We’ve all experienced it. That sweet child of yours turned salty with attitude in what seemed like the blink of an eye and now you’re at a loss to how to respond.
So what do you do when your child is gettin’ all saucy up in your face? There is a way to keep your cool and not lose your marbles during what some call the “terrible tween/teen years.” Who says they have to be terrible? Here are 5 ways to thrive through the “tudes”.
Remember this is NORMAL
Teens (and even some crazy 7 year olds!) are in the same place as a toddler who has just discovered they are separate from mommy. Now they want to explore the world away from you, thus their recent plunge into the fountain at the mall to find out what all those shiny things are at the bottom. Teens are the same. They have reached the point developmentally where they are seeking autonomy away from you. This is why you can argue about whether the sky is blue or not and they will say it’s purple just to prove they are different than you. This is the time in their life where they don’t make an ounce of sense. They make what seems like impulsive decisions and don’t listen to our outstanding wisdom on life.
But this is normal.
They will do anything at this point in their life to prove to themselves they can do it on their own (Only to find they can’t, but they will never admit defeat. Never.) Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your little sweetheart is still alive and well. Don’t sweat their new found love for independence. In fact, celebrate it!
Look for what’s underneath their behaviour
Behaviour is communication. What’s underneath this attitude? If it’s going beyond what seems like normal development, don’t react to it right away. Read that again. Don’t React. I’m serious. Don’t do it. You’ll want to. It’s so tempting. Bite your tongue if you have to and walk away till you can approach your teen calmly.
I’ve fallen bait for “tudes” in the past only to find myself sinking down a rabbit hole I can’t get out of because I am committed to see my point proven. Disaster every time.
Take some time to observe and get curious about what this behaviour may be communicating. Sometimes there’s bullying going on, or feelings of insecurity that manifest at lashing out at the safest person they know: YOU. (lucky us right?) However, this is a good sign. You want your teen to show you their emotion because it reminds you that you are a safe space. They don’t know how to regulate or process emotion because their prefrontal cortex, where we learn how to problem solve and reason, isn’t fully developed until age 25. 25!! They need you to help them know what emotional regulation looks like and help them process their emotions when they appear open to your input. You could always approach your teen after some time of observation and say, “I’ve noticed that you’re a bit more on edge after being on instagram. Is everything ok with you and your friends?” They may shut you down, they may open up. The important thing is that you’re not “on them” about their attitude but showing concern for what’s going on in their life.
You control YOU, not them
I feel most of us parents are running around constantly trying to modify our kids behaviour rather than being a parent who helps guide our children through life. Parenting that only concerns itself with changing a child’s behaviour will only bring out more desire for independence and attitudes in a teen who now has had enough. They won’t want to listen to your music, wear the clothes you want them to, have the same faith as you because they are tired of feeling they only matter when they are “pleasing” you.
My mantra with my parenting, whether its with my 8 year old still in elementary school, or my teen is this: I CONTROL NO ONE. I control ME. This means your behaviour does not affect me. This means I decide what I will do when my teen is going crazy in front of me. I express what I will do calmly. I don’t say, “Oh ya, well if you talk to me like that again I’m going to take away your video games for a month!” Ok, I have done that and it doesn’t work at all. It may get me what I want, but at the expense of my connection with my child which is the secret sauce with working through rough behaviours. When your connection with your child or teen is strong they are more likely to listen to you – even though their face still looks totally unimpressed.
If my son is showing me an attitude that I think is disrespectful and inappropriate I say this, “Son, you are allowed to be frustrated, but if you talk to me that way I will be walking away until you’re ready to have a respectful conversation.” I always put the owness back on myself, not them. This is what I will do, not “YOU need to stop doing that.” Through this I am communicating that I don’t control my kids, but I control me and I teach them how to treat me and others by the boundaries I set.
Pick your battles by knowing what you value
In the teen years it is so important to know what you really want to instil in your child because there will be so many battles, you can’t possibly fight them all, nor should you, or you will be seen as a huge nag and they will only tune you out.
Here’s what I want you to do. Get CRYSTAL CLEAR on what you value and what values you want them to learn. For example, I want my children to learn the value of:
- being courageous even when it’s hard
- the art of showing up and sucking it up even when they don’t feel like it
- having integrity even when it hurts
- being compassionate to themselves and others
So that means these become my terms for battle. I won’t go after my son when he hasn’t bathed in a week. I’ll just pray a beautiful girl comes into his life…
It doesn’t matter what he wears, or his hairstyle (I’ll just cringe to myself on the inside), but it sure will matter when he breaks a promise, or if he enters into a chat room where there is hurtful gossip about one of his friends, or if he has viewed unacceptable material online.
And get this, really get this: My battle isn’t the behaviour or action itself. The battle I have is him living less than courageous, for him not showing up or not having integrity or being void of compassion. That’s what I call him up to, not the action alone. Anything else is just behaviour modification.
I’ve never seen a generation so void of values. They need us adults to step up to the plate and teach them how to LIVE.
Know when you are the problem
Parents, I’m on your team. It’s team US, ok? But sometimes it’s not our teens that are the problem, it’s US. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. We have unrealistic expectations, we’re moody and we take it out on them and decide without warning that their messy room needs to be cleaned up RIGHT NOW because we’ve had it! We can be unreasonable, not in our requests but in our delivery. We need to model respect and regulation if we expect our teens to do the same. We need to clean our speech up from accusations and sarcasm. If we communicate that way we really shouldn’t wonder why our teens are showing us some extreme “tude”.
These 5 things can make the teen years with you and your child pretty awesome. And remember, resilience is in the repair. When you blow it, admit it, repair the rupture with your teen by eating some humble pie and start over with courage.
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I love being able to help parents so they don’t have to struggle the same way we did. It’s time to rewrite your family’s story.