I hear from moms of teens how their daughters don’t want them to look old. They criticize what their mothers wear. Here the moms have spent the lives of their daughters encouraging them and nurturing them, now daughters are undermining the self-confidence and decisions of the person who instilled so much in them! The daughters criticize what the moms say. Their presence embarrasses them. They question their opinions, if not make fun of them. I have had the occasion when I called a mom and asked why she didn’t come to a parent conference, she said “She didn’t want me to go.”
These women have professions. The colleagues of these career women respect them. At home, their daughters (and sons) are making them doubt their accomplishments as not enough. Sometimes these mothers are single moms who are raising these kids on their own.
Now before I go further, please note, these are not all kids. Some kids write their moms and/or dads are their best friends. Some write they admire their parent(s).
Young people who do undermine their parents do so for many reasons. Maybe because they sense a weakness in their parent. Maybe the parent feels a weakness in him/herself and the son or daughter takes advantage. Perhaps the child feels inadequate. Perhaps as a teen, the child is trying to break away, grow up.
Here is what I have observed and what counselors have advised.
1. Separate your feelings from what is happening.
Do not become angry, or take it personally. Teens are looking for your reaction and your weaknesses. Try not to remember the cuddly, sweet five-year old who hugged you and said, “Mommy, I love you” at this time. Stay calm. If you react, the behavior will continue. If the teen is obeying your rules, pick your battles. This facial expression or tone of voice should be ignored. If she slams the door, but still obtains the grades because she is doing what she should be doing. Check the door frame later and move on. If your son mutters under his breath but still cuts the lawn as you taught him, great. It’s when the kids don’t meet your expectations and behavior is not what it should be, it is time for investigation. Wait until you’re in your bedroom to throw something or tear up remembering that sweet toddler.
2. Model Correct Behavior
Have you noticed how many adults are texting and driving? Badmouthing teachers, bosses, neighbors, acquaintances or using threatening language toward subordinates is being watched and will be mimicked. If you are bullying or treating people with disrespect, your children will mirror your behavior.
Let’s look at other scenarios. Your teen is complaining about a teacher’s assignment or methods, or a coach is not placing the teen in the game enough. Two popular situations. You could A.) decide this is a chance to take your child’s side and call the teacher or coach names or say they are stupid. The child will feel better, right? You could call the principal or athletic director or even the teacher or coach. You can rant and tell all off. Most likely the child will echo your feelings. He or she will go and boast to their friends that you really let the teacher/coach have it. Ripped them a new one…… But did all this help your child succeed? Did you just demonstrate when you disagree with someone in authority, it’s okay to be rude and/or disrespectful? And what did you just demonstrate about how you should be treated?
Or B.) You could model that if you do not agree with someone (including you) the teen could advocate for themselves. It is better to say, “I’m having difficulty with this assignment …” comments. You may suggest to let the teacher know you are having difficulty and ask for assistance. (not on the day it’s due, by the way.) Ask the coach how to improve, why the teen is not getting more playing time. The perk of this is you are teaching the child for the future with adult situations AND how to improve the communication with you, the parent. It may save your ego on occasion and the tumultuous emotions of conflict.
3. Notice when they get it right – really.
Say ” I appreciate…. Nothing wrong for you to say, “When you do this, it makes me proud, feel…… Even if you get a snippy remark back, you’ve made your point.
4. Acting respectfully is required.
I’ve heard kids say to their parents “I hate you.” Okay, most likely they really don’t. You do know most teens feel they know more than you. They also feel you don’t know them. It really is hard to hear and feel this coming from them.
You can’t demand they respect you. But you can demand they act respectfully. You’ve heard the comment “My house, my rules.” Stay focused on the behavior.
The most important message here is learning how to cope and preserve your feelings and your self-confidence. If you can keep your equilibrium, you can make the right decisions and stay consistent. Keep your sparkle.