Parenting teenagers is never easy, but it shouldn’t feel like you’re weathering the “terrible twos” all over again. Yelling and lecturing won’t work with unruly, childish adolescents. If you deal with an immature teenage kid by changing the way you respond to him, you’re more likely to see positive results.
Remember what it was like to be a teenager. In the middle of a conflict, it’s easy to forget that you once thought goofing off was more important than taking care of business. Try to get in touch with what’s going on inside his head; empathizing with your teen makes him feel cared for and understood. When you’re communicating in a loving way, your teen is more likely to listen and take what you say to heart.
Set limits and maintain consistency. The teen years are all about asserting independence and gaining freedom, but kids still need structure. Laying down the ground rules and enforcing consequences creates an atmosphere of respect in your home, but don’t forget to respect your teen in return. If he’s complaining that all of his friends have later curfews than his, consider giving him an extension. Reward him for the things he does right, and he might start acting more his age.
Teach him to be more self-sufficient. If you give your teen more responsibility -- and the skills he needs to manage it – he’ll probably start behaving in a more mature manner. Encourage him to find a job so he can learn new skills and bank his savings for college or a car. Show him how to do a load of laundry or cook a simple meal; he’ll begin to appreciate the energy it takes to take care of himself, and he’ll stop expecting you to do everything for him.
Allow him time to explore. Teens love to just “hang out,” and sometimes there is value in the time your kid spends doing nothing in particular. If he wants to endlessly meander the mall, he probably won’t gain any maturity. If, on the other hand, he’s making a racket in the basement with his guitar, he could be learning a valuable lesson about perseverance. Give your teen the space he needs to make discoveries about himself and life in general.
Let him fail. Maturity comes from learning life’s lessons, and your teen won’t have the opportunity to learn from his mistakes if you solve all of his problems for him or prevent him from taking healthy risks. Support his desire to make some decisions on his own, and then back off a bit. If he wants to skip the school dance because he feels it’s too traditional for his tastes, don’t get into an argument about it. When he’s older, he might look back and realize he missed out by not suiting up and attending with a date; if he does, he’ll know not to make a similar mistake in the future.
Child psychologist Kenneth N. Condrell explains that rebellion is natural when it comes to teens. Let your kid express his growing independence in appropriate ways. If it won’t negatively impact his future, it’s more effective not to fight it. Raising mature teenagers involves more than communication and discipline. Modifying your own immature behaviors is necessary if you want to set the sort of example a teen is more apt to respect and follow.
While setting limits can help keep an immature kid in line, Dr. John McKinnon warns against making hollow or extreme threats. If the consequences for his behavior are inappropriate or you don’t make them stick, you’ll lose all credibility. Some teen behavior problems fall outside the realm of what’s normal. Seek counseling for a teenager who is engaging in dangerous activities.