Raising a son can be one of the most joyous, wonderful, and inspirational times of a parent’s life. There will be days, however, that you will feel like you’re stuck in a horrible nightmare. Once you get passed the adorable toddler years, where the main problem is your child’s runny nose or getting mud in areas where mud should never be, it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming teenage years.
Although your main responsibility during your son’s childhood is to ensure that he is both safe and healthy, you should do everything you can to make sure your relationship remains strong. Any teenager will pushback against their parent, but limiting that pushback to once or twice a month rather than once or twice an hour will help everyone transition through these strange years.
While you don’t have much control over your teenager’s wild and crazy hormone swings, there are things you can control. Case in point: teaching your kids proper dental hygiene. In fact, when you can master the skills needed to teach teens to avoid cavities, you will also learn how to cultivate a stronger, healthier parent-son relationship.
Teens and Teeth: What Dental Hygiene Can Teach Us About Parenting
Lesson number one? Prioritize communication over control. While it’s important to communicate with your kids and establish clear rules, you can’t stand behind them to make sure they brush their teeth each morning. Instead, practice straight talk, even if that means telling your son he has bad breath.
“If you stay present, really believe in the kid, treat him like the expert in his life and talk at the pace he’s able to listen, then the details will work themselves out,” says Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Raising Kids to Thrive and co-director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Parents need to know who their kid is, allow them to be uneven and continue to enjoy them.”
That’s why parents should focus on connecting with their teen children and putting them on the right path, rather than simply controlling them.
“A lot of people think high-yield conversations are about grades and controlling behavior, but they’re really about staying connected with your kid and knowing what matters to them,” Ginsburg added.
Many parents are running on coffee every waking hour, even if we know it’s bad for us. Unfortunately, kids pick up on these behaviors, which is why it’s so important to model healthy behavior. About 65% of coffee drinkers prefer to add sugar to their coffee, and even little choices like this can have an impact. If you tell your son to cut back on sugar, but then he sees you pouring six packets of sugar into your iced coffee, he’s going to take your advice less seriously. We have to be careful about what our children see us doing. If we are treating our teeth poorly, they aren’t going to take us seriously when we tell them to take care of their own.
When trying to teach teens about proper dental hygiene, try to avoid ultimatums and generalizations. It’s normal for teenage boys to rebel, and forbidding something may ultimately backfire on you.
Because kids love energy drinks and sports drinks so much, they would end up resenting you if you completely forbid them from enjoying them. Though energy drinks result in 3.1% enamel loss (1.5% for sports drinks), you should let your kids enjoy a can or two every once in a while. They’ll get their fix and then will likely forget about it. But if you are constantly forbidding them from drinking these products, they will likely crave them even more.
Psychology Today states that rather than letting your emotions get the best of your and doing nothing but yelling and lecturing your teenage son, try and control your emotions and break up your conversations into sections so you can actually have a back and forth. That’s right, even though you really do know best, avoid lectures at all costs. There’s no better way to make a teen tune out.
Finally, make sure you take a holistic view to your son’s health. If a teen is neglecting his dental hygiene, he is probably neglecting other important aspects of self care, too. That could be a major problems, as teenagers should be learning how to take care of themselves during these critical years. In addition to getting teenage boys to focus more on dental hygiene, it’s just as important to get them to spend time staying on top of all the other aspects of grooming and hygiene. Men’s toiletries as an industry grew by 4% to $3.4 billion in 2015, and many of these products are designed for teens. Simply find out about what type of body wash, shampoo, and other products they want to have, buy them, and let your teen have at it.
As a writer for Parenting Team so eloquently puts it: “Once your child reaches the age of 13 or 14 they know your opinion of everything under the sun. Your job from now on is to shut up and listen.”