To Change a Mind -- Parenting to Promote Maturity in Teenagers

by John A. McKinnon, M.D.


1. The importance of parental recognition to their teenager. Parents making time for their teenager, speaking true empathy to him, forging an interdependent relationship with him, and choosing the right moment to give him recognition.

2. The importance of parents maintaining their separateness as adults so they can set teenager limits. How limits help teenagers gain control over themselves, accept legitimate rules, and become responsible citizens. How parents should behave in the manner they want their teen to behave when they become adults: confident, sensible, dignified, realistic, unapologetic about authority, assertive without bullying, good-humored, with common sense, self-discipline, and respect for others' feelings and rights.

3. Why parents should speak courteously and respectfully to their teenager. What serious situations a parent needs to confront, such as teenage arrogance, antisocial behavior, and offensive narcissism.

4. How parents should stand together in their rules and limits. How limits teach children delayed gratification, that they have to work for something they want, to wait their turn, and to consider others. Culturally, how a loss of parental authority resulted in a decline of conscience in their children. How the absence of parental limits allows children to develop greed, irresponsibility, licentiousness, and grandiose self-indulgence.

5. Why some parents don't set limits. For example, the parents believe children are more motivated by praise than punishment; they want to avoid adolescent rage or arguments; they don't know how to set limits; or they feel guilty for putting their children through a divorce. The author believes that parents who defend their teenagers when they break the rules are depriving their teens of character, preventing their teens from growing up, and are producing spoiled teenagers.

6. Setting limits challenges self-preoccupied, self-important narcissism, challenges a lack of consideration for others, teaches empathy, teaches teens to treat others as separate and equal, and makes future consequences contingent upon present behavior. Parents should expect limits to make their teens feel uncomfortable, because limits confront a teen's immaturity. Parent should not shrink from making their teenagers feel shame or guilt when they break rules or behave like selfish people.

7. How to deal with specific situations, including disrespectful behavior, irresponsibility, lack of academic motivation, and defiance. How unlimited punishment should never be used because it is ineffective.

8. How parents can give recognition to their teenagers and set limits at the same time.

9. The necessity of parental example. How teenagers need their parents to act like responsible adults who don't lie, or sleep around, or not work, or throw tantrums, or get drunk, or feel sorry for themselves.

10. How parents who monitor their teens' homework communicate to them that school is important.

11. Wilderness programs which result in a more mature teenager are effective because this teen realized that the whole reason for him being there began when his parents said "No" to his immature behavior.