Updated: Mar 13, 2020
If you find yourself regularly using the words “you treat this place like a hotel” or cringing at some other phrase your parents used to use or just constantly battling with your teen, when all you want is a good relationship then here’s 3 questions to help you think things through:
1. What’s the real issue?
When you’re silently (or not so silently) raging at your teenager because they’ve singlehandedly consumed every carton of orange juice and every packet of salt and vinegar crisps only 4 hours after you did the shop and no one else got a look in are you really arguing about orange juice?
Ask yourself what is the real issue and then remind your teen what it is you DO want. In reality the likelihood the real issue is far more likely to be around fairness or consideration of others rather than the number of orange juice cartons left (or not) in your cupboard.
Teenagers can be pretty absorbed in their own world and seeing the bigger picture can be a big ask (even if they used to be the most considerate child on the planet). Keep yourself (and them) focused on those positive values you’re seeking to pursue rather than getting into a tit for tat pointless argument that will only serve to drive you all nuts.
(It’s ok to be annoyed about the orange juice, just direct your angst wisely!)
2. What are your big picture goals?
How often have you found yourself entering into a family disagreement on one topic and finding yourself on a completely different pathway arguing about all sorts and going round in circles? That may well be largely due to your teen, but you have a choice about how you respond and knowing your big picture goals is vital.
They’re not going to “get it” all at once. Be clear on your goals and what’s most important. Respectful, self controlled interactions was one of our big picture goals because one day our kids were going to be at the doctors or any number of places where they need to be able to get what they need without being escorted off the premises by security.
Yes! It was a challenge and we all had moments of epic failure (sometimes the adults because we’re human too), but we also had progress (albeit slow). The first step was how we spoke to each other. It’s ok vehemently argue and disagree, but hurling personal abuse is NOT acceptable. That was the priority over addressing the many smashed items that came with disagreements with a teen.
Be clear about what you want your children to learn in the long term. The teenage years are those key steps towards independence, but they need to take them one at a time. Somedays they are a young adult and somedays they’re still just a child in a bigger body wondering how the big wide world works.
3. What do they most need from you right now?
It’s really tough when you’re getting shedload of poop from your child to pause and consider what’s going on underneath. However, the horrid behaviour may be, the best way they have to tell you I’m scared, I’m stressed, I’m lost, I’m lonely, I’m trying to be more grown up, but I don’t know how.
Whether they need clear boundaries to remind them that in this season of change they can bounce up against something and make sure their world is still safe or just a hug and a cuppa to reconnect when we can identify the need we’re far better placed to deal effectively with the moments when things get tricky and enable our children to feel safe and to thrive.
Parenting a teen, like parenting any age had wonderful moments and challenging moments. I do believe it’s a privilege, but it can also be pretty hardcore. Its a time when we have much less contact with other parents so therefore so much lonelier. Taking time to pause and reflect and finding safe spaces can make all the difference and help make those tricky moments great opportunities to learn, grow and connect.
Julie helps parents find reassurance and get unstuck. She writes from her experiences as a foster parent, parent and teacher. She became a coach because she believes that ALL parents benefit from space to offload and reflect. With quality thinking space she regularly sees parents find the best way forward to fit their family and enjoy family life far more as a result.