Myths about parenting teens include not talking to them about sex and never losing your temper with them.
Make sure all parenting advice comes from reputable sources and is based on psychological science.
Observe how your teen responds to different tactics to decide what approach is best for your family.
Raising a teenager comes with its own unique challenges like helping your teen navigate their first romantic relationship and fostering their new-found independence. Moreover, taking to the internet for advice can be dicey since myths abound for how to parent teens in a supportive, yet, effective way.
"Many of the parenting myths that persist give us seemingly easy answers to what are more often complicated puzzles to solve," says Ellen O'Donnell, PhD, a Boston-based child psychologist. "The truth is, there are few easy answers in parenting. It takes more time and energy to figure out why your particular kid is behaving the way they are, what they might be struggling with, and how you should respond."
Here, we offer perspectives from two child psychologists on some of the most common myths about parenting teens.
Myth 1: Talking to your kids about sex makes them want to do it more
Many parents mistakenly believe that discussing sex with their kids or educating them about contraception will motivate them to become more sexually active, says Lea Lis, MD, a board-certified child psychologist in New York City.
However, a 2019 study demonstrated that when teens engage in healthy conversations about sex with their parents, it can help to reduce the chances that they engage in risky sexual behaviors that may lead to unplanned pregnancy and STIs.
Myth 2: Boys will be boys
This age-old expression, first recorded in 1589, seems to be a sweeping generalization based on outdated stereotypes.
"The idea that boys can't help themselves, and are 'born to be bad' is not only totally untrue but perpetuates myths about gender," says Lis.
Lis says it can be particularly harmful to rely on this line of thinking when it comes to parenting teenage boys, as hormones are surging and their testosterone levels are increasing tenfold.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), adhering to "traditional masculinity ideology" has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, cause gender role conflict, and negatively influence both their mental and physical health.
The APA also reports that upholding these types of negative masculine ideals increases the odds that boys will engage in assault, bullying, and/or physical and verbal aggression.
Myth 3: Spare the rod, spoil the child
Lis says that corporal punishment may instead condone aggressive or violent behavior in children, while O'Donnell adds that it can erode trust in the parent-teen relationship.
A 2006 study found that adolescents who were more likely to engage in fighting and bullying reported that their parents used corporal punishment as a disciplining method, whereas adolescents who perceived their parents to disapprove of physical violence were less likely to resort to those negative behaviors.
Rather than physically punishing your teen when they misbehave, the APA recommends focusing on praising positive behaviors, and actively ignoring them if they are not speaking to you respectfully.
However, if your teen is acting out in a way that puts themselves or others in danger, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against ignoring your teen. Instead, let them know their behavior is not OK and enforce negative consequences - such as taking away one of their privileges.
Myth 4: Good parents don't lose their temper
Experts advise against holding yourself to unrealistic standards. As an imperfect human being, you may occasionally lose control when you feel overwhelmed or if your teenager is pushing your buttons. Rather than giving in to shame or guilt, they suggest owning up to and apologizing to your teen for your behavior.
"Acknowledge how you should have handled the situation differently," says O'Donnell. "Problem solve together how you will each do better next time."
In some cases - when the teen's behavior is inappropriate, but not a danger to anyone or themselves - Lis says it's better to ignore your teenager when they're misbehaving than yell at them - which can reinforce negative attention-seeking behaviors such as making controversial statements to provoke a reaction.
Remember: It's OK to step away from the situation and take some time to calm down when you feel your frustration rising.
Myth 5: Fighting in front of your teen is bad for their mental health
Experts agree that it's impractical to expect that you and your spouse will never argue in front of your kids. The key, according to O'Donnell, is to model healthy conflict resolution.
"These situations can be some of the greatest life lessons," says Lis.
A 2006 study of children between the ages of 9 to 18-years-old found that parental conflict wasn't harmful if it was resolved. However, when these conflicts remained unsettled, children responded with depression, anxiety, and/or behavior problems. The correlation between interparental discord and emotional insecurity was even stronger for teenagers than for younger children. A lead author of the study concluded that parents should always work toward finding a resolution to their fights and communicating that resolution to their adolescents.
Experts say the important thing to remember is that just because a platitude is popular doesn't make it true. As new studies emerge and social attitudes and norms evolve, many of the most common beliefs about parenting are being debunked.
"Don't believe everything you hear," Lis tells Insider. "Do your research and trust the valid sources."
Experts also say there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and the best way to figure out what works for your specific teenager is to observe how they respond to different tactics.
"The best data you have is right in front of you," says O'Donnell. "Get to know their temperament, interests, passions, friends, strengths, and weaknesses. Then make sure the parenting advice you are getting comes from reputable sources and is based on psychological science."
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