Q. It feels like we're always arguing with our 15–year–old. We're tired of the constant conflict, and I'm sure she is too. What can we do?
A. As parents of teenagers, many of us could find reason to be mad at our kids most of the time. Teenagers are in a stage of testing—not just your authority, but their own judgment and independence. They make decisions that even they know are unwise, just to see what will happen. They argue just to flex their mental muscles. They push the limits because it truly is the best way for them to discover for themselves why those limits exist. As frustrating as all that conflict can be, it is part of every teenager's journey to adulthood.
While there's not much you can do to change your teenager, you can change the ways you respond to her. I find that some parents of teens revert to an old style of parenting called "shame–based parenting." Shame–based parenting is when we get desperate enough to shame our kids into obedience by saying things like "You should know better," or "Why did you do something so stupid?" It works, but only for a short time. After all, our greater goal is not just to bring about obedience today but to raise responsible adults for tomorrow.
There is a more effective way to parent our teens. I call it "parenting with A.W.E." It's not easy, but it is a much more effective strategy for successfully raising teens to be responsible adults. While no family is "Leave it to Beaver" perfect, I do believe we can do a much better job of creating an atmosphere of A.W.E. (Affection, Warmth, Encouragement). Here's how to make your home more A.W.E.–some: