Lauren Saner: Draw lines of communication, not battle lines, in teen-parent relationships
Welcome to the 2013-14 school year, everyone!
The beginning of the new year brings back the consistent battle between parent and child — especially involving kids in high school.
School resuming means that students (and teachers) get to see their friends again on a regular basis. But it also means a return to hours spent on homework, studying for tests and trying to please parents.
Schoolwork can be stressful enough without adults making it more difficult. I understand that parents want their children to do well in school. It's not that children don't want that, too, but parents need to understand that by high school, their kids are generally capable of managing themselves and their time.
That may depend on the child and the situation, but, for the most part, teenagers are capable of being in charge of themselves. Whining to their teacher when they get a bad grade on a test isn't going to help the student. It's not the teacher's problem, it's the student's.
Nagging your child about when they should be working on homework, or taking away their technology when they didn't finish an assignment or do well on a test won't teach them how to be independent or think for themselves. This also shows mistrust.
When a parent scolds a child, the child may get rebellious and reject the idea more. Grounding or punishing a student for any of these reasons will just make them hide things and not want to share information.
Trust goes beyond the classroom, too. If your teenager goes out with some friends and comes home 10 minutes past curfew, it's not something to freak out about. Maybe call them after half an hour to check on them, and if they're still not home after an hour, then maybe a punishment is in order. But give them the benefit of the doubt.
To wrap up these thoughts, I've come up with six things that parents should follow to create a better relationship with their teens.
— Trust them. Show them that you believe that they can handle things on their own. When they go off to college a few years from now, you're not going to be able to stand over their shoulder and tell them when they need to work on assignments. They need to be able to do that on their own.
— Cut them a little bit of slack. Don't push them too hard if they aren't working on an assignment they should be doing. Just suggest that they read one chapter or do one math problem. It's almost reverse psychology; they might get more done.
— Respect them. Teenagers are at such an awkward place, anyway. They are expected to act like adults, but tend to be treated like children. Start treating them like adults. Who knows? Maybe they will act more responsibly.
— Set boundaries. If they go out, give them a curfew. Check on who they're going out with, and where they'e going, to keep them safe. Tell them to call if plans change. And don't freak out if they're a few minutes late.
— Don't take away technology as a punishment. Later on, they may lie to you to get it back or avoid having it taken away again. It's OK to remove it from the space they are working so it's not a distraction, but don't keep it away forever.
— Be their friend. I don't mean acting like a peer — talking about video games or the cutest boy in class. I mean communicating with them. Figure out what's going on in their lives. See how they're doing. And make sure to help them out if they are having a hard time. Don't make a hard situation worse.
Lauren Saner is a junior at Century High School. To respond to an opinion column, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.