The teen years are a challenging time for parents. Parenting adolescents can be maddening, but it can also be rewarding. If parenting your teen is more frustrating and stressful than it is fulfilling and fun, perhaps it is time to look at your personality. Assertive personalities act in their own best interest without hurting others, stand up for themselves, are proactive, honest and respected. Your personality is directly related to the type of parent you are. Assertive parenting can make all the difference in your relationship with your teen. Assertive parents raise teens who are well-adjusted and successful because they model assertive behavior, are responsible for their teen and they know and appreciate their teen as an individual.
Teens are struggling to become abstract thinkers and independent in thought and action. But this doesn’t mean they don’t need role models. Parents have to realize that despite the eye rolling, shoulder shrugging, yelling, ignoring and the you don’t get me’s and the I hate you’s, teens are listening and they are watching. When they are with their peers, it is your behaviors they emulate. Their brains are still developing and their hormones are raging so they may not see how to create win-win situations, but they can remember how their parent did it. Model assertive behavior and strengthen your relationship with your teen.
Teens need to see you:
- Stand up for yourself.
- Be proactive.
- Cultivate relationships that are based on respect.
- In control, not obsessed with it or willing to give it away.
- Make mistakes, fess up to them and learn from them.
- Live the laws of integrity.
- Take pride in your family.
- Show an interest in getting to know your teen and what they are doing.
- Work to maintain an assertive personality: manage stress, deal positively with anger and other emotions, check your attitude, keep allies, friends and family close, remember your behaviors will be studied and emulated, put yourself first once in a while.
- Accept help when the going gets tough.
- Deal with adversity in an assertive way.
- Constantly challenge yourself to be a better person and parent.
Modeling assertive behavior is important because teens look to their parents first and foremost for ways to navigate through life. Assertive behavior begins with assertive thinking. If the following examples of non-assertive thoughts are yours, you need to change your beliefs on parenting to reflect the thought processes of assertive parents.
Non-assertive: I don’t know why my children are always yelling at one another, fighting and teasing. Things are chaotic at our house.
Assertive: I can’t expect my teen to show respect for anyone if I don’t model respect. When there is respect in the home, there is no chaos.
Non-assertive: I know that I should stop _______ ing, but it’s my life.
Assertive: When I choose to participate in risky behaviors I should expect my teen to follow my example.
Non-assertive: I always know what’s best for my teen. After all, I am the parent.
Assertive: I know that my teen will never make good decisions on his or her own if I don’t model good decision making and then allow my child to practice and reap the rewards or consequences.
Your teen watches you, learns from you and they need your guidance. Providing positive guidance is not possible if you are not modeling assertiveness.
Assertive parents teach their children how to be responsible for themselves through modeling and acting as guides regarding decision making. Assertive parents also excel at taking responsibility for their teenagers. When you are responsible and teach your child responsibility, parenting becomes a much easier and less stressful proposition.
The following are examples of non-assertive thinking versus assertive thinking in regard to parent responsibility.
Non-assertive: It’s not my fault my teen is a victim/troublemaker.
Assertive: I am responsible for my teen. I have a part in what he or she is doing and what is happening to him or her. My teen’s behavior may be learned from me so I need to look objectively at my actions and my decisions.
Non-assertive: My teen is old enough to take care of him or herself.
Assertive: I know my teen is at a stage of life when he or she needs a parent to guide him or her, create boundaries and realize how to learn from personal mistakes. My teen may not always like me and may try to convince me I’m not needed, but I know better, because I am the parent.
Non-assertive: My child’s school administration will take care of any problems he or she is having.
Assertive: It is not a school administrator’s responsibility to solve my teen’s problems. Nor is it a counselor’s, law enforcement’s or anyone else’s. It is mine. I know that there are many school officials and others who will be good resources for me and offer me helpful services, but I have to be an advocate for my teen.
As well as believing their teen is someone else’s responsibility, non-assertive parents may take it a step further and believe they should be friends with their teen. As the following factual anecdote illustrates, this ideal can have serious consequences.
“Mom, I need your cell phone. I can’t find mine.”
“Sorry Max, but I have an important call for work I have to make.” Gina regretted turning her son down immediately.
“I said I need your phone and I need it now.”
Gina didn’t understand how her son had gotten this way. After all, he shouldn’t be at home, he should have been at school working on a high school diploma. At the very least he should have been at one of the countless jobs Gina and her husband Dan had used their personal connections to get him. Gina whispered, “No.”
“Stupid bitch!” Max grabbed Gina by the shoulders and drove her into an open closet. He slammed it shut and jammed a chair under the knob.
Gina listened to Max dig through her purse, finding the phone and whatever cash she had. As she tried not to listen to Max arranging to purchase drugs, she thought about how she’d ended up in a closet. She and Dan had given Max anything he wanted, and when he got into trouble, they bailed him out using any means necessary. They were his friends.
Teens have friends. They need parents. It is a parent’s job to take care of their children’s physical and emotional needs and raise them to become lifelong learners and contributors to society. In order to achieve this, you have to be an assertive parent, and that means not letting others be responsible for your teen or enabling him or her to misbehave. Teens like to think they are old enough to take care of themselves, but there is biological and psychological evidence to the contrary. You are the best choice to raise an assertive teen.
Assertive parents are not only responsible mentors, they are also parents who know their teen. Parents may believe that getting to know their teen is extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. Teens are moody, rebellious and they aren’t shy about letting parents know they don’t need them. Parents have to ignore teen rants and be the parent. Before parents can be a guide, mentor, supporter and advocate they have to try to know their teen. Teens who believe you care enough to want to know them will trust you and see you as an ally.
Getting to know your teen may not be easy, but there are some universal truths about them that may give you some assistance. It is true that every person on this planet is unique, but there are still some norms that the majority adheres to. The same holds true for teens. Perhaps knowing some of these generalities in regard to your teen can help you begin to know them.
In general, teens:
- Want the freedom to get to know themselves.
- Need to be validated.
- Consider trust extremely important.
- Value time with those closest to them, including parents.
- Need to be heard.
- Desire safety and security.
- Can see through dishonesty.
- Respond to being treated like the young adults they are.
- Want to be assertive, respected and successful.
When it comes down to it, teens have the same needs and desires as adults do, however, being aware of psychological norms is only a small part of knowing your teen. The larger question is who is your teen as an individual? This is also the tougher question to answer because they may not know quite yet. The answer may also be in constant flux. Still, assertive parents know the following about their teen, while non-assertive parents don’t.
- Their opinions.
- What they’re passionate about.
- Who they trust.
- How to challenge them to be better.
- What they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.
- Their limitations, weaknesses and strengths.
You have to know your teen as an individual before you can have a healthy relationship with him or her. I say this knowing full well that teens can be rebellious, sarcastic, moody and judgmental. But we also know that despite the assertions to the contrary, he or she wants you to recognize who they are and who they want to be. Parents cannot expect to have a positive relationship with their children if they don’t know them.
Parents have an integral role in influencing their teens to become assertive. I say influencing because the fact of the matter is, parents can no longer tell teens what to think or do. They have to be much sneakier and teach through modeling, acting as a mentor and taking an interest in their teen. Teens must decide to be assertive on their own, but the right decision is much clearer if they have a successful example. It is never too late to become an assertive parent. Become an assertive person first and the assertive parenting will follow. When you are an assertive parent who is a positive role model, responsible and know who your teen is, then will your relationship with your teen be a rewarding one.