Headmaster's Blog: What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

    24 September

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    What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

    “Stephen, can you explain why you thought it would be funny to put a fish into Mr Smyth’s desk drawer?”

    Parenting teens is difficult. Bizarre ideas and notions grab them; they often act without considering consequences. What do you do as a parent when you don’t know what to do?

    Teachers learn through years of experience that mischievous teenager behaviour is normal and often a reflection of many things going on under the surface.  We learn not to react without first understanding the context.

    As a parent you may not have this experience to fall back on. Parenting a teenager is a difficult process, but the key is to do this positively, with love and approval but, above all, with boundaries.

    Teenagers are navigating their way through tricky territory as they grow up and seek independence.  They spend more time away from the family; whether in their rooms, or with friends and so it is important to make the time that you have together enjoyable. 

    There are some key principles that help:

    • Respect your child by listening carefully.  Listen before you react. Allow your teen to express why they have behaved, spoken, acted in a particular manner.
    • Set routines and rules together, regularly eating meals together is a simple, basic bonding routine often neglected. If they have agreed to the rules there is no excuse for breaking them.  Importantly, follow through – rules are there for a reason and it is vital for you to be consistent.
    • Allow your teenager his/her own space. If they are not in the mood to talk, if they want to be alone or with friends allow this to happen, but keep a balance.
    • Understand that since teens spend a large amount of time with their friends much of their self-image comes from their peers. However, their core values and image come from family and never has this been more significant than in today’s hectic pressured world of social media.
    • Pay attention to ‘little things’. Being involved in your child’s life shows you care. Know what courses and extra-curricular activities they do. Learn the names of friends, ask about them occasionally. Demonstrate respect to their growth as individuals, don’t pry into insignificant detail that is not forthcoming and pay attention to your child’s need for privacy.
    • Respect your child’s concerns when they are upset. Listen carefully and understand that by dismissing concerns too quickly you are actually belittling them. Listen and listen, encourage and encourage.
    • Praise; nothing will bring change like praise. This does wonders for your teen’s confidence – and his/her willingness to co-operate with you.

    Finally, dealing with the fish in the drawer. Stephen’s desire for attention will have been met, perhaps not as he desired. He needs to have discipline and sanction, the function of which should be to adjust behaviour. Finally, “Once it is over, it should be over”. We follow this rule in the classroom and it is a good one. Do not cast up.

    Remember, the rebellious teenage years do not last. Generally, the tricky time is the period between 14 years and 16 years old.  So, be assured, it passes and the most important thing is to ensure you maintain a strong relationship with each other throughout. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Follow key principles.

    Mr Robert Robinson MBE