Terri L. Lent
Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen: Even when It Seems Impossibleby Judy Ford
Most parents would agree that the teen years are the most challenging; Judy Ford shows that they can also be the most rewarding. In Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen she suggests 60 ways for parents to nurture, inspire, and encourage their children rather than attempt to control their child. Her ideas can help parents escape old patterns, rebuild a loving bond, and guide… See more details below
Most parents would agree that the teen years are the most challenging; Judy Ford shows that they can also be the most rewarding. In Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen she suggests 60 ways for parents to nurture, inspire, and encourage their children rather than attempt to control their child. Her ideas can help parents escape old patterns, rebuild a loving bond, and guide teens toward a healthy and happy adulthood. This edition features a new introduction by the author.
Terri L. Lent
- Wildside Press
- Publication date:
Meet the Author
With over half a million copies of her books in print, Judy Ford, M.S.W. is the best-selling author of Conari's Wonderful Ways books, which include Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen, Wonderful Ways to Love a Child, Wonderful Ways to Be a Family, Wonderful Ways to Love a Grandchild, and Wonderful Ways to Be a Stepparent. Co-author with her daughter Amanda of Between Mother & Daughter, she lives in Washington state.
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Read an Excerpt
Wonderful Ways to LOVE a TEEN
... Even When It Seems Impossible
By Judy Ford
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 1996 Judy Ford
All rights reserved.
It's paradoxical that when you're patient with your teen, when you've stopped insisting, and forcing, the very thing you're hoping for can happen.
Expect the Unexpected
Parents who have successfully raised a teen know that this stage is full of ups and downs. It's like riding a roller coaster: even when you know the highs and lows are coming, you still get quite a jolt. One minute your daughter is acting so maturely that you have to blink to make sure this is still your child; the next minute she's pitching a fit like she did when she was two. And the worse thing is you never know which of the two personas will respond in any given situation.
Parenting involves a great amount of teaching. When your child wasyoung, you taught him many things: how to dress himself, tie his shoes, brush his teeth, and ride a bicycle, as well as how to relate to others, and generally be a civilized human being. By the time he's a teenager, he'll be so capable and responsible that you might both forget he hasn't mastered everything.
There's a long list of things teens need to know from you—practical things such as how to apply for a job, drive a car, do the laundry, and fix a meal. They need lessons in money management, time management, and social skills. They also need to learn more intangible things, like how to lead a balanced life and how to treat themselves and other people well. The underlying message in all you're conveying is responsible freedom. Together, all the things you're teaching add up to your giving your teenager more and more responsibility for his personal freedom. But his ability to bear this responsibility doesn't usually come about in an orderly progression. It's more of a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of thing.
Remember when you taught your son to tie his shoes? He didn't quite have the hang of it, but he tried to do it anyway; then he got frustrated when he couldn't do it the first time. When you tried to show him again, he got irritated, cried, and pushed you away. But you and he diligently kept at it until he got the hang of it.
It's the same with teens. They're ready to take on new freedoms and responsibilities even though they haven't mastered all the skills; and as you show them what they need to know, unexpectedly they'll get impatient and lash out. In the midst of this commotion, you will be called on to keep your wits about you. It's a big achievement to keep calm, but it's worth it. For just as she learned to cross the street, if you keep guiding, she'll learn to fly.
Laugh About Inconsistencies
Your teen can be a bundle of contradictions, one minute accusing you of interfering, and the next minute demanding your advice. Instead of pointing out the crazy inconsistencies, you'll feel calmer if you grin and have a good private laugh. Unless you can laugh to yourself about these unpredictable, unexplainable detours (laughing at them aloud is a no-no), you'll have some rough years ahead.
When my daughter, Amanda, was sixteen, she came home from school one day and I said cheerfully, "Hi, honey, how was your day?" To this she responded, "Just once I wish I could come home and you wouldn't say, 'Hi, honey, how was your day?' Just once I wish I could come home after a hard day at school to peace and quiet and not have to answer your questions." Wanting to be a responsive, caring parent, I listened carefully without talking back (the really hard part) and made a mental note of her request. The next day, I made sure I was in my room with the door closed so I wouldn't disturb her when she came home from school. To my astonishment, as she walked through the kitchen she yelled, "Mom, Mom, where are you?" And as she started telling me about her day, I thought to myself: It's confusing to live with a teenager.
Brittany wanted her mom to help her choose a prom dress, but each time her mother made suggestions Brittany said, "You know I don't like that color," or "You know I don't like that style. Why can't you help me find something I like?" Her mom felt perturbed, but since she understood that Brittany was feeling pressure to get just the perfect dress, she decided not to defend herself. Instead, she tried as best she could to do what Brittany wanted: "If you like that one, honey, let's get it.... Yes, that looks nice, too." She thought she was doing okay, when Brittany scolded, "Mom, I'd like some helpful feedback. Why aren't you telling me what you like?" She gave Brittany a questioning look that said, Are you kidding? They continued shopping, eventually agreeing on the long purple dress. Mom still doesn't know what happened, but she laughs about it.
These discrepancies are definitely not worth arguing about. Matthew says, "Some of the stupidest conversations I've had with my fifteen- year-old son are when I'm in my 'I'm right' mode, trying to point out his inconsistencies."
When you find yourself caught off guard by these little inconsistencies, you'll be better off ignoring most of them, shaking your head in disbelief, and keeping it to yourself. Bette1 2—share it with your spouse or another parent and have a good laugh. In fact, you'll probably be chuckling for years.
Choose Power Struggles Wisely
Inherent in living with your teenager potential for daily disagreements, frequent fights, major power struggles, and little rows and quarrels, so choose them carefully, cautiously, and mindfully.
What does it mean to choose your power struggles wisely? It means using your expertise to sidestep hassling over nonsense—small stuff that in the big scheme of things doesn't really matter much. When you have some life experience under your belt, you recognize that fighting over the small stuff is detrimental. Taking on battles just to prove who's the boss or who's right causes a lot of dissension, and is a bad example for your teenager.
"The day Carly turned thirteen we started fighting," her mother, Laura, told me. "I don't know what starts most of our fights. At the time it seems important, but the next day I feel horrid. I don't want to fight with her, but I get hooked every time." It's true that when you fight over the insignificant stuff such as hair, clothes, makeup, music, food, and the like, you'll both end up feeling bad—and there will be a gap between you. Such a big rumpus, mountains of hurt feelings, and nothing settled.
Just because you don't agree with everything your teenager is doing, you don't have to confront it. You can let some things slide because you know she'll learn, as you did, by trial and error. If you're going to have a confrontation, it's a good idea to understand clearly what you're trying to accomplish. Instead of shouting, lashing out, or handing down orders, a mature parent thinks about what action needs to be taken. Don't be a firecracker, going off without thinking of the consequences, by saying such things as: "You're old enough to know better." "As long as you are living under my roof ..." "Because I said so, that's why." "When I was your age ..."
Before you start pointing out how you want things done, ask yourself: Is this really worth all the friction and hard feelings it could cause? Is it worth putting distance and misunderstanding between me and my child one more time? Remember, that as the head of the household, you don't have to exert your authority by getting caught up in incessant arguing.
After raising two children and with a sixteen year old left at home, Sam said, "We don't fight about trivia anymore. We step in and take charge occasionally, but mostly we step back."
When you step back, you can let the insignificant pass while demonstrating a level of maturity that is good for your teen to see.
Take Time to Unwind
You thought childbirth was painful—some say it was a piece of cake compared to living with a teen. One thing is for sure: You'll need those childbirth skills of deep breathing in order to relax and get your bearings. Breathing helps you avoid that frenzied feeling; and when you're relaxed, you're better able to focus on the joys of watching your child grow up. When you're at ease, you're able to see how well you've done, what a fine young person you're raising. And when you're feeling tranquil, you're able to experience the bond with your child, the heart connection, the eternal link.
Parents and teens often feel so rushed that it's easy to forget to rest, unwind, and enjoy one another. You want to take it easy, you think about it, you intend to, but then schedules get jammed and the "to-do" list grows, so you put off slowing down until the weekend. Then chores and outside commitments take first priority, enjoying your family takes a backseat, and you're too busy to catch your breath.
Some parents tell me that weeks go by without their saying anything more then hello and good-bye to their teenagers, not because they haven't wanted to be with one another, but because their lives are loaded with demands and obligations. The years from junior high to high school can be one big blur. Soon the kids are graduating, and you barely remember what happened.
Our teenagers' lives get out of balance, too. Some kids take tough academic loads and spend every waking moment studying. Others pack their schedules so tightly with sports, work, and extracurricular activities that soon they're so busy they forget to smell the roses, taste the pizza, hear the music. They rush too fast to notice.
We don't want our teenagers soaking up the anxieties of this fast paced life, but we don't know what to do. We get caught up in the pursuit of the goal, thinking that once they've made the team, the honor roll, or won a scholarship, they'll have it made—then they can start living—so we push our teenagers to achieve. Before you know it, they're overwhelmed too.
When your or your teenager's life lacks balance, it's time to simplify. You can simplify your life by avoiding making comparisons, by taking regular time for play, and by letting yourself and your teenager sit and stare—doing nothing is important, too. Wally, a grandfather of five teenagers, is known for his easygoing manner. He doesn't get ruffled when things go wrong. His motto is Work hard and sit down when you're tired. Good idea!
Give Them Reasons to Be Proud of You
You want to be proud of your teenager, and your teenager wants to be proud of you. She wants to look up to you as a person she admires. Just as she pleases you by the choices she makes, in the same way she will look at your life to determine whether or not she can respect you. Your teenager will love you because you're her parent, but if you want her to be proud of you, it is imperative that you conduct yourself with candor, goodness, and integrity.
Sharon was a smoker and yet she was appalled when she caught her thirteen-year-old daughter, Lydia, smoking on the street corner. "I can't believe it," she scolded. "You look so cheap, not to mention what it's doing to your health." Sharon nagged, threatened, and bribed Lydia to stop. Lydia offered, "I'll stop if you will, Mom." Sharon tried and failed. "I can't, it's too hard." Lydia hasn't stopped either.
You can't teach your adolescent to be truthful if you're living in denial about your own life. You can't teach her to be trustworthy if you don't keep your commitments. You can't teach her to make good decisions if you never give her a chance to decide for herself. You can't teach her to talk things through when you fly off the handle. If you are unhappy with yourself, you can't fake it—your teenager will see through your lies.
Unfortunately, too many teenagers grow up in spiritually bankrupt homes, living with parents who are alcoholic or physically or mentally abusive. Some teenagers live with rage and shame inflicted on them by parents who refuse to be accountable for their own lives or heal their personal pain.
Teenagers deserve to feel safe, valued, loved, and cared for by parents who, although not perfect, are living lives based on honesty, integrity, wisdom, and love—who practice what they preach.
Your children see you; they know who you are. They are watching your character. They can describe your traits, your personality, your disposition, and the stuff you are made of. What attributes, virtues, and qualities do you want them to see? Can they be proud of you?
Remember Your Own Feelings as a Teenager
Remember when you were in junior high and high school? What were you thinking and feeling? What was important to you? If you remember your adolescence, you're better equipped as a parent to find creative solutions to the dilemmas of living with your teen.
There can be a pitfall in remembering, however, as one dad told me: "I was really wild when I was my son's age—drinking, vandalizing, and stealing. At first I assumed that if I did it, my kid would, too, but as I thought about it, I realized our circumstances and surroundings are entirely different."
Although it is helpful to remember what you experienced and felt as an adolescent, you don't want to assume that your teenager is doing the same things. Don't assume that he has the same problems you did or that he'll handle them as you did. Your teenager isn't you. Actually, many parents brag that their kids are wiser and more competent than they were at the same age.
However, remembering your own experiences can go a long way toward maintaining empathy for your kids. What was life like for you as a teen? What do you wish could have been different? What changes would you make? How did you feel about your body when it started to change? What did you wish your parents would have understood? What was your relationship like with your parents? What kind of relationship do you have with them now? Did you wear bell bottoms? Have a flattop? Grow your hair to your shoulders? What was your favorite music? Did you like your looks? Were you popular? Teens have inner conflicts that are often too personal to share. Did you?
Forty-year-old Rebecca remembers, "In junior high, a classmate said I had a horse smile. I was mortified. From that moment on I decided to look dignified. I practiced smiling for hours in front of the mirror. I got so I knew how wide to smile. But sometimes I'd forget to give a sophisticated smile and when I'd see my picture, there I'd be with the ugly horse smile and I'd be so humiliated, I'd think: All these other kids have dignified, quiet smiles, why can't I?"
When you think back to your own adolescence, you'll remember how complex it really was and you'll be more compassionate toward your sons and daughters. And when you share with them what life was like for you, what self-doubts you had, they'll probably be more good natured and benevolent toward you.
Excerpted from Wonderful Ways to LOVE a TEEN by Judy Ford. Copyright © 1996 Judy Ford. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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