5 things parents need to remember to survive raising teenagers.
Cast your mind back to cradling your newborn in your arms.
Remember what it was like trying to get them to settle to sleep in the local park or hurriedly trying to feed them on a nearby bench?
As you struggle, that irritating woman walks past you and flippantly comments:
“Enjoy them now, this is the easy part.”
Oh, how you could have wrung her neck. What did she know? How could it possibly get harder than this?
Enter the teen years.
It’s important to remember that you’ve done a great job so far in this parenting gig.
Do stop for a moment to congratulate yourself for managing to keep a newborn alive for north of 13 years. But let’s be honest, in retrospect, that was simpler than going through puberty with your child.
The teen years are tough.
They are relentless. The sleepless nights, the back end of the fights, the constant rejection, the lack of interest, the dejection.
And thats just on us, the parents.
Let us remember that the teen years are tough on our offspring too.
Five Tips to Help You Get Along Better With Your Teenager
Here are a few things to remember as we muddle through this decade of teenage-dom.
If we can keep these in the forefront of our minds, it might just help us (and them) come out successfully on the other side.
YOU DON’T COUNT.
When our teens are moody and insolent.
When they hide away in their rooms, not helping or picking up after themselves,
When they answer back or bully their siblings.
This is when it becomes easy to think the worst of our teens.
We can get lost in the mental dialogue that convinces us that we have raised a spoiled, entitled monster that quite frankly has no idea how to behave or even be a part of a functioning society.
But here’s the thing. This monster who lives in your four walls is more often than not the knight in shining armor at school.
What you see in your home is probably not how they are outside.
You see, our teens save their most disagreeable behavior for us.
You might not what to hear this, but when you see your teen at their worst, what you are really seeing is your child feeling safe and loved. It’s because they feel comfortable enough in their home environment that they can put their guard down.
Simply put. How they behave at home is not what the rest of the world experiences with regards to your teen.
This does not mean they shouldn’t be reminded to pick up after themselves or that we should drop all expectations of their helping at home–because they should.
But we don’t have to make every bad behavior a lesson to correct. When we make every instance a life lesson, we often see an increase in teenage disrespect, such as bickering, slammed doors, and eye-rolling.
We don’t have to jump on every sarcastic comment, we don’t have to freak out every time the wash isn’t loaded, and we don’t have to lecture at every sibling disagreement.
These things are not symptoms of a delinquent or your own personal Frankenstein creation.
You are simply living with a teenager.
IT’S NOT PERSONAL REJECTION, IT’S RE-DIRECTION.
It may well seem like everything and anything you say to your teen is either ignored, laughed at, or rejected. Or worse, becomes an all-out battle.
Living with a teenager can feel like one long power struggle, and you’re often on the losing end.
It can be so heartbreaking and dejecting for parents.
Our once innocent child who hung off our every word, who looked at us with loving eyes and clung to us with little hands, trusting us implicitly, now only wants to get as far away from us as possible.
There is, however, a plausible explanation for this
When a child reaches a certain age, they are ready to develop and become their own person. To develop their own minds, thoughts, opinions, and ideas
The only way they can truly do that is to actively reject pretty much all of yours.
They need to spend a few years literally living in direct opposition to you so that they can create their personal and unique sense of self.
So when you feel hurt, rejected, and exasperated by your teen’s constant challenge, sarcasm, kick back and arguing, try to remember this:
Your teen is not rejecting you, they are redirecting themselves.
WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S A BIG DEAL TO THEM.
How often do we find ourselves trying to talk our teens off a ledge?
Whether it’s the crush who hasn’t texted them back or the party they weren’t invited to on Friday night. Or the football team they didn’t make or their miscommunication with a friend.
So much happens in the life of our teens and EVERYTHING is the biggest thing ever.
It can be mentally exhausting raising a teenager.
We know that crush wasn’t “the one” and the party was a dime a dozen. We also know that friends fight and make up, and that something else will come up to replace the football team.
We know that it’s all part of learning to deal with disappointment–because we have been there already.
In this knowing, we can be quick to downplay or dismiss what is earth-shatteringly important for our teens at this moment.
Our flippancy can feel deeply like they are not being seen or heard or taken seriously
Our desire to “cheer them up” and get them to “get on with it” can create a huge distance between you and your teen who is trying to process and deal with tragic events (to them.)
No one likes to see their child struggle, so it seems natural to try and move our teens on to the next thing. We want to help them not make it a big dig deal and often tell them to get over it.
As adults, we see the bigger picture and we don’t want them to dwell on what is not a life or death situation.
What we forget is that it feels like life or death to them.
To create some common ground, put yourselves in their shoes. Imagine how you would feel if a big work project fell through? How would you react to being told it was no big deal? Or being told to simply “forget about it”?
Or what if you weren’t invited to your best friend’s 50th birthday celebration? Would you feel a bit betrayed or ostracized from a group you thought were an important part of your life?
What I’m highlighting here is that even if we can see the bigger picture from where we stand, it is the whole world in their view.
To sit with them in their confusion, sadness, feeling of being let down, or in their fear of rejection isn’t dwelling. It’s not indulging.
It is showing them that you get it. That you understand. That you accept their feelings as valid.
That it’s okay to feel like their world has shattered and that you are there to help them put the pieces back together.
We could all use support like that.
THEY HAVE TO MESS UP TO GROW UP.
This is a tough one. Our society and culture today in the western world seem to have created a very strong message for us parents
“Protect at all costs.”
If we are being “good” parents, then we must ensure that no harm comes to our little fledglings.
There is, of course, some truth to this. We should do our best to keep them alive.
We should keep them away from open flames, railway tracks, and dangerous people.
But this generation of helicopter parents has taken things too far. We are raising kids who feel entitled and not resilient to the challenges life throws at them.
We believe that we must protect our precious offspring from any kind of misfortune or discomfort.
Whether it’s interfering in minor friendship squabbles at school or social engineering every interaction. It’s calling the soccer coach to talk them into rethinking their son’s position on the B team or scrambling to finish a science project. It’s taking every forgotten item to school or yelling at a teacher for a bad grade.
We are doing too much.
We are saving our teens from their mistakes repeatedly in the hope that we can love them into taking some responsibility for their lives.
Let me make this clear here and now.
That won’t happen. No one in their right mind will pick up the slack if someone has already done it.
We are teaching our precious young ones that not only do they not need to rely on themselves, but very often they begin to doubt they can trust themselves to take action at all.
“If someone else always does it for me, maybe I’m not capable of doing it myself”?
What we think we are doing to be good parents is detrimental to their development and growth. We need our kids to develop resiliency to survive in this challenging world. We need to let them take risks and fail so they know they can get back up again.
To raise self-sufficient adults, we need to take a step back.
YOU HAVE TO GIVE RESPECT TO GET RESPECT.
Your child cannot hear you when you shout and scream at them.
It may feel like the only possible solution in the deep frustration of the moment when your teen has, yet again, done the exact thing they were asked explicitly not to do; BUT it will get you nowhere but further away from your child.
When humans feel under any kind of threat, our logical brain (our limbic brain) shuts down. All the blood pumping through this part of the brain gets pulled to our limbs and our heart to facilitate the strength our body needs to physically exit the said threatening situation and save ourselves.
This fight-or-flight instinct is real. You may not be a lion that could rip your teen to shreds, but when you are screaming at them for breaking curfew, smoking drugs, or taking the car without asking, the attack of raised voices and shouting means that they cannot take in any of what you are saying.
They simply shut down.
All they can process is anger and how to get away from the danger.
At best, you may be met with their reactive response to such an outburst. This might look like disrespectful teen behavior, such as them screaming back at you with similar ferocity, or at worst, them storming out the room or house and ignoring you completely.
If you want to stay connected to your teen through these push-and-pull years, the best way to maintain this is through calm reflection and realistic consequences.
You don’t have to react and resolve bad behavior immediately. Take the time to calm down and then address it.
You’re modeling how they will treat their kids, too.
Are you looking to have a better relationship with your teen? Check out this book, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood, by Jim Fay.
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
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