She will take a few steps forward, and then several back. She won’t move in a straight line directly from childhood to adulthood. There will be some significant detours. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to find ways to appreciate your teen even if she is presently engaged in a sort of detour in her journey to responsible adulthood.
It can be a real challenge to appreciate your teen during the times when she is so blatantly coloring outside the lines, so to speak. You are irritated with her, but also quite concerned and even frightened for her. It’s difficult to appreciate your teen when she looks like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in the proverbial dark alley.
There are so many truly legitimate areas in which parents must intervene to protect and guide their children, that it makes some sense to be judicious in commenting on everything that concerns you about your child. These are the times to pick your battles, and to look for positive things to emphasize. Think about what areas you can’t comprise in. These would include health and safety, school, and reasonable house rules. They might not include the color of clothing your child wants to wear! Try to overlook the black wardrobe, and focus instead on the good grades.
Try to support and encourage the passion with which your child views poverty or hunger issues and try to turn a deaf ear when she uses slang that sounds like she was born in inner-city Detroit. It is possible to appreciate your teen for the good things she is involved in and let go of the smaller irritations. Believe it or not, another way to appreciate your teen is to point out to her the errors and mistakes you made at her age. Tell her about the time you skipped school and got caught. Tell her you certainly appreciate that she does not do such dumb things.
Many parents think that this kind of revelation or admission will give their children permission to make the same errors. But the reverse is actually more likely to be true. If teenagers see their parents as only perfect people who spend all their time criticizing, they will turn a deaf ear. They may even assume that they will always make huge mistakes and be disappointments to themselves and their families. But if parents share their own foibles, teenagers are more likely to see their parents as human. They may even be more likely to listen to mom and dad if they feel their parents have had some of the same experiences and challenges they are facing today. So make some efforts to appreciate your teenager. As difficult as it may sometimes be, it will pay huge dividends in strengthening your relationship with them.