Does your teen seem to have big mood swings? Does your adolescent act nicely only when they want something from you? Do you feel tired of doing so many things for them and they don’t seem to thank you? Does it seem like your child thinks you “owe” them things? Do they yell at you one minute, and then cry the next because they can’t believe they said that to you?
Adolescents are partially to be excused for this behavior, and partially to be held accountable. It’s a fine line between where they have emotional control and where they just don’t have the physical maturity to do this yet (Yes, I wrote physical on purpose. Their brains are developing very rapidly through their teen years). Their emotional regulation increases each year, and so should your expectation that they behave with increasing maturity.
While your adolescents are 13 and 14 years old, realize they go into a state of high emotional arousal fairly easily. Since you know this, don’t try and talk to them when they’re heightened. Wait until they calm down and then have whatever discussion you need to have. As parents we have the luxury of being infinitely patient. Kids generally have to run their lives on our timetable. What I mean by this is that they can’t drive themselves places, they can’t pay their own bills, and they can’t do a whole lot without you. So, just wait out their bad moods. If they miss a soccer practice because they were being too rude to you for you to want to drive them, then that’s their choice. However, don’t call the coach and get them out of whatever consequences they would face. That’s where parents err.
As your teen gets older though, it is perfectly reasonable for you to expect better behavior from them. They should be showing more gratitude, not yelling as frequently, showing the beginnings of empathy, and feeling more even tempered. This doesn’t mean they will be perfectly mature in every situation. It does mean they can be reasonable. This depends on your being reasonable though. If you still yell as though you’re in early adolescence, don’t expect anything better from your kids.
By 16 and 17, your children have the early ability to put themselves into your shoes. They should finally be able to understand how much you do around the house. They finally can understand that you actually work for your money. They realize you put in a lot of effort to get where you are in life. They are capable of not taking advantage of you anymore. If you still feel like you’re being treated really poorly by your older teenager, then we need to talk. There’s a decent chance there is some nuance to your behavior as a parent that either provokes or permits your teen’s bad attitude.
Raising teens is a completely challenging joy. They will make you want to rip out your hair, and they will make you laugh until your sides ache. Teenagers are trying to navigate intense academic pressure, learn how to associate with the opposite sex, find an identity, think about separating from home, and cope with emotional swings due to puberty; it is a really tough time for them. Keep this in mind, but don’t let it excuse bad choices.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT