Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

I have bad news for you, parents. One of these days, you’re going to wake up and be living with a stranger. This stranger will have replaced a sweet, lovable, often toothless child who admired you completely. Now, that little angel has transformed. You can almost see the little horns. Welcome to the world of teens.

Teens as a whole are wonderful. The reason they get a bad rap is because they are trying so hard to assert their independence and become individuals. It’s usually from there that teens get a bad reputation – they’ve stopped thinking and acting like us and see through the facade of our perfection.

What I disliked most about this new-found willingness to ditch the halo was being in public. Have you ever been somewhere public with your teen only to have them choose that moment to put their most disrespectful, rude behavior on display? It’s almost as if they’re daring you to do something about it in the middle of the mall, or at the doctor’s office, or when you’re with relatives and trying to show off your perfect family. Teens really know how to push buttons. It may seem as if your teen is purposefully doing everything in their power to exasperate you, whether it is because you upset them first or they are simply having a bad day.

Kira was our most challenging teen (so far; her sister Anika is already showing signs that she will supersede Kira’s efforts). She was great at timing her behaviors for when it would embarrass me most – when I had company, when I was on the phone, or when we were out in public. She thought that by cornering me in uncomfortable situations, she would be able to get me to say yes to something I might otherwise say no to.

At first, I would be disconcerted and let the embarrassment impact my reaction, but calling her out on her behavior in front of whomever she was choosing to perform for became very effective.

Secret: Teens, behavior-wise, are most closely related to toddlers, temper tantrums and all.

There are a number of teen behaviors that can make you question parenthood, from bad attitudes to bad language. The biggies, though, from talking to other parents, seem to be when teens ignore their parents, when they misuse privileges, and when they argue incessantly. I learned the hard way that once you’ve entered a shouting match with your teen, you’ve already lost that battle. It’s better to take a deep breath, speak firmly, and make it clear that whatever behavior they are exhibiting is a choice they make that comes with consequences. Don’t raise your voice or engage in arguments, and walk away (to grab a glass of wine or scream into a pillow) if needed.

Of course, empty threats will lose you a lot of respect, so if there are consequences to the way your teen chooses to behave (good or bad) be consistent about following through. And make sure the consequence is well, of consequence to your teen. The teen who rarely watches TV will not be phased from being grounded from cable. It might be video games, cell phones, or time with friends – whatever the consequence, help your teen to understand that those privileges are available only when he or she chooses to be responsible and respectful.

It didn’t happen often, but when she crossed that line, the only effective solution was removal of cell phone privileges (she was, after all, the girl who got tendonitis in her thumbs from texting whose doctor called in all of his colleagues to watch her text because she could do it so quickly  – and this was before swiping and touchscreens).

It was effective, especially when followed by a calm and rational conversation that could only take place after I’d walked away, screamed into my pillow for a few minutes, and stared in the mirror to remind myself that she would eventually become human again (and she has, for the most part, but I’ll have more to say about parenting adult children in another blog).

I would advise that you keep an eye out for withdrawal symptoms if you the cell phone removal method. This is a good sign that your teen has learned her lesson.

As a parent, you have bad days, so it is realistic to expect your teen to have bad days of their own. Be fair in your judgment and choose which battles are worth fighting. It is not necessary to reprimand every retort your teen throws at you; you could end up having time for nothing else. Let your teen be their own person and let them know, gently and calmly, when they have ventured too far.

As with all lessons that we try to teach our children, the best way to do so is through example. Keep yourself in check and make sure you are exhibiting the behavior you want your teen to imitate. Your teen will not be rude forever, especially if you take the time to help them work through the chaos of being a teenager.


Any advice or horror stories to share about raising teens? Please add your comment below!