Parenting when you have teenagers or kids in that preteen age is so challenging. I am walking with you on this right now as I have kids ages 13, 11, and 9, plus a 2-year old that keeps things fun!
We Don’t Intuitively ‘Just Know How’ To Parent
Learning to parent in all these different developmental ages is something that most of us have to grow through. We do not just automatically know how to do it. It is especially challenging in this preteen age because their changing hormones create a lot of moodiness. You have different social and peer pressures that they’re experiencing for the first time. You’ve also got all the awkwardness that happens at the middle school age range. They are trying to navigate all of this as much as you are.
The Frontal Lobe & The Emotional Brain
Also keep in mind that the frontal lobe of a teenager’s brain is not yet even fully developed. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that helps you to reason through things, use logic, and make rational decisions. Theirs is not yet fully developed, so kids in this age range are really operating primarily out of their emotional brain.
This is why sometimes you might see them make a decision and think, “Why would you do that? That was the dumbest decision ever.” The ‘why’ is because they’re making decisions out of their emotional brain. They aren’t using reason and logic the way an adult would. It’s really important for us as parents to remember this as we’re interacting with our kids and navigating around their moodiness and impulsive decisions.
Adjust Your Parenting Approach
I want to share a personal example. Yesterday my son said something I wanted to correct. In the moment I corrected my son from a place of, “You’ve got to quit doing that. You need to know better”. It was not the best approach and of course he immediately reacted defensively to it.
I took a step back and asked him “Okay, what was it in my approach just now that put you on the defensive?” In turn, he was able to say, “I need you to remember that I’m only 13, I’m not an adult.” It was one of those “Duh!” moments for me! Of course he’s not an adult and of course I shouldn’t expect him to act and react like one. Next time, I will try approaching it more from the place of “Ok, next time Buddy, when this happens, think about it like this.”
Being able to address our kids from a place of teaching and preparing them for the next time, rather than that punitive place of, “Something’s wrong with you. Why would you do that?” is really important for our kiddos in any stage of development, but especially in these teen stages.
We can fall into that trap so easily of thinking, they’re older and we’ve been over this a thousand times. Perhaps they should know better, but in reality they are still children. They’re still learning and their brain is not fully developed.
Create an Open Door – Ask For Feedback
Something else to consider is keeping the lines of communication open. You want to protect that connection with your child at all costs during these years.
When you find yourself engaging in these battles where you know there’s a behavior you’re wanting to address, but when you address it they get defensive and it’s a ‘back and forth’ thing, try to take a step back. Take a deep breath yourself and make adjustments.
Having that open door allows you to ask your child:
How was my approach just now?
How did you experience that? How did you experience me?
How can I address this with you in a way that doesn’t immediately put you on the defensive?
Be willing to own your mistakes as a parent and be willing to learn and grow.
Asking for feedback and owning your own mistakes communicates to the child that you care deeply about your connection with him and sets the stage for the trust you want to build with your kiddo moving forward.