Toddlers and Teens – Part 2

Posted on August 27, 2018


Too often we label the toddler years and the teenage years as difficult periods of growth, when we should be embracing them as learning experiences—both for our kids and ourselves. In my last post, I wrote about toddlers; this week let’s talk about teenagers.

The Teenage Years

Just as we tend to roll our eyes over toddlers’ actions, we do the same once our kids reach their teenage years. It’s really not very different for them. Teens are also going through a rapid growth period. They are preparing to branch out on their own, entering junior high or high school or moving away from home for college. They’re trying to find their unique place in the world. You might find your teenagers staying out too late or not letting you know where they are going. They probably think they know it all and may even become disrespectful at times.

That’s not pleasant, but it’s perfectly normal. The teenage years are preparation for adulthood and independence. We have taught our kids how to be young adults, and now we still expect them to do as they are told. So how can we keep our teens close while still letting them spread their wings?

Open Communication is the key to keeping teenagers close. Be open-hearted and open-minded. Here are some hard facts that science supports as well:

  • Teenagers’ minds run a million miles a minute.
  • They are emotional and impulsive.
  • They are opinionated.

Remember all that when communicating with your teenagers. Clear your mind to allow for their rapid-fire arguments or comments. Handle your emotions intelligently so that your feelings are not feeding your teens’ emotions and turning into explosions and disconnections. Allow them to express their opinions freely, even if you do not agree with them. Hold your preconceived rebuttals and suggestions until emotions are not charged. If you allow teenagers to communicate openly, you will be able to communicate back. Remember, you are the adult! Don’t enter the boxing ring with them. If they are throwing punches, stand by and observe. Respond with, “Aha, ok, I see your point, I understand.” Keep your tone of voice balanced, and watch your words and language. If you feel negative emotions rising, do not jump on that emotional express train. Instead, respond like this…

  1. Unless they break a trust and are a danger to themselves or others, be a little more trusting that teenagers will make good choices. When we don’t show that we trust them, we start losing their trust in us.
  2. Unconditional love. Even when our teens roll their eyes at us, we have to let them know that we will love them no matter what. They are going to make mistakes; of course they will. It’s our job to make sure they know that they amount to more than their mistakes.
  3. Give them space. As I recommended you do for your toddlers, give your teens space to think. They are dealing with school, friends, jobs, new emotions, and perhaps boyfriend/girlfriend problems and also trying to figure out what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. Don’t be on them 24/7 about their choices of friends, grades, or life plans.

Our teens are amazing. And they are because we raised them to be. Let’s focus on the people they are today and not so much on who they will be in the future. Accept and respect their individual uniqueness and personality and refrain from comparisons. High school goes by in the blink of an eye. Don’t waste time on arguments and ego trips. Guide and step aside—give teens room to decide things for themselves and make mistakes. This is the only way to learn effectively.

Our kids are doing and learning exactly the way they are supposed to. Enjoy every moment, and know that you are doing the best job you can to raise them to be kind and loving adults. In the end, keep in mind that they are going through physical growth spurts, emotional shifts, and life changes both in their toddler years and their teenage years. We have to tailor our communication skills to the way they learn during these formative periods in their lives. Most importantly, give up any preconditioned or societal assumptions of how toddlers or teenagers are. If you roll up your sleeves and adapt, you will be teaching your kids valuable communication skills. With full awareness, mindfulness, and consciousness, embrace these stages as you do every other period of growth.

Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at change.” This change starts with you. Take this on like a leader, an advocate, and a champion for your kids.