Parenting teens in today’s society is becoming more and more difficult. If you notice your teenager is fighting with a friend, your first instinct might be to step in, but should you?
With the bullying and suicide rates at an all time high, it is normal to be concerned. However, this doesn’t mean you should dive into a pattern of helicopter parenting, checking on your teen every chance you get. It is important to define and keep boundaries for both your sanity and the relationships of your teen. While some may argue that it is our job as parents to step in and ensure our children are succeeding, this is not always the case. Especially with teenagers, intervening comes with the risk of pushing your child even further away, and you don’t want them to feel like they can’t trust you or come to you during the really tough times.
It is normal to wonder, “What can I do? How do I help? Do I help? Is it being too nosey or am I overstepping boundaries?”
There is no short answer to the many questions that may be ruminating in your brain and driving you to insanity, but there are guidelines you can follow to help you make a more informed decision.
What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do:
- First ask your child if they would like your support.
- If they would like your support, start by asking the important questions:
- Do you feel like you are being bullied?
- Do your teachers, school counselor, or principal know what is going on?
- Communicate to your teenager that if someone is being unkind that it is wise to be the bigger person. This can mean ignoring what the friend is saying or letting that friend know that you won’t engage in fighting as this this is not how you treat friends.
- Suggest that they try and have a conversation with the friend. They might open with, “I am sorry you feel that way. My intention was never to hurt your feelings.”
- LISTEN. If they will open up to you, let it be known that you are here to listen, not judge and will not offer suggestions unless they ask. This will help set your child up for success.
- It is perfectly okay to tell your child that if their friend isn’t treating them well that it’s ok to end the friendship and encourage other healthy friendships.
When To Stay Out Of It
Sometimes you need to have tough conversations with your teen about how to handle arguments with friends. There will be situations that as a parent you need to take the high road and let your teenagers fight their own battles. This is ultimately how they learn how to handle situations that are uncomfortable and how to take responsibility for their own actions. It is important to let children problem solve, and often it comes with trial and error. No teenager wants their parents getting involved as they run the risk of being a bigger target and being even more embarrassed! Believe me I know you want to step in out of love and you care deeply about your kid’s feelings, but sometimes you just have to step back and let them be a kid.
Some parenting experts will also tell you that if you get involved, you are making your child an easy target. "If a parent is always stepping in, there will be no end to that — you're teaching the child that you will always solve their problems in life, and that is a disaster, and we're doing more of that than ever before," said Michael Bradley, Philadelphia-based adolescent psychologist and author of When Things Get Crazy With Your Teen. Trust your child and teach them to be strong and stick up for themselves through communicating healthy boundaries.
Warning Signs That It May Be Time To Step In:
- Their grades start to decline and this is abnormal for him/her
- Withdrawing and isolating tendencies
- Making less plans to hang out with friends
- Telling school authority hasn’t helped and the situation is getting worse
- You notice your child becoming angry or short-tempered
Real Life Examples
As a Parenting Guru and host of the podcast, Parenting with a Punch, I’ve worked with many different parents and children to help them succeed and feel empowered through my on-demand parenting support programs.
Here is the truth. You are taking a risk either way, whether you step in or let it be. I had one client this past October stressing concerns about her 13-year-old freshman in high school. She found out his locker combination had been stolen, but he told his mom that nothing was going on. As she watched him become more and more anxious, she took the liberty of contacting his school counselor to try and get him to talk with her. Little did she know, but that was a big mistake. The counselor approached him in the middle of class, asking him to step out of class and meet with her. He was so embarrassed! And for good reason, right? He and his mom ended up having a conversation about it and he revealed that he was really upset with her for meddling in his business. He told her, “Look, if I wanted your help I would have asked.” Mom felt completely lost but did communicate to me that she was glad she did something regardless.
Another client noticed that her daughter was constantly getting upset when she was on her phone. After mom started asking questions, she found out that her daughter was feeling left out and rumors were being spread about her. Mom insisted the girl take a detox from her cell phone for a few weeks and it helped! The young girl was happier again and she was beginning to gain her self confidence back.
At the end of the day, remember that you raised a well-mannered and polite teenager, so trust that you are making the right decisions and take a step back unless you notice warning signs!
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