This post: Things Every Parent of Teens Needs to Stop Doing
We all aim to raise our kids well. We have the absolute best intentions to make decisions that will positively impact our kids both now and in the future, to guide them in the right direction (even when it’s hard), and to support and love them on their journey to adulthood.
But sometimes, without even realizing it, we say and do things that aren’t beneficial for our kids. I know I’ve certainly caught myself doing things on occasion that I regret. In fact, I think pretty much every parent is guilty of making a few humdinger parenting mistakes every now and then. After all, we’re not perfect.
To help us all build and maintain a connected relationship with our kids, here are things every parent of teens needs to stop doing.
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“Wow, you finally got around to cleaning your room… it only took you three months.” “So… I texted you four times today. I guess you’re just too busy to text your mom back?”
Those snarky, passive-aggressive remarks we toss out, the silent treatment we give when we’re upset or angry, and those “I’m your parent and don’t you forget it” snide comments aren’t doing our relationship with our kids any good. In fact, they come off sounding manipulative and nasty. At a time when our kids need us the most, we should be working toward drawing them closer, not pushing them away.
There’s a quote I love, “If you offer your kids half-hearted leadership, you’ll receive half-hearted following in return.” We can’t cave in when we put consequences in place, we can’t allow our teens to badger us until we fold under pressure and we can’t toss out idle threats. We have to be strong leaders.
Our kids are watching everything we do. They’re watching and they’re taking mental notes. We need to stand strong in our parenting convictions no matter how tough or exhausting it is.
Teach your kids that rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Reinforce the idea that regardless of what life throws at them, they are always in control of how they view the situation, how they handle it, and what they can learn from it.
Every parent-child relationship is special and unique in its own way. It’s okay (and normal) to have a different type of relationship with each of your kids. What’s not okay is when you show favoritism. Nothing can shake a teen’s confidence more than feeling their parent loves a sibling more than them. Love each of your kids unconditionally for their own unique strengths and attributes.
Our teen’s moods shift faster than a spinning tornado. One minute they’re on top of the world, the next they’re blaming us for ruining their life. But heads up, parents, it’s not always their hormones that are triggering the shift.
Maybe they bombed a test. Maybe their friends are giving them the cold shoulder. Sometimes, it requires a little digging on our part. Let’s not “chalk it all up to hormones.” Our kids deserve better.
When it comes to things every parent of teens needs to stop doing, this is a biggie. We have to be consistent disciplinarians. Our predictable and consistent behavior gives our kids a sense of security AND it helps them develop the self-discipline and restraint to make wiser choices in the future. They shouldn’t have to guess how we’ll react… they should know, based on our rules, open discussions, and expectations.
We all do it. Sometimes, it’s just plain hard not to. But it doesn’t serve our kids well. In fact, studies have shown that our teen’s brains literally shut our words out when we nag. Rather than nag, make a list, leave a note on their desk, or send them a voicemail or text. Just don’t nag. Check out this “Mom’s No-Nag To Do List” to help you stop nagging.
Your teen walks in the door on a Friday night and tells you that there were kids drinking and doing drugs at the party they were at. You fly off the handle, ask a million questions and start yelling blaming them for putting themselves in that situation in the first. Guess what? You didn’t teach your teen a valuable lesson. You taught them to sneak behind your back, lie and bend the truth to avoid your “over the top” future reactions.
Deep downs inside, perhaps we all view our kids as a reflection of us. After all, we’re putting our heart and soul into raising them and we should be able to take at least some of the credit when they shine. But that doesn’t mean we should encourage them to follow a path we’ve chosen on their behalf or fault them when they choose a path we don’t approve of. It’s our job to help our kids become the best version of themselves and help them figure out their own path. This is their time… we had ours.
“Wow… Jason’s a really good soccer player. He must practice way more than you do.” “I wish you were more responsible like your sister. I never have to ask her twice.”
Nothing can damage our kids’ self-esteem more than the belief that they don’t measure up in our eyes. Help them become better, smarter, stronger, and more responsible, don’t compare or shame them.
Sometimes, as parents, we have to put blinders on to prevent us from getting wrapped up in what every other parent is doing. Just focus on your kids and what’s best for your family… nothing else should matter.
There’s a heap of things we can control. Our kids’ ever-changing, mood-swinging emotions isn’t one of them. Sure, we can offer calming words of advice and be their sounding board when they need to vent, but we shouldn’t jump on their emotional roller coaster. Remember, roller coasters always begin and end in the exact same spot.
You’re constantly harping on your teen about being glued to their phone, not making eye contact, and not listening to you. But guess what? You do the same thing. You’re frustrated with your daughter for being so body conscious, but you’re always asking her if you look fat. Your teen is watching everything you do. If you don’t want them doing it, don’t do it yourself.
When your teen makes a mistake, keep it between you and them. Tell a close confidante, if you must, but don’t tell all your friends, extended family or post it on social media. Our kids already feel less than perfect. Nothing erodes their confidence more than having to face a judgmental world.
It’s all about respect. If we respect our kids enough not to purposefully embarrass them, (after all, we can embarrass our kids simply by existing), then they’ll respect us for considering their feelings.
That’s not to say we can’t inspire greatness in our kids, but when our expectations are unrealistic, we’re more likely to foster resentment, frustration, and disappointment. The bottom line is, there are some areas where it might serve us well to lower the bar. Read: 7 Things to Stop Expecting from Your Teen
As important as it is to keep our expectations of our kids in check, it’s equally as important to make sure we’re not letting them off too easy. Sure, there will be times they can’t get their chores done due to other obligations, for instance, but if they’re fully capable and have the time, don’t let them off the hook. You’re helping them foster the mental strength they need to become responsible adults.
Susan Shapiro, a college professor and New York Times bestselling author interviewed many adult children who felt wronged by their parents as kids for her book The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find the Perfect Apology.
“If you give your kids a reason why your inappropriate behavior happened, it humanizes you and creates space for compassion and connection,” says Shapiro.
Natural consequences can be some of life’s greatest teachers. Let your teen mess up sometimes and empower them to learn from their mistakes so they can become wiser, more confident, and more resilient. Remember, too, your teen isn’t necessarily afraid of failure… they’re afraid of your reaction to their failure.
You know that boy with his deep voice, big hands, and size 11 shoes? He still loves playing outside, Nerf Guns, gooey candy, and silly family traditions. Don’t forget that your big kid is still little on the inside.
“You’re not going to get another speeding ticket, are you?” “You failed that one test because you didn’t study… are you going to do that again?” Parents… let the past go and focus on the beauty of the future. Plus, remember, if your teen is making mistakes, it means they’re trying, learning, and doing things on their own. They’re going to pass failure on their way to success. Expect plenty of mistakes along the way.
They really do want and need your respect, trust, and approval. And, they really are trying to please you. They have so much growing up to do, so many mistakes yet to be made, and so many life lessons yet to be learned. Don’t expect perfection right now… you won’t get it. Just look for those glimpses of amazing positive changes. They’re there!
Treating Them Like the Child They’re Leaving Behind
Even if our kids aren’t “all grown up” yet, they sure as heck want to be treated like they are. Give them what they want. You might just find that when you treat them like the adult they’re becoming (and not the child they’re leaving behind) they’ll begin acting more responsibly.
Not only do they need to hear us say it, they need to feel it in our actions. Wrap them in a hug often (if they’ll let you), show your love in little ways every day, and tell them you love them throughout the day. Even if they say, “Okaaaay… geez, I know.” Keep saying it. They secretly love it and, boy, do they need it!
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