The short answer to this question is donít. Now at first glance this probably sounds ridiculous, after all parents have more experience of life and most would agree that a parent's job is to pass this experience onto their children. But the problem with giving advice is that it's really just a way of maintaining control. We often cover it up by saying we know what's best in the situation, we have the experience and knowledge, but in reality what we're saying is what we want to happen, this is what we want you to do.
Adolescence is a time for learning to self-manage, to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. It's an essential process if your teen is to become a well-adjusted, fully functioning adult ready for the world at large and a fundamental part of the process is handing over control to your teen.
For most parents this is a really scary thought. They're concerned about what will happen if they do, that if they give up some control it will mean they lose all control. They're concerned about what their teen will do or what happens if they get it wrong, in other words they feel a need to protect their teen.
Handing over control at this stage is more about handing over responsibility and accountability on how to do something, not handing over total control. It's about letting your teen have an involvement in how to solve a particular problem, it's about teaching them problem solving skills. If you always provide the solution how will they ever learn to do it for themselves?
It's ok for your teen to get it "wrong", to make mistakes. Youíre teaching them how to self-correct, just as they did when they first learned to ride a bike and kept falling off. Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process; more learning comes from making mistakes than comes from getting it "right". How much does it really matter if they donít get it right first time or choose the best alternative?
Finally, is your solution the best? It's easy to forget that our children think differently than us when thinking about a solution to a problem. The solution may be the best one for you, but is it the best one for your teen?
Giving advice by telling teens what to do is only one way of passing on a parent's knowledge, there are other ways of achieving the same outcome and with a higher likelihood of success... it's how you pass on that experience that makes the difference.
Below are some suggestions on how to get your point across:
1. Ask before you give. Always ask your teen if they want your advice before you start to give it. If they say, "yes please" then go ahead and have your say, if they say "no" respect their decision and keep quiet.
2. Question their intent. If your teen has refused advice , ask them specific questions about how theyíre going to handle the situation. Asking questions about smaller parts of the problem is a way to at least get your teen to think about whatís involved.
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