Parenting can be wonderful, but it can also be challenging in so many ways. The highs and lows can bring an array of emotions, including some unexpected negative emotions. When you had a defiant toddler, you likely encountered some of those negative emotions, particularly when they threw tantrums in the grocery store or flatly refused to go to sleep at bedtime.
Still, despite the frustration and other emotions you felt, you provided your child with unconditional love and an environment that was supportive, encouraging, and consistent. As you start to see unpleasant behaviors and attitudes emerge in your teen, it can be hard to find it within yourself to like them even though you are still doing your part to protect them and provide for them.
It can make you feel pretty crummy as a parent when you don’t like your teen. The good news is that you are not alone. Many parents experience a phase of not enjoying the company of their snarky or aggressive teenager.
What does this mean for you as a parent?
How can you resolve it and prevent forming more resentment towards your teen?
It isn’t about a lack of love
Even if you feel mild dislike for your teen, you may feel guilt that tells you you’re a terrible parent. You could think that disliking your teen means that you aren’t a good parent and that you’re not the right parent for them.
When we have troubled teens who are acting out, it is not because we didn’t give them enough love, and it does not mean that they don’t love us. It does, however, mean that there is a strong need for help within your relationship. Something is off-kilter, and it needs to be addressed.
With love as the foundation, you and your teen will be able to work together to find the solution you need to restore your relationship. It may sound like a cliché, but there is plenty of truth in it.
One of the most difficult lessons that parents need to learn is that the negative behavior of their teenager is not due to him being a bad person. It is also generally more of a reflection of the parent-child relationship. From your perspective, it can feel like your teen is being stubborn, is being a jerk, and is not the kind of person you want to be around.
The behavior your teen expresses towards you is almost always his way of trying to work out how to best communicate with you. It comes across poorly, but it’s not necessarily because he’s deliberately trying to be a jerk to you.
The concern about communication
There’s almost nothing more important to focus on than communication when it comes to parenting troubled teens. When your child was younger, it was easier in some ways because you told him what to do. Pick up his shoes, eat his broccoli, do his homework, and help with household chores. He may have grumbled, but he likely followed the directives that he was given. As he grew from a little one into a teen, it became less about doing what he’s told and more about him needing to understand why he’s being told to do these things.
Teenagers naturally start to question things and form strong opinions of their own. This may come out as being confrontational and argumentative. In reality, it’s likely because they have not yet learned the most effective ways to communicate the way they think and feel.
As a parent, you may feel that your teen is defiant and rude when asking him to do something you think is a reasonable ask. You may also find yourself responding with anger.
It will take a fair bit of work, but you must learn how to communicate with your teen in a way that works for you both. Without communication, it’ll prove impossible to find any type of resolution to the struggles that you and your troubled teen are experiencing.
Boundaries are essential
Quite often, when a teenager is lashing out with anger, they are struggling with feeling insecure and with understanding what their expected boundaries are. It could be that your established boundaries left them feeling trapped and anxious. It could also be that the rules and boundaries were a bit too nebulous to understand what is expected of them.
We all thrive best in relationships that are infused with strong boundaries. Unfortunately, many of us never truly learned how to establish boundaries with our family and other loved ones.
Learning how to establish these boundaries can be a good start in rebuilding your relationship with your teenager.
How can you begin to fix things?
It may feel as though things have reached a point of no return with your teenager. You don’t like him very much. He doesn’t like you very much. You spend most of your days fighting with one another. No one in your family is happy.
The good news is that there is always hope and always a path that will bring you and your teen back together, including:
- Get professional help and support. This is going to be a difficult process for everyone in the family to work through. You will all need help to get through it. Therapy for everyone can prove beneficial. Serious work needs to be done, so it is crucial that you all have support as you work through the issues.
- Focus on keeping your emotions steady. Teenagers are often on emotional rollercoasters as they face struggles in their daily lives. As the parent of a troubled teen, you may also find yourself struggling with your own emotions. You may become angry, sad and find yourself lashing back as he lashes out at you. Therapy and learning healthy coping strategies can prove hugely beneficial for you.
- Don’t shy away from talking about feelings. Sometimes it’s tempting to try and shut down expressions of feelings, with benign statements like “don’t cry,” “get over it,” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” This can lead your teen to shut down his emotional expression, which can be troublesome as he tries to process life. Let the feelings be aired, even if they are uncomfortable.
- Listen. Conversations are important to have, but it is just as important to learn how to listen. There are times when your teen may want to feel heard and doesn’t always need advice, but to feel seen and understood.
Your teen may benefit from time spent in a residential treatment center. These facilities offer structure and security as troubled teens work through the issues they are struggling with. To learn more about the resources and benefits offered to families in crisis, call Help Your Teen Now.