This post: 7 Things to Stop Expecting from Your Teen
I’ve always been a firm believer that teenagers are capable of far more than we often give them credit. Teenagers today are smart, intuitive, worldly and we all know the vast majority are far more tech-savvy than most of us will ever hope to be.
Still, despite their many capabilities, there’s a good chance we’re expecting too much from them – at least in some areas.
There are certain things our kids may not be capable of… yet. Things they’re too young to have mastered or harsh expectations we’re placing on them without even realizing. In fact, according to some experts, if we lower our expectations (even a tad) we’ll likely set the foundation for a more harmonious relationship with our kids.
That’s not to say we can’t inspire greatness in our kids, but when our expectations are unrealistic, we’re more likely to foster resentment, frustration, and disappointment. The bottom line is, when it comes to raising our teens, there are some areas where it might serve us well to lower the bar. Here are 7 things to stop expecting from your teen.
7 Things to Stop Expecting from Your Teen
#1 The Worst
Of all the things to stop expecting from your teen, expecting the worst tops the list. Too often, parents venture into the teen years fearing the worst – that their teen will be moody, angry, rebellious and quite possibly even reckless. But research shows that expecting bad behavior is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The teen years can be challenging, no doubt, but the majority of parents get through the tumultuous, hormone-swinging teen years with nothing more than a few bumps and bruises – some even say the teen years are the best years (imagine that). And, let’s not forget that there’s a valid reason why our kids act the way that they do – their young brains are still under construction.
So, while there’s a good chance you’ll face a few heated battles along the way, more than a few hormonal days, eye rolls, slammed doors and even a few “what the heck were you thinking” poor decisions, the upside of parenting teenagers far outweighs the downside.
#2 To Read Your Mind
I learned the hard way that my kids are fully incapable of reading my mind. I figured once they became teenagers, (clearly old enough and mature enough to pick up on my cues and understand what’s expected of them), that they would have picked up the ability to “read” me, if only a little. I was wrong. They can’t.
We can’t expect our kids to understand, to know, to change or behave in a certain way unless we communicate our expectations clearly. They don’t know what they don’t know. It’s up to us to S.P.E.L.L. it out.
Rather than getting frustrated, seething silently or, worse, blowing a gasket and shouting so loud the neighbors can hear, we need to tell our kids what we expect of them. If we don’t, we can’t blame them when they don’t meet our expectations.
#3 Not to Fail
When our kids were toddlers and they were learning how to walk, they stumbled and fell all the time. And, there we were, right behind them ready to catch them when they fell, offering our encouragement and support and urging them to keep trying. Yet, when our kids become teenagers, we forget that they’re still learning.
Simply because they’re older, more mature and they “look” all grown up, we expect them to know better and do better. Our kids are simply little kids in big kids’ bodies.
Their road to adulthood is filled with all types of detours, potholes, sharp turns, and blind curves. There are bound to be a few near misses, fender benders and quite possibly “crashes” along the way – figuratively speaking, that is.
Mistake-based learning has proven to be one of the best ways for kids to learn from their mistakes, build resilience and move forward with greater resolve. Not only should we expect our kids to fail, we should hope they’ll fail (from time to time) because the lessons learned from those failures are ones they’ll remember and carry with them through life.
#4 See Things The Way You Do
You walk by the kitchen garbage can and you’re dumbfounded that your teen stuffed their leftover hamburger and fries in there and didn’t have the sense to empty it. Their bedroom is on the verge of becoming a verifiable biohazard and yet, your teen seems perfectly content hanging out in a room with empty water bottles, dirty dishes from last night’s study session and piles of clothes strewn all over the floor.
You see things your kids don’t. Whether it’s something small like their dirty bedroom or something big like the importance of trying hard in school or striving to take the high road, sometimes our kids seem like they “just don’t get it.” And, for the most part, they don’t… yet.
Years of acquired knowledge, running a household, mothering, fathering, and having the uncanny ability to see an accident just waiting to happen only comes from years of experience – something our kids don’t quite yet have. Give them time. They’ll get there. For now, though, don’t expect them to view life through your lens.
#5 Fit Your Idea of Who They Should Be
From the moment you held your precious baby in your arms, you had a vision. Whether your vision included them being a great soccer player like his father, an artist like her mom or a straight-A student with determination to change the world, you had some type of vision, or, at the very least, hopes for your child. Every parent does, it’s human nature.
But, at some point on our parenting journey, we have to let go of the vision of what we hoped our kids would be and embrace who they actually are.
Our children are not an extension of us. They are very much their own person. As much as we would like to pave their path for them, protect and shield them from life’s many hard knocks, and carve out a place in this world that they can call their own, who they become in this life is ultimately “on them.”
They need to figure out a few things on their own. They need to figure out what matters, what doesn’t and determine what motivates, inspires and moves them. They need to blaze their own trail in life, love, friendships and their future career and we need to be right next to them cheering them on and offering our parental wisdom when needed and necessary.
#6 Full Appreciation for Everything You Do
You’re the glue that holds your family together. To keep your family happy and your home life running smoothly, you’re always on the go. Whether it’s taking your kids to practice, making a nice family dinner, helping your middle schooler with their science project or running through the drive-through because your teen has a craving for chicken nuggets, you’re constantly putting your family’s needs above your own.
Even though you’re not looking for a standing ovation at the end of each day, it’s disheartening when your constant selflessness seems to go unappreciated and unnoticed by your family – especially your teenagers.
It might make you feel better to know that you’re not alone. Teenagers are notorious for being slightly (okay, majorly) self-absorbed creatures. They’re not bad kids and you’re certainly not a bad parent. It’s simply one of the many (slightly annoying) phases teens go through on their journey to adulthood. They’re figuring out who they are and what they want to be – all the while juggling friends, school, and life. Hang in there, it won’t be long – typically in late high school or college – before they begin noticing and truly appreciating all that you do.
#7 Have a Long Attention Span
Do you ever wonder how your teen can maintain their focus for three straight hours gaming with their friends, yet when you have important information to share they seem to zone out before you finish your first sentence?
It all boils down to interest. Face it, gaming with their friends, watching YouTube videos and scrolling through Instagram or Tik Tok are far more fun (and less boring) than listening to us rant about their dirty bedroom or why they forgot to take out the garbage.
Some studies have shown that the average teenager has an attention span of somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes. Some studies claim it’s even less. That means that when we go on and on lecturing our kids about our latest “irk” or trying to teach them yet another life lesson, chances are, their mind is wandering off somewhere else.
Rather than expecting your teen to remember everything you tell them, break things down into smaller segments, choose a time when your child is alert (not first thing in the morning) and unrushed, eliminate distractions while you’re talking and encourage them to focus on what you’re saying. Also, try using sticky notes and to-do lists so they have a visual reminder.
Don’t blame your kids for disappointing you. Blame yourself for expecting too much.