Monica Michael LPC | How to Enjoy My Teenager Again
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05 Jan How to Enjoy My Teenager Again

In addition to having raised four teenagers of my own, I have the privilege of working with teens and their families in my private practice. I know firsthand just how scary this stage of family life can feel. After all, we are well aware of the many ways in which teens can make decisions that have lifelong consequences.

As a therapist, I love to see the look of relief on a parent’s face when I give them a fresh way to view their teen-related challenges. I find it gratifying to watch their eyes light up with hope and their teens walk a bit taller as my helpful guidelines and key insights promote peace and harmony in their home. With these new resources, parents walk out of my office feeling like they have a concrete plan for How To Enjoy My Teenager Again.

Below are some tips to get you started. When you finish reading them, schedule an appointment with me at, or attend one of my complimentary How To Enjoy My Teenager Again webinars to continue this conversation. Just click on the links below and register.

Influence vs Power
I cannot overemphasize how important it is for you to use your influence to motivate your teen toward making good decisions. This is the best way to play the long game and feel confident that your child will make reasonable choices even when you are nowhere near.

Using power in an attempt to control your teen’s behavior takes less time – for the moment. But using force or manipulation to achieve compliance only works when your teen is within sight. Think back to your own childhood, and remember that teens can be both unreasonably optimistic and woefully short-sighted: “No one will find out.” “That will never happen to me.” “My parents are out of touch.”

Recalling these mantras of independent-minded teenagers eager to break free from “parental oppression” might make you feel panicky. Your intense anxiety might tempt you to “pull rank” on your emerging adult-child, but this could squash their natural tendency to look to you for help. After all, it’s so much quicker to blurt out, “Because I said so!” than it is to have a constructive conversation. But when you lay your head on your pillow at night, you ache for a better way. You despise what you are becoming. You didn’t envision becoming a dictator when you embarked on parenthood. But you don’t know where you would find the time to take a parenting class and you have few examples of a better approach.

Let me illustrate the difference between relying on power instead of influence, by contrasting two familiar Biblical figureheads. Moses ruled with power. He literally laid down the law with threats and curses. “Do this or die” could loosely characterize Moses’ general attitude. Unquestioning obedience was the goal. Fear was the fuel.

Jesus, on the other hand, relied on influence to bring about the desired results. He takes on the role of teacher. He treats his followers as learners. His teaching method is modeling – by example and conversation. His approach is marked by empathy and patience. “Do this and live” was his invitation. His goals were rest, relief, and relationship. Love was the fuel.

Common Issues Power (Moses) Influence (Jesus)
Disputes about clothing choices * Insist that you are the boss and you are in charge of what your teen looks like.
* Set arbitrary rules about what attire is acceptable and at what age.
* Make alterations to the clothing without discussing these changes with your teen.
* Purposely misplace or mar the offending clothing. “Oops!”
* Understand that identity development is a major transitional task for teens. Most teen fashion choices are fads that will pass without your intervention. Your teen is merely giving their self-image a “test run.”
* Compliment the wise choices and ignore the questionable ones.
* Offer to photograph your teen in their new outfit. A photograph gives different information than a look in the mirror will. The picture may cause the teen to change their own mind about their choice.
Poor school performance * Ground from phone use and friend contact until grades improve.
* Insist on marathon study sessions “until it’s done.”
* Ask your teen if they have any homework when you already know the answer. This is merely setting a trap.
* Assume there are valid reasons for the performance lapse.
* Ask your teen to identify their struggles.
* Provide a peer mentor.
* Identify possible learning disorders.
* Get professionals to teach useful study skills.
Sleep schedules * Lecture and argue about the need for better sleep.
* Load the pantry with caffeinated, high energy foods, yet expect your teen to use sheer willpower to avoid those items.
* Remind your teen that this is your house and your rules!
* Arrange the environment of the home in a way that pre-signals a winding down to a reasonable bedtime. Lighting and sound are big cues.
* Teach good sleep skills such as stretching, progressive relaxation, and consistent bedtime routines.
* Provide sleep inducing/relaxing foods during the evening hours.
Electronics Usage * Shut down access whenever it occurs to you that it has been awhile since you’ve seen your teen.
* Threaten to shut off internet or phone access for arguing with you, fighting with siblings, or “having a bad attitude.”
* Arrange the environment of the home in a way that pre-signals a winding down to a reasonable bedtime. Lighting and sound are big cues.
* Teach good sleep skills such as stretching, progressive relaxation, and consistent bedtime routines.
* Provide sleep inducing/relaxing foods during the evening hours.
Chores * Assign the chores whenever they come to your mind and expect your teen to stop in the middle of what they are doing to fulfill your wishes.
* As soon as your teen shows competency in the skill, make them do it regularly without help.
* Give your teen the chores you hate.
* Make your teen responsible for how their younger siblings complete their chores.
* Post a chore list with deadlines.
* Pick a couple chores to routinely complete together. This gives you the opportunity to talk with your teen, accomplish a joint venture, and convey that work is not a drudgery. It is an opportunity to bond.
* Let your teen be in charge of the work project and practice their leadership skills.

I’ve developed the table below with modern day examples to help parents compare these two leadership styles. Let it serve as a quick reference for you. Make your own adjustments to the details so that they fit into your home and lifestyle. These are only examples.

Make no mistake. Power works. But you already know how utterly sapping it is to your energy. Adopting a shift toward using the influence of your relationship with your teen will help the resistance and distance between you melt away. You will notice that you are starting to enjoy your teen again when your teen responds to seeing your love for them in action, feeling your trust in them grow, and sensing that you understand them. Imagine being able to lay your head on your pillow at night and actually rest.

Monica Michael is a professional counselor, neurofeedback specialist, and adjunct professor of psychology. Monica has 26 years experience homeschooling her four children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Monica also has experience teaching in a Montessori education environment. What she prizes most about her homeschooling experience is the opportunity she had to teach her children to be life-long learners.

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