If you are a parent you’ve either been there, are going through it now, or will someday experience the joy (please note the sarcasm) of raising a teenager. Let me start off by saying that I love my son with all my heart and cannot imagine my life without him. It’s been just the 2 of us taking on the world for the last 12 years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Some days I just don’t like him very much. He is very much a typical 14-year-old boy. He’s a good kid and doesn’t get into trouble, but the mouth, the sighs, the eyerolls, and the general “mom, you are the dumbest person alive” attitude are enough to put me over the edge. I know that I’m not the first parent to experience this, and I certainly won’t be the last, so I decided to do a little bit of research on parenting teenagers and here is what I came up with.
Choose your battles – As much as they do little things that make us crazy, we have to learn not to sweat the small stuff. My son has this annoying habit of leaving the wet bath mat on the bathroom floor despite me asking him 7,678,346 times to hang it up to dry when he’s done. Rather than yell at him every single time I find it on the floor, most nights I end up hanging it up to dry myself, particularly if I am already in a bad mood or annoyed by something else. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t that big a deal. Save the yelling and lectures for the big stuff.
Let them establish their own identity – this may mean that you hate the way they dress or talk, but they are learning who they are. If they aren’t putting themselves or others in danger, let them explore who they are. My one deal breaker on this, though, is disrespect. My son can use the “it” words, but if it is disrespectful, I will not allow it.
Don’t be their friend – We all want our kids to like us; some of want to be the “cool” parent. The reality is that our job as parents is to raise respectful, productive members of society who can function on their own. Make rules and make their consequences known. If rules are broken, follow through on the consequences you have set, no matter how hard that may be. A rule in my house is that the phone gets put away at bedtime (i.e. charging in the kitchen so as not to tempt him to use it when he should be sleeping) but I kept finding it in his bed the next morning. I told him if I found it in his bed again, the phone, tablet, and Xbox would be taken away for two weeks. Two days later it was in his bed again, so I took it all away. Let me tell you, it was probably harder on me than it was on him. I really think it was the longest two weeks of my life, but it showed him that I meant what I said.
Talk about risks with them – this could be drugs, sex, driving, or anything. Have open discussions with them and let them ask questions. They may be hard conversations to have, but they need to know they can talk to you.
Keep the lines of communication open – They may not always want to talk to you, but let them know that they can. When we are home my son spends most of his time in his bedroom, but I honestly find that some of our best conversations take place while we are driving. He and I are close and talk about a lot of things. He recently went through his first teenage heartbreak, and I wasn’t home (believe me, I felt awful that I wasn’t there). He called me upset, we talked through it, and then he called his dad to talk. My ex-husband and I co-parent very well together, and my son knows that he has two parents who love him and that he can talk to us about anything.
Teach them life skills – I will be the first to admit that I am not great at this, but cooking, cleaning, laundry, and money management are all important for them to learn. My son is my only child, so I tend to baby him a bit, but I am trying to get better at this and make him more independent. I know his future wife will appreciate it.
And finally, be a role model – I feel like this goes without saying yet still needs to be said. They learn from us, so set the example. Show them that nothing is accomplished without hard work and determination.
I keep reminding myself that the teenage years are just a short period comparatively, so to just keep on doing what I’m doing. I know someday that sweet boy I raised will be back but until then it’s going to be tough. All I can do is love him, discipline him, and teach him.