This is a contributed post by the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens Whitney Fleming. Find her book, Loving Hard When They Are Hard to Love on Amazon and other online booksellers.
I know a lot of parents of teenagers can relate. We will always love our kids more than anything, but sometimes we don’t like the way they are acting at any given time.
I know I felt that way.
When the teen years rolled around, it felt like I was getting hit with a door slam from every angle.
Their behavior changed. Their attitude changed. Their looks and their personalities and pretty much everything about them changed–and I stayed the same.
Sometimes it felt like two rams butting heads, both of us trying to maintain control of our small space of terrain.
But it’s not just the tough times that make it an emotional roller coaster; it’s also all the overwhelmingly beautiful things occurring. It’s watching your teenager find their passions, take charge of their newfound independence, and move on to a new chapter.
And while you are struggling with your teens in this new paradigm, you are also carving out a new, more mature relationship. It’s like getting ready to let go of a beautiful kite and watching it soar off into the sky.
It’s an impossible paradox to understand until you are sitting on the crossroads–clinging to ‘what was’ while launching them into the ‘what’s next’ and always wondering if you did enough.
What does it mean to love hard?
One day, after what seemed like the millionth argument I had with one of my nearly-teen daughters, I broke down and cried.
I did not have the relationship I wanted with her. In fact, I barely had a relationship at all.
I felt guilty for not giving her a better parent, one who would know how to handle these adolescent years better.
But mostly, it seemed like I was the only one who was struggling to get along with their kids.
So, I realized I had a choice. I could muddle through these years hoping that we would come out on the other side, or, I could do something about it.
I could love harder when she was hard to love.
I decided if I wanted a better relationship with my kids, I had to work on myself first.
I had to understand my own triggers, that caused me to be angry and irrational at her behaviors.
I needed to deal with my own past issues and relationships, so I didn’t let them creep into my relationship with my kids.
I focused on developing coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.
I separated out their behavior and choices from the ones I expected of them, and placed my hopes and dreams for them to the side.
And instead of feeling exasperated at every juncture, I leaned into their behavior.
Instead of getting upset that they were snippy, I started noticing that it was often during a stressful time at school or with one of their activities.
Instead of taking their comments personally and constantly criticizing them, I tried to be compassionate about their wants and needs.
Instead of thinking they were irrational about an issue they were facing, I reminded myself that they were behaving exactly as they should in this complex, chaotic time when their hormones were flaring and looks were changing and social relationships were evolving. Their reactions were big and felt out of control for them, but their perspective on life was small.
Instead of thinking they needed to grow up and act more mature, I reminded myself that I was the one who actually was the grown-up.
Having a better relationship with your teenager starts with you
I found that when I felt in charge of my emotions and confident in my choices, I could be the parent my kids needed instead of feeling like their behavior was a reflection on me.
I yelled less. I connected more. I gave space. I gave grace.
I tried to understand the why behind their behavior instead of focusing on how it impacted me.
I focused on being grateful for the small things my kids did and formed an unconditional belief in their goodness. When they acted out or made poor choices, I recognized it was not against me, but something they needed to own and learn from.
I continued to address my own issues, like my anxious nature, my personal insecurities, and how to turn my overpowering empathy into compassion.
I learned to lean into the qualities I did not like about my kids at the time and love them harder. When we got through these tough times, it felt like our relationship was stronger.
We all grew up, together, a little more every day.
Getting through the teen years is hard for almost everyone.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty.
But it started with me. My kids were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing….growing up. I just didn’t realize I needed to do it right there with them.
Our relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s a beautiful work in progress.
It’s a preamble to what I hope to be a long love story of connection to my kids throughout their life.
And with that, I hope they love me when I’m hard to love, too.
This is an excerpt out of the book Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love.
Raising teens and tweens is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. Here are some other posts that help parents:
*Note, this post contains affiliate links where we earn a small commission for purchases made off of links on our site.