I am in no way claiming to be a parenting expert. As of right now, I'm parenting two young adults aged 21 and 19 as well as two teenagers age 16 and 14. I've tried many, many different parenting techniques over the years. Some good.....and some that caused craziness for our family. At times I've had rules for EVERYTHING and other times I've thrown all the rules out the window and just flown by the seat of my pants. I wouldn't recommend the latter for an extended period of time!!
As the kids have gotten older, there is one thing that I have done consistently that has proven to be the most effective in my parenting........open communication!! I've tried to be a good listener and give good feedback and guidance. With the young adults, I try not to lecture when they share their plans with me....even if I think that their plans are insane or unrealistic. When my oldest hit the teenage years, I really failed at the open communication. I asked him questions and when he would share things, I would overreact and freak out. It took a few years of practice to get comfortable with being willing to listen more than I talk.
With my teenage daughter, I listen to all the stories about friends and boys. Her world is very dramatic and very important to her. Sometimes she asks me to get involved to help with a friend or speak up about an injustice. Other times she's just inviting me into her world and allowing me to see the world through her eyes.
Now there are days when I come home from work too exhausted to listen and my daughter understands that. I simply just tell her that my brain can't handle anymore talking tonight but tomorrow I'll be happy to hear the whole story. And because I don't do that very often, she will save the story for the next day....and it usually has an extra chapter or two by then!!
My relationship with my oldest survived a very rough time because I did everything in my power to keep the communication open. Even though he wasn't living at home, we met for breakfast regularly and kept connected. I wanted him to know that no matter what I was there for him and he could tell me anything.....even if I didn't like it or agree with it.
I must warn you that in order for this to be effective you have to be prepared to hear some crazy things and not react in a way that shuts down the conversation. They may share that they were offered drugs or that some boy asked them for sex. They may share that they have been feeling really depressed and have been dealing with suicidal thoughts. Teenagers and young adults have a lot of things going on in their brains and talking it out helps them sort through the junk.
They need parents that are willing to be open to hear anything that they have to say without fear of judgement or invalidating their feelings. You don't have to speak their lingo or be their best friend. You can keep your role as parent and still be able to communicate with them. It's all about your attitude as they're talking. If you sigh a lot and tell them to just get to the point, the conversation is over and you might not get another chance. They will remember that reaction the next time they want to share something with you. And how do you think they will respond when you want to share some insight or advice with them? They most likely will not be receptive to it.
Open communication says, "I love you...and there is nothing that you can do or say that is going to change that." When they know that you truly care about what they have to say, then they just might listen to your input into their lives. There are no guarantees but open communication definitely increases your odds.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.