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The Support / Challenge Balance for Teens

The Support / Challenge Balance for Teens

Raising kids can be tough even before the teenage years descend upon us. When our kids are young their needs are pretty simple and easy to meet. Communication is often open and sincere, and relationships are easy, light-hearted and fun.

As parents that love our children many of us strive to be our best and for many reasons we don’t quite get to where we think we should be. This can be especially evident during the challenges of the teenage years.

Perhaps you are one to always affirm and acknowledge but find it hard to be tough or to have strong boundaries. On the other hand you may be one to have rules and stick to them but struggle more to see what’s good and to give empathy and affirmation.

It’s like an internal conversation or dissonance inside all of us parents. How can we give enough love and attention without raising kids with entitlement issues and to challenge and guide without raising angry or rebellious kids?

Lets look at the balance of support and challenge in parenting.

With many families we work with there is often this scenario – the mother does the empathy and affirmation and the father does the discipline and boundaries.

This can be complimentary AND it can be an area of conflict!

The goal here we suggest is for each to be able to do both and of course, single parents know this one! At times this requires shifting gears in a split second…. and is not easy to do if rushed and busy!

Consider that love is getting the support and challenge balance right. This can be a constant act of adjustment and can vary from child to child.

When a child is faced with some challenges in life, giving more challenges at home can tip them over the edge and leave them feeling unsupported and without options… or hope.

And there are times when our kids need healthy challenge to step-up and face situations that require more from them.

So in summary, if our parenting approach is all support we run the risk of juvenile dependency and entitlement. If our parenting is all challenge there is the chance of raising a precocious or anxious young adult.

Kids need this balance to grow and mature. The gold here is that they understand and trust the formula, that support and challenge are intertwined throughout all happy and healthy lives.

They will handle challenge well and they will be empathetic and supportive partners, friends, colleagues… and parents!

There is just one thing!

How do you handle challenge? As humans we are predisposed to like people who support our own values and to shut down or fight against those whose do don’t agree with us.

This is where parenting is most challenging! To support our kids to be free thinking and authentic we need to be prepared to handle when they challenge us!

The ‘if you’re not with me your against me’ pattern is not helpful!

If they see us as open to challenge then they are more at ease and trusting of facing their own challenges….. If they see us as supportive and empathetic it’s role modelling at its best!

Where are you currently with the support / challenge balance and what adjustments might you need to make?

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