Whenever possible, we always want to be on the same side as our teenagers. This can be a tall order, especially when your teenagers actions are taking you to a place you’d rather not be. Somedays you’ve simply got to dig deep.
Intentionally. Parenting teenagers into an adult is an important job. What you do and what you say counts. And when there’s a crisis your response will be noted, and probably remembered. When the going gets tough we can choose: to react from a place of negativity and fear, or to respond from a place of empathy and love.
Teenagers are wired to rebel. It’s a biological function so they can separate from you and become their own person. It’s a natural, normal part of life. I think they’re also wired to rebel so you can sharpen yourself against them. Again, it’s a normal part of life and a way we all grow. In our western world, traditional rites of passage have been lost to us; yet teenagers still need a way to define becoming an adult. Do you want them to remain forever a child? Then think of the challenges they bring on themselves as a learning curve: ‘If you’re not winning, you’re learning’ and see those challenges as another opportunity for you to parent from empathy and love.
Every time you do this you remind your teen that they are loved unconditionally, and this is all the more likely to bring them back to the expectations you have for them:
Treat other people with respect
Own their part
You set the expectations by your modelling, your language and the way in which you talk to them every day. Keep the expectations simple, like the ones I’ve given you above, and visible so everyone can see them and refer back to them easily.
Often when your teenager does something to push against these expectations they will be defensive and disrespectful. Instead of responding with anger towards them, take an enormously deep breath and remember how much you loved them when they were little. Go to their firsts: first breath, first smile, first rolling over … and take that knowledge of them into the person in front of you right now. You were there for them then, cheering them on and encouraging them. Continue to be there for them now … even if you’re not cheering right this minute.
Sit down with them, or go for a walk with them and make the time to harness the benefit of hindsight. Talk out the whole time scenario of what happened, how they came to be doing what they were doing and how their role in the action has played out. This isn’t a time to pass judgement of any kind, it’s simply a time to listen, to ask questions and to learn. And it’s incredibly powerful. Not only are you strengthening your teen/parent relationship, you are also setting yourself up for a strong relationship that lasts into their adult lives.
If you think of life as a map, talk to them about the road they are on. Where is that road taking them? You can put a goal on the map and ask if their actions are taking them towards that goal or away from it? When things go wrong treat it like a speed bump on the road of life, it’s there to slow them down and remind them not to move so fast. A speed bump is temporary as we go over it we slow down, once we’ve driven over it we can speed up again. If we’ve taken it at speed we may have caused some damage to others or to ourselves. And that’s where your role comes in, you get to be the tow truck when required and at other times you’re simply the kerb – they can bounce off you as they learn to course correct and drive a straight line.
Teenagers are wired to break the rules. How you manage that is up to you. You are a guide on the side, and this is especially important as they become their own people in the world. They will model your actions, words and behaviours. What you do and say everyday counts, so make it worthwhile.
If you’d like to bounce an idea off me, book a coaching conversation to get clarity and insight over the best way to handle a speed bump. The best parents are well prepared and well supported so know I’ve got you.