Are you ready for a rollercoaster ride? That’s what it can feel like when raising teenagers! A mixture of mature and insightful conversation, independence and raging hormones. Everyone is back to having their L and P-Plates on.
The parenting skills needed in teenage years become more psychological than physical and much more about self-responsibility and mutual respect. For example where children might not have called us to account for what we said versus what we did, teenagers will definitely hold us to account if we do not ‘walk my talk’. Even if they don’t say it out loud … they have a radar for hypocrisy and it is both very humbling and the greatest gift at different times.
Parenting teenagers has the potential to be the most rewarding time in our relationships because it gives us the opportunity to develop a mutually respectful and loving relationship with our next generation.
There are a few things that can get in the way, hurt and/or complicate the relationship if we do not spot them up front.
Let’s take a look at the harsh reality of what you may experience. You may:
Get unsolicited comments about your parenting skills
Find you are no longer the centre of their universe
Find they no longer want to hug you – or kiss you goodnight
Find they no longer hang on your every word
Find that you frustrate them – just by looking at them!
Find your teenager no longer feels your advice is relevant
Find you have been manipulated before you even knew it was happening
Notice a sharp rise in the eye rolling from earth to heaven and back again
Have to ask a gazillion times for the chores to be done
Find you are suddenly someone to be denied in public so they rarely, if ever, come out with you and if they do, they walk at least 10 steps behind you.
It can hurt and be frustrating to be on the receiving end of all of that! If it is taken personally and if the hurt that is felt is not acknowledged and supported, then it has the potential to make the next few years very much like a rollercoaster ride, with major fluctuations in emotional outbursts for you and your teenager. You may find that before you know it you have both taken on roles – the grouchy teenager and the controlling parent – far from a loving relationship!
However, if we take one step back and look at why the behaviour is there, it can support us to not see it as anything personal – simply teenagers learning how to have their own opinions, be their own person and live independently, pushing the boundaries and learning about choices and consequences.
The learning is not simply for teenagers, it is an equal learning for us as parents – in learning how to support and hold the space for someone to grow without imposing our own ideals and beliefs about how life should be lived – thus loving them completely.
Our main role as parents is to raise confident, independent adults and share with them how to love and be loved. It’s definitely not to make them need us all their lives.
Is this potentially what we do subconsciously if we do not have a foundation of self-esteem and self-worth and instead base our self-worth on our children’s behaviour and dedication to us?
Could teenage rebellious behaviour be our teenagers’ reaction to our unwillingness to let them follow their natural evolution towards independence?
A teenager is growing up and ready for the next stage of life – to graduate from childhood to young adult life.
What if we gave our teenagers space to learn for themselves that there are choices and consequences? We can offer them the space to learn how to walk, just as we did when they were toddlers. The skills may be more verbal rather than physical but it still has the potential for all the same stumbles, tumbles and tears. Just as we wouldn’t pick them up every time they fell over as a toddler, so we can give them the same space and grace as teenagers. By bumping into things, falling over and feeling their own consequences, they learn how to navigate differently next time around, just as we do.
Integrity and consistency are vital skills to hone, not just for when your children are teenagers but also as an ongoing role modelling behaviour. Teenagers are the reflection in our lives of the importance of walking the talk: if we show them hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another, that is what they learn works in adult life and that is what we get back.
Creating space in all relationships allows everyone to grow. There is a great opportunity for getting to know the person your teenager is, and in doing so you get to feel who you are, without the role of parenting weighing you down and making you into someone you are not. Whatever is learnt about relationships during these unpredictable years, apply it to all relationships, don’t just save it for those who might be called ‘troublesome’ to you.
Raising Teenagers can go from being the greatest stress and a rollercoaster ride of emotions for both you and your teenager, to being a constant discovery of who you both are underneath the behaviours and the role playing of grouchy parent versus petulant teenager. When approaching the developing loving relationship in this way I suspect you may find that your teenager is quite an amazing and inspiring young person… when left to be themselves.