6 Lessons I Learned in Parenting a Teenager

Getting into the teenage years with my son has been a bit of a roller coaster so far. It is soooo much different than his younger years. We’ve seen ups and downs on a daily basis and the mouth on this kid can bring on a fair share of frustrating moments. Don’t get me wrong, I know I wasn’t perfect as a teenager (especially being the super independent and quite outspoken type) but it just feels like this generation is different…all parents have probably said that, right? He about pushed us over our limits this past week. They say it takes a village to raise a kid and I’ll tell you, some days I truly wished I had a village to chip in. I am very blessed to have the relationship I have with his stepmom (yup, little shout out here – I am like super blessed because I know it doesn’t always round up this way with the ex and family). I had a nice, long chat with his stepmom this week about the struggles he’s brought to our tables. How does a kid end up with nine incomplete assignments in only about a week?!

I don’t want to sit and bash my child because that isn’t the point of all of this at all but I am going to be real here. We have all had these moments and we should be able to talk about them. Major Disclosure: My son is my pride and joy and I think he has a beautiful heart and a wonderful mind but lately some of the things that he does and the words that come out of his mouth just blow my mind, they don’t fit up with the vision I have of him. The negativity and some of the resentment this kid carries – like really, where did he get this from? Is this what it’s like having a teenager?

Tonight I wanted to share some of the lessons I’m picking up parenting a teenager. It’s different for all of us, for each parent and for each kid but this is what I’ve picked up so far along the way:

  1. Don’t be afraid of nit-picking too much. I nit-picked a whole bunch this weekend. Like down to totally calling him out for flaking off chocolate all over his hands – um, seriously you are just about thirteen years old and now you have chocolate mushed all over your hands like a toddler while we are at a darn theater. What the heck?! Go wash your hands boy and stop eating like you are a darn hamster! At first, I felt like I was being a little obsessive but we’re making some progress and there was less pouting about it than I thought there was going to be. He ate his dinners with his silverware this weekend – that’s a win for me! (Yes, I know, you don’t have to say it.)
  2. Call them out immediately on crappy attitudes and disrespectful talk. I don’t care where you are or who you are in front of. Call them out. Tell me I’m stupid one more time and you will sit and stare at the wall next weekend. I am your Mother and I am over it.
  3. Take their phone, take their gaming system – Ignore the whining. This one can be tough I know, that whining, geez, but I’m telling you, you have to hold fast. My trick to this part is planning some family activities. I know that seems a little counter-productive to the grounding theory but it got him more involved with the family again, doing more activities, and less whining…and it’s building that bond again.
  4. Telling them you’re cracking down because you love them. Yeah they’ll probably argue this one and say you’re just being mean but that’s okay because you are doing it because you love them and you just have to stick to it. No matter how upset or frustrated you are, tell them that you love them. This helps them understand that your love for them is unconditional. This is important. Even if that means saying, “I am upset with your behavior right now but I love you.” They need to hear that you care about them, this is an opportunity for them to see that you are upset because you care.
  5. Scold, correct, state punishment and then move on. The longer you dwell on being upset, the longer they will. Take that control away. Example: The other weekend he had a nasty attitude with me, it pissed me off. I yelled at him, turned off the video games and told him that he lost them for the day and then I walked away. I came back in a little bit later and asked him nicely if he was hungry and he said yes and I made him a sandwich and we had a decent day the rest of the day. I know that seems a little mood-swingish but I dealt with the situation in the moment and then I moved on from it and continued our day. This didn’t give him the opportunity to argue about it and the pouting time was much shorter because I walked away instead of reacting to his pout. I took control.
  6. Make them do it. – If they throw trash on the counter instead of in the trash can, make them go back and pick up the trash and put it in the trash can. If they don’t put their things away, make them come back and put them away. This is sometimes tough for me, because I am a “I’ll just do it myself, it’s easier” type of person most of the time but this doesn’t build the habit for them.

I definitely did a bunch of nit-picking and statement making this weekend and at first I thought this was going to be a rough weekend, especially since he had lost video games and his phone at both houses but this weekend was a good weekend. We did a bunch of activities together this weekend and he showed more appreciation and affection toward me as his mother. We’re still working on some of the words that come out of his mouth (he just doesn’t seem to process that some things are not funny but just smart-mouthed but we’re working on it). We watched a movie together, we had nice family dinners this weekend, we carved pumpkins, we went and saw Frankenstein at a local theater, it was a nice family weekend. Maybe some of it was because I didn’t have to compete with the video games and YouTube videos he is constantly watching (I know that was a bit snide but seriously). Oh and the missing assignments at school – his stepmom had this great idea that he go and talk to his teacher and take responsibility for it – and he brought up taking responsibility a couple of times this weekend so those are steps in the right direction! My son is a wonderful boy, he truly is…we just have to break these rough habits he’s picked up recently…with each new chapter in parenting, there are lots of new lessons to be learned!