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Three Key Reasons Why Some Parents Find it Difficult Dealing With Teenagers


Bringing up a teenager in our modern world is not an easy task for any parent. There are so many things that are different now to even 20 years ago, the pace of change has been frightening, and no one has written a handbook of how to deal with youngsters in view of those changes. Moreover, parenting has always been a hand-me-down commodity; skills handed down from our parents and their parents through the ages with only subtle changes to those skills as the years went by.

There has been great pride in passing on those skills. Parents like to tell tales of their childhood; often reminding their kids of how 'lucky' and 'easy' they are having life compared to older folks. But referring back too much to our own life with our children would be a big mistake. Comparisons would no longer be appropriate because of the dramatic changes in the last two generations. But let's not jump ahead of myself here. Let's start from the beginning.

All kids are very emotional beings. They tend to be extremely sensitive about themselves, their friends and their activities. For that reason they need SPACE, lots of it, but space within firm, yet flexible and elastic boundaries. It means acknowledging that times have changed and new approaches are also needed. Apart from the five tips already given in Tips For Dealing With Disrespectful Teenagers, the other three crucial ones which seem to be causing the most friction are these:

1. Many parents and teenagers no longer share a common world:

The rapidly advancing technology has meant that teenagers are way ahead of their parents in dealing with the Internet, mobile phone, videos and the multi-media of the modern age in a skilful and confident fashion. That lack of appreciation for their world can breed a lot of insecurity in parents who are not quite sure how to express their authority around such issues. Worst still, many teenagers can no longer ask their parents for help because they know far more than their parents! That can sometimes lead to frustration on both sides, resentment and jealousy, to some extent, especially among fathers and their sons, who might be unconsciously competing with one another. Mothers too would tend to have a feeling of low-esteem around these issues and perhaps be prompted to be dismissive of them. Bad mistake.

The best thing to do in this case is to grow with your teen. Show appreciation of their skills and knowledge by being willing to learn from them. Allow them to show you things, to share their joys and skills. Join the party, so to speak, without suffocating them or trying to control them. I have heard some shortsighted parents saying, sadly, how they would never get a mobile/cell phone. For goodness sake, that's the main communication tool for youngsters! If you are not sharing the odd text each day, a form of showing your love and concern, affirming them in ways they are comfortable, how can you appreciate their world? Ditch those fears and insecurities and be proud of their capabilities.

You cannot help your child if you do not understand what they are doing. Learning is the key here, not ignoring what they do or being afraid of it. When we ignore or dismiss what teenagers value, they are likely to ignore us too.

2. Teenagers are turning to outside friends for their validation and reinforcement:

A generation ago the only friends we made would come from our villages and towns, schools and neighbourhood. We might even have a few pen friends, but that was our natural circle. Today we have social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo, where one teen can have hundreds of 'friends' across the globe and spend lots of time talking, texting and emailing. Home seems like just a glorified hotel, and strangers seem to count more than friends. That is a natural development of our modern age and parents who fight against it are just developing an unnecessary rod for their own backs. We cannot have respect from our children if we give them none. So trying to stop or curtail their activity in this area is unwise, and would prove problematic, because most teens do not want to stand out from their peers.

Teenagers have the strongest desire to belong, whether to their family, club, group, friendship circle or band. That overriding need is what drives many teens to even behave in a deviant and cruel manner. The best thing is to negotiate a compromise. Allow the teen certain hours doing their chosen activities so long as certain other hours, days or times, are devoted to other equally important tasks. But don't belittle what they do in an effort to show how important other activities are in YOUR opinion. That is a recipe for disaster as it would look as though you have no value for how they prefer to feel and act.

Teenagers are not yet adults, neither are they children. They are caught in a transitional void which is often painful because the emphasis at this troubled time is on learning: there is so much to learn about being an adult, especially when parents want them to act like adults before they're ready, and they just prefer to be themselves while they are learning! Some parents tend to forget what it was like to be young or expect teens to be exactly like them in this different age. Acknowledging the times we are in, and the different values in vogue, would be a more helpful approach when dealing with difficult youngsters.

3. A teenager is only 50% of his/her parents:

Sometimes we might try to live our lost dreams through our children, dictating their studies, careers, their thoughts, their actions. But inside every teenager is a fully growing individual with their own thoughts, aspirations and dreams. Just because a teen might come from us does not make them clones of us. That 50% should be respected. Teenagers are not there to be controlled either. They are there to be GUIDED while given enough latitude to make their own mistakes, which we cannot prevent, because it is those very mistakes, and dealing with their consequences, which help them to develop into responsible adults. Guiding is most important here because it shows that we are treating them with the flexibility and respect to be the person they desire, not what we might demand. For example, while we are insisting that our teen becomes a lawyer, we might even be suppressing the development of the future discoverer of a cure for cancer. How do we know?

Allowing that young person to discover themself in their own way, with guidance from us along that journey, is the greatest gift we can give to our children. It is very scary in our modern world, trying to relate to kids especially when the goal posts have moved, ways of disciplining have changed and we no longer have the knowledege our children might require or the confidence to guide them. But if we treat them with respect, acknowledge and accept that this is a different time, resist the temptation to judge them with past traditions and simply love them as much as possible, while keeping boundaries firm and to a minimum, we would have the confidence as parents to grow with them too, while developing ourselves and our relationships in the process.

The main reasons why teens lie to their parents


Many parents have experienced it at some time or other: teenagers who lie and the loss of trust that results. Lying is a common occurrence but there are clear reasons, and obscure ones too, why teens do lie. Understanding those reasons could foster a better relationship between teens and parents, one that would reduce the need for any lies.

Teens lie through FEAR which stems from five main reasons:

1. Fear of the consequences of telling the truth and parental reaction.
Many teens might wish to tell the truth but they know that, if they have done something their parent won't agree with, or have warned them about, the parent will not be too happy. They fear what could happen in the process, perhaps loss of privileges, loss of time to do what they like, loss of face, or worst still, the physical consequences if they are in an abusive household. In this instance they would be lying to prevent their parent getting 'mad'. They mistakenly believe that lying is the simplest way to get out of any predicament, until they are found out and discover otherwise. This kind of lie is most common in households where teens are not allowed to make mistakes or to be true to themselves.

2. Fear of losing face
Many teens, especially in larger households with siblings, fear losing face or being made to look 'stupid' compared to their brother, sister, or their friends. They lie instead to appear smarter or better and to keep their 'respect', especially among their friends. This often happens in competitive households either for their own feeling of comfort or to create mischief for others.

3. A belief that they cannot trust their parent to tell them the truth
Many teens fear to tell the truth where trust has broken down, especially when they might have told the truth in the past and it was used against them later on. They do not feel they can share their innermost thoughts with their parents and, most significant, the values of the parents, or the strictness of the household, prevents them revealing their true activities or feelings. This kind of lie is most common where teens are treated like children, instead of young adults, and where parental expectations appear to be different, or disparate, from those of the teen.

4. Ambiguity in parental reaction

Without realising it, many parents often behave ambiguously towards their teen by punishing them when they tell the truth, especially one the parent doesn't like to hear, but doesn't recognise when the teen has told a lie. Soon the teen realises that it is safer and more rewarding to tell lies. No matter how bad the truth is, encouraging that truth while weaning the teen off that behaviour is always best, rather than punishing them for being honest. All that will happen afterwards is that they tell lies to avoid annoying the parent or losing their affection and love.

5. Finally, one of the main reason teens lie is in failing to cope with 'unreasonable' rules
These might make them lose face with their friends, exclude them from their friendship circle, stop them seeing the people they like, or pursue wholesome activities which parents might not like (like social networking, music etc.). If teens are made to behave too differently from their friends it will make them feel isolated and excluded, especially as they mainly wish to belong at this age. Teens will then lie to cover up such activities.

Tips For Coping With Lying
When your teen lies the first thing you need to do is to discuss why the teen felt the need to lie. Teens must always be encouraged to tell the truth, no matter what. The minute a parent gets mad at their teen for telling the truth, they will lie instead to evade the wrath. The last thing teens wish to do is to upset their parent, unless they are being rebellious. So they will avoid that whenever they can. By finding out that reason for lying, discussing it thoroughly and compromising, if necessary, parents can eliminate that excuse for the future!

Second, point out the consequences of lying for them, mainly a loss of trust, as you wouldn't be able to believe them whenever they tell you anything in the future. For that reason, increase their supervision by reducing their privileges, emphasising that renewed trust has to be earned by them. Furthermore, resist the temptation to punish them when they tell you a truth you don't like. Reprimand them for their behaviour, yes, but always praise them for being open, honest and truthful. In effect, you would be making the benefits of being truthful far more rewarding to them than for lying.

Third, if your teen is capable of holding down a job and doing adult tasks, then they shouldn't be treated like children. Match their level of freedom with the responsibilities they have. That will reduce their need to lie about the reason for not coming home at a set time, for example, when they could stay out longer as an adult without being anxious about it. The best rules are the ones that the teen has a hand in making, has willingly accepted and can see the reasoning, benefits and logic for keeping them. It cuts down a lot of unnecessary teen angst and family conflict.

There is no such thing as a perfect teen so give your teen some slack, work with him/her on their fears and reward the truth at all times, even if you would rather not hear it. That will boost their confidence and trust to be always honest with you.

5 Tips For Dealing with Disrespectful Teenagers


Teenagers are seldom disrespectful without a reason, because every child wants to be loved and valued. They would not risk their feeling of security and inclusion for the sake of it. The following are the most common reasons for disrespect, especially when:

1. They feel unloved, unwanted and misunderstood.
This is the main reason why teens go off the rails and behave badly. This is their way of getting back and hurting the parent for the lack of worth they feel. They do not have a strong sense of value and so the respect goes. Their behaviour is more like retaliation and revenge for not feeling loved and appreciated. Kids need to be shown love and affection daily. A simple hug, a kind word and positive reinforcement are essential to show value and appreciation and increase the teen's feeling of security and self-worth.

2. They are not affirmed or reinforced, but mainly criticised;
Their views and feelings are not respected either. This often happens in strict homes where there is too much discipline, too little slack and too many expectations which the teens find difficult to fulfil. They have no way of thriving as their own individual and the frustration is evident in disrespectful behaviour. Many parents are so keen for the child to develop in their own image and likeness, they forget that there is an independent person waiting to emerge and unwittingly stifle their growth. This of course causes resentment, anger and lack of respect. The main tip here is NOT to criticise before you praise. Always begin with praise when you have to be corrective and, where possible, don't criticise at all, simply affirm every desired or acceptable thing they do. In this way, you will bring desired behaviour to the fore and reduce the undesirable ones. ALWAYS try to compromise with the child's need and not just insist on your own. It shows respect for their feelings and aspirations and teaches them to respect yours too.

For example, when my children were growing up and started dating, they were requested to bring every new friend home. They could have them in their room but the door had to be always open and the friend had to leave by midnight. It meant that we did not have to worry where my teens were in the evenings; I did not try to control their lives and they had a chance to meet their friends openly instead of being furtive. It also showed the friends the standard of behaviour expected in our home.

3. They are emotionally hurting and in pain.
Many children hurt for lots of reasons that their parents are not even aware of. Often the parents get the stick simply for being there, because there is no one else to blame. The child could be bullied, or being abused in some way, or has fallen out with peers, and disrespect to a parent makes up for the lack of support and good feeling the teen may perceive are missing. The best way to deal with this aspect is to talk to them often about their day, show concern for their life and activities without being intrusive. Be sensitive to when they might be unusually quiet or pre-occupied and be there for them when you sense they need your comfort.

4. They have been indulged and spoilt, not taught how to disagree in an assertive manner.
Disrespect is rife in homes where parents have been permissive in bringing up their children and where there are few firm rules set for appropriate behaviour. It is easy for the child to push the boundaries and behave in a disrespectful way because they know no different and believe that kind of behaviour would be appropriate and accepted. In these permissive homes, the teens are often confused by the inconsistency in their treatment and bad behaviour is their way of rebelling against this. The best tips here are to be firm but fair with the child from as early as possible in their life, to be consistent but flexible with rules and to ensure that the boundaries for good behaviour are kept in place, and with some discretion. Every step along the way, make sure that teens are taught appropriate ways of asking for what they desire, disagreeing with decisions made and being able to deal with rejection. Those coping skills will then become routine in their behaviour and help to make them more confident.

5. They are copying parental behaviour.
Children in homes where the parents do not treat each other with any respect, and where language is abusive, critical or inappropriate, tend to use those examples as their guidelines and behave accordingly. Parents teach their children not only through what they say, but most importantly, through what they DO. Children will pick up inappropriate and ambiguous behaviour when they have been set the wrong examples. The parents might not want that to happen but that is the only outcome where there is no other model to copy. The best tip in this instance is to behave in a manner which you wish your teen to adopt. Set the right tone and behaviour consistently and they are likely to follow because they will be able to make the right decision for themselves when they are faced with conflicting behaviours and have to choose.

How to teach your teens to become responsible adults


When my two children were growing up they were angelic as teenagers. I often wondered what made our family different from families with teen angst when things seemed to run pretty smoothly with us. At the time, I could not see exactly why they behaved the way they did: confident, responsible, cheerful and contented. After all, I did not regard myself as the greatest parent, especially with my sporadic bouts of depression. But having got older and out of the situation, I think I can now see, from a safe distance, the main reasons why my teens turned out to be highly confident, self-resilient achievers. It could be because we emphasised five important things in our home to teach them to be responsible adults.

As parents, we believed in living by example and used every occasion to set the right tone for their behaviour through the daily routines we had, though, like all caring parents, we had our controlling tendencies!

First of all, we taught them LOVE.
We too were very loving around them, always holding hands and hugging, before the marriage disintegrated. We hugged them too at every turn, we praised them for every effort while pointing out what could have been better where it was necessary. We were there at every school event or meeting, to show that they were valued and that we were very interested in their progress, always enquiring about their day. We reinforced their actions and affirmed their hopes and aspirations at every turn. We never put them down, labelled them with derogatory names or made them feel small. In short, we taught them that love of themselves and thinking highly of themselves is likely to lead to loving others too and appreciating who they are. This clearly boosted their self confidence, their sense of value and their competence.

Love also meant providing firm but sometimes elastic boundaries for them. We did not have too many rules but the few we had we were consistent in reinforcing. Consistency provides security for teens and helps them to feel confident too because they knew what to expect from us and how we would react. They didn't have anxieties about that. They also knew it was up to them to show us that we should bend a little bit on that occasion by providing acceptable reasons why.

Above all, we taught them that parents did not have to be around their children 24/7 to show their love; that it was the quality of that time that mattered. They also learnt that parents too need their own time and space to nurture their love in order to be there for their children, so there were rules connected to our privacy too.

Second, we paid them RESPECT.
We did not stamp on their dreams, pooh pooh their ideas, invade their room space, watch them like hawks or expect them to do things just because we said so. Everything I disagreed with I carefully explained why, sometimes to the irritation of my son who obviously felt I went on too long with the explaining and wanted to get on with his own stuff! But the result of that was they held us in high esteem, always bringing their friends home mainly 'to meet Mom and Dad', and said with a smile and sense of pride I didn't really appreciate at the time.

The house was always full of friends because they felt very happy and secure in it to want to share it with others. Even when they held parties in our absence, they protected our stuff like Fort Knox. Nothing was ever out of place, lost or broken when we returned. Everything was pristine clean exactly as it was. In fact, they took delight in us guessing whether there had been a party or not and that could be due to the next reason.

Mutual respect helped them to appreciate themselves, to believe in themselves, to be proud of their identity and their home and to have the confidence to be whom they wish to be. Part of the respect ethos was having meals together. During the teenage years we all ate together as often as possible. It not only kept us bonded but it showed that other people mattered too, apart from themselves. That making the time to share something with others and include them in our lives was an important part of paying respect for their presence.

The third lesson was DIVISION OF LABOUR.
Our kids learnt that, in any household, every single member had a part to play. The house belonged to all of us and could not function without their part. So from the earliest age they were taught a sense of purpose in what they had to achieve for their own lives, and the practical reasons why their help in the house was also necessary. We encouraged them from the time they were very young, whenever they asked to help, by selecting small jobs they could learn to do.

By the time they were teens, they were also hoovering, cleaning and sharing the care of the home on a rota we all shared. They were taught that their parents had the responsibility of earning and taking care of them and their main responsibility was to get an education for their lives ahead and to help to keep the space clean so that we could all feel proud of it.

The result was that on house cleaning days they cheerfully joined in not because they saw it as a necessary chore but because they could see the benefits for themselves, especially when friends came to call. Sometimes they cleaned up just to surprise us. Knowing that doing well at school was also a part of the bargain, and surrounded by constant praise ad affirmation, they excelled in their studies.

Fourth, was to teach them to make DECISIONS.

Many parents like to make decisions for their children because they fear for them, they wish to control them, or they have no faith or belief in the child's capacity to manage him/herself. But when we rob children of decision-making opportunities we also rob them of building their confidence and believing in themselves. Our children were taught to make decisions from the earliest age. We always asked them what they would like to do in most situations, or what they feel they should do. If we disagreed, they were told why and offered alternatives, or just one choice where we felt this was necessary. However they could still extend that choice in their way if it was mutually agreeable. It means they gradually learnt to trust themselves and their instincts; they were affirmed in their beliefs, they learnt how to negotiate and they got the opportunities to act upon those decisions. We ended up saying yes to their requests far more than we said no. In effect, they slowly learnt to take responsibility for their actions because they helped to decide the outcomes.

Fifth, and not least, was the lesson that ACTIONS CARRY CONSEQUENCES.

From as early as possible in their lives, if they did something wrong, they were asked to tell us why it was wrong so that they appreciated why one kind of behaviour might be more acceptable than another, and had to accept the consequences. By the time they were teens they knew fully that their own actions would carry consequences for them, no matter whether they were 'good' or 'bad'. Something appropriate would elicit praise or reinforcement while something inappropriate would attract a reprimand or other. It was important that our children saw the causal link between their behaviour and what happened afterwards.

It meant that they owned their actions, reduced blame to a minimum and took responsibility for themselves. I remember once disciplining my daughter by telling her to go to her room without any dinner. I cannot remember what she did but she was seven years old at the time. She gingerly started up the stairs, without showing much emotion, hesitantly stopped halfway on it, looked at me defiantly and said, "I didn't want your poxy food anyway!", then scurried up the rest of the stairs to lock her room door before I could react. I found that so funny at the time and quietly laughed my head off.

It might sound as though we were perfect parents with perfect children, but nothing could be further from the truth. I was pretty young and naive when I had my first child. Having come from a physically abusive home myself, I was determined not to treat my kids the way I was treated. I also had to learn the hard way as no one gave me a manual on how to rear him. It was all trial and error. In fact, he is likely to remember the errors while I am so thrilled with his progress, I would only remember the trials and results. We all had our bad days, fun times, good days and crappy days, but the mutual love and respect were the hallmarks of our relationship.

Teaching teens to be responsible starts with self love and ends with the consequences of their actions because what we each do has a positive or negative effect on others, often without us even realising it. I think these five lessons, taught inadvertently through our actions, were the cornerstone of our family life and produced two amazing adults. My son became a top computer programmer, and is now heading a department in Japan and my daughter is a psychologist currently working with troubled teenagers in Ireland and I cannot think of a more suitable person to do this. But it was their early sense of responsibility and personal confidence that has reinforced what we did and surprised me the most.

And, for that, I'm truly thankful.

7 Simple Tips for Parenting Confident Teenagers


Thanks to the technological revolution we have had in the past few years, the world teenagers now inhabit, and feel very comfortable with, is vastly different from that of their parents. Theirs is a more impersonal world where global social networking and detached communication are an integral part of their lives, compared to the local interaction their parents enjoyed. It means that many parents are often not sure how to treat their teenagers, or to share their world, but the following seven tips should be of value. 

First, provide firm but simple boundaries of behaviour. 
Do not have too many rules. However, the ones you do have should be very clear, firm and unambiguous. Don't change the rules every week or according to whims and fancies. Teens behave better when they know where parents stand, when they are fully aware of what is acceptable and what isn't inside the home, when the reasons for any of their problematic behaviour is explained to them, when they are required to show responsibility and also when their own rights are protected and accepted. They might try to push the boundaries sometimes, but they will feel more secure within them if they know those boundaries aren't elastic and if they are aware that deviance from the rules carries consequences too! 

Second, resist the temptation to treat your teenager as a 'friend'. 
Teens are not your friends because they have not yet acquired your experience and knowledge. They are your responsibility and they are looking to you for guidance. Be approachable, warm and caring, but be an adult to them. Their peers are their friends, not their parents. When the parent-teen barrier breaks down, teens become confused and bewildered as to how they should act. They are then likely to overstep boundaries, which becomes more conflicting when they cannot understand why their behaviour isn't being accepted. As young people on the verge of adulthood, it is a stressful time for teens because they are neither children nor adults. Hence why it is important to be clear in parental action at this phase in order to help them have a smoother transition into the next stage of their lives. 

Third, allow your teens to share their world by bringing their friends home to meet you. 
This is a very important bit. If they feel comfortable bringing their friends to their home, they are likely to be at home more than having to go outside to other people's homes or to be on the streets. If boyfriends and girlfriends are involved, set a leaving time when they have to leave the house at night, but do not bar your teens friends, even if you are not happy with their choice. That becomes counter productive in the end. If you trust them and their judgement, they will soon find out for themselves that they have made the wrong choice. 

Fourth, try not to dictate to teens but to negotiate instead. 
Whatever you do, do NOT rubbish what they cherish, or just react negatively to everything they say. that will erode their self esteem. Show some faith in them and motivation them where possible. If you can show why it is preferable to act one way than another, and why it is more beneficial to them, and/or the family, then do it constructively. That will be more accepted than forcing something on them simply because you have the power to do so. By negotiating with them you teach them to negotiate with others as well, how to be assertive and also to accept that not everything in life will be as they expect. They gradually learn that they will have to compromise in their interactions.

Fifth, never compete with your teens. 
You've had your moments. Let them have theirs. It is very tempting, especially on the male side, for fathers to compete with their sons. They perhaps feel a bit inadequate, especially if the sons are proving more successful or the parents wish to feel 'young' again. They usually take up activities which their teens are doing or try to go to parties with them. But that is not always good practice because teens like their space.

To be competing with a parent in any aspect does nothing for the teen's self-confidence or self-value in the long run. Doing things at home together, and sharing some leisure activities is fine, but moving beyond that to encroach on their territory with their friends and peers could rob the teens of their ability to be self-sufficient and independent. 

Sixth, respect your teen's space. 
Yes, they live in the same house and they share various things in it but they are growing adults deserving of some privacy. The more you trust your teen, imbibe them with firm values and boundaries they feel secure with and treat them as developing adults, is the more they will behave in the manner you expect and the more confident they will feel about themselves. If you watch them every moment, pry into their space, want them to explain everything they do and mistrust their actions, the more problems you are likely to have with them as they resort to subterfuge to keep that space. They will feel closed in and are likely to compare their lives unfavourably with that of their peers and that's when rebellion begins as they strive for parity and 'respect'. 

Finally, always try to LISTEN to your teen. 
When you listen, without commenting, you will pick up cues about other things which the teen is reluctant to reveal. Teens don't always say what they really feel because many are not adept at communicating with parents. there is bound to be a lot of fear due to parental authority. But if you try not to judge then too much and to listen instead, not only will you learn a lot about your teens' emotions and needs, but they will also be very grateful for it, even when they appear to be blas about it!

The best parents are flexible but firm, caring without being too intrusive and embracing without being too friendly. They expect respect for their authority and duly give it too, readily accepting that a teen is not their clone. Their teenager is simply a growing youngster who needs some space and understanding to be his/her own adult. However, this is not an easy balance to achieve sometimes, which tends to cause the most difficulty i the home and leads to the most conflict.

Why parents often disagree with their children's choice of mates


When it comes to attraction, one couple's attachment to each other, the nature of which makes sense only to them, will always appear a mystery to everyone else. We use our individual and cultural yardsticks to judge the process of attraction between others and, when it flies in the face of our narrow expectations and reasoning, we are left perplexed, convinced that the relationship won't last and are often steeped in denial about it. We wonder what they could have found so mutually appealing, especially when they seem so mismatched, perhaps in age, looks, height, affection, race etc. anything which seems to go against what would 'normally' be expected.

This also partly explains why our partners do not often measure up to the expectations of our parents and relatives either. Older people's notions of what should be attractive are usually based on elements of their own life and values which often have little in common with the needs of younger adults, or with their pressing desire to be affirmed on their own terms.

Young people have to experiment, and are likely to require a different set of qualities from the older folks around them; ones which relate to the need to belong, to be loved, appreciated and wanted, affirmed, to get attention and, above all, to be listened to - the sort of things they are not likely to have had at home because parents tend to keep them in tight, negative discipline rather than to love, praise or to listen. A suitable match made by parents is likely to be more deliberate; one that time has proved appropriate, and one dictated entirely by their experience and an insight their children do not yet possess. Having lived most of their life and learnt the usefulness of certain attributes, mothers and fathers are likely to see qualities such as security, commitment, a good education and great financial and career prospects as paramount in selecting a spouse for their offspring. But they are more experienced and mature, and their costs and benefits in a relationship will now be linked to a different set of values from those of their bygone heady and youthful days!

In short, the parents' choice of partners for their children is usually based on intellectual and material needs while the youngsters themselves seek partners to satisfy physical, emotional and sexual ones. However, as a rule, the happier the life at home for the youngster, and the more s/he identifies with his/her parents, the more the choice of partner will converge with parental expectations.

The need for excitement
The final element young people seek is excitement. And they get that in abundance in the early days of feeling 'in love' and besotted. In the absence of experience and knowledge, young adults have to rely upon their own instincts, physical demands and individual sensitivity to decide on a mate. Thus they tend to go for the first few partners who appear to satisfy those early needs, especially with regards to costs and benefits, and in a mutually enjoyable way until experience and maturity alter their aspirations.

Attraction for most in-love couples at the youthful stage is thus spontaneous and more physical, giving maximum excitement and almost reckless, in fact. Ruled totally by emotion and physical needs, it has little time for studied, parental logic, especially if this choice is in opposition to their own!

While partners of young adults tend to be more varied than those expected by their parents, later on they do end up converging with these expectations when maturity, experience, evolution and rising emotional costs combine to bring choices closer to parentally acceptable ones.

How Young People Separate Love and Sex


Q. Is it wrong to sleep with multiple partners? I'm 16 and I ended my relationship with my ex last month because it's summer time and I don't have time to be tied down but we still have sex regularly. We're not a couple, and never will be again, we just like to do each other. Now I met this girl at my summer job and we hit it off great. We've been going out together on the weekends and have a 'friends with benefits' situation. I'm having sex with both girls, but not going out with either. So is that unfair or wrong in any way? I always use protection. I am just seeking opinions not judgement.

A. There are a few issues here which should concern you. First, you say you ended one relationship but is still sleeping with the girl for your own benefit. Would you say that is just using her?

When something is ended, it should be allowed to rest while the parties move on to something else. She is being prevented from forming a new relationship, even though you say you will 'never be a couple' again. It is likely that she believes there is still a chance with you, if you are still sleeping together, regardless of what she might openly say. Learn to move away from relationships when they are done. That is a sign of maturity and self respect. It also prevents unnecessary complications.

Second, by sleeping with two women at the same time, it does not say much about your own values and respect for them because it is not about the two women or anyone else. It is about YOU, and the standards you are willing to set to eventually find the right person for you. If you show no respect to the women in your life, by simply using them in a convenient way, they cannot show you any love or respect in return, and you will always feel inadequate, dissatisfied and unhappy. I believe you know the answer already, which is why I am surprised that you are seeking 'opinions', especially if you don't expect any of those opinions to be negative.

You seem very sensible and articulate, but low in self confidence, because you probably boost your ego with having the friendship of the two women at the same time. It gives you a sense of control and power. But true self empowerment comes with self love. You really have to start loving yourself first and appreciating the valued person you are before you can even begin to truly love and appreciate others.

You also have to ask yourself if the way you behave with women just now is the best way you can live your life. More important, is that also the way you would like your sister or female relatives to be treated? Your answer to this question will answer your first question, as well as tell you who you really are and where you're heading.

Understanding the Teenage Years in Adult Evolution


Adult evolution begins in the late teens and early twenties, the first crucial staging post in adult life. It forms the foundation stage when people set the basics for their future. In Britain, teenagers can do a lot at 16, like leaving school, which they could not do many years before, and this is a major milestone, charting the beginning of their independence. At this stage there is an emphasis on the self: especially on self-image, this being a most fashion-conscious time that takes a lot of money from the bank of Mom and Dad and puts it in the shops. One where designer labels matter much more than the labour required to get them! A stage where there is a real struggle between personal autonomy and dependence on parents, with much effort to define the self as an individual separate from anyone else.

At this time, there is a definite realignment from family of origin to new peers and groups. Lacking wider personal experience, this is the 'gut reaction' phase, characterised by automatic reflexes and a lack of focus. It is very difficult to settle on any one thing or partner at this time because life seems to be a huge treasure chest, with so much to discover, and an accompanying impatience to discover it. Hence this is a period of exploration and self-discovery; of leaving home, perhaps for university or higher education, escaping from parental control, developing personal autonomy, generally not appreciating other people or their actions, trying out new possibilities for a career or worrying about facial zits and one's personal appeal. The main focus now, as youngsters loosen themselves from their nest, is upon defining themselves as individuals, experimenting and establishing a new life structure they regard as unique to them. The greater the individual confidence, the more stable and successful this time is likely to be.

Though this first stage is one of fearlessness and rebellion, it is also a period of tentative or provisional commitments, for swaying with the wind and changing principles at the drop of a hat, particularly for personal benefit. Hence the emphasis on money and tangible rewards. Teenagers dread anything too permanent. Developing their own sense of identity, as distinct from those of parents and childhood peer groups, now becomes critical. They tend to try out new relationships (e.g. romantic interests, professional associates, friends), most being comfortable with themselves and pretty easy about life.

Bad Career Choices
Some youngsters at this stage are so laid-back as to be almost horizontal. They believe there is plenty of time ahead to change their minds on decisions concerning occupation, intimate liaisons, values, etc. There seems little need to hurry and they demonstrate it with reluctant action, taking their own sweet time to do what they want, much to the despair and frustration of anxious parents, teachers or employers. This is also a stage when young people, particularly those with low esteem or dominated by parents, tend to make naff choices in occupations only to repent them at leisure later on.

The main aim here is simply to survive and eventually advance and the young have to learn how to do it, and in their own time, regardless of all the well-meaning advice they will be getting from older, more experienced, members around them. Survival apparently does not come easily either because men of 24 years in the UK tend to commit suicide the most, for some reason. At this stage, everyone will be relatively new to their jobs. While the arrogance of youth may lead many into a false sense of their own capability, they soon find that they have much to learn, not only about life itself, but also about the increasing responsibilities which make up their jobs or activities. However, many youngsters are reluctant to accept this realisation, hanging on to parents and home, particularly young men, who now tend to leave home in mid-thirties.

Workers at this staging post are often willing to do anything to prove their enthusiasm, skills and knowledge. They hope to impress their managers in order to advance to positions with more responsibility or money. As one successful football coach said, "The whole learning process for me was a trial from the beginning. I was 22 years old and in a panic. I remember watching the first game and I was clueless about what the other team was doing because I could only see us. I just had a very narrow focus which was of a 'my way or the highway' mentality."

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How can a parent survive the teen years?


The teenage years can be a nightmare for many parents. This is the time they are likely to feel impotent, frustrated, useless and powerless. However, they really don't have to be too painful or unnerving, neither do they even have to happen that way. In fact, what causes the most angst in parents at this time is their feeling of losing control.

The teen they could easily direct and guide not many months ago now seems a law unto him/herself, perhaps rebelling at everything, being uncommunicative, perhaps experimenting with drink or drugs, and just seeming to uncooperative and resentful. This is a time when parents can often do nothing right in the eyes of the teen and can be at a loss as to how they should manage the situation. However, surviving those troublesome teen years, and even enjoying them, can be done quite easily but takes a few tips, six in fact.

1. UNDERSTANDING: What you as a parent need to appreciate is that the teenage years are not very good for teens. They are changing from child to adult, which they can clearly see by the physical changes in their bodies; changes that they (especially girls) do not understand themselves, yet are likely to be too scared and embarrassed to ask for help. They will gradually begin to feel self-conscious because a lot of things that might have been shielded from them, or they didn't really care about, would now be making a lot of sense, like sex, masturbation, periods and breasts. A teen would not feel comfortable discussing any of that with their parent at the beginning, especially if they were not really communicating well in the first place.

Showing understanding and empathy, without being too intrusive and controlling, will foster a much better atmosphere and reduce the anxiety and fear in your teen. That is so important because the teen years are the ones where teens are not yet adults but are expected to act like them, or they can be very mature yet their parents are still treating them as little children - a rather schizophrenic time all round! This is a vulnerable time for your teen and an anxious time for you. However, if you try to be less controlling, more understanding and more empathetic, while nurturing your teen's independence, it will make you feel better too.

2. SPACE: Whatever you do, give your teen some space! If they don't wish to talk, that is their right. Don't continuously watch them. Don't try to prise out every secret they might have. It's natural to have silly secrets at that age. It makes them feel more grown-up. Don't be suspicious of their every move. Don't go on about their rooms and don't try to dictate too much. Teens are in transition, crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood. Some will make it across the bridge much quicker (the more mature, confident ones) while some will take a while longer and need your help. Backing off, using your instinct and respecting their space will help you through that period too, and you'll do it best with the next tip.

3. TRUST and RESPECT: If you have taught your teen your values, morals and acceptable ways of behaving, then all you need to do is to trust them to make their decisions. They will usually make the ones that align with your family's values unless they were too controlled or repressed in their own behaviour. When you can't see them, they are making decisions every minute of the day for their own benefit. Trust them to make those decisions when they are around you too and respect those decisions, even if they are not what you would wish. You cannot protect them from everything in the world. They have to learn from their own mistakes. Above all, show them that trust and respect them to do the right thing; that they are worth it and you are with them all the way. They will respect your guidance in turn and that period won't feel so fraught or problematic for you.

4. COMMUNICATION: This is never easy during the teen years because, being unsure of themselves and very sensitive at this stage, they are likely to be more aggressive than they intend, more rebellious, more introspective and not very co-operative, especially if they feel you are being too intrusive. Just being there for them, discussing their moods, fears, events of their day and simply being supportive will work wonders too for your peace of mind, sense of value and reassurance. Parents and their teens do not have to actually talk to communicate. Just being sensitive to their needs and be available for when they desire that conversation. It will help them a great deal.

Please accept too that the teen years is a time when teens communicate with each other than their parents because they are all in the same boat having the same experiences and comforting each other. They will not be telling parents too much because many will feel a stronger need to belong to their friendship groups than just staying in their parents' orbit. This is the time when parents are likely to change into bankers, taxi cabs and laundromats! To expect anything else would be highly unreasonable in the eyes of the teen! Try to appreciate that and it will make your life much easier! 

5. SHARING: Try to share their activities, their music, their interests, their social networking. By sharing what they like, especially when they actually offer to involve you, three things are likely to happen:
a. You validate what they are doing and boost their confidence and esteem at the same time.
b. You will also know what they are doing, and who their friends are.
c. You will not be criticising everything they are doing or finding fault with their activities. which erodes their self esteem
d. You will be reinforcing them in their decisions and whom they wish to be, which makes for a much better atmosphere.

By sharing as much as you can without imposing yourself on their world, you are respecting their choices while giving them the confidence to enjoy them even more. In that way, your teen is likely to feel less fearful and anxious and you are likely to feel less insecure about them. These tips will not only help you to survive the teen years but they might even help you to enjoy them as well!