It seems like it happened all at once. One moment you were praising your kid for being so good and the next thing you know he/she is a completely different child in a foreign looking body. Not only are the clothing choices a bit different but the shoe size is rapidly increasing, the attitude is becoming disturbing, the vocabulary adds new shock value, the interests are unusual, and your once sweet child became a hormonal teenager with mood swings so high and low you need a score card to keep up. To make matters worse, parenting is stressful as you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on what is normal teenage behavior and abnormal teenage behavior.
Beginning at age twelve, your child develops critical thinking skills which literally transforms your child’s mind from being receptive to your opinion into questioning your opinion. The goal of this age is to help your child develop strong critical thinking skills not to impair them during the process. You can impair them by demanding that everything be done your way without questioning and without explanation. While this is practical at a younger age, it is not during the teenage years where peers begin to have a greater influence than before. Think about it for a second, which would you rather have: a teen who questions what others tell them or a teen who believes everything others tell them?
Hormones. Imagine PMS times 10 for a teenage girl or a mid-life crisis times 20 for a teenage boy, now you have a better understanding of the intensity of hormones running through their body. No, this does not give justification to poor behavior but this does explain the origin of the mood swings. It is hard to remember that these hormones are new to your child and while it took you many years to become use to your own emotional mood swings, it will take many years for your child to adjust as well. This is a process, not a one-time event and expecting anything less or more immediate will only intensify your frustration.
Respect. Your once respectful child is likely to become disrespectful with you lately for unknown reasons. With such repeatedly poor behavior it is easy to make your child’s disrespectful attitude the subject of nearly every conversation but this is unproductive. If you instead begin with the end goal in mind of having a good relationship with your child, then paying attention to what your child is really saying rather than how they say it becomes the priority. Once you have really listened to your child by finding some area of common agreement however small, then you can address the disrespect. Your child will be more likely to positively respond to your requests after you have heard theirs.
Love. I Corinthians 13:4a says that love is first patient and then kind. As your child’s parent, you must first be patient with them and then kind. This means that no matter how long it takes for your child to demonstrate a loving attitude towards you, you must continue to patiently wait for them with kindness in your voice. This is loving behavior that is fitting for a parent. It does not mean that your child can walk all over you and be repeatedly rude, it does however mean that when your child is rude, you don’t return the rudeness but act lovingly towards your child.
Discipline. The days of time-outs are over now and if you don’t know your child really well, you will not be effective in disciplining them. For instance, if video games are your child’s thing, then taking away the video games as punishment is effective. But you can’t take it away all the time or the punishment will lose its’ effectiveness. Basically you must have a variety of interests which you can draw from when needed. Yet you must also have an absolute bottom line such as boarding school, reform school, or some alternative program always in your back pocket and ready to bring forward when needed. If it comes to this, don’t back down, that is not loving behavior.
Teenagers are an interesting group of people and no matter how difficult you might struggle with them; they are well worth the effort. One day you will look back fondly on these years and perhaps gain a couple of really good stories to share with their kids one day.
Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.