Did you welcome the advice you received when you were a teenager? Or, did you choose to bristle at the advisor’s good intentions? Perhaps, you still bristle?
The resentment that sage advice (i.e., from us parents) generates in our tween/teenagers is perfectly normal (and irritating). This is a conflicted period in our children’s lives. On one hand, they are exploring budding feelings of adulthood and independence— unfamiliar ground that can be scary for anybody. On the other hand, they automatically cling to the safety net of the child-parent dependency, even though they want to shed that reliance ASAP.
So, an unsuspecting mom comes along with some excellent advice for her darling daughter, but instead of her cherub glowing with appreciation and enthusiasm, the diabolical darling heaves an exasperated sigh (complete with eye-rolling), cries in an accusatory wail, “Mom, I’m not a baby!” and stomps off to her room. I’m, I mean, the mom is left in a wake of confusion and anger. She closes her gaping mouth, and either storms after her daughter to give her a piece of her mind, or retreats to the fridge to find a food-bandage for her emotional wound.
Okay, I admit it. I was describing my reaction to my cherub’s unexpected response to totally constructive advice. If the truth be told, when her negative reply catches me by surprise, my gut reaction kicks in. If I’m well-rested, and/or feeling especially good about myself, or my day, my brain immediately reminds me that her reaction is not about me personally. It’s about her.
I’m such an awesome mom, right?
However, sometimes my own reactions are not so awesome. There are times when she snaps at me, and I blow up in her face, because sometimes I don’t feel especially good about my day, or myself. (Yes, even I get insecure occasionally; what awesome mom doesn’t?)
Those are the times when I inappropriately perceive her eruption as a personal rejection, and I take it to heart. My hurt feelings create the urge to retaliate, and for some reason, for a moment, escalating the situation doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to me.*
Still, we all know that once we pile layers of conflict onto our relationship, in the end they all have to be peeled back, one at a time. Otherwise, we can’t get back to the basic unconditional loving relationship where we again trust each other to have our backs.
Choosing to reframe how you perceive her response is one of your awesome superpowers.
You can choose to believe your child has stormed off as a clever ploy to upset you. Or, you can choose to believe your child has stormed off because she is at her wits end, and needs your help with coping.
Think of it this way: If you see a four-year-old in the middle of a tantrum who yells, “I hate you!” at her mother, you know, and I know, that the little person doesn’t mean it. She is merely at a place where she can no longer cope. Should her statement hurt the mother’s feelings? Of course not. But might the woman feel hurt anyway? Of course she might, but because the child is so young, it’s easier to put things back into proper perspective (especially when she wraps those little arms around her neck).
Your teen’s (or tween’s) tirade is the same thing, but scaled up a bit. She is merely at a place where she can’t cope. Should it hurt your feelings? Of course not. But might you feel hurt anyway? Of course you might, but because your child is older, it’s more difficult to put things back into proper perspective, and harder to hold onto the bigger picture.
Here is a reminder about that bigger picture. Ultimately, your tweenager/teenager wants and needs these vital things from you:
- to be loved unconditionally by you
- to be respected and valued by you
- to trust that you will always have her back
- to be able to go to you when she needs to feel safe
It’s when your daughter thinks one of those essentials is slipping away that she spews forth unchecked. Her outburst is simply the double digit version of that four-year-old’s lack of coping tantrum. When she’s in a better position to manage — like when she’s well-rested, and/or feeling good about her day, or herself — she doesn’t go for disruptive solutions. She chooses discussion… or laughter.
But believe it or not, I’m thankful for my cherub’s outward displays of distress. Without the hissy fit, I might miss that:
- My advice has struck a nerve in my daughter regarding some secret pain that she needs help with;
- My advice feels way off-base to her, which, to her, means I don’t get her, which, to her, means she’s on her own in solving her problem;
- She now feels alienated and isolated from me, and that’s frightening for her.
Her volatile reaction is a red flag that she needs help. If, instead of responding in kind, I choose to stop and recognize what is truly going on, I can rescue my daughter, and at the same time, model how to cope when someone loses their cool, like her best friend, or a sibling, or someone at school. Forewarned is forearmed.
Choosing is a powerful tool! It allows you to:
- stay grounded and remain emotionally even
- avoid contributing your own negativity to an already negative situation
- analyze the interaction so you can teach her a more positive alternative reaction
- model how to cope when faced with an unexpected and upsetting response
Every awesome mom has the ability to reframe how she perceives her daughter’s distress, and to decide how to respond to it. The superpower to choose resides in all of our arsenals. We just have to remember to use it.
Do you have a go-to technique for diffusing a teenage time bomb? The other awesome moms would love to know. Send it to info@DeborahAnnDavis.com.
Did I mention I’m trying to spread a little happiness by giving away my book How To Get Your Happy On for free? If you want a copy, send an email to info@DeborahAnnDavis.com, and I’ll send you your copy absolutely free! Why? Because I like to have happy people in my circle. Don’t forget to tell me if you want a kindle version, an ePub version, or a PDF.
*Even when contributing negatively to this situation, I’m still an awesome mom. Just because we slide occasionally doesn’t change the fact that our overall goal is to raise happy, healthy and productive kids, plus grow as a person ourselves during the process. That’s what defines awesome moms like you and me.