4 Ways to Love Your Teen and Help Them Like You Back (Maybe)

An eye roll (or 20).  Indifference and disrespect.  Self-centeredness.  Testing every boundary known to mankind. For some parents, the teenage years test the bonds of unconditional love like no other parenting season. We can’t force our children to behave respectfully, love us wholeheartedly or — let’s be honest — even like to be around us.

But here’s the good news: After working with teens and their families for more than a decade, I’ve noticed four key things that help parents connect with their teens, and as a result, make it easier for those teens to appreciate their families in return… most of the time.

Fight Fair

Conflict isn’t the problem; knowing how to resolve it without scratching each other’s eyeballs out is. The goal is to reach a compromise with a greater understanding of each other, rather than wounding each other with dagger-like words or cold indifference. When we stick to the rules of a good, clean fight, the resolution is always better.

If you want your teens to engage in a meaningful discussion devoid of name-calling, low blows, running away, eye rolling and dismissive speech, show them how. This means you have to set the example. You, as the adult, have to refrain from sarcasm, criticism, and yelling.  Stick to the issue at hand, not all the issues of the past.  Reserve your veto power for the biggest issues.  And always be quick to ask for forgiveness when you blow it.

Understand Them

Figuring out a teen sounds like an impossibility, akin to understanding quantum physics or capturing video of Bigfoot. While it might be impossible to wrap our minds around our teens’ mood swings and irrational emotions, we can get to know them as individuals. Sure, you know your son still gets hungry at 4 p.m. just as he did when he was 5, but do you know what his greatest fears are at 16? You might know your daughter would rather be grounded for a week than clean her room, but do you know who her best friends are and why?

Show love by taking time to know their evolving likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, conflicts and accomplishments. Your teens are changing quickly, which means you have the joy and responsibility of continually discovering them — who they are and who they are becoming. Showing an interest in your teens might not spark instant reciprocation, but they will likely soften when they see you genuinely care to know the real them.

Let Them Go

Yes… go… away from you.  Your goal as parents is to help your kids reach adulthood before they leave your home, not hope they figure it out after they leave. To do this, you have to concede freedoms, even when teens don’t use those freedoms wisely. Let them increasingly make their own decisions about food, sleep, homework, purchases and activities, and allow them to enjoy the rewards or suffer the natural consequences of their choices.

Allow them to try and fail with as little “rescuing” as possible. For example, if you’ve given your teen the freedom to drive your car and she crashes it, let her know she is responsible for the repairs. Or if he works hard to purchase a car, let him decide which set of wheels to buy (even if you believe it’s a frivolous choice).

Anticipate Change

One of the only certainties about the teen years is that they will end. In a few years, your relationship will change. So before your teens launch into adulthood, ask yourself:

  • How do I want to spend the days we have left together?
  • Are there battles I can relinquish?
  • Are there experiences I want us to share?

Make the most of these days, and tell your teens why you’re being intentional. Invest in your relationship, not only to keep you from regret, but also to give your teens a solid footing for their lives ahead.

Sound hard?  Truth be told, it can be!  But you don’t have to do it alone.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help.  

Written by Lisa Smith

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