Teenagers. They can seem a bit like an alien species, can’t they? Full of hormones, awkwardly between adult and child, covered in pimples and overly sensitive… if you have a teen in your home, then you know the drill. Just what do you do with them? How do you communicate with this alien species? How do you let them know that you love them, while making sure the two of you don’t drive each other crazy? While it can seem like life’s biggest challenge at times, your child’s teenage years don’t have to spell stress. Without further ado, here are two ways to keep your teen happy and loved.

Don’t Criticize Their Appearance

You may be wondering how you can refrain from commenting on their appearance. After all, if your teen just rolled out of bed with oily, unbrushed hair and plans to go to school that way… surely you have to say something. Often, as parents, we find ourselves still wanting to fix little and big things about our child’s looks, the way we did when they were toddlers. For your teen, this not only increases that volatile low self-esteem, it also makes them resent you, because to their fledgling state of mind, you’re directly attacking that precious independence. Instead of focusing on the jeans they won’t wash, pimples that you wish they’d cover with cream, or other things you regularly comment on–say nothing, or something positive that you really mean. (And don’t try to sneak your negativity in through the compliment!) If you take them in to get braces, don’t make a big deal about their change in appearance, and compliment them on their choice of braces colors. With every step, focus on what’s looking good.

Lead Them to a Better Future

Your teen may or may not resent all the advice you try to give them. Remember, the more you smother, the more they’ll pull away. You see a kid, but they see an adult (who’s very lost and scared) and the more you can treat them like an adult, the better your relationship will be. Insteading of making demands or too many suggestions, try to lead them to the right career path with compliments about what they naturally do well. Instead of telling them what colleges you think they should attend, say simply, “If you ever want help with some college searching, let me know.” Your teen will probably take you up on it, since college questing can be a major undertaking. You can help them find traditional or innovative academic programs, saving you both some stress, and giving you both peace of mind.

Your teen doesn’t have to fight with you. You don’t have to fight with your teen. While it can seem like everyone has trouble with their teenager, stop for a minute and consider how often you nag or criticize them. At heart, you may be frustrated and hurt that in their independence, they’re pulling away. Your teen will blossom under positivity and heaps of respect. To better your relationship with them, give them the independence they deserve.