Monday, October 26, 2009

Is there any help to get through the teen years??

How do you deal with teenagers?
More and more lately I'm finding it hard to really relate to my daughter and her way of thinking. I know that the teenage brain literally is undergoing growth and transformation and that the way she thinks is different for biological as well as maturity reasons. I used to enjoy being around her but lately it's one fight after another.
I don't know how much I'm projecting my own troubled teen years onto her and restricting her because of it, or if I'm just doing what most "average" moms would do. How do I figure out the line between letting her take responsibility and making her own choices while also creating some accountability for when she doesn't live up to what she needs to do?
And what is it about teenagers that makes them suddenly start procrastinating and managing things so badly?? A good 90% of the contention in our home would be gone if she would just do her chores, do her homework and get ready to go somewhere BEFORE sitting around doing what she wants to. No matter how we explain this it just doesn't seem to get through to her. Do I become an even meaner mom and take away the cell phone for these infractions? Or save that punishment for larger crimes? Where's the line between reasonable and harsh? She wants to manage her own time but then gets angry when we don't give her a reminder (that it's time to go, etc.) I've gotten to the point where the reminders are quickly becoming a thing of the past because I know she needs to learn to manage her time on her own, but it's extremely stressful watching and waiting and hoping that she'll make it out the door on time. Especially on Sundays. Should I leave her at home a time or two (even for church)? What options do I have to get her to get ready in advance??
How do I help her understand the real value of things in life? Will we really just have to wait until she moves out on her own and then hits the brick wall of reality?? We've tried not to spoil her, we make her do chores to earn spending money, we've tried to teach her that she has a responsibility to the family. But none of that seems to have made any difference. She doesn't appreciate all that is done for her day in and day out. All she thinks about is her "hard" life and everything we ask her to do, and why she can't have the latest and greatest gadgets on our budget. I know she's got a lot on her plate with all honors classes, marching band, and church activities, but I also know that most of our youth have this and more and yet seem to manage fine. I'm at a loss as to how to teach her the value of helping in the home and earning what she gets.
I think most of this boils down to procrastination and ingratitude. If I thought yet another FHE on either would do any good I'd come up with lessons for the next 6 months!! We've taught and re-taught principles of gratitude, provident living, time management, etc.
This last week was rough. David ended up working for days and nights straight (I'm not even sure which times/days he was home because it was so crazy) and I ended up with yet another cold. Add to that unexpected responsibilities, and I was doing my best just to stay afloat. (I'm not looking for sympathy here- it wasn't a week that had me ready to cry or anything, it was just rough.) It was also a busy week for Aimee with band practice, a band concert, and a football game. But would it have killed her to have helped out a LITTLE? To have done her chores even?? To have thought about someone else (other than Fred) for more than 2 minutes??

Is it like this for everyone else with teenagers? Am I overreacting and just need to take a chill pill? Should I be even more harsh and take away the cell phone? What are some methods you've found that work with your teenagers?? I'm at a loss as to what to do with this alien creature called Teenager!


Erin said...

I have no experience or suggestions on this, but I would love it if you'd pass along whatever you learn. I'm coming up on similar days faster than I'd like to admit, and I'd love to have a few tricks up my sleeve... Good luck!

Mama D said...

Ah, I wish Ray were here! I'll tell him to read and comment. He's the wise parent in our house... :)

I am going to break down my response into a couple of comments because it's long!

Our kids have so far been fairly reasonable teenagers. (Knock on wood.) But in my experience with our own kids, as well as taking in others - slamming down hard on irresponsible teens doesn't help. They become even more irritable and irresponsible. They fight you even more. They seem to purposely go out of their way to be even more contrary!

Obviously, there need to be ground rules and expectations. Everyone is a member of the family and needs to contribute (chores, etc). Safety first (certain things are just a 'No'; we need to know where you are, when you'll be home, who you are with). And whatever your personal family basic rules are.

These help set the basic guidelines of everyone helps everyone. My sister tells her kids, "You help me and I'll help you." It helps them all get what they want!

Compromise is really important, especially with teens. Pick your battles. Changing curfew from 10 to 11 might not matter as much as church attendance. Allow your teen to "win" some of the smaller battles. She'll be more willing to work with you on some others. :)

Discuss things. What are her most important issues? What are yours? If you can give her some of what she finds important, she will hopefully be more willing to give you some of what you find important. If she wants to manage her time but gets upset about not getting reminders, then find out what she would like - is there a key word or phrase you can use that will give the reminder without her feeling like you're repeatedly nagging?

Don't lecture. Teach subliminally. If you've had multiple FHE lessons on ingratitude, then teach it in other ways. Don't keep beating a dead horse, as my dad used to say! Try to focus on positive things - for example, gratitude instead of ingratitude. And ALWAYS find something to compliment her on daily - your hair looks good, you were on time for seminary, whatever.

Of course this isn't always easy, but I have found when I consciously try to do these things I get better results!

Shayleen Lunt said...

I had to smile/chuckle when I read the "hard" life part. I distinctly remember have that "hard" life when I was 13-18 years old.
Until then, I'm working on a potion to keep my kids young ;) jk

Mama D said...

Patty, the three biggest things you have going for you are these: gospel doctrine and principles are being taught; love is the foundation of your family; and Heavenly Father loves His children - specifically Aimee, as well as you and David.

When kids are taught these three things (esp from the time they are little), they make a difference. Believe me, the difference is *ASTOUNDING.* Stephon, Ryan M, and Brett didn't have these things to lean on, and the differences between them and our kids were stark.

These truths don't *keep* kids from making bad choices or being obnoxious teens, but deep down kids know these truths, even when they seem to be fighting against them, and it seems to (eventually) help "right" them when they wander off where we as parents hope they will go.

We have tried to "teach correct principles and let them govern themselves." It's easy when your kids are willing to listen and follow and think you know everything. But when your kids start wanting autonomy and decision-making power, it becomes harder. And once they are older and technically "adults," it can be even harder to let go and allow them to make their own choices. IMO, it is one of the HARDEST things to learn to do as a parent.

What has helped me as I try to do this is to talk with Ray - gaining perspective from someone familiar with the issues but maybe not as emotionally tied into some of the direct results (ie: Stephon reacted better to Ray than to me, so instead of getting angry with Stephon I would dump on Ray. He'd listen then offer perspective. "Maybe he does this because... Try to see it this way...") It also helped to find a trusted friend I could vent to who cared but was not invested in the outcome at all.

Know that He loves you and knows your struggle. He loves Aimee and knows her struggles.

The most important thing I did to try to help (esp with Stephon) was attending the temple frequently. I pled with Him for His help and direction as to what to do. It was where I gained the answer to try to see him as He sees him, and where I gained some peace from the turmoil of what to do with teens who didn't want to follow our rules.

Parenting teens can be like balancing on a constantly moving tightrope or like walking across a bed of hot coals. But it can also be a lot of fun.

Patty, I am always here if you want to talk or vent!!

Mama D said...

Sorry, I don't want to monopolize this... But I think it's important to say this:

You are not necessarily doing anything "wrong" in your parenting because your relationship with Aimee is changing and she is being so contrary.

She is going through a phase, so to speak, and she won't start to appreciate everything you and David do for her until she is on her own, and probably won't truly understand until she is a parent herself. We all go through this, like Shayleen said.

Try to be patient and focus on the good things!

Rob and Crys said...

As I was reading this post, I said out loud "Boy, I am in trouble" meaning if kids get worse as they get older. Since I have some that listen and organize better than some others. Anyway, when I said "Boy, I am in trouble" Brookie looked at me and said "No your not" I smiled and said "so you are going to listen to everything I say for the rest of your life?" She looked up at me and piped "Your in trouble!"

Patty said...

Thank you for all the comments and encouragement. Last night I sat down with Aimee and had a really good heart-to-heart. Things have improved some, for today anyways.

Crystal... thanks for sharing your daughter's comment.. it definitely made me laugh!!

chelle said...

I have been struggling with this issue for a while and here lately, it has been really bad. But, I can't blame all of it on my kids either! I have been sick with a sinus infection twice this month, had Matthew very sick with swine flu and trying to keep it away from the other kids and I am just plain wore out and tired. And this week Michael is out of town, I am still sick and have to do Seminary and all of the running around that needs done in a normal week. (and then sleep alone..blah!)
I am not whining or complaining or trying to make my life look more difficult than yours in anyway. I am just stating that we as parents have a lot on our own plates. And yes, we are more mature and have a better understanding about life and a tried and true testimony of the important things, but we can have just as many teenaged moments as our kids do!
I also know that I let a lot of my decisions about my kids and what I let them do/not stem from my teenage years and all of the horrible stuff I did. Which so isn't fair...but it's what I know.
I have tried REALLY hard this week to try and make sure I thank Andrew when he does something I ask and to apologize when I fly off the handle and go off on him. Yesterday we had a HUGE fight. I did those two things and the rest of the night was like heaven. It is amazing how our attitude effects everything in life.
Know that you have friends that love and care for you and are here if you need to vent. We may not have the answers all the time...but sometimes just letting it out helps.
I hope today is better than yesterday and each day after. (I know that won't be the case...but one can hope...right?!?!)