In this post:
If you want to change the relationship with your teen, you have to be willing to try something different, and often it means working on yourself first.
Someone once told me, “When you can’t have the relationship you want with your child, you focus on giving them the relationship you think they need.”
I didn’t understand that at the time.
I mean, a relationship takes two. It should be based on honesty and mutual respect and understanding. That was the type of relationship I wanted with my kids. That was the relationship I expected.
I wanted them to come to me with all their problems. I wanted to have an open and honest relationship. I wanted them to know they could come to me for anything.
And then I had teenagers.
Teenagers don’t always make it easy to have a good relationship with them
The truth is, I do have this type of relationship with my three teens…..sometimes.
There have been times they have come to me when they are in trouble or need advice.
And sometimes, they have hidden things from me or sneaked around or acted belligerent.
There are times we have deep, meaningful discussions.
And there are times they shut me out with a force that takes my breath away.
There are times our house is peaceful and enjoyable and times they are so argumentative I want to throw a tantrum of my own.
There are times I think I am getting it right, times when things run smooth and I think we’re past the hard parts.
And honestly, there are times my relationship with them is not what I hoped it to be. Not even close.
I hated that feeling when things felt out of control with one of my teens.
Our house would feel electrically charged, and every encounter was negative. I would get caught up on every little thing my teen did wrong, like leaving a spoon in the sink (again), her room being a disaster (again), a missing school assignment (again), or shoes left out (again.)
They would snappishly respond to every question or comment regardless of what it was. Every second they were home would be in their rooms unless they came out to complain about something.
No matter how hard I tried, we could not get out of the vicious cycle of nagging and arguing and snipping. I felt hurt, but worse, I had no idea how my teens felt as they seemed to withdraw farther away from me,
How to change the relationship with your teen
One dark day when one of my daughters left for school after a particularly rough morning, I knew something had to change. I couldn’t control her reactions, but I certainly could control mine if I tried hard enough.
This was a big mental mind-shift. I was so stuck in what I didn’t have with my teens, that I couldn’t focus on what they needed from me. Our interactions were volatile and frustrating, instead of loving and trusting.
I knew that something had to change.
Five things to focus on when you are having a challenging relationship with your teenager
So, instead of dwelling on the relationship I didn’t have with my teens, I tried to focus on giving them the type of parenting I thought they needed at that moment, including:
Setting boundaries: both on what they are allowed to do and how they treat me. I shared these with my three teens so they know I have a healthy respect for myself and how I should be treated. I also sat them down and explained why they needed boundaries to keep them safe.
Writing these down and sharing them is a powerful exercise. It helped me reframe my mindset on what is important to me, and what to let go (leading to the next point).
It’s also good to do this when you’re not in the heat of the moment. Call a family meeting during a convenient time to lay it all out, but don’t be upset if they roll their eyes or don’t participate in the conversation. The goal is to make sure you are on the same page and the expectations clear. No teenager openly says they like rules, but if the expectations are clear, there is less squabbling about it, and consequences are easier to enforce.
Focus on giving space and grace whenever possible. It’s so easy to get upset about every little thing your teen doesn’t, especially when you feel hurt or desperately want to help them, but the truth is, they need their space to figure it out on their own. We can’t take every move they make personally.
Give them space and grace. This may mean giving up on a family dinner for a few nights or ignoring the snarky remark or even enduring a few painful days where I wonder what is going on behind that closed bedroom door. When they have the time to process and if you stay available, chances are they will start coming to you to vent or just as a safe space to hang out when they are feeling down.
Be kind and loving. When our relationship is contentious, I do something nice for them, like folding their laundry or making their favorite meal. It may seem counterintuitive, but I want them to know that even when things aren’t right between us, I’m still there for them, no matter what.
It’s not a reward for bad behavior but a reminder that I love them, even at their worst. I also want them to know that they can count on me when they are going through a tough time.
This also takes my mind off of only focusing on the problem between us. Knowing that I did something–no matter how small–to help them with their day makes me feel better, which helps my mindset.
Keep the lines of communication open. I personally hate leaving things bad between my kids, but sometimes I need to give them space. When they leave my house (or their own one day), I always want them to know that I love them first, even if I’m disappointed in their behavior or they are angry with me.
When we are in a rough patch, I often send them a text or a funny meme I saw to try and keep the communication lines open. I don’t expect a response, but quite often, it smooths the waters a little bit when I get a funny emoji back.
Focus on fixing yourself: As I mentioned above, a relationship takes two, and I feel pretty confident that I have a lot of flaws. We all run around this world busy and stressed, and that’s not always the best mindset when you’re trying to navigate a challenging relationship.
The biggest thing I’ve learned during the course of raising three teens is that if you want to change the relationship with your teen, you have to work on yourself first. I have found the best way to get out of a negative rut is to focus on changing my mindset, which is really the only thing I can control. I focus on gratitude and start my day by reminding myself of the qualities I love about my kids. It’s easy to fall into a spiral of expecting the worst about our teens and then only seeing those things.
It can feel like you are losing them during the teen years.
After doing all those things, I try to patiently wait for my teens to come back to me.
Sometimes we go into these teen years expecting a certain type of relationship and spend this time trying to force it into happening. We have a constant power struggle with our child, a draining tug of war without a winner.
We can fight with them every step of the way, or we can try to give them the relationship they need during this time.
It doesn’t mean they get to do whatever they want, but it means surrendering the idea of how you thought your relationship would be with them–which is harder than it sounds.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That’s why the teen years are so hard.
You feel crazy during this challenging time because we try to have a solid relationship with them, but it doesn’t always work the way we want.
So we have to try something different. When you can’t change their behavior, you must try to change yours.
Give them the relationship they need, and then work on yourself too.
I’m not saying it’s easy. But I am saying they’re worth it.
If you are trying to change the relationship with your teen, we get it! We love this book, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood
* This post may contain affiliate links where we earn a small commission for items purchased from our site.
Leave a Comment