SO YOU ARE PARENTING A TEENAGER? LUCKY YOU!
Let me start by saying that this is all apparently typical behavior from a teenager. The long exaggerated eye rolls (they definitely don’t want you to miss that annoying gesture hence the reason they repeat it a few times…)
The dying-animal-like groans whenever you ask them to do something (a stranger might speculate you just asked your child to carry a 50 kilo backpack up a massive mountain and not pick up a wet towel off the bathroom floor.)
The short, abrupt replies (with “leave me alone, I’m busy right now” the most popular choice opted by most teenagers, if they can’t think of anything more original to say).
For the record: if you get the eye roll, groan AND the short, abrupt reply all at once, you have pretty much scored the Teenage Bad Attitude Trifecta.
As a parent watching this metamorphosis happen to a child, who only a few years earlier pretty much begged for extra cuddles before bedtime and called you their “bestest friend forever”, some of these behaviours can feel like a knife straight through the heart.
It hurts to be treated with disdain.
It hurts to fall off the pedestal and realise they no longer think you are THE coolest, most fabulous parent in the world.
But alas, this is part of the slow process of child transforming into adult. This is the bridge they must walk across to get to the other side. The bridge is called the teenage years and yes, some part of this journey they must walk alone, without you holding their hand.
Sooner or later we have to accept this new reality – that we are no longer playing the starring role in this part of their motion picture called Life.
Obviously we are there in the background, totally excited to still have that permanent supporting role as an extra, who has the occasional walk-on, speaking role. But it is no longer all about US anymore…
The teenage years are when our kids finally learn to think for themselves on a grander scale and try to discover their special place in the world.
They desperately want to be independent, even though we both know that for a while longer our teenagers will still be partly dependent on us (and we all secretly cherish that, don’t we? Some of us are not ready to let go just yet on the other side).
During these formative years our teenagers will go back and forth from behaving child-like to adult-like at times as they try to work out how to navigate this brand new world that they are seeing differently for the first time.
In the space of a few years teenagers go through massive physical, cognitive, and psychological changes. And when you add hormones to the mix, sometimes they behave less than angel-like during this process of change and growth.
Many parents say the teenage years are the hardest but I believe they are pretty hard for our kids too. I mean, honestly how many of us wish we could retrace those teenage steps again? Was it fun? Ah…not always.
So next time your teenager displays any one of the typical and yet oh-so-annoying teenage behaviors, consider asking yourself these questions:
-Am I being reactive? Is there a different, more mature way I could be processing this situation?
-Could I possibly respond to my teenager with compassion and understanding rather than anger and frustration?
-Is it both reasonable and feasible to sometimes just give them a break?
-How can I show them love and understanding rather than get totally pissed off every time they act this way (especially if it’s becoming more frequent over time)?
-Could I take a deep breath, count to ten and see it as the temporary phase that it is?
-Is my own behavior contributing to the problem or am I actively trying to come up with a solution?
-Could something deeper be going on that I am missing? If so, could I make the time to talk and listen to him or her?
-How can I keep the lines of communication open? How can I be supportive?
-How can I convey that I will always be here for him or her?
-Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager yourself? Did you ever give your own parents any grief as a teenager? If so, don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting unrealistic perfect behavior from a still-learning-and-fallible-teenager…
They say teenagers are the most misunderstood people on this planet. They are treated like children yet expected to act like adults. One of the best ways we can support our teens is to be kind and respectful EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T ALWAYS kind and respectful to us.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE – even if they don’t like to admit it, you are still one of their greatest influencers in their life. When you tell them they are loved and appreciated, they will treasure it.
When you make the time to talk to them, they will value this. In fact they will value your time and presence more than any presents in the long run.
In the end YOU are the adult. Try to be the mature and wiser one in this sometimes complicated relationship. Or as Andy Kerckhoff so eloquently stated:
“Embrace your beautiful mess of a life with your child. No matter how hard it gets, do not disengage… Do something—anything—to connect with and guide your child today. Parenting is an adventure of the greatest significance. It is your legacy.”
In a nutshell: never, ever give up on your teen. Whether they are three or thirteen or twenty-three, your child – indeed every child in this world – will still always flourish best with the love and acceptance of a supportive adult. So why not make that person you?
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