What Can We Do About Teenagers with Attitudes?
What can we do about teenagers with attitudes? They expect everyone to listen when they talk, yet when others talk, they do not want to listen. They use language with phrases that turn parents’ stomachs and make grandparents roll over in their graves. It is embarrassing in public and private!
Teenagers with attitudes want everyone to look for anything that may be lost. The household is turned upside down for a set of keys or a drivers license just for cruising down main street. Parents are expected not to be shocked or dismayed at what is said, yet verbal language is so free and open that parents want to tie teens' mouths shut and lock them up to protect the world!
Teenagers with attitudes are tough problems to deal with, since by the time they get to be teenagers, we are entering those years of life that are unsure as well. One presenter put it this way, teenagers go through adolescence and parents go through "middle-essence." The characteristics of both stages are similar; including rapid physical changes, psychological instability, low feelings of self-worth, and a lack of vision about the future. Life becomes a dark tunnel with no light at the end!
Are you entering a difficult stage in your life at this time?
With this in mind, here are ten suggestions for dealing with teenagers who have attitudes:
- This, too, shall pass.
- Live and let live.
- Advise, don't give advice.
- Focus on preparation for adulthood.
- Teach that freedom is connected with responsibility.
- Don't take it personally.
- Show physical affection.
- Avoid criticism.
- Work together.
Each of these suggestions is explained in the paragraphs that follow.
1) This too, shall pass
Accept the fact that teenagers will not always be teenagers, and we will not always be parents of them. With this in mind, look for the good things. Find times when they are obedient, kind, and considerate. Praise and appreciate those times. Give extra attention and love. Visit and talk about what it was like when they were babies and the feelings of being a new parent. Share cute things remembered and use these memories as incentive to talk about the future. Soon, they will be gone and we will miss this time.
2) Live and let live
Teens come to us at unexpected times with unexpected things. Enjoy the ride! The trick is to withhold judgment and listen. Reflect back what is being said rather than feeling bad for not teaching them better. As we do so, they will take a second look and come away better people. Trust that they can think logically and sensibly and come up with an appropriate value judgment. More often than not, they will end up with the same conclusion that we would have if we had given our input.
3) Advise, don't give advice
Giving advice, especially when it is not wanted, does not work. It puts up a wall between us and our teens. They will ask for help if there is a good relationship between us and them. Accept them as they are and visit during the good times. Only then can we offer suggestions such as “Have you tried _______?” or “What about this_________?” Another way is to share experiences we have had in similar situations. They will be able to see options that were not open before.
4) Focus on preparation for adulthood
In all that teens experience, it is our job as parents to see that preparation is complete for leaving home. It may be tough for us to cross that bridge, but they want to be more independent. See that they have a bank account and that the statements are balanced properly. Teach how to earn money, fill out a job application, and give opportunities to work outside the home. Talk about the expectations of employers and companies. Point out talents and abilities, as well as professions that may be a good fit. See that they know how to operate household equipment, take care of an automobile, cook a well balanced meal, clean, and do their own laundry. One day, when we least expect it, they will say "Thank you."
5) Teach that freedom is connected with responsibility
Hold teens accountable for responsibilities at home and school. Allow experience of the natural consequences of choices as much as possible and practical. Create consequences as needed for the learning process. Help them understand that society will not roll out a red carpet for them, and that they need to work and serve others to make their way. Point out the benefits of good health habits, including nutrition, sleep, and exercise.
6) Don’t take it personally
All teenagers have times when their mouth goes faster than their head. Don’t take it personally. Letting it go will save later regrets. Instead, take a deep breath. Practice being a stoic in the mirror. Don’t be shocked or angered by what is said, just let it in one ear and out the other. Don’t say anything back. Then they will take the time to think about it and change for the better.
Letting our teens know that we enjoy life gives hope for the future. When we spend time with family rather than with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, we are showing our teens that life is worth living, the family is important, and that there are positive ways to deal with the stress we experience. Talking about the problems we deal with at work also gives them an opportunity to give us ideas and advice. Accepting their words of counsel will give them a reason to listen to us more in the future.
9) Avoid criticism
It cuts people to the center. We need to talk to our teens as we would to another adult. Teens understand more than we realize and care about what we think. Know that the teen talks about us to friends and teachers. We are an important part of their life. Our mark will stay throughout life. Remember, they will be just like us one day.
8) Show physical affection
Hugs, handshakes, an arm around the shoulder, or a hand on the arm, all let teens know of our love for them. They may balk at first, but will eventually warm up and be more affectionate. When they come in the house, greet them with open arms, expressing gladness for a safe return home.
10) Work together
Doing things together is the best way to teach our teens; washing the car, balancing the checkbook, travelling, shopping, cooking, and playing games together. Anything we do together in a positive way helps to strengthen our relationship. It won't be long and our teen will be our equal, an adult with a family. If we treat them as we want to be treated, one day, they will take care of us. Our lives are much too short to make it miserable for someone we love.
Once upon a time, we were teens. What were we like then? What do we wish our parents had done for us? Remember, teens reflect our attitudes and actions. Keep it positive!
© 2013 Denise W Anderson