I was talking to my pastor about my 14 year old daughter and 16 year old son. I said, “… with all my self growth and recently acquired wisdom and self reflection, I am surprised how often I find myself at my wits end.” He shared that the two most difficult stages of marriage are when we have newborns and when we raise teenagers. To do so alone is twice as challenging!
I joke that with me entering menopause and both my kids entrenched in the hormonal years of adolescents, I should hang a neon sign over my house, “Hormone Zone: Enter at your own risk!”
In all seriousness, it is important to realize the role that hormones play in both ours and their reactions to things. It allows for a little more grace and mercy than we may otherwise have for some of the difficult situations.
At best, the teenage years are thorny. I love this quote…
“Mother Nature is providential. She gives us twelve years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers.” ~William Galvin
Two great books on teenage years that I like to recommend are:
“Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No” by Dr. John Townsend.
“The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers” by Gary Chapman.
If you were able to set healthy boundaries and knew what the reasonable consequences were for their unacceptable behavior was, how much easier would it be to parent them?
‘Boundaries with Teens’ speaks to the issue of constantly criticizing our teens and how to them that feels like we are not loving them. While they may be constantly pushing the envelope and participating in behaviors that are distasteful to us, our reactions may feel equally distasteful (and unloving) to them.
Their annoying behaviors of…
- going to bed at 3am and sleeping until noon and then telling you they had ‘no time’ to do their chores,
- responding with an attitude so harsh or condescending as to cut you to the quick,
- blatantly professing that you know nothing and they are incredibly wise,
- I could go on and am sure you too could add many more.
A common theme I hear, and experience myself, is not knowing what consequences to give or feeling powerless to implement them. I believe part of this is not wanting to parent the way we were parented (with the wooden spoon and corporal punishment or the like) yet not knowing what the alternative is.
One excerpt in the book suggested that when your teen does something wrong (takes the car without asking and gets into a fender bender), you can offer a consequence with love…acknowledge how hard it is going to be to be without wheels for the next month AND make them their favorite dinner to show that you still love them even though you are setting a firm consequence for their actions.
I had never thought of such a thing; as if I had to be angry or mean.
‘Love Languages for Teens’ is another great book that talks about the importance of communicating and staying connected while our teens severe the childhood ties and ‘individualize’ attempting to figure out whom they are apart from us. This is an important time to not take what they do personally (even when they are telling you it is all your fault and YOU are the problem…you’re not).
Love Languages asks you to consider what type of loving speaks to each of your children and encourages you to keep their tank filled through this uncertain time in their lives.
There are 5 love languages:
1. Acts of Service
2. Quality time
3. Physical touch
4. Words of affirmation
We all may enjoy all 5 of the love languages, but we each have a primary one that REALLY fills our love tank. What is yours? What is your teenager’s?
My daughter’s has always been quality time and while she wants to spend less time with me, I am certain that it is still the way she feels most loved by me. Now perhaps a mani / pedi or girls lunch and shopping will work better than our old favorite, movie night with a chic flick.
My son is acts of service. He is forever asking…’Mom? Can you do me a LITTLE favor?’ I know his dad never has time to drive him someplace or teach him how to drive or the like. It is the thing that he appreciates the most.
Becoming aware of your teens love language and choosing to speak it, NO STRINGS ATTACHED, will go a long way to keeping lines of communication and affection open while riding the roller coaster of these dicey years.
While words of affirmation may not be your child’s primary love language, I believe we can never acknowledge and validate our children enough. Growing their self-confidence and self-esteem is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
Finally, who is on our parenting support team? Who is your sounding board?
I have a few people that I turn to when I am unsure and it is great to get their feedback because I trust their perspective. If you are a single mom, make sure you have a healthy man or two on your list, especially if you have boys. They are a different ‘animal’ and especially if your ex is not actively involved (or healthy) it will serve you well to get a guy’s perspective on some of the challenges you face with your teen boys.