I Really Need To Stop Trying To Change My Teens

My son wakes up every morning and leaves himself a half hour to get ready for school which isn’t enough time. He knows it, I know it, and the kitchen counter tops know it because they are constantly being bathed in spilled milk, or cereal, or protein powder as he rushes around to make it to school on time.

I’ve told him he should get up earlier, but he says he works better under pressure and somehow, we are usually on time, go figure.

When we are in a hurry, he never seems to move fast enough for me. I run circles around him, gathering up things he has dropped, reminding him he needs this or that. There are times I think, What is he going to do when I’m not here to help him?

Then I realize he will figure it out and honestly, he’s never asked for my help. I’ve been inserting myself where I really don’t belong now that he is 15.

We are frustrated when we try to change our teens
Mom trying not to change frustrating son (Marian Fil/ Shutterstock)

I went through a long period where I would try to change him. I was always on him about being more organized, moving faster, and reminding him that perhaps being more efficient would be nice, but then I stopped because that isn’t who he is.

My daughter takes a long time to open up when she is upset about something. She often retreats to her room and needs a long time to process her feelings and even then, she doesn’t say much about what’s going on in her head.

I used to push her for more information, somehow thinking she would feel better if she just talked it out with her mother or another trusted adult. But even as a young toddler, she’d grow quiet for a few hours, play on her own while sorting out her feelings, then emerge a happier version of herself after she processed situations and her feelings around them in her own time.

This is how she operates. And although I’ve tried to get her to be more open and vocal about her life, she just can’t. Just because it helps me in tough situations, doesn’t mean it will help her.

My teens are turning into the adult versions of themselves. It’s my job to teach them things like how to be aware of others, how to learn compassion, how to be kind, but it is not my job to change who they are.

There is a difference between showing them how to be respectful and use good manners, and letting them be their whole, true selves.

My son isn’t hurting anyone with his clumsy ways in the kitchen every morning. He always cleans up after himself and he isn’t in anyone else’s way. He’s just not doing his morning routine the way I would.

My daughter doesn’t want to talk when she has something on her mind, she’d rather be alone. She’s learning how to take care of herself and get through tough stuff. Sure, she needs my help and support at 13, but she doesn’t need me to change her methods.

My kids are just fine the way they are. They aren’t broken, they don’t need me to swoop in and try to put them together in a way that makes them feel broken.

I need to remember they aren’t me– they aren’t going to react the same way I do in certain situations, they aren’t going to do things the way I do, and I don’t need to parent certain qualities out of them. That gives them the message they aren’t good enough and I’m disappointed in them because they aren’t like me. And that is not how I want my kids to view me or themselves.

We all have our hands full trying to get them to take out the trash, bring dirty dishes down from their room, and pee with the door closed. We don’t need to try and get them to move faster or talk about feelings they simply don’t want to talk about.

Just because our kids do things we don’t understand doesn’t mean they need to change. Perhaps we are the ones who need to change and give them the space they need to become the best versions of themselves.


28 Favorite College Care Packages For Guys

I Don’t Want A lot Of Friends, I Want True Friends

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.