Do you ever feel lost in a conversation with your teenager? You know something is off, but you can’t identify it? And you certainly don’t know what to do. Let’s look at an example.
My Teenager Can Be So Frustrating
I know a 17-year-old girl, Elyssa, who for years has been a grab bag of trouble: rebellious, difficult at home, snotty attitude, smart mouth, ungrateful, grades dropping, irresponsible. These problems usually result in severe disabilities throughout adulthood—emotionally, in relationships, in careers, and more—but parents don’t pay attention early.
We parents tend to respond only to emotional car wrecks, instead of teaching simple principles that prevent the wrecks. Early on, each undesirable behavior seems small, so we justify them and blow them off.
- “It’s just that age. She’ll grow out of it.”
- “She’s in a bad mood.”
- “I’m too tired to deal with this.”
- “I can’t do anything with her.”
- “Go to your room.”
We’re ignoring the roots of emotional weeds that are springing up and choking the tender souls of our kids. If we ignore the weeds long enough, we can’t save the plant. We must pay attention to our children’s feelings and behaviors early on, or the day will arrive when there’s nothing we CAN do.
What Is My Teenager Doing??
How Can I Recognize My Teenager’s Problems?
What can you do to help your teenager?
First, recognize what’s happening. Mostly we don’t even SEE what our children are telling us with their words and behaviors.
Let’s look at just one incident between Elyssa and her mother. Elyssa’s attitude toward her siblings had become quite a problem—criticizing, sniping, controlling, being snotty—to the point that nobody wanted to be around her.
One day Mom said she wanted to meet with Elyssa at 7 o’clock that evening.
Elyssa blurted out—with quite an attitude—“Again? Another meeting?”
Mom insisted, and Elyssa demanded to know when the meeting would end. “I don’t want this thing to take up my whole evening,” she said, spitting words like bullets.
Mom said they should be done by 7:30. Elyssa huffed and puffed, but she agreed.
At 7:00, the two began talking, and Elyssa vigorously resisted everything Mom was trying to teach her about feeling loved, being loving toward others, and being responsible—Real Love® principles the family had discussed many times before.
At 8:00, Elyssa stomped her feet and barked, “Stop talking. You’re a hypocrite. You keep saying that schedules are important, but you’ve already gone half an hour over the time you promised.”
Mom suggested that they talk more the next day. When Elyssa protested, Mom said, “Tomorrow we’ll be meeting on Zoom with Greg (me, the author).” Elyssa didn’t like that, but she was curious.
Parenting Tips for Adolescents: How You Are Manipulated by Your Teenager
How to Deal with an Adolescent
The next morning I spoke with both of them by video. After hearing their stories, I smiled broadly and said, “Elyssa, you get quite a kick out of gaming your mother.”
Immediately she said, “What do you mean?”
Laughing, I said, “You’re kind of cute when you pretend not to understand me, but you know exactly what I mean. Some of your behavior is unconscious, but I’ll describe it to both of you. Mom, it’s your job just to love and teach Elyssa, but without realizing it, what you do instead is play the game she’s created. You allow her to game you.”
“How does she do that?” Mom asked.
“Elyssa has taught you that you must never inconvenience or irritate her. That’s the Number One Rule. Elyssa’s entire focus is to do whatever she wants. Then she intimidates you into accepting her unloving behaviors. She does whatever it takes—snotty attitude and anger, for example—to make you afraid of her disapproval. It works, so she controls you.”
“You’re telling me that I’m afraid of her?”
“Of course. No parent likes to see the ‘I-hate-you’ look on a child’s face. You’re afraid of that look, so you give her whatever she wants. When your meeting yesterday went long—a meeting important for Elyssa’s LIFE happiness—Elyssa stopped the meeting just with her anger at you. You kept the rule that you must not irritate Elyssa. You back down from her all the time, letting her get away with being unloving and irresponsible, so she keeps getting away with it.”
Mom sighed and said, “Yeah, I do that.”
“If I had been there, and Elyssa had tried to berate ME for going over time, I would have laughed and said, ‘Kid, the only reason this meeting is going long is that YOU are being defensive and snotty. If you were listening, this meeting wouldn’t have lasted more than two minutes.’”
Mom said, “I would never have thought to say that.”
“Of course not,” I said. “You were playing the game. I wouldn’t. I don’t need her approval. I’m not afraid of her irritation. You’re tired of the game, my dear.”
Mom was stunned to realize that she had been tricked for so long. Elyssa looked surprised too, that her secret manipulations—partly unconscious—had been revealed.
Being the Parent of a Teenager is Hard
“Elyssa,” I said, “Here are the game rules in your head:
- I am entitled to get whatever I want.
- I can do whatever I want to get it.
- Anybody who gets in my way is the enemy, and then I can treat them however I want.”
Does that sound familiar?” I asked.
Elyssa hung her head, while Mom looked like she’d been freed from prison. The secret was out. The game was over.
No More Games with Your Teenagers
Most parents believe that they are obligated to satisfy their children’s desires. It sounds kind, but satisfying a child’s desires often directly conflicts with what a child NEEDS. This can become impossibly difficult for parents to navigate.
Teenagers, on the other hand, have only ONE simple goal: “ME” (themselves). ”Give to me, don’t bother me, serve me, don’t get in my way, and give to me again.” Simpler rules, yes?
And they become VERY good at getting what they want, since they have all the time in the world to focus on themselves and to manipulate their parents to play the game.
Parents don’t even know what the game is, so often, from the beginning, they’re doomed to lose.
What nobody is seeing is that EVERYBODY who plays the game loses—both parents and teenagers—because with all the manipulating, nobody feels unconditionally loved, nobody is truly loving, and nobody is responsible. And nobody is happy. The game is WRONG.
Parenting Tips for How to Raise Teenagers
So, what can you do instead of playing emotional games with your teens?
Your responsibility as a parent is simple: to LoveandTeach your children, including your teenagers.
What is the job of your children? To listen and to learn to feel loved, be loving, and be responsible.
That’s it. Those are the rules of happy living, and you must understand them so you can teach your teenagers the attitudes and skills that will make them happy for a lifetime, instead of playing the games where everybody loses.
Learn the rules of life—the principles that govern great parenting—at RealLoveParents.com.
These rules WORK EVERY TIME parents really follow them. But they’re not for wimps. Effective parenting requires courage and faith, but you will be happy, and so will your teenagers.
You can do this, so let's get started.
Click the button below—it’s free—to begin transforming your life as a Ridiculously Effective Parent.