I thought I had it all under control until one by one my kids turned into tweens, then teens! Suddenly I did not know them – they started to talk back, have mood swings, need their privacy, respond violently to rules and limits and display some pretty rude behaviour. What had I done wrong? Nothing, I found out! It was normal, just part of growing up. However, just because it is “normal”, it doesn’t mean we have to just accept it and live with it. There ARE positive steps we can take.
- Blame the brain: it is most likely NOT your fault, it is just their brains that are changing! Adolescence is a time of significant growth and development inside the brain. So if you ever doubt your own ability to parent, STOP and think – a huge amount of what is going on here is simply due to this massive change taking place in the brain. And don’t forget they are probably as confused and frustrated about it as you are, if not more so!
- Be the adult: don’t throw a teen tantrum. Yes I know they can be SO annoying, but don’t mirror their behaviour. Be a role model, behave the way you want them to behave. Don’t get sucked into power struggles and negation (when there is no room for it). Also, you don’t HAVE to have the last word; sometimes saying nothing is the most powerful tool and the right answer. For example if you hear, ‘That’s not fair’, do you need to reply at all?
- Make them work for it: they don’t have a ‘right’ to everything they want, i.e. activities (these cost money and time), new shoes, a later bedtime, more screen time, parties etc.; they must be earned. Set up an agreement of what you want to see or have achieved i.e no backchat, no rude words or perhaps certain grades or jobs done around the house.
- Make space for chilled time, every day: your teen might send a strong signal or express that they don’t want time with you. They might appear to have developed an allergy towards you or seem to think that what comes out of your mouth is just stupid and said to hurt them. It is normal and not a reflection of you. But because of these battles it is easy to get caught up in everyday life and end up having mainly just negative contact with them. Sometimes it is even hard to LIKE our teens. But we need to remind ourselves, and them, that we do LOVE them, unconditionally, and make sure we spend some fun Special Time with our teen as often as we can. Try to spend a minimum of 10 minutes with your teen every day where you just chill. Don’t talk about worries or problems, just be in the moment with your teen, doing what they like.
- Think about your communication: try to use fewer words. If we talk too much we lose their attention, they ignore us, stop listening. Before interacting with your teen take a deep breath. Hold it there. Slowly breathe out. Think about what you want to achieve with what you are about to say. Then only say what you have to say and stop there. Don’t get drawn into long conversations, negotiations or word battles. Come from a place of listening and understanding: ‘I can hear that you are really upset and I understand’ and STOP there. You have heard and acknowledged them, that is enough. On top of being heard you will feel proud of yourself for keeping things calm and simple.
- Manage screen time: agree together what they CAN play/watch, when they CAN, where they CAN and then stick to it. Listen to your inner values; if you don’t want them to have a phone, that is OK. If you don’t want them to have screens upstairs, that is OK. Be a role model though; try to think about how much time you spend on YOUR screen when your teens are around and lead by example.
- Teach don’t punish: it is so easy to get wound up and angry and start throwing around punishments, threats and consequences. Again, take a pause, breathe and think, what do I want to achieve? Come from a place of how can I TEACH my teen not to do and say it again. If you choose to go for restrictions then less is better, i.e. if you call me rude words I will take away your phone for 12 hours (not a week), do it again and I will take it for 24 hours etc. If you don’t do your chores I will take off 10 minutes of your screen time, then 20 minutes and so on.
- And last but by no means least, remember to use positive self-talk, remind yourself: ‘it is just a phase and it WILL pass!’.
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