If you are raising teenagers I bet you can close your eyes and hear that deep semi-disgusted sigh that is coated with a thick condescending tone. Or maybe the “look” many teens have perfected…the one where their eyes half-closed glaringly look right through you as if to say, “I am looking at you but I am not listening to you!”
If you are like millions of other parents traveling on the journey of the teen years you know that nothing is more frustrating than the attitude they can display. At times it feels completely disrespectful and others downright hateful. Have you ever wondered what is behind that attitude? More to the point what you can do to change it?
Years ago I had a parent (I’ll call her Mary) ask me why her 15 year old daughter (I’ll call her Sue) couldn’t ever respond with a pleasant “yes” to whatever was being requested. Instead she would put some attitude with it so that “yes” really meant “Do I have a choice” or “Only because you are making me”. Mary was determined to get to the bottom of this as it was causing her more than the normal amount of stress and anxiety. She confided in me that she feared her relationship with her daughter was deteriorating and might reach the point of no return.
If you have been one of my readers for any length of time you know that I promote preparing for the teen years long before they arrive…in fact the earlier the better.
However, that does not mean that it is ever too late! When we have the awareness to raise our children from a very early age with healthy communications skills, an understanding of their responsibility for what happens or doesn’t happen in their lives and a relationship based on mutual trust and respect we have instilled in them a mindset that fosters a co-operative and grateful spirit.
With that being said, if you are not one of those parents and you are experiencing a chaotic relationship with your teenager the first thing to do is to stop the chaos. The challenge will be in the reality that we cannot control others, only ourselves. And that is where the new beginning will take place…within you.
When I began exploring the nature of the relationship between Mary and Sue and her need to reply in a negative tone, it eventually surfaced that Sue felt her mother unfairly placed judgment on almost every area of her life. I distinctly remember her saying to me, “If my mother doesn’t like it or agree with it, in her eyes it must be wrong!”
Eventually through several discussions Mary realized that she had in fact reacted much of the time by expressing her disapproval rather than respecting her daughter as her own person with her own preferences.
Regardless of the challenge you are facing with your child and regardless of their age parents must remember that our children look to us for 90% of their information about themselves and the world they live in.
This is what I suggested to Mary…
Declare a truce, offer an olive branch or pull out the peace pipe! Whatever it will take to stop the runaway roller coaster you are experiencing so that you can establish some sort of calm ground to begin rebuilding.
In this particular situation I urged Mary to create a dialogue with Sue beginning by apologizing for minimizing her feelings and ideas. And promise to do everything in her power to refrain from judging her in the future. She then asked Sue if she was willing to work with her to reach a common ground where they could figure out what each of them needed to create a peaceful relationship that included mutual respect and honor.
It was important for Mary to share her strong desire to rebuild their relationship and clearly verbalize her commitment to reestablishing the bond they once shared.
Mary was forthright with her feelings of love and concern and focused the conversation on moving forward. She ended by asking Sue if she would be willing to work together as a team.
What Mary accomplished through this conversation was to show her daughter that she respected her as an individual and rather than insist that she change her bad attitude or it would be followed by negative consequences should she not comply, Mary set a new tone simply by sharing her feelings, reconnecting by knocking down the dividing wall of “parent vs. child” and put the final decision in her daughter’s hands. This sent a powerfulmessage that established new boundaries in their relationship.
Sue was initially shocked that her mother had acknowledged her mistakes, apologized and was speaking to her as an equal…a teammate, rather than a dictator instructing his people!
What quickly became obvious was that because Mary had not respected her daughter’s thoughts and ideas, Sue reacted by responding with the same disrespect…thus a bad attitude to even the slightest communication.
This mother/daughter team worked through the specific areas of conflict…Sue’s friends, curfew and even what she saw as an acceptable wardrobe. There was compromise and co-operation.
Several months later I was thrilled to run into them out shopping together enjoying each other’s company! I remember Sue pulling out a new pair of jeans out of one of the shopping bags and laughingly saying “Mom doesn’t really care for them but she knew I did so I got them!”
The challenges that are driving a wedge between you and your teenager can always be worked through if you are willing to take the lead and model a positive approach to finding a solution. As time goes by, this new found way of communicating eventually becomes normal and automatic.
It has been my experience over the years working with teens and their families that they are not unreasonable impossible creatures! Teenagers are struggling through emotions that are new to them and sometimes scary so when they look to us and are met with judgment, criticism or disrespect we can expect their response to be wrapped with attitude!
On the other hand, if we are there for them reassuring, respecting and honoring them and offering unconditional love they welcome us into their world with love and gratitude.
Latest posts by Ten to Twenty (see all)
- 25 Household Hacks to Make Your Life Easier - November 10, 2017
- Looking for Answers on Keeping Track of Your Kids Online? - November 15, 2016
- Why Mindful Eating as a Family Is so Important - September 27, 2016