by Susan Verde | May 13, 2018 6:42 pm
As a mom of teens I hear myself repeating the same “requests” over and over until ultimately they become “barking orders” and I have turned into a nagging parent and wonder what happened to my sweet responsive kids and why I am suddenly sighing so loudly! Then of course my brain creates a story of 2 boys and one girl in a future filled with mess and chaos. Ahhh thanks brain!
Speaking of brain however, it turns out that the teenage or adolescent (12-25) brain is functioning in a very unique way and that is part of the reason things like picking up after themselves is not high on the priority list. According to Katie Forster in her article, Secrets of the Teenage Brain “Tidiness needs a sophisticated level of cognitive control, and the way the teenage brain is connected means that their planning is not very good.” So perhaps we parents can go a bit easier on them knowing the brain is partially to blame.
In the meantime we don’t have to stop trying to get our teens to learn new habits (creating new neural pathways) and helping out around the house and taking care of themselves. Try these few things to spark the “helper” in your teenager.
Start with a conversation:
Have a real “sit-down” with your kids and find out what is most important to them to feel organized and healthy and then talk about what matters to you. Make it an exchange rather than a list of orders and commands. This will give you as a parent some insight into what your teen is thinking and what they might need help with and vice versa. It’s a great “check in” and ultimately they want to be heard and made to feel like the “playing field” is equal. Be sure to emphasize that you are a team and in this together.
Make a plan:
Once you have talked make a chart or set reminders on your phones. Together you can come up with a reasonable, manageable list. Perhaps this is where you can throw in some positive consequences. Instead of taking things away let your teen earn privileges for completing tasks and getting things accomplished. They need not be material rewards but things like more screen time or time with friends and family. Find out what motivates them and use it! Treat yourself too when you have fulfilled your responsibilities and be an example.
Let it go:
This may be the hardest part but eventually you will need to let things be. If your teen leaves a trail of clothes, towels and food take a breath and remember that the likelihood of these things leading to a life full of disappointment and chaos in highly unlikely. Eventually your teens will want to show a better side to their friends and will see the importance of taking care of themselves and their things. There are other important issues teens face and the more you can let some things go and just be a quiet example and presence the more likely they will come to you with the things that really matter. So keep breathing and call a friend to commiserate. This too shall pass.
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