Most parents have probably thought they couldn’t wait until their kids got older so parenting would be easier. But those currently parenting adolescents might have a few words to say about it. You know, the idea of things being easier as the tribe gets older.

“I have three sons, two of whom are teens. I would say our parenting efforts have ramped up substantially with our teen boys,” says Gena Ellis. “You think because they can feed and clothe themselves, shower without supervision and they seem more independent that you can back off. But really, the teen years almost require more parenting, just in a different way.”

When children are young the focus is on teaching them right from wrong, how to be polite and what it means to share along with learning to count, and know their colors. As children mature things get a bit more complicated as parents realize the decisions made during these formative years will impact them in the future.

“In the early years, I think both my husband and I were under the impression that the younger years would be the most intensive for us as parents,” Ellis says. “Now that we have moved on, we realize that parenting adolescents is no less intense and that our boys still need us actively involved in their lives. Not overly-involved, but involved enough that we can help them continue to grow and learn what it means to be an independent adult. We are very clear that adolescence is no time to take a back seat when it comes to the parenting journey.”

When Ellis’ oldest son forgot to turn in a paper, her first reaction was to pick up the phone and call his teacher to explain that he had been at band rehearsals all week until late in the evening. As a result, he was running behind on his school work. Instead of doing that she asked her son about the situation. He told her he had already spoken with his teacher and explained the situation. They worked something out and mom never had to get involved.

“I was very proud of my son,” Ellis says. “It made me know he has been paying attention to all we have been teaching and modeling for him when it comes to taking responsibility and being accountable. What he learned from this experience was far more powerful that if I had intervened in the situation.”

Here are a few thoughts on parenting adolescents:

  • Make sure you are handling things in a way that builds up your teen versus tearing them down.
  • Provide direction according to their needs, not yours.
  • Understand your teen doesn’t want you to fix it for them. They want you to listen.
  • Learning to problem solve and coming up with reasonable solutions builds a teen’s self-confidence. The more they can do this in a supportive home environment, the better off they’ll be in the real world.
  • Keep your expectations realistic.
  • Spend time with your teen. They may act prickly like they don’t want you around. Don’t misinterpret their behavior.

“When they are little, children need you in front leading,” Ellis says. “When they are older they need you behind them, encouraging them.”If you think parenting gets easier as your kids get older, you might want to think again. Here are some helpful tips for the teen and preteen years.

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