My husband and I were walking with our teenage son when another parent joined us. The man quipped, “When your kids are little, you want to eat them up; when they’re teens you wish you did; when they give you grandchildren, you’re glad you didn’t.” I cringed inwardly at what was intended as a humorous sally expected to garner a laugh of agreement in return.
My teenage son later asked me, “Why does everyone think it’s okay to make fun of teenagers? Why does everyone dislike teens so much?”
Do we dislike teenagers?
None of us want to answer “yes” to this question. And yet I wonder how our teens would answer this?
Teenagers are amazing people. They also can be confusing and frustrating. And when you get stuck in a cycle of conflict with your teens, it’s almost impossible to enjoy being around them.
There are three massive mistakes that even smart parents are making that are keeping you fighting with your teens:
3) He’s not your baby anymore. Problems arise when parents apply the same approach that they used when their children were young (which wasn’t a good approach even then!). Young children aren’t as able to show their frustration with coercive and controlling parenting strategies, but teenagers certainly do! Some of the techniques parents are taught to use with young children directly lead to conflict with their children at a later age.
Teens shouldn’t be parented the same way as younger children. Can you communicate respectfully without placing conditions on them? Do you know how to create win-win agreements that honor the needs of your teen and yourself? Do you know how to express love in a way that your teenager feels loved?
2) Dropping out of the game. Many parents believe the primary need of teens is for friends and drop to the sidelines. Now is NOT the time to back away from your role as a parent. Your teens need you more than ever before no matter what they say.
Despite how much as they need you, sometimes they’re going to push you away. One mother recently consulted with me about her 15-year-old son, who was drinking and engaged in sexual activity. Her efforts to show him she cared were repeatedly rebuffed. In great pain, she told me, “He doesn’t want me in his life and I’m tired of getting hurt.”
Learn to stay in the game even when you feel rejected. Yes, this is hard! It requires you to develop a sense of inner value and stability that isn’t dependent on your teen’s attitude toward you.
1) You don’t listen. It’s true that you have lots of life experience and your teen doesn’t. But don’t be so sure you have all the answers and you know what’s really going on. You can’t build a good relationship with your teenager unless you are willing to see things from his perspective; learn to not only see his point of view, but to value it. You’re guaranteed to learn something!
A mother called me about her son who was spending hours on his online device, getting up late in the day and, as she put it, wasting his life. I asked if she had spoken to him about how he was feeling and what was going on for him in general. She told me she didn’t need to ask, she knew already.
How could she be so sure without taking time to get his perspective that she knew what he thought? It was clear as she spoke that she had already served as judge and jury and declared him guilty.
Do you know how to really listen when your teen speaks? Can you hear what she’s trying to tell you? Do you shut him down when he finally opens up to share what’s on his heart? Are you judging them without knowing what’s really happening?
See better, do better. The lens through which you view your teens and his/her behavior determines the attitudes you have and actions you take toward them. When you have a more honest and accurate understanding of what raising teens is about, you can view them with compassion and love.
Your teenagers need a strong and loving parent. They are growing up in a confusing world and going through challenging times, just as you’re raising them in a confusing world that leaves you feeling challenged and unsure of what to do. Take the time to learn to make your relationship with them work. Your relationship is what everything depends on and there is nothing that can replace this.
Be willing to invest in growing your relationship with the precious human being who was entrusted to you to raise. It will transform you, your teenager, and your entire family!