This is What Happened When I Started Stepping Back From My Teens

A few months ago, my daughter was upstairs in her room and I asked her to come down; we were watching a movie and I wanted her to be with us. She didn’t want to, she needed time alone and I told her I missed her. “We’ve been together so much mom, it’s fine,” she answered.

I did the same thing with my son the following afternoon– my youngest was playing in his room alone and I said, “Jack why don’t you bring your toys downstairs come hang out?” He told me he was too busy.

When parents need to stop asking questions and be ready to listen to their teens

When I pick up my kids from school, I start with the questions right away.  If they spent the night at a friend’s house, go to a dance, or have a sports practice, I ask them what they did, what they ate, and what time they went to bed. As they’ve grow older, I feel them slipping away, and I somehow think if I can get more out of them, time will slow down.

I know as parents one of the things we want to do is be in touch with our kids. We like to be in the know, and a part what they’re doing outside the home. It gives us peace of mind, helps us help them, and there is something about it that makes me feel as though we are preserving something– and honestly that preservation is more for my sake than theirs – letting go is the most difficult part of being a parent.

But sometimes I stand back and listen to myself. I have had many moments when I go beyond just wanting to connect with my kids and see how they are doing. As they’ve grown they tell me I’m needy and overbearing. I realize I come across as a Tiger Mom who is trying to squeeze out and control every single detail of their life.

At first, I was in denial and didn’t really care how I appeared to them. I was determined to stay as connected as possible– until I realized they never wanted to talk to me about anything. Honestly, just thinking about the way I can be makes me cringe. I wouldn’t want to fill me in or anything either– how annoying.

My kids don’t respond well when I act this way, and it took some soul-searching on my part. But I’ve come to the realization it’s not effective since they pretty much shut down and don’t want anything to do with me when I’m peppering them with questions– it was time to try something new.

I’ve tried really hard lately to step back and change my ways, and let them tell me in their own time about things happening in their life. I’m not talking about casually asking about their day or how their math homework is going– I still do that of course– but I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I know they are going to have certain situations and things they don’t want to share with me. And I was overcompensating by pushing them about their life too hard.

They know that I’m here for them and available to talk about anything from drugs, to sex to, friendships. There was a part of me that was afraid if I didn’t constantly remind them of that fact, they were going to forget and not confide in me. And I was always worried I wasn’t doing my job as a mother if we weren’t spending as much time together as possible, but they are teenagers, they need their space. It doesn’t mean they love me any less or I’m not doing my job.

Loosening my grip has been a bit hard, but seeing how they come to me way more than they did before is a reminder that it’s a more effective way to parent them. Just the other day I had a long talk with my daughter about a boy at school she likes. This never would have happened a month ago; I would have started asking questions and she would have shut down. I’ve seen her do it so many time. This was a new side of her and I know she was showing it to me because I was giving her the room and space to come to me when she was ready. And it was so worth it.


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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 .

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