Parenting Teens: Pick Your Battles

Parenting Teens: Pick Your Battles

Parenting Teens: Pick your Battles

Having high expectations for your child is great. Expecting perfection is not.

Parents: getting on your kid’s case about everything is a waste of your time, and more importantly, going to make your child feel bad (incompetent, ugly, ashamed). How would you feel if your husband rolled his eyes when he saw your new outfit? How would you feel if your boss asked 5 times in the past hour if you’d finished your assignment? Probably not very good. That’s how your teen feels when you remind him repeatedly to do his homework or brush the hair out of his eyes every time you see him.

Nagging doesn’t work and here’s why:

1. Nagging is a way parents try to control the situation or child. It’s not an effective parenting strategy. I’m sure your teenager has made it very clear by now that you can’t control him/her. However, hopefully you can influence your teenager. Giving choices, setting clear expectations and consequences, showing respect, allowing your teen to fail, and being a role model are ways to influence your child. Allowing him to choose and possibly fail, gives the message that he’s capable, responsible, and doesn’t need you to micromanage. Remember your goal is for him to become independent from you.

2. Nagging and arguing erode the relationship and communication with your teenager. Your child is less likely to trust and confide in you if you are constantly pointing out his short comings.

3. Nagging causes you stress too. It costs you peace of mind when you put so much focus on the negative.

As I suggested in my previous post, by putting your time into cultivating the values that matter to you,  you will achieve your parenting goals and build a more positive relationship with your child . I can’t tell you what battles to let go of. The only absolute is that safety issues are non-negotiable. Personally, I don’t bother about my teenager’s uncombed hair, choice of music,  bedtime, or questionable fashion sense. Only their peers’ opinions matter to them. And they really don’t need to feel “less than” because I think that hat looks ridiculous.

I worked with a teenager who was depressed and cutting. Her parents were always on her case about messes left around the house and undone chores. These things may be important, but they weren’t the priority. And as I’ve said, her mother’s nagging only made her feel like more of a failure. Kids want their parents’ approval. Heck, most adults still value their parents’ approval. A final benefit of picking your battles is it frees up some of your time and energy to notice what your teenager is doing right.

Sharon Martin, LCSW © 2014

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.