Parenting a prickly teen? Here's some advice from the experts

Parenting a prickly teen? Here's some advice from the experts

“There are few situations in life more difficult to cope with than an adolescent son or daughter during the attempt to liberate themselves.” – Anna Freud

It seems that adolescents haven’t changed much since the days of of Anna Freud. If you find yourself in the challenging situation of parenting a teen, you may or may not find it comforting to know that parenting a prickly teen has been hard since, well, pretty much forever. Their sometimes off-putting behavior is actually developmentally appropriate. These posts not only affirm that and offer sympathy but even better, they also offer actionable advice.

The Emotional Whiplash of Parenting a Teenager by Lisa DAmour in Motherloade – The New York Times

Some parents, feeling too hurt by the push-off or taking their teenager’s rejections too personally, choose to make themselves unavailable. In some ways it does feel better to avoid episodes of emotional whiplash. But being unavailable comes at a cost. Unavailable parents miss out on some wonderful, if brief, moments with their teenagers. Worse, their teenagers are left without a wall to swim to and must navigate choppy waters all on their own. Parents who stay in place can obtain a measure of protection by readying themselves for the kick that will certainly come. When it does, they may say, ‘Hey, that’s not nice’ or ‘Actually, that is offensive’ or something else that allows them to stick up for themselves while communicating that they’re not going anywhere.”

7 Keys to Handling Difficult Teenagers by Preston Ni in Psychology Today

The first rule of thumb in the face of a difficult teenager is to keep your cool. The less reactive you are to provocations, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel upset or challenged by a teen, before you say or do something that may worsen the situation, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In many instances, by the time you reach ten, you would have regained composure, and figured out a better response to the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of exacerbate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.”

As Teens Push Away, What Can Parents Do To Support Them? by  on KQED Mind/Shift

“When teens push themselves away, says [Harvard University Professor Nancy] Hill, ‘it does not mean that they don’t want and crave their parents’ acceptance of their identities and interests. One of my colleagues said parenting teens is like hugging a cactus. Even as the ‘warm fuzzies’ are not often reciprocated, teens still need them, still need to know they are loved unconditionally. Don’t miss the opportunity to say or show love, warmth and affection toward even your most prickly teen.'”

How to Deal With Difficult Teenagers by Michelle Bolyn on

“Take a few minutes to remember what is like to be a teenager. Think about the rebellious things that you did and how you felt about your parents. There were probably times where you loved them and other times where you couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them. That’s the life of a teen.”

Also, because maintaining your sense of humor is key, this funny parody video from 2010 may keep you laughing:

These posts are aimed at teens, but if you’re looking for help with a tween, check out the book How to Hug a Porcupine: Negotiating the Prickly Points of the Tween Years (Family & Relationships) by Julie Ross.

Remember that they won’t be this way forever. This, too, shall pass, and the experts say that kids become a lot less prickly around age 17. Keep hope alive!

Prior Post: How Google’s research on successful teams can help your family

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