Are you tired of your teen's negative attitude? You are underappreciated and often hear "leave me alone!" or get blamed for almost everything that goes wrong in their world.
You are not alone.
Sometimes it is impossibly hard to keep cool and show up as a patient, loving parent. You end up losing it and then feeling guilty or worried that you've pushed too hard.
If you're tired of the blame-explosion-guilt rollercoaster come along and I'll show you some other rides at this parent themed amusement park...
Teen brain development makes it so it is not always easy for teens to see wider perspectives. They will often interpret things in more black and white thinking - meaning it can only be this way or that way. It can either be all my fault or all someone else's fault. Thinking in the grey areas of where my responsibility for this lies and what was the other person's part is not always available.
To add to this, teen brains tend to interpret social cues such as facial expressions and voice tone as threatening and negative more often. So your intention may be to get them to think about the situation at hand, and acknowledge their part. But they may interpret it as you being angry and upset.
This is not always the case of course! Teen brains are in the rapid process of wiring and learning these skills, so your teen may be somewhere on this continuum depending on the day and the situation.
Knowing that this is a normal part of brain development can help us as adults take a step back, understand part of what's going on and use our brain to respond differently.
modeling personal responsibility
When your teen is blaming you and everyone else for being annoying or being too hard on them, these are great opportunities to model personal responsibility. The more a person sees a way of behaving, the more of a chance they will learn this behaviour.
What is personal responsibility?
- Acknowledging your part in an interaction
- Being aware and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings in a given situation
- Being accountable for your choices and your behaviour in response to a situation
- Communicating this to the others in the interaction
- Apologizing if need be
The other day, I was tired of my teens attitude and I responded in a really snippy, impatient way. In an effort to practice modeling personal responsibility, I came back to him later and let him know - I was feeling really frustrated earlier and I lost my temper. I don't really like the way I responded to you. I had asked you several times to do XYZ and when it wasn't getting done, I got impatient. The two of us then hashed out a plan to resolve that situation and agreed to how we might handle it moving forward. It doesn't always play out so effectively but it is so worth it when it does.
acknowledging their experience
It's really important to take the time to acknowledge your teen's thoughts and feelings. This models empathy and can often open the doors of communication. Here's a great website that my incredible sidekick Jade shared with me recently. Sadie Sutton, 18-year-old owner of the website, shares loads of resources for teens.
One of the resources uses is the CLEAR acronym to validate another's experience.
Here's an example of how this could look in practice:
Your teen is mad because you have asked them to clean their room several times and they are in the middle of talking with their friends.
C - So I see that I've asked you to do something but you're having a good time with your friends right now and it looks to me like you're mad about this request
L - You walked off to your room and shut the door
E - I'm feeling frustrated that my request is being ignored
A - I know it's not ideal to have to do this when you are doing something else that is fun for you. I can understand that you might feel annoyed or mad.
R - am I right that you are feeling mad and annoyed ? You don't want to stop talking with your friends right now. I need the room cleaned beforehand so let's figure this out.
having your own safe place to vent
You are not alone in your parenting experiences. Other parents get tired, frustrated, annoyed, and overwhelmed sometimes. If you are working on modeling responses and behaviors that you want to see in your teens, there are going to be moments when it doesn't go as planned and you are done, tired, or just need a good vent. As a parent, it's important to have a space (or spaces) to vent, where you can talk through your thoughts and feelings, complain a little and sometimes even use humor to laugh at yourself and the situation.
Know your people for this, connect with other parent friends, join a parent group on social media, listen to parenting podcasts, vent with your partner, etc. Avoid spilling over with your teens as much as possible. It's great to be authentic and honest, and it's also important to discern when it's a parent vent moment or when it's a helpful modeling moment.
filling your oxygen tanks
Taking care of yourself first will allow you to be your best parent self (most of the time 😉) - like putting on your oxygen mask first in an airplane; you can only help others when you have enough oxygen. Take the time to notice what you're needing for self-care.
Think of self-care as various oxygen tanks that need to be filled in order to continue breathing at your best.
Where are some areas - self-care tanks - that are feeling pretty empty at this moment?
Write down some ways that you would like to start filling those up. This will help you reduce stress, fill up your reserves, and model self-care for your teens.
It's hard to keep cool and show up as our best parent selves all of the time. Don't give up, know that the behaviours are normal, you are not alone and there are things you can do to make things feel a little easier!
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook - Thanks!
- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology - helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.
Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology mission is to help teen girls build Bulletproof Mindsets. Youth are full of greatness and uniqueness and it is a gift to have them share this with the world. Pyramid Psychology supports teens (and parents) that are struggling with anxious and overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Meeting in person in Southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions, Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try thought based, mindfulness, and expressive practices to manage and weather the storms of life.