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Parenting Difficult Teenagers
A teen is not an adult.
Urma Bombeck wrote a book titled “Motherhood the world’s second oldest profession”. She described parenting disasters in that book and made us all feel a little better about our inexperience. Like so many things in life, parenting falls into a rhythm or routine. We develop fall backs and we learn new skills along the way. Dealing with a teenager has a specific set of challenges that test a parent at every turn. According to Harvard Mental Health, puberty begins the reshaping of a child's brain and teenagers are incapable of making appropriate decisions consistently. While some parents think that teenagers are ready to govern themselves the opposite is actually true. Teens require constant care and direction.
We live in a world of myths and those myths work against us on a daily basis. Let us start with; “Boys are easier to raise”. It is a misnomer to think that boys are any less affected by their hormones than girls are at the same age. Boys just like girls have hormones related mood swings. Boy teens rage without warning. They have fits of hormonal rage that result in broken doors, windows, and miscellaneous objects. Boys fight with other teens, get mad, overreact, and behave improperly. While most of these outbursts are short lived and mild, it is still a frustrating experience for parents.
I firmly stand behind the idea that boys need an outlet for their energy well into their twenties. Every teen is different. If they do not play sports then other physical activities such as swimming or bike riding are good substitutes. This fulfills a natural need for boys to be active and gives boys a positive outlet for energy. What do you do when boys experience an incredible hulk type episode because you asked them to take the trash out? Remain calm and speak in soft tones, and do not escalate the situation. Usually a calm conversation will bring them back to rational. I have three loving sons who have all had these unprovoked outbursts. They are not violent. I want make that distinction; violent outbursts are an indication of something completely different. This may require help from a counselor of psychologist.
Boys have an awkward phase just like girls. They deal with public opinion at schools and have to make decisions about who they are during this time. Think back to high school, the boys were labeled just like the girls. While some boys handle this well, other boys seem lost in the sea of social objectivity. Let’s face it this can be a cruel age. I have always maintained that the “cool” kids" are usually the kids who make fun of other kids, if you child is the cool kid you might what to have a talk with him or her. I taught my sons that it is more important to have principles and treat people decent than it is to be cool. Some Kids learn this better than others. It is also important to teach children that it is not their job to impress others. Self esteem comes from a child believing in themselves, not what other people think of that child.
Who hasn’t seen a teen girl in a hormonal moment? Moody does not begin to describe the teen girl. They can go from sweet innocent girls to the exorcist with fits of screaming, crying pouting, complaining, and yet they are amazing people. The realization that teen girls have little or no control over their emotions itself does not help the parent, accept that it is completely true. Like boys, girls often do not understand the cause of their emotions any more than their parents. I remember dances in high school as being two things; fun, and full of drama. It seemed like someone always ended up crying in the bathroom at these dances.
How do you handle the hormonal teen girl? You don't. Almost every teen girl has told their mom "I hate you" in a fit over the inappropriate outfit. Girls almost always have things going on they do not discuss with you. A girl having a fit over an outfit may be experiencing ridicule for her outfits at school. A girl who reacts to a slight comment about a grade may be experiencing difficulty with teasing. Then again girls just like boys have hormonal episodes that are completely unexplained. Ridicule from peers has an immediate impact on girls who are emotionally sensitive to the things people say. A cruel comment can send a girl over the edge. The good news is that girls are also resilient at this age and with the proper attention can recover quickly.
It is important during the teen years to reinforce teens positive behavior. Because teen are so busy we do not see them as often. I can remember one of my sons telling me that he felt like I was always mad at him. At the time I couldn't remember being mad at him. The truth was we had a discussion about something and to him it was more emotional than it was for me. I took extra are that week to seek him out and discuss things he wanted to talk about rather than blowing off his perception as wrong.
The best advice I have for parents is to stay close to their teens. It may seem like teenagers are ready to take on adult responsibilities, however, they are still children. Giving a teen too much responsibility can result in an increase in their frustration. Be aware of chore/activity conflict. Teens are most likely to put up a fight when they have made plans and you ask for help last minute. This does not mean that you have to cater to teens, but rather be aware that they are starting to make there own decisions about what they do with their time.
It is during this difficult age that children need their parents the most. This is not a time to leave children at home alone for a week, it is not the time to turn them into constant sibling babysitters. The teen years are your last years to spend with your child before they head into a cruel world, make this time count with good times and good memories.
It is easy to forget the struggles of being a teenager when you are in your forties. Think back to the kids you went to school with, most of them had the same experiences that you see your teen going through now. A little understanding goes a long way.
Harvard Health (2005).The adolescent brain: Beyond raging hormones. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog-extra/the-adolescent-brain-beyond-raging-hormones