Can you see why when your number pops up on her phone, her first response is to snarl the same way you do when a telemarketer calls you during dinner? Her first thought is, “What did I do now?” or “What does she want me to do now?” But what if instead of your daughter dreading it whenever you call, you could instead use the cell phone to improve your relationship with your teen.
Recent research shows that using a cell phone to contact your teen can create a better relationship between the two of you. This research from Robert Weisskirch from California State University shows that teenagers report a higher degree of stress and conflict with their parents when their parents call their cell phone to monitor them. On the other hand, teens that call their parents for advice or support in a social situation reported a more supportive and encouraging relationship with their parents.
All this could mean that teens who are more likely to call their parents for advice do so because they already a trusting relationship with their parents. Likewise, possibly parents who use the cell phone to nag their teens already had a bad relationship with them. Either way, Either way, the study isn’t trying to show that a cell phone is the magic bullet that will fix everything between you and your teen. But it can make things worse if you don’t use it yourself with proper boundaries.
Letting Them Fail on Their Own
If you have asked your teen to be some place or they have told to you they will be some place, then trust she will be there. If she says she will do something then trust she will do it. Unless, she has given you reason not to trust her actions then treat her like the responsible person she has proven to be.
Some parents use the cell phone as a way of being their teen’s personal secretary or quasi life coach. Reminding your teen to not forget a doctor’s appointment is one thing but reminding your sixteen year old to finish a school project or what time church youth group starts is going overboard. Whether sink or swim, these small tasks need to fall squarely on her shoulders. In part you teen will learn a greater sense of responsibility from having to remember her own “to do” list as opposed to you sending a constant stream of text message reminders. This may mean she forgets to do a few things--things she may have to pay the consequences for later--but this is all part of an important learning process for her. Those lessons will be much more valuable to her in the long run than your reminders could ever be.
Texting a Happy Teen
There are a number of ways you can use your calls and messages to enhance your relationship with your teen. Here are a few ways to effectively use the cell phone.
1. Send them an encouraging text on the days they have a “big event” such as a major test, school presentation, or sport tryouts. Your word of encouragement can serve as a reminder without being blatant or nagging such as, “Thinking about you today during your tryouts. Can’t wait to hear how it went.”
2. Occasionally text them a quote, picture, or bible verse you saw that reminds you of them. No need to send an explanation or long message. Short and sweet makes the point
3. If you are going to be late or not at home when you normally would, give your teen a call. You expect the same of them don’t you?
4. When they are gone for several days, give them a day without hearing from you. It’s okay to call the second day. Giving her some space can be good for independence but calling on day two let’s her know you’re still in the picture.
5. Let your teen use you as her “out” if it’s a socially awkward situation. You can check in on her if it’s a first date, school dance, sleepover, etc. A quick, “Everything okay?” is all it takes. If she feels uncomfortable being there, she can always say, “My Dad just sent me a text, he needs me to come home.”
The next time you feel an urge to call or send a text to your teen, stop and ask yourself what is your motivation. Calling your teen out of concern or texting them to give them an encouraging word, can go a long way to showing you care about their everyday issues. On the other hand if you never get a text or call back, you could be contacting too often or its time for a face to face talk.
Source: No Crossed Wires: Cell Phone Communication in Parent-Adolescent Relationships, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Voume 14, Number 7-8, 2011, © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.