3 Things to Remember When Standing Your Ground with Teens

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It's not easy to let your kids find solutions to their problems, but it's important to teach them valuable, long-term life skills.

I was standing in line for a cup of late afternoon coffee when the phone rang. It was my thirteen-year-old on the other end having a total meltdown.

She had forgotten her homework at school and was making excuses for why she couldn’t pick it up.

Obviously she wanted me to get the homework for her after I got off work. It was clear to me that though she could do it, she didn’t want to.

I said no.

I tried to remain calm as her tone grew furious on the other end, and then I repeated a familiar script:

“Being disrespectful is never acceptable.”

“You have to take responsibility for yourself.”

“There will be consequences if you choose poorly.”

Etc.

I was exhausted by the time we hung up. The conversation was the third I’d had in a row like it…and it was only late afternoon. The first was earlier with my fourteen-year-old about his lack of preparation for school. And the second was an argument with my sixteen-year-old when she yet again forgot to give advance notice about an after school activity that required transportation.

By the time this third conflict rolled around, I’d already lost my patience.

Feeling defeated and weary, I was surprised to feel a tap on my shoulder. “GO MOM!” said the woman standing behind me. “Way to stand your ground.”

It didn’t feel like I’d stood my ground, but her encouragement boosted my morale nonetheless. It’s not often that we parents get a cheer from the sideline to keep it up. It reminded me of why I need to keep parenting my teens, even on the days I’d Rather. Just. Not.

So in the spirit of my anonymous coffee shop cheerleader, here are 3 “cheers” to remember when you’re weary of standing ground with your teen:

Press Teens To Find Their Own Solution

When a door closes on a teen, they stand in front of it and scream. As their parents, we see how fruitless this tantrum is, but sometimes forget that they still lack the maturity to find alternative solution to their problems.

They can’t see the two open windows in the same room.

Every day I hear “I can’t,” “It won’t work,” or “It’s not like it matters anyway.” As parents, we have to figure out if our teens genuinely “can’t” or (more likely) “don’t want to.” If the latter, they need to learn the life skill of finding another way out when something goes awry instead of throwing up their hands and saying, “Oh well.” It’s tiresome to press them on this but they benefit from finding their own solution.

Be Prepared: Emotions Often Run Amok

Sometimes it’s impossible for the adolescents in our home to think logically. Their hormones cause their emotions to take center stage in the form of anger, angst, and exasperation. I can’t tell you how many conversations we have asking our kids to speak calmly and respectfully to us. It’s our job as parents to help them take a step back, a deep breath, and see the world beyond their feelings.

Teach Your Teens Life Skills

Teens pride themselves on becoming independent. Yet too often their version of independence means going places by themselves and doing what they want, while we, their parents, continue to provide the necessities of life.

They need to learn the valuable skills of tenacity, problem solving, owning mistakes, saying sorry, thinking beyond themselves, and being responsible. Sometimes teaching these skills is as simple as saying, “I’m not going to fix this mistake for you, but I’ll help you know what it will take to find that solution, and I’m in this with you until we get to the other side.”

Standing our ground and helping our kids understand the true definition of “growing up“ (aka, responsibility) is a challenge, but they need us. They need to know someone is on their side and the world will not always be as dim as it seems.

Try This: In the next week, write your child a letter that tells them about all the positive attributes you see in them as they’re growing up and how you love them. Some days our kids just need to be reminded that they’re not as much of a failure as they think.

by Leneita Fix

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