It has been said, parenting a teen is MUCH harder and so much more exhausting than parenting a toddler. I believe you parents. I believe you.
Your sweet 9 year old is going to switch it up on you about the time you finally start to feeling confident in your parenting game. When you finally reach a parenting cruising speed of “I’ve got this”, and “I am a rockstar parent, doing things mostly right most of the time”.
You wake up one day and, out of no where, your sweet 9 year old is an emotional, moody beast slamming doors and demanding they get to lock it because “I deserve privacy!!!”. And there you stand, metaphorically hit across the face with a 2×4 by your sweet kid’s biology and you have NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED, and no idea how to parent this new stage.
If you’ve managed to get to the tween and teen years without your child telling you “I hate you!” consider yourself lucky. But also, brace yourself because it’s likely coming down the barrel very soon. The road of adolescence is as beautiful as it is tragic, sweet as it is sour, tranquil as it is pure chaos, joyous as it is painful…you get the point.
If you have begun to feel the sharp sting and spreading venom of your tween or teen screaming “I hate you” at the top of their lungs, under their breath, or (worse) overhearing them say it to their friends…you my friend, are not alone. Parents of tweens and teens commonly hear “I hate you” from their maturing offspring, it means you are doing a great job! It means you love them, you care about them, you are aware of what they are doing, putting limits and expectations on them and holding them accountable for their bullshit.
That doesn’t make hearing “I hate you” any easier, it sucks. It hurts. It’s lonely. How is it possible? You have done SO MUCH for this kid, you love this kid to the moon and back and prove that love in every way possible and they stand there and boldly exclaim, “I hate you”.
Here are three ways to love your teen even though they say “I hate you”.
Remember, you’re not alone.
- It’s helpful for all humans to know they are are in good company when experiencing something painful. It helps to know someone out there understands and is experiencing the same shit. There are parents of tweens and teens around the world who are experiencing the same thing you are experiencing right now with your tween or teen. To tap into the group of ‘parent of teen survivors’ you can find several books and many podcasts on the topic of parenting a teen.
You’re a good parent.
- Please, please, please remember that you are a good parent. Hearing your ungrateful offspring utter such hurtful words sucks, but their verbalization of their inability to emotionally regulate is NOT the measure by which you should judge your parenting. Your teen saying “I hate you” does NOT make you a horrible parent. It makes you a good one. Think of it this way, if your teen feels comfortable enough with you to be that awful, that raw, that vulnerable…then they trust YOU the most. They trust there is nothing they can do or say that will make you stop loving them.
Have the conversation, but first, give space.
- Don’t try to have the conversation while you and your teen are still upset and fuming. You will end up making a mountain out of a molehill. Give them some space and time to settle down. The worst thing you could do after your teen belts “I hate you” is to march after them, fingers pointing, ears ringing, eyes popping while emotionally lecturing them about how much they hurt you and how awful they are for saying it. Remember, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. They don’t really hate you, they are frustrated and they don’t yet have the brain skills for managing their emotions appropriately. When you have given space and time has passed, calmly seek them out (yes, you will likely be the one seeking them out) and ask them if they have a minute to talk. Then ask them if there is anything they would like to talk about; be a listening ear…their outburst could have something to do with a situation at school or friends and they need to talk about it.
Most likely your teen will apologize for saying they hate you. Teens are human, therefore they have feelings, they feel bad for saying mean things to their parents. Your patience and understanding after the fact will go a long way to finding out what’s really going on with your teen. Don’t take this time lecture them on how awful it is to say “I hate you”, they already know this and lecturing them on their bad behavior when they already feel bad won’t have much success in encouraging them to talk openly with you about their feelings.
One more thing, when talking about parenting a teen with a spouse, friends or a support system, it’s unfair to all teens and parents to speak of the adolescent years as a ‘horrible’ time. Verbalizing the traumatic experience of adolescence only makes the experience worse. Let’s do a service to teens and parents everywhere and stop demonizing adolescence. That’s not to say it can’t be talked about, my advice is to simply balance it. Talk about the positives and the power and brilliance of adolescence as well as the negatives and ‘what to look out for’s’.
Parenting a tween and teen is much different from parenting a toddler, or a pre-tween. For more information on learning some tween and teen parenting skills for your parenting tool box visit www.psykotherapist.com