“Leave me alone!” “You don’t trust me!” “I can do it without you!” “Just don’t bother me!” “Will you take me shopping?”

These are some of the confusing outcries of teens. On the one hand, they want to be independent. On the other hand, they want to be taken care of. How is a parent to know what to do?

Transitioning from total dependence as a child to complete independence as an adult is not easy for a teen. Needless to say, this transition time is not easy for a teen parent, either. Parents must know when to step in and when to step out of the teen’s world. Parents need to know how to be supportive of the teen and still keep the teen safe from harm. Most of all, parents need to know how to nurture the teen’s independence and respect that teen’s desire for independence.

Being a good teen parent begins with the understanding of what the teen is going through. Recognizing the physical, emotional, and social changes taking place makes patience and understanding easier. Rapid physical growth brings about a bigger appetite and sometimes a need for extra sleep. Emotional changes cause the teen to question the meaning of life and to become upset more easily. Social changes cause the teen to easily be embarrassed and confused as to proper behavior.

The teen must figure out all of these things. In doing so, the teen needs the parent at times to interject facts or questions to guide thinking. The emotional side of the teen causes the teen to reject an adult’s advice when it becomes too much to handle. When this happens, the parent needs to step back and let the teen calm down.

It is important for a parent to be observant and quickly recognize positive decisions made by the teen. In doing so, the parent becomes supportive of the proper behavior, and the teen will gravitate toward the behavior that is gaining the positive support. When a teen does something right and gets no recognition, that teen is not as likely to repeat the positive action. Teens hunger for positive recognition and will do almost anything to gain it. That is why peer pressure plays such an important role in a teen’s behavior. It follows, then, that if the teen is getting plenty of positive reinforcement at home, school or church, peer pressure will not have as great an influence as otherwise.

Every time a parent is able to positively and honestly compliment the teen, it is like investing in insurance for the time the parent must reject a teen’s decision for that teen’s own safety and well-being. If the teen has received a lot of positive support, that teen is not as likely to be upset when a “no” comes from parents.

Teens need to be given opportunities for “instant success.” Small tasks where a teen easily succeeds build confidence. This is a way of nurturing independence. The teen builds on success. On the other hand, if a teen is put in a position where failure is almost inevitable, a lack of self-confidence is the result and frustration, and possibly even anger, is sure to follow. Simply said, we need to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Of course, it isn’t always possible to do so, but the more we can reinforce the positive, the better the results will be.

Many parents seem to think that as the child becomes a teen, parents are needed less. Perhaps just the opposite is true. Parents must be flexible and change some of the ways of dealing with their child, but very close scrutiny is still required. It takes a great deal of wisdom to raise a teen. Where do we get that wisdom? The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Raising a teen is much easier with a great deal of prayer!