Mama Mantra: Teenagers Don’t Always Want Our Help
Posted September 28, 2021 by Prairie Wife -
Teenagers don’t always want our help.
While this may not come as a shock to many of you (especially those of you that are currently parenting teengers or have parented them and survived) it has been a hard thing for me to wrap my head around.
Before we do a deep dive into this particular “Mama Mantra” I want to recommend yet again this amazing book on parenting Teen and Tween girls…it has been incredibly helpful to me as a resource for both my teenagers!
Now, back to teenagers not wanting our help.
Let me paint a picture for you.
A Teen daughter comes home from school visibly upset and irritated. In fact, she’s so frustrated that the negative energy is coming off of her in waves. Add to that stomping and throwing around and slamming things and it’s apparent that there is SOMETHING going on.
As a caring loving parent, you are likely going to ask your daughter “What’s up? Is everything okay?” or some version of this question.
The response could go one of two ways…a frustrated huff and an eye roll followed by “nothing” OR a dramatic retelling that may or may not involve tears, yelling, rapid talking, and aggressive hand gestures.
Again, because you are a caring loving parent you will likey nod in agreement, make sad or appalled faces at the right times and when they are FINALLY done you offer some hugs and a bit of well-earned wisdom.
And that my readers is where it all goes terribly, horribly wrong.
Your daughter suddenly pulls back, rolls her eyes, and begins to tell you all the ways that you are wrong, or why your ideas won’t work.
These reactions and statements are generally emphasized with jaw clenches and crossed arms.
You end up getting upset because you’re trying to help, you’re doing all the kind nice things, and suddenly YOU’RE THE BAD GUY!
If you’re like me the interaction deteriorates quickly into me saying “How about you head to your room and find a healthy way to calm yourself down, I’ll be here if you need me.”
Note that my jaw is equally clenched as I say this and there is likely a hard edge to my voice that’s a borderline yell.
Sigh…what the heck happened?!
Before I give you the solution to this problem of teenagers not wanting our help I want to ask you something.
Have you ever had a crappy day at work or a rough day with the kids and your partner listens to you vent about how crappy and bad it all was?
And then when you’re done they start rattling off solutions and you suddenly feel like punching them in the face?
Because now you feel like they’re criticizing how you handled the situation and basically you’re left feeling like they think you can’t handle your life….when all you wanted was for them to say “Ugh I totally understand why you’re stressed. That’s the worst when that happens!”
Your teen daughter is likely feeling the same way when you offer her your wisdom.
And your teenage son is feeling the same way when you try and talk to him about a Football game loss that left him feeling angry and frustrated.
The “I’m fine.” Followed by a shut door or the headphones being put back in isn’t really about you at all…I promise.
They know you’re there with solutions and wise words or advice.
But, just like you at the end of a long day, 8 out of 10 times they just want to bitch and moan and vent.
They aren’t looking for an action plan, they just want some acknowledgment.
So, here’s what you need to work on doing.
When your teenager comes home and rages and moans about a recent issue, just listen to them. Be an active listener, no phone, TV off, nod and make agreeable noises or exclamations BUT DON’T TRY AND FIX THE PROBLEM.
When they begin to wind down, acknowledge how crappy they must feel and how it IS a tough situation.
Then ask them “Do you want help or advice or did you just need to vent a bit?” And then let them communicate with you what they need.
And (this is the hard part for me) give them whatever they say they need.
No matter how loudly your parenting instincts are calling out to you to snuggle with them or have them share more, or how badly you want to email their coach or call that mean girl’s mom…do what they ask.
Give them some space and maybe a few suggestions of healthy ways to chill out.
Touch base in a day or so and ask how they’re feeling about the situation, and THEN if you feel like it’s necessary you can ask again if they’d like you to help.
Teenagers are like toddlers.
When they want your help you better be there ASAP, and when they don’t you have to step back and let them spend 20 minutes trying to get a pair of socks on.
May the force be with you.
Photography by Skyla Lee Photography
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