A toddler or a teenager – which would you prefer? I’d go for teething, tantrums and sleepless nights every time. A 2-year-old may be physically exhausting but at least there is the reward of a big grin, a sloppy kiss and a massive hug. A teenager gives back nothing – unless a shoulder shrug and a bad-tempered grunt count.
I used to think that Harry Enfield’s character Kevin was just an exaggerated caricature of a teenager. It wasn’t – Kevin was spot on and his attitude applies to girls just as much as boys.
My daughter spends hours closeted in her bedroom – a room carpeted with clothes (clean or dirty? – I’ve no idea), used cotton wool, make-up, carrier bags and maybe the odd school book.
Her vocabulary has shrunk to “Don’t know” or “Whatever!” uttered in bad-tempered and impatient tones. She refuses to appear in public with us as and insists we wait in the car when collecting her from anywhere.
So at the moment I don’t like her but I still love her. My little girl is racing towards adulthood and it’s not easy for either of us.
Teenagers have always tried to push the boundaries – remember the loud music and pink hair of your youth? They are battling to show themselves as an individual and not a clone of their ancient, frumpy parents.
So what’s the best way for us to deal with it? The following suggestions might make for a more harmonious home:
- Eexplain to your son or daughter exactly why their behaviour is upsetting you. Use a calm voice, don’t shout and focus on the major things rather than a whole list of petty niggles.
- Try to negotiate rather than dictate i.e. don’t demand “I want you to tidy your room now” instead try opening up a channel for compromise by asking “When will you be able to tidy your room?” But make sure you hold them to whatever time you both agree.
- Treat them with respect. Show an interest in your child’s life but don’t read their diary. Apologise if you’ve made a mistake and fully explain the reason for any house rules you may have.
- Remember that, although they may not show it, your teenager still needs you. Be available to talk and remember to say ‘I love you’.
- Accept your teenager for what they are. Don’t compare them with the boy/girl down the road or force them into interests or school subjects that they hate.
- Don’t say “When I was your age ….” This will make them close their ears to whatever follows.
- Dig out your old diaries and remember how you really felt at that age.
- Do your best and don’t take your teenager’s behaviour personally. This is a normal phase that your child is going through and in a few years time they will emerge from this trying time as a thoroughly nice person!
What about you? What tips would you add?