Author: Jenny Hart
It’s no secret that parenthood is tough. Fathers in particular play an important role in their kids’ lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kids with fathers who are actively involved in their lives are more likely to excel in school and have fewer behavioral issues than kids whose fathers are not involved. As a dad, you are your kids’ primary leader, supporter, and example.
As children get older, it’s challenging to balance your role in their life with all the changes they’re enduring physically, mentally, and emotionally. Often, teenagers rebel as an attempt to find their identity, prove their place in the world or ask for help.
As a dad, consider these three ways to handle an unruly teenager and you’ll be able to foster connection, trust, and love with your kids:
1. Start with understanding the teenage brain
From a scientific standpoint, our brain’s structure is developed at 95 percent by the age of six. However, there are a number of functions that aren’t connected at that point, including the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that evaluates outcomes and consequences, forms judgments, and controls emotions and impulses.
As a result, teenagers can get easily frustrated, act impulsively and experience mood swings, or even develop mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
If you can understand why their behavior is unmanageable, it can be much easier to empathize, tap into patience and understanding, and find solutions that will resonate with your teen.
If they are being disrespectful or acting out, it may be because they have emotions that they’re unable to process. One of the best ways to handle an unruly teenager is to focus on keeping your relationship intact and assuring them that you want to understand what they’re going through.
2. Keep open, clear and consistent communication
Often times, keeping your relationship front and center means communicating with your teen in ways that may be uncomfortable for you. They may have opinions and views that are not the same as yours. It’s important not to try and conform them to your beliefs, but to listen authentically and understand their position before correcting or offering solutions.
This time in their life is often when they develop emotional and intellectual independence, and it’s our job as parents to foster good judgment, rather than do the thinking for them.
At the same time, don’t shy away from difficult topics. Teens need to know that they have an advocate who won’t be awkward or evasive when talking about the hard things. Dads of sons will likely have the advantage of sharing their own experience with emotions, puberty and social encounters. However, if you’re a dad of teenage daughters, you also have a very special opportunity to break the stigma surrounding men and female-centric topics like dating, body image and even teen tampons.
Teenagers need consistency at home. Make an effort to be available and interested in their life, likes and dislikes, their hobbies and their friend circles. And when you set boundaries and consequences, follow through. While it may feel harsh in the moment, their growing minds will benefit from your consistency and presence in their lives.
3. Lead by example and do it together
Perhaps the most important way to deal with an unruly teen is to lead by example. When you’re frustrated, think about how you’d like your child to handle the situation if they were in it. Continue to work on your own physical, emotional and mental health to encourage them to do the same.
Even as they grow into young adults, your kids will always be watching how you live your life as an example for them to follow. Make sure you do everything you can to better yourself, speak kindly of yourself and of others, and build a life of integrity and respect that you hope to see in them. This will reinforce deep-rooted values that they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
The beauty is, you don’t have to have all the answers. There are resources and professionals available to help you navigate all aspects of parenthood with your teen. When in doubt, let them know that you love them unconditionally and if you don’t have the answer, you’ll figure it out together. Ultimately, that’s what will keep you connected with your child through the highs and lows of their teenage years.
About the author:
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. When she isn’t writing or traveling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone. To connect with Jenny on Linkedin