Being a mom of teens is one of the hardest stages of life. And as a woman who didn’t have family structure or parents to emulate and learn from when I was younger, I feel like this stage is even harder for me.
I’ve been thinking about the mistakes I’ve been making over the past few years in communicating with my teens. I’m working to improve on them, but I know I’m not perfect and it’s going to take work. In thinking about my mistakes, I feel like many parents may be able to relate. I am sharing them here with the hope that this is helpful for other parents who could use some guidance on parenting their teens.
Don’t make these 4 mistakes with your teens
1. Not giving your kids choices.
Teens often seek control due to the fact that they are always being told what to do. They are seeking independence and they want to make their own decisions whenever possible. This includes decisions about chores around the house and other things parents ask of them.
I have been the mom that states, “pick up your clothes,” “take the dogs out,” or “wash the dishes” without giving my kids any timeframe for which they have to do them along with consequences if they don’t.
In asking my kids to do things in this way, I would repeat myself 3-4x with my voice getting progressively louder and more irritable each time. As a result, my kids have been programmed to 1) wait until I yell to actually take action 2) think I’m a nag and 3) think I have a bad temper.
This approach has created friction between me and my kids. I am working on giving them a timeframe to do things and clearly laying out the consequences if they do not comply. Now, it’s, “If you don’t walk the dogs when it’s your turn at their scheduled time, you will walk them the next 2 times.” They have a choice. They know the consequences. I don’t need to yell.
“If you don’t pick up your room by the time I get back, I will take your phone for the remainder of the day.”
I am learning that kids need time to process information and want to make their own decisions, even regarding things we as parents feel are simple. I’ve been communicating with my kids in a reactionary mode rather than a proactive way regarding this topic.
As I type this, it seems so clear and I’m wondering why I didn’t do it the right way until now. Admittedly, I think for the day-to-day, it’s easier to spout out things we want from our kids without taking the time to clearly outline our asks and to actually follow through on the consequences we give.
2. Harboring a grudge or taking things personally.
When your child is disrespectful, address the situation and then push reset. One of the biggest mistakes parents can make (and one I make often) is to take our children’s behavior personally.
We are supposed to deal with our teens as objectively as possible. This one is so hard for me!
3. Trying to be your child’s friend.
We want so much to be liked by our kids. But we’re not supposed to worry about being liked – We are supposed to be their parent instead. We are there to love them and part of that is protecting them from themselves. Our job is to do what is best for them, even when they disagree.
Someday when they become adults, our relationship may become more of a friendship, but for now, it’s our job to be the parent: the teacher, coach, and limit setter—not the buddy who lets them get away with things.
This is a hard one for me because my kids have so much fun with their dad. It’s as if my husband is a teenager too when they’re together. My husband is the “fun dad.”
Sometimes I want to be the fun mom too, and I find myself trying to do things to win their love like letting them get candy and junk food at the grocery store or giving them too much freedom with the hope that we will get closer. It doesn’t work, and I need to accept that my kids may not like me very much during this stage of their lives.
4. Getting Angry and Yelling
Keep calm. While it’s human nature to get upset, enforcing rules without yelling teaches our kids that it’s possible to stay calm and still get things accomplished even when we are frustrated.
Yelling, getting upset and having an attitude in response to theirs is not helpful and often only escalates the behavior. If we allow their disrespectful behavior to affect us, it’s difficult to be an effective teacher.
When I am being treated poorly by my kids, I tend to get angry and overreact once I’m pushed over my tipping point. When this happens, I am critical and unkind. I need to do a better job of remaining calm and objective when there is a confrontation with my kids. At the very least, I need to identify when I’m about to lose my temper and either remove myself or find strategies to calm myself down at the moment.
Being a parent of teens is hard. But as someone who looks for help when I need it, I believe in sharing information to support each other. I wish we could speak more openly as parents of teens and collaborate instead of hiding until we are past this rough stage! It’s hard though because we need to respect our teens and earn their trust which contradicts talking openly about our difficulties.
Anyway, I haven’t figured it out. But I’m learning that most of us are all winging it, whether we had good parent role models of our own or not!
If I had to guess, I’d say you’ve made/make a few of these mistakes with your teens too. Know you’re not alone!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my posts How I became a good decision maker, Marriage and Kids Helped Me Find Myself, How to Help Your Kid Who Has Your Anxiety Gene.
I really like #1. That’s definitely one thing I need to work on.
glad im not alone!
Jen, this was a great article! Every word so true, and I’m glad you’re doing the hard work to find a better way. I’ve been doing that hard work as well, and while every day is a challenge, it’s such a good feeling that we are trying to do it right 80-90% of the time! (My therapist says 80% is the goal!). Great job, mama!
Thanks so much for your feedback, Kristen! I’m so glad you agree and so forthcoming with your perspective!
Ohhhhh I’m not ready. So glad you’re going through this before I am!