Good parenting's more common than we admit, happier teens are the proof
Parents are constantly being told what they are doing wrong, yet teenagers have never been happier. It's time mums and dads stood back and had their good work acknowledged says Arlene Harris
Teenagers have always been berated and misunderstood by their elders, but nowadays it seems that parents are the root of all evil with many reports blaming their lack of discipline, time and empathy for the way in which the younger generation behave.
But recent reports have shown that teenagers are actually much happier than they were a decade ago and actually are less likely to smoke, drink or be bullied than their predecessors. So it seems that despite the negative press, parents are doing a good job and for the most part, today's teenagers are well brought up and have great plans for the future.
We spoke to experts and parents to find out what they think.
'I'm firm but fair and listen a lot'
Gillian Ryan is married to Kevin and has two children - Amy, 14 and Matthew, 5. She runs her own fashion business www.stylemama.ie in Rathfarnham and believes in being firm but fair with her children. She believes parents should make time to talk and most importantly, to listen as this will go a long way towards instilling security, confidence and good behaviour in the next generation.
"I am firm with my children but at the same time I make sure to communicate with them on different levels and always try to be fair. I feel there has to be a balance between the two and of course, plenty of love," she says.
"My daughter Amy is 14 so many changes have occurred over the past year or so. Discos are happening so she is going out more, wanting to buy the best of makeup and top gadgets such as the iPhone 5. Sometimes I say yes but I also say no and stick to my guns," she adds.
"Teenagers today are very different to what they were in my day because they are always on social media and you can't ask for passwords as they need privacy too.
"My daughter is way more mature than I was at her age. I'm happy to say she has her own personality and doesn't seem to be influenced by others. Thankfully she doesn't hang out on the streets but then again they seem to be online more than ever - so I suppose, there are positives and negatives," she says.
"She has seen my husband and I get through the recession by having to work very hard to build our companies and make them succeed, so knows well good things don't come easy.
"I hope I have taught her the values of money and that she only has one chance of being young, working hard in school and going to college later on. I would also encourage plenty of travel as when you have children they are will be the main priority in life," she adds.
"I have also taught her to respect her elders and watch out for younger brother.
"As far as being a parent to a teenager is concerned, I would have to say that overall, I adore my daughter and she is my pride and joy.
"It's important for me to be her Mum but I think it's just as important to spend quality time with each other having fun too, we have a very open relationship and we talk a lot.
"The teenage years can be testing but afterwards, Amy will be a beautiful woman and someday probably my best friend," she says.
'It's a tough but rewarding job'
Laura Haugh of www.mummypages.ie has two young children (James, 5 and Lucy, 3) so hasn't reached the teenage years yet. But says the online community at Mummy Pages feel that while parenting can be difficult, it is a very rewarding job overall and this generation of teens have had to go through just as much angst as others have in the past.
"Today's teenagers have grown up and matured during some of Ireland's bleakest economic times making them more socially aware compared to their predecessors," she says.
"They are more mature, exam focused and overall more experienced than previous generations as they are under more pressure to secure a place in university than ever before," she adds.
"They are a tech-savvy generation with a wealth of information at their fingertips allowing them to develop their own opinions, interest and morals."
The 'Mum in Residence' says the key to parenting teenagers is all about finding the balance in their relationship between providing guidance and at the same time giving them space to make their own decisions.
Good communication, staying calm and a non-judgemental attitude is also important.
"Teenagers face so many ups and downs at a time when their hormones are racing and they are under increasing pressure to figure out who they are as a person and what they want to do in life," she says.
"I personally believe parents are doing a great job.
"Modern day parenting involves mastering many different roles and this is especially true for parents of teenagers who not only have to feed, clothe and shelter their youngsters, but they often have to fulfil the roles of guidance counsellor, careers coach, life coach, social media and technology expert and most importantly act as a psychologist listening to their teenagers problems."
Laura says the general feedback from the Mummy Pages community is that parenting adolescents is tough but rewarding and while the teenage years can be turbulent, most children come out the other side as well-rounded adults.
"Parents get to know more about their child and who they are as a person when they become teenagers and begin to look at the world through their own eyes for the first time, forming their own opinions and judgments," she says.
"The most difficult aspect for many of our mums can be the sudden change in behaviour especially when it comes to the close relationship they once had with their child.
"Although worrying, this behaviour is completely normal as they start to stand on their own two feet and find themselves," she adds.
"Generally a few close friends or another responsible adult within the family can be where they will confide their worries and dreams during these rebellious teenage years.
"All parents go through a tough few years at some point in their child's life.
"For some it's the toddler years and for others it's the teens," she says.
"It can be difficult at times but teenagers do grow out of their mood swings and slowly blossom into mature, rational adults.
"And when they reach this stage, they appreciate their parents' efforts more and more and will be grateful for all the love, guidance and support they received over the years"," she adds.
"But in the meantime, many teenagers feel that adults don't understand them and this leads to parents questioning their ability and looking for support from others in the same situation as they face up to the many challenges associated with rearing a family.
"Parents receive support from friends and their own parents during the challenging teenage years," says the mother-of-two.
"However we are also seeing a lot of parents looking for advice and support online. Here they can anonymously air their problems and worries and get advice, support and reassurance that they are doing a great job and are not the "bad parent" their teenager say they are"
'Parents know power of reason'
Child psychologist David Carey says the teenagers of today are no different to what they have always been down through the years - mood swings, bad behaviour and lack of communication have been teenage traits for many generations.
"Today's teenagers are no better or worse than those of yesterday," he says. "Since the invention of the concept of the teenager adults have been complaining about their risk-taking, mood swings and uncooperative nature.
"But these are all part of normal adolescent development and we need not be alarmed by them.
"Our teenagers are for the most part good and positive in terms of their manners, morals, attitudes and beliefs. However, unfortunately the press they get is usually negative," he says.
"We just don't hear enough about the good teens in our towns and cities. But all you have to do is look around to find them - open your eyes and ears, they are right in front of you.
"So don't be lured into the bad press some of them get, however well-deserved it may be," he adds.
And the Dublin-based expert says the parents of today are doing just as good a job of getting through the rocky adolescent years as their parents did before them - and in fact are better at communicating with teenagers than previous generations have been.
"Like our teenagers, today's parents are no better or worse than those of yesterday," he says.
"Although in some ways they are much better because they no longer rely only on power, manipulation, threat and physical punishment for discipline. Today's parents know the power of reason and logic and responsible limit setting. Most parents today also enjoy talking with, instead of taking to, their teens," he adds.
"With this in mind, it is never too late to try and communicate with your teenager. The most important part of communication is the listening part.
"Adults should listen more often to their teens and lecture less to them. Teenagers have a unique view of the world and we can learn a lot from them if we are prepared to listen to them.
"As a parent you will have done a good job if your child can communicate, contribute, cooperate and exhibit compassion.
"Any child or adult who can manifest these human qualities has been well brought up," David adds.
www.mummypages.ie ; www.davidjcarey.com
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