What Your Teen Wants You to Understand

Next time you’re feeling frustrated with your teenager’s attitude, resist the urge to judge or lecture. Instead, consider these four things that your teen needs you to understand. Mighty Mommy has the key to forging a successful relationship with your teenage child. 

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #523
Mother and daughter talking.

Ever wish you could get inside your teenager's mind, especially on those days when they're super cranky and sullen for apparently no reason at all?  

At this point, four of my kids are in their twenties and four are in their teens. You'd think that after all these years of parenting, I would have figured out the secret to raising teens. But since they alter their moods as fast as a chameleon changes color, I am always seeking new ways to connect. I recently attended a local workshop on raising successful teens and walked away with a better understanding of what makes them tick.

I’m often asked what I consider to be the most difficult years in parenting—toddlers or teens.  In my experience, hands down, I can say that raising toddlers was far more exhausting and, in some cases, even painful (one summer I had four kids under the age of three) than dealing with teenagers. Call me crazy but I’d rather teach a child to drive rather than how to use the toilet!

See Also:  9 Crucial Life Skills to Teach Your Child

Raising teens is no picnic, but when you can think from their perspective, it does make living under the same roof much more tolerable. After listening to the different speakers at the workshop, as well as talking to other parents of teens, I got a better understanding of what frustrates my teens and how I can help.

So the next time you’re feeling like tearing your hair out from your teenager’s attitude, consider these four things he needs you to understand. 

See Also:  7 Ways to Help Build Your Child's Self-Esteem

Raising teens is no picnic, but when you can think from their perspective, it does make living under the same roof much more tolerable.

Be Available for Me

One of the speakers highly recommended The Available Parent: Expert Advice for Raising Successful and Resilient Tweens and Teens written by clinical psychologist, John Duffy. In his foreword Dr. Duffy states “As a parent of a teenager, your top priority before anything else is to stay in touch with your rapidly changing youngster.”

The idea is that you need to tune into your teen’s fluctuating emotional dial. In other words, being available means we accept our teen just as lovingly on the days he loathes us, as we do on the days he’s expressing a desire to tolerate or interact with us.

"Doesn’t this send a mixed message to the scowling teen?" asked many members of the audience. The answer was “No.” The message in Dr. Duffy’s book was that parents need to make themselves available, no matter what the current circumstances are, to their teenager.

One father shared a heartfelt example about the struggles he had been experiencing with his 15-year-old daughter who had become quite hateful towards him since he moved in with his girlfriend. He and his wife had divorced many years ago. Though it was his ex-wife who asked for the divorce and had remarried rather quickly, his daughter seemed accepting of her mother’s new arrangement but was completely disrespectful towards her father when he tried to start a new life for himself.

Therein lay the problem—he was starting a new life, and his daughter felt as though she was no longer important to the man she adored. He himself had been very hurt by his marriage ending and wasn’t able to see how difficult the whole situation was for his daughter. She cherished the time she got to spend alone with her father, so when the girlfriend became an important part of his life, she turned to some ugly behaviors both at home and in school. Frustrated, he chose to spend less and less time with his daughter, which basically reinforced her inappropriate behavior.

After many months of a painful deteriorating relationship, they turned to therapy and discoverdd the root of why his daughter felt threatened. She simply wanted her father’s undivided attention when they were together, rather than having to share him with a stranger.

Dr. Duffy stresses that we as parents need to block the distracting factors in our lives—cell phones, emails, talking around our kids instead of directly to them—and get back to basics. When interacting with our kids, they need to know that they're heard and that they're a focus in our lives.

See Also: 4 Reasons Communication is Crucial in Parenting


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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