A client of mine recently said, “Their minds are so fascinating at this stage – not yet adults, but not children, either – because the way they look at the world is so unique.” My client continued and said that she never had problems with her two kids during the teenage years because she trusted them and “didn’t need to exert total control over them.” I reflected on this for a moment until she made her final pronouncement: “I told my kids, ‘If you are honest and always tell me the truth, no matter bad whatever it is you did, I promise I will never be punishing or judgmental.'” Obviously, she gave the writer-psychologist in me a lot to think about.
After thinking about it more, I thought about my work over the years with clients, parents of all demographics who felt anxious and frustrated during their kids’ teenage years because they couldn’t control the kids’ behavior.
There’s not been a study that shows the percentage of parents who have made this statement – “If you are honest…” – to their teenage children, but, odds are, there are many parents who haven’t said it. Why wouldn’t some parents say that to their children? Because they assume that the child already knows they have an open door with their parents, or because the parents don’t feel that way.
Telling your child that you will never be punishing as long as they tell you the truth – no matter what happened, no matter how bad it is – is something every parent should say to their teenage children. Sure, the child may face some negative consequences, but the consequences are issued in a more I’ll-help-you-learn-this-lesson way than a -Now-you’re-gonna-pay-for-this way.
Teenage children need to be respected and given a certain level of freedom and autonomy to grow up, make mistakes, and become a full-fledged adult. Remember this message most of all when your teenage child does something wrong. Obviously, in such a situation, the child should be spending more time understanding the reasons why what they did is wrong, as opposed to spending time all that time resenting a parent for not listening to them and being so harsh.
What do you think – would you really tell your child that you will never punish them as long as they tell you the truth?