February 25, 2012

The Dreaded Teenager Stage

So many people dread the teenager stage and I just don't get it. I was a teen from hell at the best of times, but I think my mom and I had enough healthy bonding times to make it all worth while. We were able to connect on levels we never could before. Sure, some days we were at each others throats and had our share of screaming matches...but the years were over faster than they started and we are better friends today for it all.

I hear so many times, "Just wait until they're teenagers! Then you'll really have your hands full with all those boys!" I'm sure I will, but hopefully in a good way. People wailing and gnashing their teeth about the dreaded "teen years" are only adding fuel to their spitfire of a kid who just wants to know who he should be and what his purpose in life is.


This pearl of wisdom was shared by a dear friend. Don't take their offenses personal, especially when dolling out punishment. This is still the hardest lesson for me; one I'm still learning. When we take their offenses personal we respond out of fear and emotion. Not a good combination for rational thinking.

You see, children will challenge authority. It IS going to happen. They are trying to establish their independence. This is a good thing and happens more frequently as they become young adults. Once you accept it as inevitable (like potty training and learning to read), it's easier to channel into something productive.

If a situation is spiraling out of control you need to step back. Put some distance between yourself and your kid. Give yourself a chance to think about what you need to do next. Sometimes the worst of situations even need a day or two to come up with the solution. At this stage you don't need immediate action, they won't forget what they did wrong, they also won't forget where you went wrong. Keep your kid close in that time. I've even disconnected my kids from the web, video games, and activities while we think about what the course of action should be. And remember to be quick to make amends for your wrongs as well. You lead by example and there's nothing a teenager hates worse than a hypocrite.


If you want them to act like adults, you have to treat them like adults. They need to be given the chance to prove themselves capable and learn from failure.

Chances are, you'll find out that a whole week went by and they didn't get any school work done. There are consequences. For my teens that means that the week was taken from their vacation time (spring break or summer doesn't matter). They are only delaying the inevitable and the work will still be there. I have occasionally had to invoke some harder lessons (loss of outside activities or being disconnected from electronics). I focus on them as consequences rather than punishment. It makes more of a difference in how I respond to it rather than how my teen feels about it.

There are, of course, more serious consequences for more serious offenses.


Teenagers need to be kept busy, especially homeschooled teens. Bored teenagers become sullen and frustrated when they should be spending these precious years developing their interests and talents. Get them involved early (12-13 at the latest) in an organized group or two: sports, dance, scouts, 4-H, whatever.

They need hobbies and enough work to fill their day. Give them real chores to do. Chores that your family depends on. My oldest teen is in charge of the kitchen. She keeps it organized, washes dishes, and cleans it from top to bottom. Our family can't function without her! She helps make us a well oiled machine. The same goes for my teen son. He's in charge of laundry. We count on him to do his job and do it well.

They both love to read. My daughter loves to create with colors, writing, and music. My son likes to work with his hands. We have lots of plans to build outdoor furniture. We stay very busy.


...as they will be the first out the door. The rest trickle down as the years go by and eventually even out. This is more sage advice from a very dear friend. She has 7 kids and they are all wonderfully talented people.

So with that in mind:

My oldest gets dibs on supplies she needs for her interests/talents (art, music, photography, etc).

She gets where she needs to be first. (there are exceptions when someone has something special going on, but for regular meetings/events she gets first priority).

This part is just common sense practiced by most homeschool families, but we give her the lion's share of school book money. After all, we'll reuse them for the younger kids as they come up.

The other kids are hardly neglected (HA! My bank account would prove it!). I'm there for each of them. We love giving to our kids, they are the reason my husband and I work so hard.


My last reminder to make the teen years more enjoyable.  Spend real time together.

Talk to them. Ask them real questions. Not: "How was class?" or "Did you have fun?" You'll only get yes or no answers from those questions. Be specific, be involved. "Did you get to work on that dance move?" or  "What did you do at the meeting tonight?" Follow up with interested questions. Most teens really do love to talk. However, they don't offer information up on a platter. They like to make you work for it.

If your teen is washing dishes, grab a dish towel and jump in with drying. I know it's their responsibility and I made a big deal about it. Once in a while it's great to stop what you are doing and help them along with their chores so they have a little extra time to do what pleases them. Remember to smile. Don't nit pick at their work. Just be there...working along side them peacefully.

Take the time to play video games (even if you'll only make a fool of yourself). Have them pop their ipod into the player when everyone is cleaning house. Find a way to connect with YOUR kid.

It's not all sunshine and roses at my house, but it's not the dreaded nightmare some expect it to be, either. My post is simple, humble advice. It's not a fool proof plan, but it works for us. There are some rare teens that defy all the norms. Don't make them the poster child for what you expect out of your own kid. 


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