The bookstore - if you're lucky enought to find one these days - is filled with books on how to establish and maintain a positive relationship with teenage children. Most parents feel like this is the most difficult to stage to navigate, though a handful of parents actually prefer this stage above all others. The mind of a teenager is certainly a mysterious place, and their behavior often sends the parents running for the hills - or indulging in a very infrequent homicidal fantasy.
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. So, how should the parents of teenagers approach trust and handling punishments when their kids do something bad? The goal for parents during these years is to simultaneously guide your child and start to let go. It's the 'letting go' that's so difficult for your parents, and understandbly so: kids can make some very serious life mistakes during this period, mistakes they could spend many lears - or a lifetime - paying for. (Note: Bristol Palin comes to mind).