Adolescence is a major period of profound growth—physically, mentally and emotionally—so it’s no wonder that this phase of life can be so confusing and challenging for teens… and their parents.
Teenagers often get a bad rap, but teens are thoughtful, full of energy and ideas, and deeply in-tuned with what’s fair and right. Parents have the exciting role of helping their almost-grown child develop into the unique individual they will one day become. Because every parent of a teenager can sometimes use reinforcements, we turned to parenting guru and “SuperNanny” Deborah Tillman to get some insight on the effective, compassionate parenting of teenagers.
You may recognize Tillman from her role in Lifetime TV’s “America’s Supernanny,” or from one of her many appearances on “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The View,” “Fox and Friends,” “The Today Show,” or CNN. She is also the author of three books, and the president of the John Maxwell Team Parenting and Family Certification, serving over 16,000 coaches in over 150 countries around the world.
Tillman holds a master’s degree in early childhood special education from George Washington University, and she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Education from Richmond Virginia Seminary.
Q: It seems like the transition from kid to teen happens overnight. One second, they want all your attention, and the next second, they want you to go away! This can often be just as confusing of a time for parents as it is for teenagers. Do you have any tips on how to change one’s parenting style from kid-friendly to teen-friendly?
DR. TILLMAN: Children go through many phases and so do we as parents. The way to be and stay connected to our teens is to listen more, learn them all over again as they are going through many changes, physically, mentally and emotionally and to love them through those stages and seasons of life. I also believe in Purposeful parenting, which means that we are intentional about:
- Prioritizing our children
- Affirming them daily
- Rearing and Respecting them
- Encouraging their DNA (Distinct Natural Abilities)
- Nurturing them through the various phases of life
- Teaching them to be compassionate, self-aware, responsible humans
- Supporting them through the crisis and challenges that life will inevitably bring.
Q: What are some baby steps parents can take toward giving their teens more independence?
TILLMAN: Be intentional about the kind of responsibilities you want to give to them. Start with something small like cooking a meal, following the rules around social media use. If they do well, then slowly add more.
Q: Should parents “snoop” on their teen’s social media accounts and devices? And if so, what’s the limit?
TILLMAN: The foundation for being a purposed parent must begin from a place of trust and respect. If your child has not given you a reason to snoop, then it is not helpful to do so. Parents can avoid the temptation to snoop by doing the following:
• Set guidelines and boundaries around using social media.
• Speak openly and age appropriately
• Draw up an agreement so that everyone is accountable
• Let them know if trust is broken, there will be consequences.
Q: Mental health has been a hot topic amongst teens for the past couple of years. How can parents decipher between a normal moody teen and a teen that might be struggling with something more?
TILLMAN: As parents, we need to know and consistently observe our children. Everyone communicates, but few people connect. When there is open communication, transparency and vulnerability, it is easier to bond with teenagers. When parents are truly in touch with their children, they can decipher when their child is truly struggling and may need to seek professional help and when they are just in a “bad” mood.
“My mission is to reimagine the purpose of parenting so we can leave our children a legacy of love by raising them with compassion and purpose!”
Q: How can parents get past the stigma related to seeking professional mental health treatment so that they can fully support their teens?
TILLMAN: Parents can get past the stigma related to seeking professional help by remembering what their purpose is as a parent, which is to help children become their best selves. Throughout the many phases of life, our children need different things in different seasons. If in several of those seasons they need to seek professional help, then do so.
For Christian parents, understand that when you pray, God will often send a therapist.
Q: What are some effective tips for helping parents assist their children as they transition from teen to young adult? Example: the high school senior who will go off to college.
TILLMAN: As our children transition into young adulthood, remind them of the following which you have spent a lifetime planting the seeds:
- Seek God first
- To thy own self be true
- Dream big
- Keep growing
- Excellence is everything
- Stay humble
- Expect their best life to show up
- Eliminate excuses
- Remain teachable
- Do what makes you come alive
- Always remember you have a family that will forever be here for you
Deborah Tillman’s Book Recommendations for Parents and Teens
- The Bible
- “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill
- “Letters to a Young Brother” by Hill Harper
- “More Than Enough” by Elaine Welteroth
- “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Stephen Covey
- “Parenting on Purpose” by Dr. Deborah Tillman
- “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown
- “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meeker MD
- “Gamechangers (12 Strategies to guide parents and families through the many challenges, problems and storms of life)” by Dr. Deborah Tillman