In Part 1 your heart should have been warming to the social issues faced by the youth of today.  Here's a follow up, which you might like to think about when you're at home with a teen in your life.

Tips to try at home

Although you may not recognise it, your teenager will look to you for positive responses to their negativity.  Better still, make it easy for your teenager to do the right thing and therefore please you.  Here are some tips.

  • Discuss and draw up a rota for expected household chores.  This removes the arguments around whose turn it is.  It won't do away with the sloth-like pace at which the task is undertaken, nor will the task be completed with a 'song in the heart', but your teenager will know it pleases you when it's done.
  • Allow weekend lie-ins until 11am and start the vacuum cleaning at 10.45am (or something equally noisy..... Rhianna?).
  • Instead of making demands, offer choices, for example “Either do your homework between 5pm – 6pm or between 6pm – 7pm”.  This simple technique leaves your teenager feeling as though they have some control.  It also means you can switch off the noise coming from the other room.
  • Encourage meal times to be spent together as a family.  This might be your best chance of regular interaction and will be valued by everyone.  Avoid using this as a time to air grievances – which ought to be reserved for a private conversation, away from the tomato sauce and the little sister.
  • Regularly mention all the good things you’ve noticed about your teenager, and sandwich that around the conversations concerning the areas in which you’d like to see an improvement.  It's so easy to forget to say how well things are going.
  • Write down all the positive points, keep going until you’ve reached 50 (not in age, I mean in number of positive points).  This could take a long time - weeks - but it's worth it.  Include the cups of tea made, leaving on time for school/college, complying with requests, pleasant disposition, successes etc.  When things are tough, refer to the list and share it with your teenager to demonstrate how they are often really great to be around.  You’ll be pleased that you did.

We sometimes are of the mistaken belief that our teenagers no longer appreciate ‘rewards’ and that we should keep prize-giving for the younger kids.  But although they may respond with perceived apathy, your teenager will be very heartened to know that they have succeeded in pleasing you and probably enjoy the bonuses offered.

Rewards can be as simple as choosing what to have for the family meal, buying a favourite drink.  Or for special recognition you could beef it up for a trip to the cinema or tickets to a favourite sports event (obviously without you, their parents).

What’s in it for them?

Goal setting and planning is not high on the agenda for teenagers.  So when they moan and groan about school or college, try to sit down with them and discuss the future.  Use the What’s In it For Me?  process (see^^below) .  On a sheet of A4 create two columns; one column should read “Likely Benefits of…..” and the other column should read “Possible consequences for not……”.  You’ll need to facilitate the discussion, but it’s a great opportunity to examine their expectations.  If your teenager doesn't have any future plans or goals, it’s a simple way to start the process and you’ll need to make it relate directly to what’s happening right now.

Use motivational slogans and mantras, just to ruin their lives:

  • Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life
  • If you learn more, you will earn more
  • BELIEVE IT! (in your mind) RECEIVE IT! (in your heart) ACHIEVE IT! (in your life) (see ** below)
  • There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. (++ below)

I remember my own mother and Grandmother telling me lots of *useful* catchphrases, quotes and'sayings.  At the time I thought it was ridiculous and didn't understand.  But now I find myself repeating them to my own teenagers because they seem to have more meaning from a distance.

So if you’ve encouraged, rewarded and smiled and your teen is still grumpy today, remember this:  they won’t be like that in 5 years’ time and every single tomorrow is a new start.

^^ Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development - in which right behaviour is defined by whatever is in the individual's best interest's_stages_of_moral_development