You know your parenting style isn’t working when your teen gives you that disinterested look, that dismissive look, and utters one word: ‘Whatever.’ This word is at least in its 2nd generation of use. I doubt it’s 3rd generation but correct me if I’m wrong. Somehow I can’t imagine my mother saying ‘whatever’ to her mother. I suspect a resounding clout would have followed such an utterance.
You’re so controlling.
It’s my life.
Get over it!
Get a life!
You and dad have anger issues. You need counselling.
What would you know!
Not my problem.
What’s your problem?
Are you for real?
Am I adopted?
I HATE YOU!
You don’t love me.
This is sooooo borrrrring!
Mumbling most of these is a safer option for all teenagers.
BODY LANGUAGE OF A TORMENTED TEEN
Flicking hair back. Eyeballing you intently. The stare or avoiding your gaze. Rolling their eyes. Smirking. These are just a few of the ‘finger-flips’ that you may experience as a parent.
Should you ignore what you see as disrespectful behaviour, or wade in with a righteous telling off? There is no perfect answer. You’re dealing with potentially explosive personalities who are hormone-ridden and going through hell. The more you sound off the worse it gets, and words of wisdom or a genial mummy or daddy chat rarely works.
I would suggest that you watch out for the more worrisome behaviour and body language – no eye contact, body slumping, avoiding you completely. Have they got a new group of friends?
Is their phone constantly beeping with incoming messages? Has their schoolwork suffered? As a parent, trying to determine whether your teenager is depressed, being bullied, or just hormonally challenged is not easy. Your questions may well be met with silence or a disdainful shrug. They may well feel that you truly don’t understand. No-one does.
Avoid the questions and try to have a general chat. Spend quality time together. Don’t be dismissive and don’t make comparisons with their siblings. Don’t judge. Reassure them that your love is unconditional and keep on hugging, even if they don’t respond. Swallow your urge to give advice unless asked. All easier said than done, but that’s the joy of parenting and there is no rule book per se.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Teenagers live in a different world to the one you as a parent grew up in. Their world is ruled by social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and many more. One click and they are faced with challenges you could never imagine.
One swipe on the screen could well bring them into contact with information they are not mature enough to grasp. How do you police their online presence? On one hand you want them to learn and develop, on the other you want to protect them. Knowing when to interfere is important but be judicious.
Think before you speak. Hopefully, the ongoing conversation about both the benefits and perils of social media may have infiltrated and allowed them to make valued judgements. Let them know you are always available, always there for them. Cancel your girlfriend night out if they approach you for a chat.
Stop and listen! Button your lip and do not dare utter those words: ‘Not now, darling. I’m busy. We’ll chat later.’ There is no ‘later’. Now is the moment you grasp and heed and listen. The moment you show your teenager that you are watching their back and can be trusted.
HOW? WHAT? WHEN?
How do you parent a teenager?
What don’t you say? What don’t you do?
When do you interfere?
These are loaded questions that have no right or wrong answer. As a parent you do need to be well informed on current social media issues and teenage trends. Two-way communication is essential and ensure your teenager knows you are always available, non-judgemental, and prepared to listen.
Be alert to what may seem like a harmless enquiry or a ‘my friends says,’ or ‘one of the girls/boys in school,’ question. Ensure they know and understand the boundaries, the moral values, what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. Knowing something and understanding it are totally different to each other, so do not make assumptions on that score.
Is there a right time to interfere in your teenager’s life? You do want them to be responsible and independent but interfere you must! It’s your responsibility as a parent.
Never forget they are swimming in deep water. Perceive yourself as the on-duty lifeguard. You may have two or three teenagers in the house but you can guarantee that they are all totally different. While one may be a strong swimmer, one may be struggling to master the strokes.
NEVER AS EASY AS IT APPEARS
Quite often there are no indicators to show your teenager is troubled or going through a particular crisis. It’s not that you have taken your eye off the ball or are in any way to blame for their actions.
There simply isn’t any obvious explanation. A sudden crisis may well leave you all in shock and wondering what the hell happened. Why? How? You question yourself and literally beat yourself up mentally wondering why you didn’t know, or why you didn’t see the warning signs. Don’t!
There were no warning signs. There was no red alert sign screaming ‘danger’. You’re all suddenly thrown into a world you’re not prepared for. Forget and ignore the recriminations around you and focus on helping and healing your child. You have not failed, nor has your child. Surround yourself with faith, positivity and genuine people who are supportive. Never give up.
“There’s nothing more calming in difficult moments than knowing there’s someone fighting with you”. Mother Teresa
TIME TO LET YOU GO
It is time to let you go on your own
Into a world we fear
And we can only
Hope and pray
That the foundation
We have built for you
Is solid beneath your feet
And that all the signposts are clear
And if you get lost along the way
We are here.
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