Teenagers. They can be the moodiest, crankiest, most annoying and most selfish creatures on the face of the planet. But if they are yours, you love them anyway. Most of the time.
Well, it’s probably safe to say you love them all the time but it can be difficult to like them quite often during these years. Perhaps understanding teen angst a little better might help.
Teen angst… despite the fact it often feels like an excuse for bad behavior, is a very real thing. Their hormones are crazy, peer pressure is vicious, and even parental pressure can be fierce.
Usually, we as parents add this additional layer of stress to our kids out of our love for them. Additionally, we often come down so hard on them out of fear. There are SO many ways for the teen years to go wrong—from bad grades that really can make their future challenging, to bad decisions that can result in painful lessons at best and harm to themselves or someone else at worst.
Of course, we can’t just stick our head in the sand and wait for these years to pass. Or can we? Well, maybe… to a certain extent.
Obviously, if your teen is doing things that could be dangerous – to themselves or others – you must intervene. That’s a whole different story than what we are talking about here. Teen angst, unlike delinquent behavior, is more attitude than action. Really, it’s more likely inaction (things they aren’t doing such as homework, cleaning their room, and talking to you and siblings or other family members like a civilized human being) rather than those they are, that becomes a hallmark for this period.
Thus, if your teen has become a monster who is terrorizing your home like a villain in a campy horror movie, below are 3 things to keep in mind before you decide to send them away to boarding school – or a military-style boot camp – until they become adults.
Teens MUST test their limits in their path to adulthood.
Part of becoming an adult is learning to make decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. In fact, this is how the transition to adulthood takes place.
To make that transition, teens are trying to figure out who they are, what they want to do or not do (not what you or another authority figure tells them to do or not do), and what will happen due to their action or inaction.
Most of the time, teens know the things they are doing (or not doing) might be “wrong” or even “stupid.” Yet, they do them anyway. Yelling at them or even punishing them for making bad choices may be counterproductive if your goal is to raise a competent adult. When you do this, all you are really “teaching” or instilling is a desire to avoid punishment, not a real understanding that the action or decision itself was unwise.
On the other hand, letting their decisions play out to their natural resolution (again, so long as we are not talking about decisions that result in legal issues or danger), teaches them that their choices have consequences. Even when those consequences hurt, the resulting lessons they will learn are so valuable; you will be glad – at some point – that you stood back and didn’t intervene.
Teens live mostly in the moment and have very limited understanding of future by nature and are innately selfish. (And this too is normal!)
When your teen does careless or thoughtless things, it doesn’t mean you’re raising a monster. Teenagers are just now moving into the phase of their life where they see themselves as separate from their parents or caregivers. With this, comes a tremendous desire for self-preservation and self-gratification. Almost like a wild-animal animal, they develop a me-first, survivalist, warrior-like, attitude.
If you remember middle school and high school at all, you likely remember it was truly survival-of-the-fittest in many ways. This is because all kids at this age are dealing with teen angst and the natural me-me-me that comes with the teen years. Empathy is often missing or minimal - at least when it comes to empathy versus personal desires and ego.
If you can realize and acknowledge this, perhaps accept it and try to understand that this is a natural part of their growth toward taking care of themselves – and their own family – one day, it will likely make this phase a little easier.
As with anything, remember this too shall pass.
Similarly, it’s important to remember the teen years don’t last forever. If you are so locked on – and obsessed with – trying to turn your teen into a specimen of perfection, you will deprive them of their necessary evolution. Likewise, you’ll miss out on some of the greatest (and last) times you will spend with them on a consistent basis.
Sure, you don’t want to let your teen be a total brat. But just remember to address the behavior and not the being. Think about all the things you did as a teenager, and you turned out ok, right? Your teen or teens most likely will too. Even better, it’s a safe bet that one day, they also will be paid back for these years. And you will get a front-row seat for the fun!