Parenting

Tips for a Good Relationship with Your Teenager

  1. Look for opportunities for discussions you can have whether you're driving somewhere, preparing dinner or just in passing. Think about topics you can discuss. Make them thought-provoking open—ended questions about life and its decisions. Discover what your child thinks, how she would respond in certain situations, and where she would go for help. Reinforce things she says that you agree with, but never belittle her ideas.

  2. Spend quality one-on-one time together. Focused individual time with your child is very important. Go out for breakfast or lunch once a week—and make it a habit. Even if the response is tepid, you should insist because it sends the message that your child is important. Meet in a location where you can talk. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, but it should be planned and consistent.

  3. Listen more and answer less. Counterintuitive as it sounds, if you want your teen to understand you better, stop telling her what you think and wait until you’re asked for your opinion. Stop lecturing. She won't really be ready to listen until she is the initiator of the discussion anyway.

  4. Share challenging experiences. Find an activity that you both enjoy and then pursue it. For instance, perhaps you both like gardening, volunteering for chesed projects, or photography. Play a game together. Dedicate effort and resources to developing your interest together.

  5. Develop a sense of humor. A lot of people are stressed out all the time. We need to lighten up, especially around sensitive adolescents. Even if it's only sharing a corny joke, everyone laughs and the tension is broken.

  6. Remember your child’s past and believe in your child's future. Carry a photo of your child as a youngster with you at all times! Post her baby photo on your refrigerator. This way you'll never forget who she was before she turned into an alien! Keep in mind the joy you felt when you brought her home right after she was born.

  7. Establish boundaries. Everything good in life has its rules, including your relationship with your teen. Tell her what you expect before something challenges those expectations. Clearly establish your belief system and household rules. Being too lax as a parent and trying to act more like a peer will hurt rather than help your relationship.

  8. It's not about you. Keep in mind that discipline is all about helping your teen, not you. Confront with calmness and correct with firmness. Your child needs to know you love her enough to correct her when she behaves in ways that offend others or break your rules. Find healthy ways to discipline, such as the temporary loss of certain freedoms and privileges. Never resort to physical discipline, and always present a united front with your spouse. And be sure to reward good behavior by adding more privileges, which is more important to teenagers than anything else.

  9. Relationships with teenagers thrive when everyone agrees that no one is perfect and unconditional love is delivered across a bridge of connection, even if your teen doesn't respond or continues to make mistakes. Incidentally, your child may never have a long discussion with you; it might always be the instant—message variety. But listen carefully, because you'll probably have to read between the lines and ask a few quick questions for clarity, which will also show that you are listening and truly want to understand.

    MORE: Is your teen driving you crazy? Check out some more guidance from our Sages here!

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