Let’s be honest.
It’s hard to be a teenager.
It’s hard to be the parent of a teenager.
Sure, I think teenagers are smart and funny and full of potential -- but it’s a hard time, baby. Navigating those years as a parent requires finesse, patience and grit.
I’m sure you’ve read the brain studies proving teens brains are undergoing huge changes and don’t mature until their early 20's. You’ve heard this fact so many times you’re yawning right now. And before you read that study, you also knew the teen years tend to be an emotional roller coaster. Right? Kind of common knowledge.
But as parents, we’re going through our own emotional upheaval. Whether you believe in midlife crises or not, many adults in their forties and fifties experience feelings of depression, remorse, anxiety and insecurity. And those feelings hit right about the same time our kids start to think we’re stupid.
Teens and parents are ripe for misunderstanding. Yet more than any other time, we need open communication with our teens to guide them through crucial decisions.
OK, I hate to tell you this. But as parents, the responsibility is on us. Yep, we’re the adults (even if we feel like we’re pretending half the time). It’s never too early or too late to form a great relationship with our kids. Here are five easy ways to become a better parent overnight.
1. TRY A ZERO CRITICISM ACTIVITY.
Ask your teen what they are excited about right now and participate with them with absolutely no fault finding. Listen to their new favorite song, play a video game with them, let them tell you the plot of the book they are reading, watch a favorite TV show with them, cheer while they juggle oranges, etc. No matter how cringy the activity, avoid criticism like the plague! Engage with your teen and find the good.
2. CREATE A TRIGGER.
We usually think of triggers as something that makes us upset. Reverse that thinking and set triggers related to your teen that create a positive response.
First, turn a negative to a positive. For example: maybe your teen makes smoothies and forgets to clean out the blender. Instead of feeling frustration, feel grateful and proud that your teen prepares such healthy snacks/meals. This could apply to shoes on the floor, homework on the counter, projects in the garage, etc. Take a moment to compliment your teen and then ask them to clean it up.
Next, establish a thought trigger. Write a short sentence or phrase to describe your love for your teen— “You are my sunshine,” “I waited ten years for you.” Now, anytime your child says “Mom” “Dad” (or whatever they call you) repeat this phrase to yourself. Don’t skip this one! Our thoughts drive our feelings and our actions.
3. FIND CLARITY.
Decide the kind of parent you want to be. What kind of relationship do you want to have with your child/children in six weeks? Next year? Five years from now?
Choose three words to describe your ideal parenting. Now for a PHONE HACK: set a reminder on your phone to remind you of those three words every time you arrive home. You could also set the reminder for any time you get out of your car. I do this and it’s annoying, but effective.
4. GATHER AROUND.
At the end of the day, gather your family around for a quick and casual end to the day. We pray for our loved ones and for people who need our help. You don’t need to pray — you can simply talk about what is going on tomorrow and people who might need extra love (especially in your own family). Keep it short, keep it fun and hug everyone at the end (your kids need hugs whether they think they do or not). If you’re not laughing, you’re taking it way too seriously.
5. BIG KIDS NEED TUCKING IN TOO.
Take the time to say goodnight to each child. Some kids crave a longer routine and others just need a simple good night. But don’t skip it. The best conversations of the day often come at bedtime.
BONUS — pick up your teen’s favorite treat on the way home from work. Choose something small that you don’t usually indulge in. For my daughter it’s a Bai Coconut drink, my sons love peanut butter cups.
Let’s go! Take action on everything on this list and you’ll see results in one day and pure magic in a week.
If you've read this far, you're a caring conscientious parent and you truly love your kids. Your kids love you too (even if they don't act like it!) and they need you more than ever. You've got this. I believe in you.
p.s. you're definitely not stupid
p.p.s. you should probably pick up a treat for yourself too. Or at least some gold stars to stick on your forehead.