There is power in a relationship with your teen. Something I began to realize and understand after effectively pushing my teen farther away from me and closer to his friends was that he wouldn’t want to hear anything I have to say if all he hears is that he is doing this or that wrong and the ways I believed he needed to change.
I mean, who do we like to be around? We enjoy those who seem to get us, those people who like us despite our flaws. We like to be around people who share our view of ourselves or maybe even see us better than we see ourselves. So why would anyone, teens included, want to be around people who are constantly criticizing and trying to change them. This doesn’t mean that you have never talked about grades or speeding tickets. There just needs to be a balance.
There was a book on marriage. I do not remember the title, but it spoke about making deposits and withdraws into and out of your relationship account. Your positive interactions are making deposits and your negative ones are making withdraws. But here is the kicker; your negative interactions take out five times as many withdraw in a single encounter whereas a single positive encounter only puts in one. So unfair, I know.
So how do you reconnect? Obviously, we have to increase the positive and decrease the negative. We all know about picking our battles. Well, this is just as important now as it was when they were in preschool. Look at parenting like a mentorship. When your, teen’s friends or your niece or nephew talk to you about issues in their lives, do you respond the same way as you would to your own child? You probably don’t. You probably listen and ask questions without judging or trying to fix it for them. This is because we are not as emotionally invested in the outcome. I don’t know about you, but my teen’s friends seemed to feel more comfortable talking to me than my own teen did. And I believe this is why. Because when I began to approach him, in the same way, he began to open up more again. And they are not completely opposed to our advice, they just don’t want it when they haven’t asked for it.
This does not mean you will relinquish authority. It just means, in those moments, you are there as support not as the problem solver. I will add a link to resources on reflective listening and me statements which also help facilitate better relationships. There is also a great little book on Kindle called Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors by Reagan North. I believe this is a great tool for parents as well. The author emphasizes that teens generally want to do well, but they are so busy trying to push back on our rules and wants that they aren’t taking the time to think about what they truly want for themselves and how they are going to get there. So in other words, we can have better relationships and allow them to take on some of the responsibility of preparing for their future, which in turn takes a load off of our shoulders.
Now for the positive, sometimes you may have to look really hard. But it’s there keep looking. It may be in the way they supported a friend or helped their younger sibling reach something on a high shelf. There are many little things even the most difficult teen does that can be encouraged throughout the day. Make it your goal to find more and more. You can start with one to two and keep working your way up. Hey! Did he just hold the door for that lady? How considerate!
All links are shared resources on my site parentingforgoodmentalhealth.com. New resources will continue to be added as they are relevant to my posts.