Do You have a Challenging Teen?
Here are three principles to think about.
1. Realize this is a developmental stage
When your child threw a tantrum at age two, you didn’t take it personally (well at least, usually you didn’t). You recognized immaturity, you recognized the lashing out as a function of that developmental stage of growth. You waited out the storm. You knew you would be okay with the little guy or gal in ten minutes. You offered snacks or a breast or time to cool down.
Teens throw a different kind of tantrum. They lash out at you, right where it hurts. They boldly go up against you and your ideas, fashion sense, food choices, political beliefs, how you breathe aloud in the car when they are in the front seat, which radio station you like, how you parent the other kids, what you expect of them.
It’s jarring to be on the receiving end of so much opinion, all about you! It’s so easy to take it personally! They know you so well, they can find ways to target any one of your own insecurities and nail it.
When you can, remember that this is a teen developmental stage—individuation—separation from you. It’s not rejection (their opinions will flip faster than pancakes on a hot grill!). It’s separation—testing their thoughts and ideas with the safest person in their lives: you.
They are also not yet ready to be adults so they boomerang between wanting a mommy, and wanting nothing from you, AND wanting to blame you when they don’t take enough responsibility yet for their lives!
2. Create avenues for communication
You do get to stick up for yourself, but you want to do it without getting into a big argument (um, so I’ve been told). 🙂 Sometimes I really need to be reminded of this by those near me and it helps. You can walk away, you can say, “I want to hear what you’re saying but I can’t listen when you are yelling at me,” you can say, “I’ll look into that” or “So that’s what you’re thinking and feeling! Thanks for telling me.”
You don’t have to defend or argue or take abuse. It is important to create avenues for the teen to be heard.
3. Look for points of connection
Schedule some alone time fun with that teen—in my house with Caitrin, I went to all her Guard (flag) events and we would come home late and I’d make her quesadillas and we’d all stay up talking and eating in the kitchen way past a regular bedtime. This became a connection point—an essential one. Look for those, even in a busy household. They do help.