This post: 6 battles we need to let our teens win.
The clothes they wore, what cereal they ate for breakfast, what time they went to bed, when they took a bath …
When our kids were young we controlled every aspect of their lives. They weren’t mature enough to make decisions on their own and they needed our guidance and direction.
But now, they’re teenagers.
They’re itching for more control over their own lives, they’re pulling away to develop their own identity and our opinions and thoughts simply don’t hold the same value in their eyes.
Somewhere in the crossroad between our kids fighting for more autonomy and our desire to cling to our parental control, lies the battleground.
When you’re a parent of teens you have to pick your battles wisely. And, in the long run, some battles simply aren’t worth fighting even if you win, especially if you want to maintain a strong connection with your teen and (even more importantly) prepare them for life without you.
So, whether you let your teen win one or two of these battles or all six, it might be time to lay down your shield of resistance and let your teen win a few battles. Not only will you be creating more peace between the two of you, but you’ll also be strengthening your relationship by relinquishing some much-needed control they crave AND preparing them to take on this world without you.
6 Battles We Need to Let Our Teens Win
#1 The Coat Battle
It’s 36 degrees outside, the wind is blowing an icy arctic wind, and the inside temperature of the bus your teen is about to get on is hovering around freezing – and, they refuse to wear a coat. If it was up to us, we’d bundle them up like we did when they were five with a heavy coat zipped up to the neck, a scarf, hat, gloves, thermal socks, and snow boots.
But heads up, parents… this is one battle we need to let go of. Somewhere between the time we bundled our kids up like the Michelin Man and now, they grew up. They’re old enough to figure out if they’re cold and, if they choose to venture out in the frigid zone coatless, they’ll eventually figure it out. Anyway, we won’t be preparing them for the real world if we’re still engaged in every decision they make.
#2 The Messy Bedroom Battle
Piles of clothes scattered ankle-deep all over their bedroom floor, shirts hanging out of the dresser, and piles of plates and cups on the nightstand – their bedroom is an absolute disaster. Chances are, though, if you ask your teen, they’ll tell you they like it just the way it is.
Our kids’ bedrooms are far more than simply a place to sleep. It’s their retreat. It’s where they hang out with friends, do homework, listen to music, escape from the world, and hunker down after a long stressful day of being “on” at school. They need their space – even if that space looks totally trashed in our eyes.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t nudge them to tidy up their room from time to time (after all, we need to collect all the cups, bowls, and spoons they’ve been hoarding in their rooms), but forcing them to keep their room neat and organized isn’t a battle worth having. In other words, follow the wise words of Princess Elsa in Frozen and just “let it go.”
#3 The “You Need a Haircut” Battle
Our boys can barely see through the mop of hair that’s covering their eyes and our girls have decided it might be fun to dye their hair with streaks of pink and purple. Let’s face it, our vision of perfectly groomed kids flew right out the window as soon as the “I’m my own person and you don’t have control over me” teen stepped onto the scene.
In the scheme of things, our worries as parents extend far beyond our kids’ hair or even what style of clothes they’re wearing these days. Their taste in clothes, hairstyles, and trends is all too often short-lived and erratic.
So, unless their whims become extreme, let’s give them the freedom to show a little self-expression, be adventurous, and yes, even impractical. Oh, and forget what the rest of the world thinks about your kids. Deep down inside you know who they are and what’s in their heart.
#4 The “I’d Rather Hang Out With My Friends” Battle
And, the fight begins… you haven’t seen your kid for what seems like weeks, you’re looking forward to a relaxing evening at home with the family to have dinner and catch up and all they care about is heading over to their friend’s house so they can hang out and listen to music. All you’re asking for is a few precious hours with your teen (honestly, you’d settle for a few minutes) and they have no interest whatsoever in spending time with the family.
You have two choices. You can either force your teen to spend time with the family, in which case they’ll begrudgingly follow your order, say two words the entire time and act hopelessly miserable, or you can compromise and teach them to prioritize family time by giving them a little latitude to choose when and for how long they spend time with the family.
Experience has taught me that putting your foot down about “friend time” doesn’t work. The more freedom and choices you offer, the less of a battle you’ll be fighting in the long run and the more they’ll actually enjoy spending quality time with the family.
#5 The Homework Battle
“Did you finish that history assignment that was due yesterday?” “What grade did you get on your Calculus test?” “You really need to start thinking about what you’re going to do for that science project.”
Still reminding them. Still questioning them. Still holding their hand. Still arguing.
Old habits sure are hard to break, but this is one of those grips we need to loosen over time as our kids move through the teen years. Unless there are extreme circumstances and our kids need continual homework reminders and assistance, let them figure it out. If they miss an assignment, fail a test, or show up ill-prepared for class, it’s on them, not you.
Soon enough they’ll be venturing off to college and they won’t have you to lean on or check up on them. That’s not to say you can’t lend them a hand from time to time or help them study for a big test. But, eventually, they need to learn how to manage their own time, plan ahead and study efficiently. If they need additional help, seek advice from their teacher(s) or counselor or hire a tutor, but avoid nagging at all costs.
#6 The Sleep ’til Noon Battle
You’ve been up for hours. You’ve cleaned the kitchen, organized two drawers, paid bills, and hit the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner. It’s midday, you’re ready for lunch and your teen is still enjoying his slumber like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
As frustrating as it is (and, as much as you’d like to rage vacuum outside his bedroom door to wake him up), you need to let this one go.
First of all, their internal clock has shifted which means they’re typically wide awake until midnight or beyond. And, because teens need lots of sleep (minimum 8-10 hours or even more), they need that sleep to be able to function during the day. Plus, most teens’ lives are stressful. School or college pressure (both academic and social), extracurricular activities, their job or internship, volunteering, and family obligations have a way of taking their toll on our kids. Their way of escaping life, de-stressing, and regrouping is by grabbing as many blissful hours of sleep as they can.
Unless there’s a specific reason your teen needs to cut their slumber short, let them catch as many glorious Zzzzs as they can. Soon enough they’ll be holding down a full-time job, managing life and their precious days of uninterrupted slumber will be a thing of the past.