I'm like, a dozen years away from being dad to a teenager, but I was drawn to Christie Halverson's piece about raising teenagers--published a couple of years ago on her blog and more recently on Upworthy. (Plus, I work for what's probably the most influential parenting brand on digital media, and I know a good story when I read it.)
Her advice closely hews to the best practices we see for leaders in all kinds of contexts. For example, compare what she has to say (summarized below) to the kinds of things we see in today's bonus content: 7 Things Great Leaders Always Do--(free infographic).
Whether you're a parent yourself, or just think you might become one someday, it's worth checking out. Here are the seven key things she says she's learned to do in order to be a good parent of teenagers.
1. Let your kids know they're loved, "fiercely."
It all starts with love. In fact--spoiler alert--most of the best leadership advice is rooted in love as well.
"Love everything about them, even the annoying stuff. Love them for their actions AND their intentions," Halverson says. "Let them know in word and deed how much you adore them. Daily. Love their wrinkled shirts and Axe-body-spray-covered selves. Love their bad handwriting and pimpled cheeks. Love their scattered brains and long limbs."
2. Listen and pay attention.
Much as a respected boss pays attention and listens to his or her employees, Halverson says a successful parent of teenagers has to do the same thing.
"When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes that they will divulge the secrets of their day with you. Be excited to see them," she writes. "Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying. Make their victories your victories. Be empathetic. .. Don't lecture. Just listen."
3. Say yes more often than no.
Be a bastion of positivity--which can improve outcomes and happiness.
"For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave-after-wave of 'you're not good enough' and 'you can't do this' crashing down on their heads. If nothing else, I want to be the opposite voice in their lives for as long as I can," she says.
4. Yet--say no often.
Kids needs their parents to act like adults, and to save them from their own excesses.
"You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness. Don't let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice at age 16 in front of their peers about alcohol. Don't let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex. Be the parent," she writes.
5. Take care of their physical well-being.
Okay I admit--that's not precisely what Halverson says. Instead, she's focused on one particular physical need: food.
"Feed them. A lot. And not only them, but their friends, too," Halverson writes. "These bodies are growing and developing at an astonishing rate, and need fuel to do so ... When their friends know your pantry is stocked to the gills with treats, they will beg your kid to hang out at your place. This allows you to, not only meet and know their friends, but to keep an eye on your teen, as well. Make your house the fun house."
6. Don't worry too much.
How often does worry about stuff actually help achieve a positive outcome?
"Don't sweat the small stuff," Halverson says. "[B]efore you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes. Find out about their day first. Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it. Maybe they're tired from all that growing, learning, working, and hormone-ing. If you waste your chance and yell at them about the backpack or shoes or [insert every other possession they own], they will not open up to you."
7. Have faith.
Or as Halverson puts it: "Stand back and watch the magic happen. If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine. ... They are just about the greatest gift that God gave to parents."