Teenagers know everything. They are experts on technology, on relationships, on music, on whatever is trending nowadays. They are also unafraid to let adults know this. When challenged, they will frequently engage in sighs, eye rolls, or outright belligerence.
There is, however, a way to harness this energy. There are valuable skills to be learned, ones that will help throughout their lives. The teen years are the time to try new things, and with that comes accepting more responsibility.
Teens think they know everything, so let them prove it. Though they may be reluctant to spend time with younger kids, they may be enticed to share some of their vast knowledge with the elementary set. Teachers know that one of the best ways to reinforce what you have learned is to teach it to someone. That is why peer tutoring programs work so well and benefit both those being tutored and doing the tutoring. You can also point out to them that adults do this, too, and that serving as a mentor has value to both parties.
Challenge them to convince you. If there is something they want, give them the opportunity to convince you. Your child may not have thought things through, but maybe he or she has. When I was a teen, I convinced my parents to let me have my own phone line (after being repeatedly told no, that it was too expensive) by doing the research and showing them that it was so affordable that I could pay for it myself. By giving teens the chance to demonstrate that they are ready for certain responsibilities, we allow them to be independent and show respect for their opinions (even if the answer is ultimately no, they have at least been heard and are gaining valuable experience in self advocacy).
Trust them with a grown-up chore. Put them in charge of something that benefits the family. This can be maintaining a part of the home, preparing meals, doing the grocery shopping or researching the family vacation. Teenagers are capable of doing many things that adults regularly do. There is no magic age at which they are ready for anything (despite the fact that certain rights and responsibilities kick in when they reach 18 and 21) and they will have to do these things eventually. Knowing they can handle these basic skills will make them more confident, better prepared adults.
Give them some control. They will soon be out in the bigger world, making their own decisions about everything. They are more likely to make good ones if they have had practice in decision-making. Let them make some decisions while you are around to support them if they choose wrong. Point out the benefits of making good choices, but leave it up to them. (Given the ability to choose, they may surprise you. Some fights are not about the choices, but instead the right to choose.)
Let them fail. Let them know that certain things are their responsibility and don’t remind them or do those things for them. (Chose these things carefully so the lesson is not a life-altering one.) Once my kids hit the teen years, they became responsible for packing their own things when going away. If they forgot an item, they had to make do or be creative. For the most part, these things were only forgotten once.
Teens look like adults, so many are surprised that they frequently talk and act like children. We can help guide them to adulthood by looking past the sass and showing them what it means to act like a grown-up. Practicing these things now will make it easier for them to tackle the bigger issues later.