This post: 12 things parents do to push their teen away
No parent ever wants to push their kids away. In fact, every parent of teens I know fights to maintain a healthy, close relationship with their kids.
Still, there are things parents do to push their teen away without even realizing it.
We venture down a path with all good intentions only to later find that our kids have pulled away from us, that our relationship with them has eroded, and that we’ve lost a healthy dose of parental control and influence.
Our teens need us. Rather than doing things that irritate, frustrate, or push our kids away, we should be trying to draw them closer to us.
After all, the closer they are to us and the tighter our relationship is with them, the more influence we’ll have over their lives as they navigate through these ever-changing years.
Establish a strong relationship with your teen and avoid the parenting pitfalls that could push them away. Here are 12 things parents do to push their teen away.
#1 Clamping Down When Your Teen Shows Signs of Independence
Our kids are itching for more freedom. Not only is it normal, it’s healthy. As parents, if we don’t anticipate (and even embrace) our kids’ growing need for autonomy when it does happen, we’ll likely view it as a lack of respect or that we’re losing control, which will, in turn, cause us to clamp down even harder.
Rather than clamping down (and potentially pushing your teen away), offer your teen small opportunities to “make the rules” and see how they manage the responsibility. When your child begins to feel that you trust and respect their decisions, there’s a good chance they’ll become even more mature and responsible.
#2 Interrogating Them Every Time They Walk in the Door
It’s so tempting. “Where did you go?” “Who were you with?” “Were the parents home?” “Was there drinking involved?” “Why did you stay so long?” “Were you vaping?” “Were your friends vaping?”
There’s a fine line between staying on top of your child’s actions and whereabouts and suffocating them to the point where they dread coming home.
Our kids want us to be interested in their lives. They want to share their lives with us (the good, the bad, and the ugly). What they don’t want is to feel interrogated and judged when they walk in the door or, worse, have us overreact when they tell us something we don’t approve of. Hold your tongue. Give your teen a chance to speak. The more emotionally charged you are, the less likely they’ll be to share anything with you in the future.
#3 Half Listening When They Want to Talk
Our kids aren’t always in the mood to talk, but when they are, they need our full attention. Stop multitasking. Put your phone down, turn off the television, stop folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher, make eye contact, and listen with all your heart.
Even if you’ve heard it a million times before, even if you’re tired, even if you don’t agree with what they have to say or you don’t have a ton of interest in what they’re telling you, grab every moment you can – they’re fleeting. It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation is. What matters is that you’re conveying the message that you care enough to drop everything and pay attention to what they have to say.
#4 Constantly Criticizing and Judging
It drives you crazy. Your son’s hair is so long you can barely see his eyes and your daughter has pink streaks in her hair. Their bedroom is a total disaster, they couldn’t put a plate in the dishwasher if their life depended on it and their bathroom is a biohazard.
When you’re raising teenagers, there will always be plenty to criticize and judge. But, heads up. You need to stop.
Constant disapproval of your child’s appearance, actions, attitude, or academic performance, (whether it’s through words or body language), will eventually begin to chip away at their self-esteem causing them to ultimately push you away to avoid further criticism. Focus on the good stuff. Not everything matters.
#5 Saying “No” All the Time
All too often our knee-jerk reaction is to say “no.” That may have worked a few years ago when your child was younger, but now that they’re a teenager, they’re not going to willingly take “no” for an answer. In fact, chances are, they’ll engage in a full-blown debate to test your reasoning.
Rather than saying “no,” (and potentially changing your mind later which will only convey the message to your teen that you’re a discipline pushover), sleep on it, give it some thought and, when possible, say “yes.” Our kids want and need us to say yes.
#6 Information Overload
Every parent I know is guilty of this from time to time. Your child walks in the door after a long day of school, sports, or their job and you bombard them with an exhaustive to-do list. “Don’t forget Grandpa’s birthday party is Sunday. Did you buy him a gift yet?” “You need to clean your room before you leave this house – it’s a disaster!” “Oh, and your Dad needs help in the yard on Saturday, so don’t make any plans.”
Teens (especially boys) need time to decompress. Whether they disappear into the abyss of their bedroom for an hour or put their headphones on and submerge themselves in their favorite music, give them some time to regroup before pounding them with total information overload. Timing is everything.
#7 Pushing Your Kids Too Hard
Sometimes, we think we’re doing our kids a favor by pushing them in a certain direction. According to one mom, “I pushed my son into playing football for years because it’s the sport a lot of his friends played. At the time, I had his very best interest at heart – I just wanted him to fit in. I later found out that he resented me for it.”
Our kids have to choose their own path – even if it’s not the path we envisioned for them or the path that we ourselves took when we were their age. We can’t live vicariously through our children. We can’t make them become something or someone they’re not. We can’t view our kids’ activities or successes as an extension of our own. It puts tremendous pressure on our kids and ignores their individuality and strengths.
#8 Putting Your Relationship on “Auto-Pilot”
Every relationship, whether it’s with our husband or wife, friends or our kids, needs a shot of excitement every once in a while. Going through the same mundane motions day in and day out is boring, not to mention the fact that it conveys the message to your teen that they’re not worth the extra effort it takes to plan or do something different or fun.
Pick a vacation spot you’ve never been to, try a new restaurant, explore a new part of the city, volunteer together, or go on an adventure. Spend time together. Help your child break free from the stress of school, friend drama, homework, or college applications and have fun and laugh. Show your child how much you love being with them.
#9 Not Being the “Friend” They Need
Most parents cringe at the mere mention of the “F” word when it relates to parent/teen relationships, but friendship is exactly what teens need from their parents.
Of course, the friendship shouldn’t be reciprocal where we tell our child all of our deep, dark secrets. But we need to open the door to more non-threatening, relaxed conversation with our kids so they feel comfortable telling us anything – just as friends do.
Being your child’s friend doesn’t mean you’ve dropped the parenting ball. With open communication and proper boundaries in place, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds while giving your child a safe place to land when they need it the most.
#10 Unjustified Lack of Trust in Your Teen
“I wish my parents realized that I’m a pretty good kid compared to a lot of other kids I know.” These are wise words from a teenager who felt he was being “punished” before he even committed a “crime.”
Of all the things parents do to push their teens away, this might top the list. Most often, our kids aim to please. They want to follow our rules, make us happy, and avoid anything that’s too dangerous. Yet, all too often, we don’t give them a chance to prove themselves or their decision-making skills. If we don’t begin trusting our kids, how will they ever become trustworthy?
#11 Allowing Rules to Overshadow Your Relationship
I recently heard a story about an 18-year-old girl who was recovering from an attempted suicide. When asked what drove her to feel as though life was no longer worth living, she said, “I was living under a blanket of rules without the foundation of a solid relationship with my parents.”
Rules, guidelines, and boundaries are important, but remember, they should never be handcuffs. Too many steadfast rules and suffocating boundaries can take their toll on your relationship with your child, trigger them to sneak around, lie to you, or rebel and eventually erode your relationship. The ultimate goal should be to instill a “family belief system” based on mutual respect and open communication.
#12 Demanding Your Teen Spends Time with You
When our kids become older, our ultimate goal should be for them to want to spend time with us, not to make them feel as though they have to spend time with us.
If you want your child to be excited and actually look forward to spending time with you and the family, stop putting the hammer down. Unless it’s a planned family function or scheduled event they’re required to attend, relinquish some control. Give your child a little latitude to choose when and how long they spend time with the family and give them a chance to weigh in on what you do together.
No parent is perfect. We’re all learning and growing right alongside our kids.
Yet, there are things parents do to push their teen away. Keep your child close by listening to what they have to say, tuning into their verbal and non-verbal cues, respecting their space and growing need for autonomy, avoiding criticism, and finding non-threatening, fun ways to connect and enjoy one another.