I’m not a therapist. That said, I do feel I have the right to talk about teens and their behavior and what to do about it because I’ve lived it. Three times over.
My children are seventeen, fifteen, and thirteen. The hormones in this house could crack concrete. The sass has reached unmentionable levels. This past year, I went from having no gray hair to having to dye my roots every three weeks. I slept more when I had three toddlers than I do now.
Every teen tests boundaries
Every teen struggles and tests the boundaries. I don’t care if they are taking college courses as a sophomore in high school, are the captain of every sports team, or the class president. This is what they do. Their brains are wired to think that the world revolves around them and that they want and need.
Every parent of teens has had a time when they’ve thrown up their hands because they had no idea how to handle a situation.
Their teen isn’t obeying curfew, they aren’t doing school work, they’ve stopped doing their chores and their tone has turned from acceptable to downright nasty. They’ve been caught with a vape pen, pot, or drinking behind the school on a Friday night.
You’ve heard reports of them driving recklessly or being disrespectful when they are eating out with their friends. Again, I have three of them and I’ve seen this all, and then some.
When I started noticing my oldest was testing my patience, I literally didn’t know what to do. I was lost, I was tired and I was nervous about what other people would think. I’d lie in bed and wonder if I was going to have to bail him out of jail one day or if he’d graduate from high school. Then I’d wonder where the hell I went wrong to make him want to act this way.
I can say now, parents don’t make their children want to experiment with breaking the rules or trying to get away with things, regardless of how big or small. This is something almost every teenager will do.
What worked for our family is setting boundaries
The one answer I’ve found for all three of my kids (who have very different personalities and interests) is setting boundaries and sticking to them. I haven’t always done this perfectly, mind you. I’m exhausted, it’s hard, and there are day I plain don’t want to deal with the bullshit.
Believe me, there have been times I’ve wanted to give up, let them do what they want because I didn’t know how to handle their behavior or wondered if they should learn a really hard lesson on their own. After all, they aren’t four any longer. I can’t physically force them to come to the family dinner, clean their room, or go out and hunt them down when they are late for curfew.
But, I can dole out consequences and stick to them. I can let them know what will happen if they break the rules and follow through instead of getting into an argument with them.
My kids have to live with the consequences of their behavior
If their grades slip and I see them on their phone all the time, I take the phone. If they are late for curfew, they don’t go out the next few times they ask. If they talk to me in a disrespectful manner I can open the door to have a conversation so they can tell me what’s bothering them. And I can remind them that it’s not okay to lash out because I’m not a doormat.
We all have experience with getting walked all over, “people treat you the way you allow them to treat you” is what I believe. Our kids are no different. If they think they can get away with something they will. If they know there won’t be consequences, they might do things they aren’t ready for or could possibly hurt them or someone else.
Our teens would never say this, but they crave boundaries and structure. Even if they tell you that they are too strict (my kids say this all the time and we try to come to a happy medium), they want to know that you care about their well-being and safety.
The best thing we can do for them, no matter how tough things get and how hard it feels, is to show up for them, let them know that the consequences we are giving and the rules we expect them to follow are for them and their safety.
And if you ask me, it doesn’t hurt to throw a little humor in there. Make sure you tell them that their behavior is turning your hair gray and making you eat a pint of the expensive ice cream every night.
Honestly, this is all challenging. No one really knows what they are doing. One thing is clear, more parents need to hear that they are not alone and that it’s not just their kids acting like this.
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