When my phone rings with a parent of a teenager, I often hear "my teen is so lazy.” Many parents think of therapy as the "teen fix-it shop." While therapy is very helpful when your teen's behavior has spiraled beyond your ability to handle, here are two tips that can make a huge difference with your teens behavior:
1) Keep an open and respectful relationship with your teen
Don’t play against your teen, find a way to be on their team. You can create more influence by working with your teen. Avoid the typical parental ploy of threats, manipulation, punishment - these get you nowhere, but even more importantly these can be detrimental and push your teen away. Keep feelings of fear, anxiety, and worry in check. While these are normal emotions to experience in the teen years, reacting to your teen out of these feeling will be ineffective.
Remember, your teen is not a lazy good-for-nothing and they are not behaving this way on purpose to make your life miserable. If you start to get worked up and emotionally reactive, try to say to yourself “My teen is just not there yet, they need help figuring it out.” Our job as parents is to help them learn how to be responsible. When you resort to negativity or trying to make a “moral issue” out of your teens behavior, the result may be a defiant teen. Be your teen's cheerleader and see then participate on your team.
2) Incorporate "if then rule" – Grandma’s Principle (you get cookies when…)
As a young girl my grandma taught me this principle with my annual summer visits. My grandma made the best ever oatmeal raisin peanut butter cookies (trust me, they are awesome). Grandma’s rule was – when you pull one patch of weeds in the back yard you can have some cookies. This was an important life lesson of delayed gratification and work equals reward – something that is quickly fading with today’s teenagers and the instant access via social media. As adults we have learned – when we work hard we get a paycheck and maybe a raise at our annual review. We can teach this simple principle with everyday opportunities. For example if your teen plays a sport encourage them, when you practice your game will improve. For example: practice shooting hoops every day, you increase your baskets. Other ways to incorporate this lesson is by saying things like “you can have 2 hours of computer use, when you finish your homework.” OR “When you are done studying you can go to the mall”. OR “When your show me your book report is done, we can discuss what movie to see at the theater this weekend.” Enforce the “if this, then that” rule – be sure to stick to it! Sticking to this rule teaches your teen perseverance and you are helping them learn how to do what their own brain is not yet equipped to do, which is to create the structure for success.