What is it about teenagers that make even the calmest and collected parents lose their ever-loving minds?!
And let’s be honest, most of us really aren’t all that cool or collected. We were just barely holding on before all the hormones, mood swings, and attitude entered the picture.
The teen years can test a parent’s patience like no other time in a child’s life.
They are convinced they know it all and you, the parent, are a complete and total idiot. They often will resent every boundary you set, question everything you say, and push all your buttons in their quest for freedom and independence.
It’s a tough time for everyone, but it is also a time when your teen really needs you to keep it together. So much of their behavior results from the push and pull they feel between holding onto their childhood while at the same time wanting to move towards adulthood.
So, yes, it means that even though we want to yell and scream right back at them, slam some doors, or maybe even hurl something at their heads, we have to be the adults in the rooms. But how exactly do we do that?
How can we be more patient parents with our teens?
Listen More/Talk Less
So often teens come at us in such emotionally charged ways, that we react to the emotions before we have a chance to hear the words behind them.
Throwing your emotions into the ring with theirs only escalates things and makes it more likely for one of two events to happen:
1. a fight
2. your teen shutting down
What you need to do instead is listen. Do your best to tune out the drama and get a handle on what they are trying to tell you. Then calmly say back to them, “What I’m hearing you say is xyz? Do I have it right or what am I missing?”
If you’re not hitting the mark, they may become even more frustrated. It’s not always easy at first, but just keep listening. Resist the urge to interrupt, jump into problem-solving mode, or diminish how they are feeling. Give them to chance to have their say.
Many times our teens just want to be heard. They don’t want us to try to fix things or counsel them and our attempts to do so only make them more emotional and us more impatient.
Don’t Take Things Too Personally
Teenagers are prone to extremes and exaggerations. They slingshot from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other with little transition or warning–and this can happen multiple times an hour, let alone in a day.
Your teen may lash out at you with statements that are hurtful and often times untrue. But keep in mind you are one of the few safe spaces in their lives. They know you’re going to love them no matter how ugly they act and so sometimes you get the brunt of everything they’re struggling with.
Yes, they may scream that they hate you one moment, but five minutes later they’ll act like it never happened. And for them, in some ways, it really didn’t. They don’t mean much of what they say. And while it isn’t an excuse for them to treat you badly on the regular, on occasion your role is to be the shock absorber. If you can, let some of it roll off your back and be confident in the fact that their love for you is pretty unconditional as well. It will be easier to stay calm in the middle of their teenage storms.
Identify Specific Triggers
All parents have certain things that really set them off. No matter how good a day is going or how good of a mood we may be in, there are a handful of things our teens do that will turn us into raving lunatics in a hot second.
Maybe it’s having to ask your teens to do their chores multiple times, or shoes and personal items left willy nilly all over the house, or maybe your teen is always the reason the family is running late. Whatever it may be that seems to particularly undermine your patience, it helps if you can identify those triggers and proactively work on solutions to reduce how often they occur.
It is okay to make your teens more accountable and to help them understand how their actions impact you (and in return them). Encourage them to take part in coming up with solutions you can both agree on as well as consequences. Help them to see that by following through, there is an upside in it for them too. Because everyone knows when “mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Yes, you are a parent and with that comes an awful lot of self-sacrifice. But it doesn’t mean that you always have to come last. Teens will take and take and take and take… if we let them. They’ll have us serving as their on-call personal uber, short-order chef, laundry service, homework tutor, and groupie if we allow it.
It is okay to set some ground rules with your kids about just how available you’ll be. If you’re someone who needs a good night’s rest and you have a regular bedtime, make sure your teens understand they can’t wait until your snuggled under the covers to come as for help with an assignment due tomorrow. Also, be sure they know when you have plans and don’t change them to accommodate a request for a ride to meet friends for a last-minute movie.
Contrary to our teen’s popular opinion, parents do have lives and we are not being selfish when we on occasionally put ourselves first. These little birds will be flying away from the nest in a few short years and we need to maintain both our marriages, our friendships, and our own personal interests so when they’re gone we aren’t left with a gaping empty hole.
Also, time for ourselves gives us the chance to recharge our batteries and diminishes that building frustration that can come from the mental load of raising teenagers. When we take care of ourselves, we are so much better at navigating the ups and downs of our teenagers with grace, and oh yeah, patience.