Being the parent of a teen isn’t easy, but being a teen isn’t easy either. Between hormones, friends, fighting for independence, romance, self-esteem blows, social media, and academic pressure, there is little wonder that being sullen comes naturally to some. Holding onto the relationship during these years can be a challenge, but it is worth it.
Before we get started, I want you to know that I am not coming at this topic from an, “I’ve done everything right and look how awesome my teenagers are so just do what I do.” angle OR “I have the best kids ever who always do the right thing and are so much fun and wonderful and our family is the happiest, so follow me.” angle OR “Every single one of my kids is just killin’ it. I must be the best mom ever.” angle. This is not my story.
In fact, as I read parenting books or listened to advice, it would make me so angry. No one had my life, my kids or my struggles. I tried it all & nothing ever worked…at least not like it did for others & never as quickly or as obviously as I hoped.
But one thing I am incredibly proud of is the way my husband and I have FOUGHT HARD for our kids and for the relationships we have with each of them (16,14,13,8). #
There have been years of frustration, a million unsure moments, many nights when I didn’t sleep at all or sat just outside a teenagers’ bedroom crazed with worry. There were months the pit in my stomach didn’t leave, & I’ve cried more tears, prayed more prayers & felt more hopeless than I ever thought I would.
I have been humbled beyond belief, learned to lean on others, opened my heart and mind, understood grace and change, & put aside the ideal in favor of the real. There have been so many good times too, full of fun, light, adventure, connection & love. There will be more hard times, but we can get through them.
Today we have a home that is open, honest, forgiving, communicative, & enjoyable. We’ve learned a ton. We’ve changed ourselves. We like each other a lot. It doesn’t always looks pretty, & we are far from perfect, but life is good.
As I share what I have learned about raising & loving teens, or any kids for that matter, and issue challenges, it is important to me that you understand that I am not coming from a the place of an expert, a high horse or someone who got lucky with easy kids. I’m sharing because I care about relationships and believe that all children, even the hard ones, especially the hard ones, are worth fighting for.
I hope my thoughts or challenges will spark an idea, give you some hope, prompt a change, or motivate you to keep holding on. I’m not promising miracles or unrealistic outcomes, and I know it isn’t easy, but I also know that relationships are so so worth it.
Now, for your first challenge…
Give 3 Sincere Compliments Daily
Think about the child you are struggling with the most or the one where your relationship is on shaky ground. What % of your interactions are + and what % of your interactions are -? If you were them, would you choose YOU to open up to or confide in? Be honest.
One of the best changes we made was to focus on and VERBALIZE the positive. I know what you are thinking….”How can I be positive when all he does is bring negativity?” “If he is always irritating but is nice once, I am not going to talk that up.” “She is capable of so much more, I am not going congratulate her on a 3.0.” “She is so lazy, she is not getting a gold star for picking up her own stuff.” “He had a horrible game, we are not focusing on the one good moment.” I GET IT!!
But, believe me when I tell you it is worth it. As you do this consistently, the ice will begin to thaw. Kids can’t help but WANT to interact with people who make them feel good and avoid those who don’t.
If you are in an ugly power struggle spiral, this will be a big change. They will be shocked, and you might be too. Seeking for the positive will change how YOU feel too.
YOUR CHALLENGE IS TO VERBALIZE THE POSITIVE AT LEAST 3 TIMES EACH DAY. Be sincere; be kind; do it with a smile. This doesn’t mean you can’t correct or discipline, that matters too, but have positive exchanges EVERY DAY.
Start small & superficial if you need to, but move into bigger, deeper compliments. “I’ve noticed that you are trying to be nicer to your brothers, I really appreciate that.” “You are so good in new situations. I really admire that about you.” “Wow! You have done so well in art this term.” “I love the energy you bring to our home. It would be so boring without you.”
If this feels a little too awkward, try the deep ones through text or in a note.
These are unqualified compliments. There is no BUT after what you say. If you need to talk about something that needs to change, do it another time.
Have questions or comments? Let me know! See if your spouse will be “in” on this with you. It is SO powerful if you can do it together! If your spouse isn’t ready, grab a friend to stay accountable to!