Parents of teenagers the world over will agree – it’s not easy. Teens are notoriously moody. Having had three teenage boys myself, I can tell you there have been times when in my worst moments I’ve fantasised about locking them in a closet for a few years and keeping them alive by sliding pizza under the door. However if, like me, you’d prefer to avoid a jail term cooler heads must prevail.
In my own family, my sons had to deal with their parent’s divorce at perhaps the worst time of all. They were 15, 13 and 9. The two oldest suffered the most and, as I was the leaver, a lot of their anger was poured out onto me. So not only did they have their own issues, but I had dumped a truckload of &*%# onto them at precisely the worst moment, when they were already hormonal and stressed. And BOY did they take it out on me…
So what do you do when your formerly delightful child has grown horns and seems to be in a permanently bad mood?
Understand that this too shall pass.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to those long nights when you had a newborn with a fever, or teething, or with a tummy ache. Do you remember the nights drifting into days … drifting into weeks … and thinking “will this ever end?” It did, right? And now it seems like it was over in a blink!
It’s the same with this difficult season you are going through. As revolting as it is right now, it WILL PASS. Try not to freak out.
Drive them places
Parents of sons will know that most boys are (usually) decidedly non-verbal. There’s little they hate more than having to talk, or answer questions … particularly if there is eye-contact involved. And that is when I discovered my secret weapon. My car. The fact that you are both facing forward and driving somewhere reduces the perceived intensity of the conversation and they are more likely to share. Sneaky, sneaky.
Let them choose the music in the car.
Even if you hate it. Music is really important to teens and it can be a great way to bond. If you hate the melody, discuss the lyrics. If you hate the lyrics, talk about the drums…. You’ll think of something.
- Get comfortable with no talking .
You can’t force it. Don’t spray them with questions. If you will wait, they’ll talk when they’re ready. Maybe four out of five car-rides will be unproductive. But then the fifth … wow!
Let your teenagers get the last word
I’m not suggesting you be a doormat. Certainly no-one could accuse me of that. In fact, quite the opposite. (This morning when my son told me I was being a freak, I told him that he was being a toad. Real mature, I know). However, when you’ve said your peace, leave it. Let them get the last word. Someone has to be mature here and it should be YOU.
Keep on being nice
It’s very hard to keep hating someone who is consistently nice to you. Wear them down with nice-ness. At each new interaction, start fresh. Try not to drag the bad feelings over from your argument at breakfast … let that go. Assume the best and be nice.
Build a little bubble around your heart.
Sometimes you have to pretend you don’t notice the attitude. The same is true with your teens as it is with all the other people in your life. At the end of the day you can only ever have control over yourself. Behave with the maturity and kindness that you expect of yourself.
If they say something awful and untrue, you can tell them “that’s awful and untrue”. And you can also tell that to yourself. Look after your own happiness without depending on them for it.
The good news is …. I now no longer dream of locking them in a cupboard. And the pizza we have will not be slid under the door. We will have it together, probably while drinking beer and playing cards or watching a movie.
Hang in there … it’s coming.