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Develop a Positive Relationship with Your Teen

Using Love-Based Concepts to develop a healthy, trusting relationship with your teen

Raising teenagers in today's world can be trying. Well-meaning parents who may have had positive relationships with their young children are suddenly confronted with a teenager who questions their authority, disobeys household rules and verbally challenges them. Parents need to successfully navigate the troubled years of adolescence.

"Parents – if they want to maintain a healthy relationship with their teens – must reassess their personal values, question their own authority and even reexamine their own unresolved childhood issues with new intensity," says Jeffrey P. Kaplan, Ph.D., co-author of Finding the Path: A Novel for Parents of Teenagers.

Finding the Path is the story of a single mother and her rebellious teenage son. By using the concepts of love-based parenting, a more trusting and honest relationship results. In the text are reference numbers that are linked to explanatory endnotes. As you learn more about how the characters in the novel find solutions, you learn love-based parenting strategies that you can apply to your own situation.

At the center of love-based parenting is acceptance. In it, the challenges teens bring to your life are not seen as threats to your role as a parent but as invitations to better yourself emotionally and spiritually. Kaplan reminds us that, "Treating a sometimes difficult teen with love and compassion now will make a significant contribution to your adult relationship later."

There are four corners to love-based parenting:

North: CHERISH

Take time each day to see your teen as a totally amazing and precious human being. Accept and appreciate the beauty of what is, even when it is not always pretty. Treat your child as if this were your last day on earth.

South: RESPECT

Respect yourself and your child. Provide appropriate boundaries and limits, and allow for natural and logical consequences. Set your child up for success not failure. Plan ahead for success. While maintaining your role as the parent, treat your teen the way you want to be treated. Be honest, rational and proactive. Do what is best for your child. All of your parenting should seek to build self-esteem. Don't be judgmental.

East: FAITH

Let go! Have faith in positive outcomes. Allow teens to take safe risks and make their own mistakes. Don't over-involve yourself in your teen's life. Although you raised your teen, your teen is not yours. Teens have their own paths to follow.

West: SELF-MANAGEMENT

Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Meditate. Be a role model for your child. Learn to love yourself – warts and all. When you feel a strong emotional reaction to your child, manage your emotional response and look for the lesson in the situation. Improve your own shortcomings rather than insisting your child change. Do not look to satisfy your own needs from your child. Maintain awareness of the goals or intentions of your actions (for example, is it to teach the child responsibility or win a power struggle?). Get help if you need it.

Although the four corners of love-based parenting may not solve all your dilemmas, Dr. Kaplan's approach will foster mutual respect between you and your teen. Keeping these concepts in mind – especially during a crisis – will help you see difficult situations as opportunities for growth. By focusing on the positive rather than the negative, you will better yourself and create a more loving environment for your teenage children.

Abby Lederman, Dr. Kaplan's co-author, has experienced firsthand success using love-based parenting strategies. "My daughter was opinionated, sneaky, disrespectful and oppositional – not to mention highly emotional. Then I met Dr. Jeff Kaplan and started to work his principles of love-based parenting into my life. Within weeks I was headed in a new direction as a parent, and Annie grew into the beautiful, compassionate and loving young adult she is today."

For more information on Finding the Path, to sign up for a free love-based parenting teleclass or to subscribe to Dr. Kaplan's 5-Minute E-Zine, visit his Web site. On the site, find out how to join a virtual community of parents struggling to raise responsible, happy teens.

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