By Dr. Jan Hittelman

For most of us, parenting our elementary-age children is easier than our adolescents. Younger children are fairly compliant and we feel less overwhelmed. When they hit adolescence, we often embark on a roller coaster ride of challenges and conflict. Many of our tried and true parenting strategies no longer seem to be effective.

What most parents don’t know is that there are certain approaches that can be weaved into our parenting with our younger children that can significantly reduce conflict when they become adolescents. More specifically, consider the following strategies:

• Teaching Responsibility: If given the opportunity, most children (and many adults) prefer to project blame onto others instead of taking responsibility for their behavior. The best way to teach children responsibility is to use empowerment. Empowering your child means giving them a voice in the rules, consequences and discipline plan. The more involved they are in this process the more they will take ownership of it. This doesn’t mean that they get control over these issues, which still rests with the parent. It does mean that that their views and feedback are taken into consideration by the parent and, whenever appropriate, integrated into the final decision.
• Modeling Respect: For whatever reason, adults often tend to treat children differently in terms of respect. This is a critical error that often comes back to haunt us when our children become adolescents. If we want our children’s respect, we must show them respect. Otherwise, when they hit adolescence we may be very disappointed with the lack of respect they show us as parents.
• Providing Positive Feedback: As parents (and in general) we tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. This is an important habit to break because we inadvertently train our children to get our attention negatively. This pattern results in significant conflict once a child hits adolescence.