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Dr Shelagh Wright - Systemic and Family Psychotherapist and Family Mediator

I've Been Thinking - Dr Shelagh's Blog


DIFFUSING THE TEENAGE RAMPAGE

The current statistics on teenage crime are quite frightening and the amount of publicity given to teenage anti social behaviour suggests that this is something that is not a localised issue in 'problem areas'. In recent years the Government has worked on intervening early to prevent children from 'going off the rails'. They have also suggested bringing in 'experts' to help manage the teenage rebel element. As parents none of us want to think of our children as being in that category but can we be sure? Any parent knows only too well how hard it can be to manage the delicate balance between allowing your teenager age appropriate independence whilst still keeping them on the 'straight and narrow'. There are many conflicting theories about how much control a parent should have over their teenagers but the fact remains, within the law a parent is responsible for their children until they reach the age of 18 years.

As parents from the day our children are born we are preparing them and ourselves for them leaving home and becoming independent; some of us find this harder to do than others. We hang on to them too long keeping them dependent; alternatively we give them too much independence too soon, either way they can become overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of themselves and ultimately have problems. So what is the 'right' way? Actually there is no 'right' way but this does not mean to say that there is also no 'wrong' way, as clearly there are many 'wrong' ways but, often we only become aware of this after the event.

The key point here is that as parents we are responsible for teaching our offspring how to behave and ensuring that until they can make decisions for themselves that we guide them towards the path that is acceptable. This invariably involves talking to them about EVERYTHING not just the things you want to talk about. It involves giving them opportunities to try things out for themselves whilst being clear about what your basic expectations of them are. When they stray it is important to point this out with rationale explanations for your expectation. Saying 'because I said so' is not reasonable. It also means behaving in ways yourself that teaches your children the kind of acceptable behaviour you expect of them. Recently there was a case of a father who whilst attending an under 14's football match for a local league assaulted the referee causing injuries requiring 16 stitches: I wonder what his son learned that day.

On a more practical note, for example do you think you need to monitor your teenager's Internet use? If you think so do you know how to? Is it ok to check their text messages? Should your teenager have a specific bedtime? Or time for coming home at night? Do you think there is an age when you can no longer say 'no' to your teenager? Children learn from what they see and experience; what do you think you are teaching your children about how to express themselves and manage their negative emotions? As parents we all have different ideas about how we want to bring up our children and we know there is not is a foolproof method that works for everyone, however there are some basic principles that all parents can incorporate into their own parenting style to help their teenagers develop into responsible adults.

Dr Shelagh can offer a service to parents that can address these issues. Dr Shelagh can meet with parents for an initial assessment and offer guidance on how to manage the specific difficulties that you as parents may be facing with your teenager. This guidance will be tailor made to deal with the specifics rather than a general 'rule of thumb' that a parent may reading a book or see on television.

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