As you well know, the teenage years can be difficult ones. Just when you think you have seen and experienced it all, your teen does something unimaginable. You expected these years to be hard, but never like this.
It’s completely normal for teens to make mistakes (maybe many) on their journey to adulthood. However, the more slip-ups they make, big or small, the harder it is for you to let go. As a result, the parent-teen relationship develops into an unhealthy cycle of pain, distrust and resentment from both sides.
To say the least, holding on to past mistakes, bringing up old issues and treating your teen’s behavior as a personal attack can make the teenage years even more painful. If you are finding it difficult to forgive your teen’s mistakes, here are five tips that can help you navigate your path back to a healthy parent-teen relationship.
Accept her for who she is now
Research shows that teenagers’ brains are not fully developed and will not be until well into their 20s. Also, it is worth noting that the frontal lobe, which is responsible for logic, is the last part of the brain to develop. Typically, teens recognize when they have made a poor decision but in the moment act impulsively. This doesn’t mean they get a “get out of jail free” card. However, understanding that the teen brain is not fully developed may stop you from taking their mistakes personally.
Be like a police officer
When your teen screws up, it can be hard to stay calm. But it will help both of you if you think like a police officer. If you’ve ever been pulled over, think how the police officer acted: calmly asked for your license, maybe gave you a little lecture, and then wrote you a ticket or sent you on your way. No drama. As a parent, you need to try “policing” your teen in the same way: stay calm, issue the punishment, and move along.
Make time for them
Life gets busy, and schedules are tight. Regardless, it is important that you make time for your teen, even if that means eating dinner or going on a walk together once a week. During this shared time, don’t shoot questions. Let your teen choose the conversation topics. While it might feel a little strained at first, she will want to fill the silence and may begin to open up to you. Just listen. In the end, you will cherish this time together, and it will show your teen that she is your priority.
Don’t harp, be positive
If you’re constantly on your teen for things she’s done, you will not encourage her to do better. She will dread her interactions with you. Instead, focus on something positive. Before you go to bed, write down three things your teen did well that day. Then share these with her, although maybe not all at once. You will find plenty of things to address and confront about, but it takes real intentionality to point out the positive. Even if she brushes you off, it will matter to her and shows you are paying attention.
Think big picture
Punishing your child is not easy. Your goal is to raise a healthy, independent successful adult. This often means you may have to do something hard in the short term to benefit your daughter in the long term. You are planting seeds that will grow in time. There will be a time when your child will thank you for what you have taught her. We have a saying at Compass Rose that we believe that doing things the right way is often the hard way…and the long way. Be patient and keep your eye on the prize.