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The Map to a Great Relationship With Your Teen

Here’s something you must know about me. If we run into each other and you ask how I’m doing, the answer isn’t going to be “fine.” If you ask me this question, I will tell you how I’m doing, whether you want to know or not.

And on many occasions, the answer has been something like, “I was not made to be a mom of teenagers.”

I have loved being a mom to babies and children. Teenagers, not so much.

Luckily for you, that means my struggles can be your easy wins.

Another thing you must know about me is that I love musicals.

In Dear Evan Hansen, one of the moms sings:

Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
’Cause the scary truth is
I’m flyin’ blind
I’m making this up as I go.

Today I will give you a map — a map to a great relationship with your teen. I’m still just like the mom in the musical – I made it up. But I created it through a lot of struggle, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of hard lessons learned.

But before we get there, let’s discuss why it’s so important.

The Cost of Constant Conflict

When parent-teen relationships are filled with constant battles and tension, both sides feel trapped and restricted. For moms, the heavy burden of trying to control and micromanage a defiant teen can take over your life. Days are spent arguing over homework and chores, monitoring activities, and dealing with discipline issues. Anger and resentment brew under the surface, destroying the mother-child bond that used to be a source of joy.

As a mom, this loss of freedom is exhausting. You no longer have time for yourself as your teen consumes your mental and emotional energy. Self-care falls by the wayside, leaving you depleted and operating on empty. Your relationships with your spouse and friends suffer without relief from the daily grind of teen strife. And with a recalcitrant teen, you don’t get to fully enjoy motherhood’s rewards of seeing your child grow into a thriving young adult.

The Benefits of Growing Together

When you and your teen learn to communicate and co-exist peacefully, on the other hand, freedom is restored for both sides. With less daily drama, you open up time for self-care like exercise, hobbies, and socializing with friends. Your mental space is freed up to focus on your marriage, career, and other children. Instead of being stuck micromanaging your teen, you can step back and allow them to make their own choices and mistakes.

Most importantly, a thawed relationship means enjoying your teen’s journey to adulthood. The rides to practice turn into conversations where you gain insight into their budding beliefs. Outings become opportunities for memory-making rather than headaches to endure. You become a trusted confidant instead of the enemy. And you experience the joy and pride of watching your son or daughter grow into a capable young person ready to take on the world.

This newfound freedom in your relationship allows you to rediscover the mother you want to be – relaxed, happy, fulfilled, and thriving in all areas of life. Your teen also benefits from the space to grow without constant conflict. So, put in the effort to communicate, compromise, and reconnect. The payoff for both of you will be immeasurable.

Ok, that sounds great, Mindy. But how do I do that when my teen is so difficult to deal with? I’m so glad you asked. Let’s talk about it.

The Map: Top 5 Tips for Getting Along With Your Teen

#1: Zip It

  1. Stop talking and listen.
  2. When you do talk, let whatever comes out of your mouth be a curious question – not a judgmental one or validation.
  3. Give your opinion by invitation only.

Look, I get the desire to give advice. We moms strongly believe in helping our kids become responsible adults that people want to be around. But if they didn’t ask for your opinion, they aren’t going to listen to it anyway. In many cases, they’ll be more inclined to do the opposite. It doesn’t achieve what you think it will achieve, AND it often hurts the relationship.

Let me give you an example. Teen says words about something that happened at school. Me: That sounds hard. What do you think you’re going to do? Validation. Curious question. No advice. No lectures. No teaching.

#2: Repeat “This is developmentally appropriate” on the regular

Use this phrase or a phrase like it as your new favorite phrase. Repeat it to yourself every single time your teen does something that you have negative thoughts or feelings about.

It’s normal for teens to pull away from their parents and seek more independence. However, the combination of puberty and brain development makes emotions run high. Here’s what’s happening developmentally:

The Teen Brain

During adolescence, the prefrontal cortex of the brain goes through major changes. This is the area responsible for judgment, planning, and impulse control. At the same time, the limbic system, which controls emotions, is kicking into overdrive due to puberty and new social pressures. This imbalance explains some typical teen behaviors like:

  • Increased conflict with parents
  • Poor decision making
  • Heightened emotions and moodiness
  • Impulsiveness and risk-taking

Based on adolescent brain development, issues in certain areas are pretty much inevitable. Knowing which issues to expect can help minimize conflicts because you’ll be able to get into problem-solving mode instead of wasting a lot of time arguing with reality (thinking these things shouldn’t be a problem).

Here are some common sources of disagreements:

  • Curfews
  • Friends
  • Technology Use
  • Privacy
  • Rules
  • School/Activities
  • Arguing

As a mom, understanding that your teen can’t always control their emotions or make good choices due to brain development can help you respond with patience and compassion.

The teen years are all about letting go of control and allowing your child to become their own person.

Their behavior is a normal part of growing up, not a reflection of your parenting or your relationship, which brings us to #3.

#3: Stop Making It About You

Stop taking it personally. They aren’t talking to you that way because they don’t love you, you haven’t raised them right, or you don’t have a good relationship. Teens have a lot going on in their bodies. Lots of hormones. Lots of brain development. It has nothing to do with you as a person or as a mom. If you want a great relationship with your teen, you must learn how to stop making what they do and say about you.

The way to do that is by creating an amazing relationship with yourself. And that, my friend, will up-level every area of your life. If you want help with this, my Live Free Love Life membership is a no-brainer.

#4: Grieve the Loss of Your Sweet Babies

Part of what makes teens so hard is what we’ve lost. Our kids used to adore us. They used to want to spend time with us. They used to show affection. They used to be so sweet. They used to need us.

You’ve lost something real. Your child is still here, but you have lost the child they were. And rightly so – this is part of growing up. But, if you want to have a great relationship with who they are now, you must grieve what you’ve lost. It’s ok to be sad about it. Let yourself feel the feelings. The only way out is through. So feel it deeply and thoroughly so we can come out on the other side much more capable of enjoying who they are now.

#5: Let Them Fail

One of the biggest reasons we have conflict with our teens is because we are trying to save them from the negative consequences of the choices they want to make. But right now is the best time for them to learn how to fail. They are still at home, safe and supported. Let them fail. This means we stop micromanaging. We give them more of that independence they are craving. We stop giving them unsolicited advice. We let them make choices and fail. And then we love and support them through all of it.

Bonding Despite the Battles

While parenting a teen has its challenges, there are many rewards like:

  • Watching your child develop opinions, values, and interests
  • Seeing glimpses of the amazing adult your teen is becoming
  • Having intellectual conversations about important topics
  • Sharing new experiences as your teen explores activities
  • Spending time together doing things your teen enjoys

Making time to connect is critical, especially as your teen pulls away to establish independence. Look for everyday opportunities like:

  • Making your teen’s favorite meal and eating together sans devices
  • Doing quick activities like taking a walk or baking cookies
  • Attending their concerts, games, or events, even if you have to drag them at first
  • Having mom-teen dates like getting ice cream or pedicures
  • Letting them pick the radio station in the car and then sing along

The teen years are a balancing act between supporting their autonomy and maintaining family bonds. With empathy, flexibility and communication, you can navigate this transition in your relationship and build a strong foundation for the future. The disputes will pass, but the love between a parent and child remains.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is your current balance of talking to listening? How might you shift it more towards listening?
  2. Where are you making your teen’s behavior about you? Why? What else could this behavior mean?
  3. Why are you trying to control specific behaviors? What’s the worst that could happen if you let go?

The Promise

If you follow this map, I promise your relationship with your teen will get better and you will be able to break free from their behavior. I’m following these same five tips every day. There are still days when I make their behavior mean something about me – and that shows me something else that needs to be healed within myself. I still have to consciously keep my mouth shut when I want to say something.

The more I follow the map, the better the relationship we have, and the more freedom I have. Freedom to enjoy my kids. Freedom to enjoy being a mom. Freedom from anger, frustration, hurt feelings, and worry. Freedom to enjoy my life, regardless of my kid’s behavior or choices.

And that’s what I want for you.

Live Free. Love Life.

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