Remember those days when your child believed every word you said and hugged you every chance he got? Somewhere around the tween years, hormones kicked in, and that sweet little child might have morphed into a teenager who thinks you don’t know anything and that every single one of your opinions is wrong. While adolescent attitudes can certainly be trying for parents -- and teens themselves -- allowing your child to express himself during his teenage years can help him develop a stronger sense of self, resist peer pressure and teach him life skills.
Even though a teen’s sassy statements and peculiar clothing choices can grate on your nerves, allowing your child to express himself can help him develop his self-confidence. According to research compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, parents who provide their children with unconditional love and support and allow them the freedom to express themselves -- keeping health and safety concerns paramount, of course -- raise children who are more academically and socially confident than their peers.
Children who are allowed to verbally express themselves and disagree with their moms are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, according to a University of Virginia study. The study, published in the journal "Child Development," found that teenagers who express their own points of view in front of their moms are learning how to stand up for themselves -- an important life skill that can help them resist peer pressure to try risky behaviors. The key? Teaching teenagers how to argue their points calmly persuasively, instead of using bullying or shouting tactics.
Allowing your child the freedom to express himself can teach him an important life skill: His actions have consequences. Allowing him to wear clothing or a hairstyle that doesn’t quite gel with your sense of style is one way your teen can express himself without causing harm, other than to your line of vision. However, giving him the freedom to smoke or stay out past curfew is another matter entirely. While it is important for parents to allow their teens the freedom to explore and make their own choices, parents must provide guidance and proper sanctions so their children learn that certain actions are risky to their health and do have consequences.
While teenagers might not have a problem expressing themselves through their style or attitudes, they might struggle to feel comfortable expressing their feelings around their parents or family members. They might push their parents away, sulk, and refuse to explain what’s bothering them. According to the U.S. Department of Education document, however, it’s important for parents to remember that these actions are only the way your children are expressing their feelings -- not necessarily the way they feel about you or their siblings. One word of caution: teenagers who seem excessively sad or sullen should be evaluated by a mental health care worker to rule out any severe emotional problems.