A difficult relationship with your teen can be a tough burden to bear
Last week, I wore my heavy wool socks and my boots to walk the dog on a cold, wet Fall day. In the middle of my two-mile jaunt, I realized my left heel started to hurt. By the time I made it home, I had a blister the size of a quarter on the back of my foot.
A blister happens from friction–constant forceful rubbing.
Last year, my relationship with my young teen daughter was a gigantic blister. We constantly rubbed each other the wrong way.
I was so frustrated with her behavior that I pushed her on everything. Her unkempt room and schoolwork, and attitude. Her lack of awareness for others. Her inaction to change.
She started circumventing the truth whenever I confronted her and shutting down. She retreated to her room at every opportunity. She pushed back out of frustration.
Our relationship was a blister, and it was hurting us both.
To fix a difficult relationship with your teen, you have to start with fixing yourself
If you’ve ever had one, you know your only course of action is to stop doing what caused the blister in the first place. Give the blister some room to heal. Stop the friction from occurring.
I had to wake up every morning and decide if I was going to pressure my daughter that day. Was I going to nag her about her bedroom? Needle her about the chores she didn’t do? Take away her phone or ground her for not listening?
Or would my love be more of a soothing balm healing us both?
I was tired of the constant friction. It was unhealthy for our entire house.
Giving space is often a great first step
So, I started helping her a bit more. Instead of yelling at her that she forgot to make her lunch–again–I just made it and left it on the counter for her. Instead of engaging when she made a snarky comment, I simply said, “Well, let’s just end our conversation on that note,” and walked away. Instead of barraging her with questions about school and her friends, I started asking her to hang out with me more for coffee dates or cooking dinner or watching a show.
I didn’t let her get away with big things. We have house rules that are non-negotiable. But I made a mental list of what were big things and what were small things, and I realized my list of small stuff was so much longer than I ever thought.
I kept at it for several months. Sometimes I helped her, and sometimes, I let her fall. Sometimes I forced a hug so she could physically feel my presence, and sometimes I let her dictate the terms of our relationship. Sometimes I let a terse word or action roll off my back, and sometimes I simply said, “please leave the room if you are going to behave like this.”
And one day, as we hung out baking cookies, I realized my relationship with my daughter didn’t hurt anymore. It felt warm and fuzzy, like my favorite pair of wool socks.
We healed the blister by taking away the friction.
Some teens are just harder than others. Some act out because they are frustrated or confused or just so desperate for independence that they only know how to painfully kick you away.
You can fight it with all your might, but know that friction often causes blisters, and some can become pretty bad.
Or you can take the friction away.
I took my dog for a walk yesterday. I wore the same boots but slipped on a thin pair of socks and wore a few band-aids for good measure.
Oh yeah. My daughter came with me. Just because she wanted to hang out.