Ok folks, this is not a drill. We are in full teen mom mode. We’re over here parenting teenage girls. Well, a champion eye roller tween with cramps and a newly minted 14-year-old so the end is nigh and all of that, I suppose. At least that is what the world would have you believe about parenting teenagers but it’s a lie.
Obviously, no teen parenting experience is the same just like no birth or the first day of kindergarten is the same. I feel like maybe I should knock on some wood before I type this post. You know how fate likes to make fools of us all. But, dare I say, I kind of love parenting my tween and teenage girls possibly even more than when they were toddlers.
I’m in that point of parenting where I have to be the adult. Yep, either I act like an adult or this train derails. Now, I’m not saying that means that I need to go hard and fast on the discipline. Doing that would only make that train jump the tracks. Believe me, I’m talking from experience. No, I’m playing the long game, as I have since they were toddlers, and I’m following my gut. That’s the real trick to winning the parenting teens game. No matter how hard they push you away, if your gut tells you something, listen. Your mama and papa instincts are smarter than you are.
READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 1
Sometimes, it’s hard looking at an overgrown child with their own thoughts and beliefs and not giving them what they want. Teens like their space. They value friendships above all else. I know this from being a teen myself. Now, that I am a teen mom, I am trying to keep all of this in mind. I listen, even when I find it mundane or infuriatingly contradictory because we need to hear what our teenage girls and boys are saying to us. They really aren’t much different from their toddler selves in terms of what they need from us. They need love, compassion, guidance and understanding not a punishing dictator, even if we do know better. Like my mother always told me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Keep in mind that your teenage son or teen daughter is still that beautiful little human being that they laid on your chest and you brought home from the hospital. That tiny, helpless human being that you loved more than life itself is still right there inside of the angry kid, bickering with her sister and talking back to you. Remember when your teen was a baby and he cried out in frustration because he couldn’t communicate his needs to you and you had to use your mom superpowers and figure it out? It’s the exact same thing. They need you, the world is new and scary again, and they don’t know how to tell you or ask you for what they need.
READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 2
The thing is society has played a cruel joke on all of us. They’ve falsely made us all believe that once our kids are a certain age/size that they are capable of doing almost everything. We expect them to behave accordingly. This, in turn, makes our children believe that when they are a certain age/size they are expected to know everything. Secret: They don’t know and how can they? We’re not done raising them. They still need all of our unconditional love, understanding, patience, guidance and compassion; probably now more than ever.
I liken it to when my girls were little. They were always off the charts, size wise, so people always expected them to be further ahead in their developmental skills. I distinctly remember one occasion when Bella was just over one (she was easily the size of a 3 or 4-year-old) and we were in the grocery store and Bella was talking baby talk to me and an older woman came up to us and very condemningly said, “Shouldn’t she be “using her words”?” I nearly swallowed my tongue but managed not to hit the woman and squeak out, “She is using her words. She’s one.” I knew from that moment on that I would spend my parenting tenure being my child’s advocate and to do that, I needed to communicate with my children openly and honestly to really know what they needed from me.
READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls Pt. 3
I’ll be honest, parenting a teenager is not that different from parenting a toddler. The key is paying attention (even when they make it difficult), giving them grace and space when they need it (not always when they want it) and as angry as they can make you, remember growing up is hard on them too. They are afraid and feeling like they’ve lost their place in the world. Everything they knew up to this point is changing, including their own bodies and minds. Give them wings to fly but be there to catch them when they start to crash and burn. Most importantly, keep talking to them, keep listening and look past the angst and anger façade…your baby is still in there.
Always, every day, no matter what love them like you loved that baby they laid on your chest. They are still in there hiding behind the eye rolls, smart mouth and pimples. No matter how big they get, they still need positive affirmations and love. Give hugs and keep telling them you love them. Maybe just not in public as much as when they were in kindergarten.
Talk to them. Not just when you think they did something stupid but all day every day. More importantly, listen. When they talk, they are trying to tell you something even if they don’t have the words. Read between the lines. Fight for them like you did before they were taller than you. Let them say whatever they need to say to you, try to keep your cool and see through their own insecurities and fear. Be there.
Count to ten before you scream at them. I know that you are tired of them looking at you like you are the dumbest person on earth. I know it breaks your heart when they look at you like you are a stranger on the street. Don’t allow them to be disrespectful or cruel but remember sometimes they are having a bad day. Maybe someone at school was being cruel or unkind, give them the benefit of the doubt. Try not to tell them you hate them ( even if in that moment maybe you do). Remember hate the sin not the sinner? Be patient, the child you couldn’t get enough of is inside that teenage girl smacking her lips and thinking she knows everything and soon enough, you’ll be needed as her soft place to land.
This one is hard because teenagers can be frustrating and infuriating and sometimes you just don’t want to rise above it. Sometimes you want to get down in the dirt with them and make them cry to give them a taste of their own medicine. Don’t do that. That’s what bathrooms are for, go cry in private. Don’t fall apart. You need to be the adult.
When your teen girl tells you something that you don’t want to hear (she’s thinking about having sex or she drank at a party) you need to remember you were her not so long ago. Then ask yourself, what will yield a better outcome 1) screaming at her with full disappointment and having her never tell you anything again or 2) listening, recognizing that she is becoming a young adult and these are young adult issues and calmly offering advice and guidance? I think you know the right answer. It’s hard. No one wants to have these conversations with their “child” but this is how they learn to do the right thing and be kind humans, from our sacrifice of weighing in on these topics when we’d really prefer to just lock them in their rooms and keep them safe until they go to college.
Use your voice of reason, stop talking and listen to the words coming out of their faces. Will it always be what you want to hear? NO! Do you need to hear it? Hell YES! As parents, just because we don’t hear something doesn’t stop it from happening. It’s like not going to the doctor when you have cancer because you’re afraid of the diagnosis. Knowing the diagnosis is not what’s going to kill you, ignoring the symptoms and not getting treated is. Have the hard conversations and listen to everything they say because they are trying to tell you something you need to hear and maybe it could save their life.
This is a big one. Wow! Teenagers can be cruel and have a biting tongue. They have a knack for going for the weak spots. It must be a defense mechanism against bullying that kicks in with the hormones at puberty. While most won’t dare use it against their peers, they will easily use it on the people who will always love them, their parents. Keep in mind, the teen years are only 7 years of their entire lifetime, don’t punish them or hold grudges against them for what they say or do as teens. Discipline as needed but also remember to dole out positive enforcement and random acts of kindness towards your teenage children, they need it more than anyone else. Let it go. Forgiveness is for both of you. Forgive yourself too for feeling like you’re failing. We all do in these years.
Always be there to gently guide your teenagers in the right direction. Firstly, demonstrate good behavior by example. Just like toddlers, they tend to do what they see not what they are told. Next, you can’t force a strong-willed teen to do anything. You can but nobody wins. But you can gently nudge them in the right direction by limiting the choices available. They still need to feel like they have free will.
Make life more of a would you rather situation instead of a what would you do situation because the world is still too big for all of that responsibility. Also, be available to give feedback when asked. If they are talking to you, they might want you to give them your input. This allows them to make their own informed decisions rather than listening to just their peers. But this only works if you respect and value your child’s thoughts and opinions. We are teaching them to make good choices. You can’t just tell them. They have to learn to use logical thinking and decide for themselves.
This is so important. Remember you were where they’re at, not so long ago. You didn’t always know everything. I still don’t. When your child messes up, listen to them and be there. Hold them. Help them get through it. Don’t chide and chastise them. Just love them and let them know that everyone makes mistakes and, unless someone’s dead, we’ll all get through it.
It sounds like a lot of rules but in the end, all you really need to do is follow your gut. Your mom intuition tells you when things aren’t right, even when your mind and heart don’t want to believe it. I’ll be here if you want to commiserate and compare notes. We’ll all survive.