Younger moms always want to know how we made it through the sleepless nights, tantrums, and toilet training. Piece of cake? Clearly, not always. However, teens offer their own brand of crazy. The eye rolling, the sarcasm, the moody silence or sudden anger all can take their toll, leaving you wanting to tear your hair out. Or theirs.
Since that’s not really an option, here are a few quick (and legal) ways to settle yourself and your kids down. (Sorry, can’t help on the husband…that’s a whole different beast! 😉
1. No Nagging. I admit it, I am a nagger. It’s not pretty, but hey, I’m not perfect. So If you’re getting attitude, take a quick look in the mirror and see what you’re doing. Could you be nagging; can you sound kinder? Instead of saying to my kids, “why aren’t you studying; you have a test tomorrow!” I have learned my daughter needs quiet time after school.
It’s better all around when I say, “Hey, i know you need to have some downtime–what time do you want to switch gears and study for your test?” By speaking gently I get more of an answer than a grunt or mini explosion. Sometimes just the tone of voice can lower the stress in the room.
2. Feed The Beast. Never underestimate the power of hangry! Just like when you had to carry snacks and emergency Cheerios for your toddler, your teen may still need the same. For my kids, food is a necessity when they get home. Immediately, if not sooner.
Now, if i ask if they want a snack I may get the snide comments, grunt or eye rolling like “I’m not a baby.” But if i simply hand them some food or toss a plate of food in their direction, it gets devoured and I generally get a much happier teenager! Now, that is a win-win.
3. Rules Rule. Another simple thing to remember, but sometimes hard to do, is stick to the rules. Those house rules you set up all those years ago? Bring them back. It’s tempting as you try to give teens some freedom and independence to let them slack a bit. Nothing wrong with that–it’s great to encourage independence.
But it’s a fine line and if your kid is crossing it on a consistent basis, it’s time to toughen up and remind them the difference between rights and privilege. Privileges can be rescinded if certain rules aren’t met, and sometimes these privileges will be so important to a teen that going without them will provide a wake-up call.
4. Avoid the Power Struggle. One of the best strategies for avoiding power struggles is to give choices within those limits we just mentioned. Avoid ultimatums which a teen will just see as a challenge. It’s all about sharing control and being clear.
Try giving them two options, each of which are ok with you. For example, “Will you be home by 10, or do you think 10:30? And be willing to explain your reason. They may be way more accepting if they understand it’s for their safety. But try to think ahead and give choices before your teen is resisting. If you give them afterwards, you reward that resistance and that’s no good for anyone.
5. Be flexible. And reasonable. Avoid setting rules your teen can’t possibly follow. A chronically messy teen might have real trouble immediately maintaining a spotless bedroom. So if that’s not crucial to you, let it go. As your teen demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. Remember, you can always close his door.
6. Set a positive example. Teens are still learning how to behave by watching their parents. Sadly, “do as i say, not as I do” is not how it works. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Show your teen how to cope with stress in positive ways and be resilient. And if you lose it, own it. Admit it and say you’re sorry.
Be a good model and your teen will likely follow. And when that doesn’t work, just breathe and walk away. Tomorrow is another day.
Dana Baker is a writer, editor, mom of two, and consultant to parents and teens. With parentinginreallife.org I help families reconnect and find a way around the walls that cause such isolation and dysfunction in these years. I offer advice from the trenches, a non-judgemental ear and tips/feedback based on the science of psychology and the reality of parenting. You can follow me on Twitter, on Instagram , and on Facebook.