Maintaining a peacful relationship with your teen my sound like an impossible dream. Because if you’ve ever parent a teenager, you know what a struggle it can be. It appears that your wonderful, loving child turned into a total stranger overnight, right?
But if you are currently parenting teens. Don’t give up hope. That child who used to cuddle on your lap is still in there somewhere. Reestablishing that peaceful relationship with your teen will take approach from what you believed.
In a recent interview [Episode 26 | Season 3] Dr. Lisa Bravo author of The Bravo Effect shares the framework (B.R.A.V.O.) she created based on her teenage years. Bravo is also a psychotherapist and uses her framework to help parents navigate their relationships with their teenagers.
“Lots of times we can look at kids who've been in trouble and we can assume the worst, right? We can assume they were lying or being disrespectful or being whatever we believe, right. But really, sometimes if we dig deeper, and we understand how they were motivated in that moment, what was driving them in that moment, we might understand that they're valuing something like loyalty to a friend. On the surface, it may look like, sheer disrespect for an adult. But if we look at it from their viewpoint, sometimes they are holding a value. It's important for us to be able to decipher what's going on.” Dr. Lisa Bravo
This post summarizes my thoughts and takeaways from the interview. These are my tips on not just repairing and building your relationship with your teen but also how to maintain a peaceful relationship with them going forward.
“Even the youth shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall”. Isaiah 40:30
Strategies that keep the peace
1. Know when to walk away
When your teenager gives you lip or if they seem downright disrespectful. Don’t respond in kind. This is easier said than done. But the term catching more flies with honey is really relevant here.
Excuse yourself from the confrontation. Lock yourself in the bathroom and gather yourself. Take a walk. Cry if you need to.
Dr. Bravo suggests and I concur that you walk away from the situation. Take a moment to regroup. Breathe and let your anger or angst pass.
If you’ve ever watched Madea’s reaction to a teenager giving her lip, you know what not to do.
Then when you are ready to have a rational conversation, talk to your teen.
Remember that you are in charge. You are the parent. Your job is to set boundaries. But you show leadership by being respectful and ramaining in command of the situation.
But it’s hard to be in command when you are angry and out of control. That's when you say things that make you feel bad later. And more dangerous, lose the respect of your teenager.
I almost had a stroke yelling at my teen boys for leaving the sink full of dirty dishes. I was tired after a long day of work. I let the frustration and anger got the better of me. My immediate reaction could have cost me my life.
So, please. Step away from the frying pan!
2. Recognize that it’s not always about you
Your teen’s actions or reaction usually has nothing to do with you. Part of the reason we get upset, or feel down about something that's been said or done by them, is because you feel it's been done to you, right?
We think, ``Where did I go wrong?” Or you might say to them, “You're disrespecting me”. But it's not always about you. My youngest son likes to remind me of this. And he’s right.
It's not always about you.
You have to approach whatever the situation is in a mature manner. It might be true that as parents, we haven't reached the point where we can always act mature. We want to act out like the children. It’s just the way it is sometimes, especially if we haven't dealt with our own “stuff”.
But parenting is our responsibility. And in order to live peacefully with your teenage child you will need to parent.
So, just remember, it's not always about you. Dr. Bravo points out that your teen could just be holding on to a certain value. Sometimes they hold out, disobey, and they're stubborn about their position compared to yours. It's just a value that they're holding onto. It’s not about you, or their relationship with you.
They always want you as the parent. You have to remember that.
3. Remember The Golden Rule
They are your kids and they should honor and respect you. But they are also human beings. God entrusted their care to you.
So if you want them to treat you with love and respect, treat them well too.
And in this case, heap love on them. Love your enemy. Because yes, they can sometimes seem like they are the enemy. Just remember they're not.
When you see them as your enemy, love them a little bit more. Be kind. Be gentle. Because they want that, they expect that, and they need that. You might see your teenage child as not deserving of your kindness and forgiveness. But do to them as you would want them to do to you.
It's not about you, it's about your relationship with them. And it's about them.
This takes a lot of spiritual maturity. But you will gain a lot of fruit from your labor. Not only will you gain satisfaction in knowing you remained the parent. You will also by your kindness, teach your teen how to be kind as well. He will respect you more for it.
How do you build trust in a relationship with a teenager?
So how can you build connection with your teen, especially if it was broken? Communication if key.
1. Find ways to connect
Start to talk with your teen. It might take a while to rebuild trust but it can happen. But the hard work will no doubt come from you. Remember #3 above.
Once your teen starts to reciprocate encourage open communication with them. Schedule regular time with just you and your teen. Maybe pizza lunch or watch a movie you both enjoy.
Or maybe have them help you prepare a meal, clean out the closet or the garage. Connect with them over household chores but make it a team effort.
If you took your teen's actions personally find ways to rewind and look at your relationship with them from a different perspective.
This is a great time to revisit whatever caused the breakdown in communication in the first place.
2. Show them unconditional love
There's no question that you love your teen. But when the relationship gets difficult it can be hard to feel that love. But this is where you as parent shines through. Help your teen understand that regardless of the difficulties you're both having that you love them.
They will understand if you continue to prepare their meals with the same love and care you always did. Or by the way you speak to them.
3. Pray for and with them - Always
Don’t forget to pray for your teen. Call their names to God. He cares for them even more than you do. What’s more, He cares that you do the best job in taking care of them.
Pray a hedge of protection around your teenager. Life is hard for them. In school or on the internet with bullying. Being exposed to gangs and other violent activities. They are bombarded with all kinds of things they are not ready to deal with. This can lead them to do or act out in ways you don’t understand.
That’s why you need to bring out the big guns. That big gun is prayer. Fast if necessary. Quote scriptures back to God. Remind Him he promised to help you.
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for us" 1 Peter 5:7
When we are parenting solo it can feel like we are alone. You might feel helpless But you are not alone. And you are not helpless.
Pray for your teen. Ask God for wisdom to be a better parent to deal with every situation. Both you and your teen deserve God in your lives.
Even if you haven't been doing it, start praying now.
It’s Never Too Late to Connect or Mend Relationships
You might be at the end of your rope in dealing with your teen’s "bad" behavior. But don’t give up hope. It’s never too late to mend your relationship and regain the peaceful connection you once had.
You will however need to change your mindset and tactic. You will have to be the grown up. Because you are.
Remember the first three points above and you should be able to find a way back to your loving relationship.
1. Seek professional help
If you're at your wits end and you've lost control of the relationship with your teen, it might be a good time to seek the advice of a professional for both of you. If you can't afford to pay for a counselor or therapist, maybe there's someone you trust who could be unbias who you can speak with.
Remember whatever method you choose make sure your teen is involved in the conversation as appropriate.
2. Consult with Dad
If there's an active co-parent maybe you can discuss this with him. Again best that it develops into a three way conversation with you teen involved. You know if dad will support you in regaining a peacful.
So if that's an option don't be too proud to involve him.
3. Get a mentor
One of my son had a difficult time as a teen. I didn't undersand what was happening and I felt really helpless. Fortunately, I found a youth leader in my church who was up to the challenge of mentoring a young boy looking for the leadership of a strong man.
Don't be afraid to seek out a mentor for your teen. You are mom and although you may think that you can manage without a male role model for them, you can't. And this is not about you.
Get to the bottom of what's bugging your teen
Do you know what's bugging your teen? Have you ever stopped to find out. There's something that has caused your relationship to change. Whatever it is talk to your teen and get to the bottom of it. This is slightly different from continuous ongoing conversations.
Maybe there's something happened to him or her. The loss of a friendship through death or separation. Remember death doesn't only affect adults. Check out my conversation with Jenny Lisk who helped her children deal with the untimely death of their dad.
Also maybe they are dealing with bullying at school or on social media. Bullying is more common than you may realize. Their first heartbreak. Or maybe they are trying to come to terms with not having a father in the home.
Whatever it is. Find out. Begin talking to him or her about what's going on in their lives. In a loving, caring way.
Many parents struggle alone trying to effectively communicate with their teenager. Remember you are not alone and you don’t have to parent in silence. Bulding a better relationship with your teen is essential to bringing peace into your lives. The impact of your relationship with your teen will have lasting impact on them.
No matter how often or how long there's been a disruption in communication or relationship with your teen, it's never too late to rebuild and reconnect with them. You're gonna have to take the lead, though. It’s possible, your teen may take the lead. But don't hold out and say, “Well, I'm the parent so you better come to me”.
Be mature. Take the lead. Admit where you went wrong. Don’t grovel. But be sincere. As you know kids have a BS meter. So be honest with yourself and them.
It will be alright. I have faith in you.
There’s help available. You can also reach out to me here.
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