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Biggest mistakes parents of teenagers are making

It’s easy to raise a Mean Girl, especially when social media is involved.
It’s easy to raise a Mean Girl, especially when social media is involved. Supplied

PARENTS are so caught up in boosting their child's self-esteem that they're raising a generation of self-entitled and disrespectful people.

Author and parenting guru Michelle Mitchell said parents were creating a rod for their own backs by introducing bad habits early on in their childrens' lives.

Ms Mitchell said this included over praising children and not allowing them to solve problems themselves. The Brisbane mother-of-two said an ever bigger concern was parents who allowed young teens to have unrestricted access to social media.

This meant young girls in particular were at greater risk of being sexualised at an earlier age. It was also leading to increased anxiety levels and a fear their lives were boring compared to others.

"The main issue with unrestricted social media is that kids have a tendency to only see the positive side of what's posted and not so much the bad bits which reinforces the notion we live in a perfect world" she said.

The author or Parenting Teens in The Age of a New Normal said teenage girls these days faced different issues to previous generations.

Social media was just one example where young girls were coming unstuck in areas including bullying and sexualisation with many lacking the emotional maturity to deal with these issues.

She cited one example where a 13-year-old girl sent a nude picture to her then boyfriend and was hauled before the school office and police once he sent it on.

In this particular situation the young girl didn't have the maturity to know how to say no to her boyfriend and had no idea it would come back to bite her. Ms Mitchell said the introduction of smartphones and social media made parenting even more challenging today.

"Once you press send you don't know where it goes or who to," she said. "I'm not saying don't let them have social media and smartphones, but if you're a parent, own the technology and give them the privilege of using it. "If you do let your daughter on social media make them sign a contract with you."

This includes making an agreement that no sexualised pictures go online and monitoring accounts and smartphones. "Parents might say but what about privacy, I say you're doing them a disservice by not doing this.

Insist on transparency," she said. Ms Mitchell said pictures, posts and interests could easily come back to haunt a teenager in adult life especially when it came to job hunting.

The founder of non-profit charity Youth Excel said bullying, drugs, and disrespect remained some of the other major issues that a whole new generation of girls and parents are dealing with.

Ms Mitchell said while hormonal changes and moods are all part of being a normal teenager, she was becoming increasingly concerned by what she saw as a generation of entitled kids.

This sense of entitlement was in turn was leading to disrespect and fracturing relations with, and in between, parents. "We are over parenting and overpraising because we are so scared of affecting our kids' confidence," she said. "So we hover over them, constantly ask them about their day and rescue them all the time because we don't want them to have negative feelings.

"Instead look at it and ask yourself is it a bandaid or a broken arm conversation." She said parents tended to over catastrophise a situation and treated the situation as if there was a broken bone whereas most of the time it just needed a band-aid.

"Children need to learn how to handle their emotions," she said. "Sure praise your daughter and call her beautiful, but also tell her she's strong because beauty can be superficial." Ms Mitchell said time poor parents were also getting it wrong.

Just talking face-to-face instead of yelling orders from the kitchen made a huge difference in day to day relationships, she said. Disrespect can also be avoided by just being present and sharing common interests.

"One technique I suggest using is the soft and close approach," she said. "Sit down next to the, take a breath and be present when you talk to them."

Topics:  parenting parenting adolescents teenagers



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