Parenting teenagers is a wonderful experience! Those tiny humans you snuggled and loved and nurtured as babies are finally showing some promise as actual decent human beings! Gone are the days of constant worry about potty-training, pacifiers, nap time, and learning to read. These larger, hairier, smellier versions of your baby are truly a lot of fun to be around! They can be incredibly helpful, fabulously funny, and surprisingly responsible.
Parenting teenagers is also a soul-crushing, anxiety-inducing, self-doubting nightmare that will bring you to your knees, teetering on the brink of sanity.
I’m just being real, here.
So, what’s a mom to do when put in the position of wanting to simultaneously hug, protect, and throttle her offspring? Well, recently (and not for the first time) I was faced with this exact scenario. Obviously, I did what any self-respecting 21st century mom would do. I asked Facebook.
Thankfully, I have a lot of amazing friends and followers and family that gave fantastic advice. It was so helpful to me, in fact, that I wanted to spread the wealth and share it with you. Here’s what they had to say. And, at the end, there will be a bonus — the best advice of all — that couldn’t have come from anyone other than my own mom.
Let’s dive in.
Wow. This one word was mentioned again and again. Clara said, “ALWAYS be willing to listen even if it’s not something you want to hear about.” And, I might add, especially if it’s not something you want to hear about.
Ann offered that her family has a rule of no phones during dinner, whether they’re eating out or in. With no phones, she says, “they TALK, TALK, TALK and we let them say whatever they want, and we LISTEN.”
That is so true. In and amongst everything they actually say using words is the good stuff, the meat of how they think and feel. Don’t just listen to their words. Listen to their body language, sleep patterns, activities, and appetites. And for God’s sake, mamas, listen to your own gut. If things seem “off,” they most likely are. Remember, your God-given instinct that told you when a toddler’s fever was more than just a fever is and always will be your best tool for navigating the tumultuous teen years.
2. Be Selective
Not everything has to be a big freaking deal.
Can someone please embroider that on a pillow or something, pretty please? Because I think I’m going to need that constant reminder over the next, say, dozen years or so.
Rick, a high school teacher, had this to say, “Pick your battles wisely. Not all are worth it.”
Jenny reminded me to ask, “Will this matter in 5 years?” Another way to look at that would be to ask, is this an inconvenience or are the consequences eternal? If it’s a problem that can be fixed with minimal effort, fix it and move on. But if it affects their soul, their morality, or that of other people, then it’s definitely something to spend more time and effort to make right.
3. Consistency is Key
This was a good one.
Cyndi offered, “Don’t change your rules. Be true to yourself.” Teenagers can spot BS a mile away. They also like to test their boundaries. Staying consistent, staying true to who and what they know you stand for will help them to do so, too.
Robyn said, “Raising teenagers starts when you are raising babies. I feel like if you did what you were supposed to do back when they were toddling around, it has paved the highway of the teen years.” It’s so true. You spend your child’s whole life forming a strong foundation and relationship. Count on that and grow from it.
It’s always so tempting to take the easy way out, but sticking to your guns and to what you know to be right and true is so much more beneficial in the long run. And what is this parenting gig except the longest of the long runs? We are in it for the long haul, are we not? And it is definitely for the best if our kids know what to expect. Their world changes so fast and has so many contingencies and subjectives. If they can’t count on us, who can they count on?
4. Show Affection
Now is NOT the time to stop those hugs and kisses, friends. IT’S JUST NOT. In their hyper-sexualized and sensual worlds, teens need to be reminded what real, holy, and pure love is. And, quite honestly, you need to hug them as much as they need to hug you.
There will be a time, most likely more than one, when you will need to wrap your arms around your child…yes, that one that is just as big or even bigger than you are…and remind yourself that he still is your baby. That walking, talking sorry sack of hormones and sass is the same one that used to suck her thumb and curl up in your lap after naps. Bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. And no matter what idiotic thing they may have done, you belong to each other.
Diana said, “Just love them.”
And Caroline expanded on that saying, “Love them more than they want, but from further away than you want. They need us in a different way than the way we need them.” I’m finding that out every single day.
Bonus — LOVE THEM THROUGH IT
I can’t even count the number of times I have turned back to this advice my mom gave me when my oldest was just a toddler. And you know what? It always works. No matter the phase, no matter the stage. No matter what ludicrous stunt they pull or ignorant and surly words they say. Even if this teenager seems to be from a totally different planet than the one you live on. Always, always answer with love.
Phases and stages end; they morph from one strange and wonderful world right into the next. Stunts often come with their own natural consequences. Words may hurt or sting, but eventually they disappear into the ether. The child who seems so incredibly different needs to be seen and understood for who they are becoming, independent of who you think they are or should be.
What can never falter, though, is your love for your child. It can be shaken and tested to its very limits, pushed to the point of oblivion. But it can NEVER break. Be there. Love hard. Push in when you need to. Back off when it’s called for. And always, always act from love.
You are worth it. Your child is most certainly worth it. God gave you to each other for a reason.
And, from what I understand, the resulting relationship with grown children can be pretty awesome.