As a parent it is often tempting to have identical expectations for each of your teenagers. It can be an unfortunate parenting trap, however. Your teens are clamoring for identity so demanding sameness can inspire rebellion.
A Brief Example Of Unrealistic Expectations
Two sisters, Mary and Jane, were so close in age they were often treated like twins. Both girls loved to learn and did well in school but their parents expected them to have the exact same interests and abilities. Mary was right-brained and Jane was left-dominant. Mary had dyslexia which made learning difficult. Jane suffered from social anxiety so she preferred solitude and used it to study. Mary excelled in art and physical education while Jane excelled in math and science.
When report cards came out, Mary and Jane had the same GPA. Mary’s high grades were in elective classes and Jane’s were in core subjects but their parents did not recognize their individuality. Jane was granted extra privileges for her academic skill while Mary was grounded for a poor math grade. Unfortunately, it was actually Mary’s first time on the honor roll but the accomplishment was not acknowledged. Of course you can see the parenting flaw, but are you sure you are not doing the same thing with your own teenagers?
How To Keep It Real
Parenting is about setting expectations. Everyone wants a well-behaved child with good grades, right? But what if some of your expectations are beyond your teenager’s capacity? Can you make adjustments to your parenting style to fit each one of your teenagers? If you can celebrate your teen’s individuality, they are going to be more likely to respond favorably. As you help your teens identify their own strengths and weaknesses, you can help them find a greater degree of confidence in themselves. With more confidence, comes greater self-worth which ultimately leads to a more successful outcome. These tips should help you have realistic, individual expectations:
Figure out what they are interested in and encourage them in whatever it is (as long as it is safe, of course).
Acknowledge their achievements without comparing them to a sibling.
Respect their opinion even if you do not agree.
Honor their individuality.
Help them manage expectations like being on time or having a clean room in ways that work for them especially if they are not “your way” of managing.
Give them freedom to make mistakes and teach them how to recover from them without condemnation.
Teach your teen to respect themselves and give others, including you, that same respect.
Set them up for success and be ready to catch them should they fall.
From grades to behavior at home, at school, and within social groups, teens have a lot of expectations placed on them. It is normal for them to have periods where they feel overwhelmed or inadequate. As a parent how you handle those moments will determine how willing your teen will be to meet future expectations with the least amount of rebellion.