Ways for Dads to Connect with Teens During the “Other Terrible Toos”

The Terrible Twos is a normal stage of child development when toddlers try to show their growing independence, often with mood changes and temper tantrums. Children eventually grow out of the Terrible Twos, but they—and their parents—face another developmental stage that can bring similar challenges.

As your child becomes a teenager, the Other Terrible Toos can become routine: “No, that costs TOO much money.” “That’s TOO loud. Turn down the music.” “Those pants are TOO loose on you. Pull them up.” “You spend TOO much time texting.” “Is it TOO hard for you to put your dirty clothes in the hamper?” “Don’t you think that’s TOO much makeup?”

However tough the Other Terrible Toos may be, this developmental stage is a critical time for fathers to help their children learn how to become responsible adults. “Each parenting stage has its own rewards and challenges,” says Kenneth Braswell, Director, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC). “The key is to keep the lines of communication open to help children navigate each turn in their life journey.” Dads can help teens stay on the right track by building a loving connection with them in several key ways:

Be involved.

Simply spend time with your teens, especially one-on-one time. Pay attention to them, share conversation, and actively listen to what they have to say. Talking about their favorite television shows, music, friends, school activities, and other interests is a good start. Involved fathers often make sacrifices, such as giving up some of their own favorite activities, to devote more time to interacting with their teens. Together, make some memories your teens will keep for a lifetime.

Be affectionate.

Most dads recognize that young children thrive on attention and affection. However, many fathers do not realize that these needs do not change as a child grows. Teenagers crave acceptance too–especially from their parents. Teens often act as if they do not need or want love and attention from their fathers, but they actually do. They look to you for support and information. Tell teens often that you love them. Something as simple as a few encouraging words or a quick hug can strengthen your relationship with your teenager tremendously. Despite the eye rolling, your teen might offer a hug in return!

Be fun.

At times, it is easy for fathers to take themselves too seriously; so many interactions between you and your teens are to correct or direct them. While keeping the rules is important, you can be more than an authority figure to your teens. Fun and fundamentals can live together happily. Being able to laugh together can open the lines of communication with teens. They will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings—even admitting mistakes—which can be a starting point for important conversations about conduct and character. NRFC offers practical tools and resources to help fathers build a stronger connection with their children at any age. Visit www.fatherhood.gov or call 877-4DAD411.

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