her on occasion.

    Whether this will change as she grows older is open to guessing, of course. I’m hoping that our maturity and our willingness to speak openly with the kids will help keep them grounded and open in their teen years too.

    • I hope so too, Shy. Just yesterday, we had a conversation with the younger son who was wanted a Facebook account because his friend had one. There were years and stubbornness but then we explained and cajoled and he finally relented to not having one. The challenge is also with two children where the younger one wants age-inappropriate rights just because his sibling has it. The kids do change during the teen years. Hope we can continue to share the same friendship and trust that we do now.

  12. Hmmm….very well written, Rachna! I remember that I was always very careful while discussing any sensitive subject with them. First it is better to appreciate some action of theirs and then give them advice! They should know that we are not here just to find fault with them but guide them and appreciate them too. Thank god, it is over!

  13. “As parents you have the right to set boundaries and discipline them.” I’d like to rephrase it, “As parents you have right to help your children in making their decision easily by realizing them the importance of self-discipline.” Well, monitoring & imposed discipline will make them more rebellious. Instead, talk with them to open their darkest secrets as friends and tell them the pros & cons of their actions and let them make their decisions on their own. Discuss with them the things before they learn it from friends. In short, be their best buddy.

  14. Keeping a close tab yet giving them their own space goes a long way in making them better individuals – that’s what my parents did and I think I am not a spoiled brat ?

  15. I know the feeling. I liken this stage to grasping sand in your fist. Too tight or too open and it will trickle away… the hols needs to be just right. At the end of the day…i hope i can leep that just right balance. Cheers to a happy teenage. The boys deseve it. Even girls …

  16. Agree with you and others that teens need their space even while getting attention and guardianship of their parents. The trick is to know when to cut slack. But I am sure that it is not difficult if the communication channels have been kept open during their childhood and adolescent years. Also children don’t act cocky if they see that the parents are being reasonable while putting forth their views or setting limits. I disagree with the premise that information is a substitute for knowledge or wisdom vis-a-vis internet and gadgets though these have increased the worry quotient of parents 🙂

    At the cost of sounding as if I am peddling old wisdom, I’d like to quote a saying in Tamil which loosely translates into: Once your children grow above your shoulders, treat them as friends.

    As for parenting teens I have shared a lot about the agonies and joys in many a post 😀

  17. I couldn’t agree more Rachna, there are so many complexities associated with it, there is a good chance that anything can backfire and draw them away. Maybe the best way is to sit them down and have an adult conversation. But there is an equally good chance that will backfire very strongly too.. Quite a tough call indeed!

  18. The one thing I disagree with is that ‘smarter’ tag 🙂 Yup, teens of today are way more knowledgeable but smart means the judgment to USE the knowledge. Too often, teens confuse knowing things with smartness – and THAT is one of those areas where parental guidance is important.

    As usual, you provoke thoughts.

  19. Rahul on March 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm said:

    As Zephyr says the trick lies in treating the child as a friend once the child reaches the shoulder level:)

  20. Hi Rachna, very nice post. I have a few years to see the challenges. but i can understand it very well, my sons have started showing me the signs. Thanks for sharing the parenting tips.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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