Being a parent to teens has always been hard, but in today’s society, you could say it’s just a little bit harder. Our kids are exposed to so much more than we ever were. I’m not even in my 40s so it wasn’t that long ago I was a teen myself, and things are vastly different.
It is important we keep in mind that on top of teens being exposed to so much more than we were, as teenagers they also haven’t learned to understand or manage their emotions. They’re struggling to fit in; any rule we impose is met with opposition as they feel like they have no control, and they’re just beginning (while not even close) to finding their identity. Let’s be real, you don’t really start to figure out who you are until you’re 30!
So how do we navigate this? How do we keep them from becoming shut-ins in their room, and cope with the sullen woe is me attitude/I’m a victim attitude?
We don’t let up that’s how.
Keep your family unit tight-knit
A friend of mine said something that really resonated with me. She told me that no matter how much our teens want to hole up in their rooms, lose themselves in their phones, and distance themselves from us, we absolutely cannot let up.
Instead of letting everyone do their own thing for dinner, most of the time, when possible, everyone needs to be together … and talking.
Some other things to keep the family bond tight are family game night, keeping a journal you can’t pass back and forth, and plan family outings. Life is busy so plan something!
I feel like there’s always gray area in the head of my teen. I’m constantly having to remind or explain what he needs to be doing like I haven’t a million times before.
There are set things he is responsible for. There shouldn’t be anything on his floor. His bed should be made before he leaves in the morning. The toilet in the kids’ bathroom should remind free of urine (hallelujah!). Your dishes should never be in the sink. The dishwasher is RIGHT. THERE.
Still, regardless of how many times I told him these things, these expectations, it felt like a constant battle. So what changed? I put it in writing and he had to sign it. It has been a total 180.
Follow through on them. When a rule is broken or he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain, it is easy to want to let it go. Let me advise against that. I can understand everyone has an off day and that being rigid can have the opposite of the result we desire, but bending too much will put you and your teen right back at square one.
Instead, it’s a lesson in cause and effect. You didn’t turn your phone in at eight? No device tomorrow. Bad grades? No sports. They have to understand actions both good and bad have consequences.
These expectations and consequences are easy to say and annoying to constantly reiterate. And while my solution doesn’t completely eliminate having to remind my teen about what he needs to do, it has eliminated it a lot. I know you’re probably wondering what exactly I’m referring to right?
It’s a contract …the parent and teen contract
I didn’t come up with this brilliant idea on my own. I reached out to a friend and I really just wanted to know I wasn’t alone in this. That I wasn’t parenting wrong. That this trouble with my teen was not unique. It is indeed not unique, teens just suck sometimes. That’s okay. We all do.
There were lots of samples out on the web that I drew inspiration from, but basically, I thought about our family, our dynamic, what is important to us, what rules I want to have set in place, what should my son should be responsible for, and what are fair consequences.
It took hours to write this contract, but I was on a mission. When I was done, my husband and I had our son read the whole thing out loud word for word. (I’ll be honest, it’s quite lengthy.) He had an attitude, and by the end, he wasn’t happy (his exact words were “this is so dumb”) but he understood our expectations, the consequences, and he signed it.
A whole lot of love
I tell my son I love him all the time and while he thinks I’m a basket case (I am but that’s not the point), I know that the long-term effect of me showing him affection is magnanimous. He thinks he’s too old to hug me, but I hug him anyway. He rolls his eyes at any of my overtures of love, but he smiles too, which is good because I’m just going to do them anyway.
This is about not losing your teen to society. It’s about parenting our children even when they have these attitudes; when all we want to do is roll our eyes at them and ignore them too. It’s about not throwing in the towel and giving up the fight because they’re pushing us away. They’re strong and they’re stubborn but we’re stronger.
Kids grow up so fast and we have to fight for the childhood that they don’t understand they need and they deserve. So put on your boxing gloves, and your big parent undies, and get in the boxing ring called “parenting teens.” They might not act like it, but still, they need us.