If you’re so great, then why doesn’t your teenager like you?
Ouch!!! Sorry about that!!
So, I’m not implying you’re not great, but, be honest, have you ever pondered that thought?
Or maybe another version is, “I have so many close friends and family members who appreciate me, why am I the most uninteresting, uncool person in the world to my teenager? Why am I the last person they want to talk to or spend time with?”
There’s this collective belief that masquerades around like truth: It’s normal for teenagers to hate their parents.
I don’t buy it--not in my own parenting or as a teen and parent coach. I have witnessed this belief in action over and over and made it my life’s work to undo it every chance I get.
Here are THREE reasons not to buy into this lie:
A teenager is a person. You are a person. People have relationships. There is no age in which it is technically impossible to have a relationship with another person. It would be a giant loss throw away your chance at being on the inside of your teenager’s life because there are these seven years or so where you believe, ”Yeah...it’s normal. I have to suffer and feel helpless and confused and frustrated til they’re 20, or until they have their own kids someday and then send me a tearful letter about how they are so sorry they didn’t realize how great I was back then and how wrong they were.” How can you have a solid, open relationship with your teen if you hold on to the belief that it’s normal and just a shitty part of life to survive?
It lets you off the hook as the adult to really level up as a human being who your teenager can look up to and trust. I am not saying it’s your fault, that you suck, etc. I am saying that teenagers sense a lot more than you may realize. When someone occurs for them as fake/inauthentic, controlling, or out of control, teenagers are highly likely to be, well, bothered by that. The teen years are when we figure out who we are and build our identity. When we see someone who operates in a way that we do not want to emulate, it’s a big turn-off. Are you being real? Not perfect. I mean vulnerable. I mean real about what you’re struggling with, what you are trying to improve about yourself or are you grasping to this image of what you should be like, say, do because you’re more concerned about being “the parent” than being a person.
You won’t be curious. You won’t be interested in what the actual issue is. You’ll make assumptions and you’ll be out of touch with reality. I had a session recently with a teenager whose parents truly believed that it was his “personality/age/hormones” that kept him in his room 24/7 with his door shut, didn’t want them within 15 feet of him, reduced his communication to one-word answers, if they even got that much interaction. In our first meeting, he told me exactly why he doesn’t want to talk with them, share his thoughts and feelings, fears and plans. One of the parents had broken his trust by sharing things about his life without permission on Facebook three years ago and he decided at that moment that he will risk public embarrassment if they know anything about his life.
The truth is that when we as parents are able to be more vulnerable and real, regard all humans of all ages as capable of communication, and healthy, positive relationships, then we can have a shot at one with our own kids. When parents try on being humble and curious, we can get a lot of our questions answered and our assumptions corrected. It takes courage and sometimes you might need help. But what wouldn’t you do to really know what’s happening in their life and to get to have a shot at influencing them for the positive?