When You’re Having a Hard Time with Your Teen, Remember This

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: When You’re Having a Hard Time with Your Teen, Remember This… (Main image credit: Sebastian English)

Sometimes, what we need is a shift in mindset…

I know I did. When my kids were deep in the throes of their teen years, there were times when literally everything felt like a battle of the wills.

I longed for the days when life was easier, when they didn’t fight me every step of the way, when they actually listened to me and enjoyed spending time with me. 

I quickly learned that when your child becomes a teenager, a whole new child emerges on the scene – one you’re not quite prepared for and fairly clueless about how to handle.

But after digging for answers in books, with my pediatrician, with friends who had been there, and even in my heart, I found that what I really needed was a fresh perspective.

To fully understand, appreciate and love my kids the way they needed to be understood, appreciated and loved during this tumultuous time in their lives, I needed to jump the fence and get on their side so we could face these years head-on together

The next time you’re having a hard time with your teen, remember these mantras – because sometimes, all we really need is a shift in mindset to help us see things a little more clearly.

When You’re Having a Hard Time with Your Teen, Remember This…


My Teen isn’t Giving Me a Hard Time, They’re Having a Hard Time

There is a famous quote by psychologist Ashleigh Warner that states, “Beneath every behavior, there is a feeling. And, beneath every feeling is a need. When we meet that need rather than focusing on the behavior, we begin to deal with the cause, not the symptom.” 

Your teen may be feeling overwhelmed about school, their grades or scoring well on the ACT or SAT. They may be exhausted and stressed out as a result of pressure to fit in or the pressure to make big decisions about their future before they’re ready. They may be feeling suffocated and frustrated because certain rules are in place that they feel aren’t giving them enough freedom in their lives. Hence, chances are, they’ll transfer all those worries, frustrations and anxiety straight over to you (their safe place) by reacting or overreacting in a negative (often combative) way.

But if we can look at our teens’ lives through an empathetic lens (and perhaps the memory of how it felt to walk in their shoes), maybe we can begin to view their behavior less as their hell-bent desire to defy our authority or make our lives miserable and more as a cry for help. 

Talk to your teen. Listen… really listen to what they have to say. Get eye-level with them and try to see their perspective. Work with your teen, not against them. View your relationship as a partnership, not a dictatorship. Because when you boil it down, your teen isn’t giving you a hard time, they’re merely having a hard time.  (Quote credit: Dr. Ross Greene)

I May Not Be Able to Control Their Moods or Reactions, But I Can Always Control Mine

Whether your teen is in a crummy mood because they had a fight with their boyfriend/girlfriend, they failed a big test or their hormones are getting the best of them, you don’t have to sit in misery with them. Of course, we need to give our kids the freedom to feel, to be moody (so often, they can’t help it), and even overreact (when you’re a teenager, everything feels bigger), but it won’t serve them or us well if we ride their emotional roller coaster right alongside them.

Be supportive. Be understanding (without giving them the freedom to be disrespectful or rude). Be by their side. But hold yourself accountable for your own reactions. If we want our teens to learn how to control their emotions, we first have to learn to control ours. 

Growing Up is Hard – My Kid’s Brain and Body are Under Massive Construction

If we really understood the massive changes going on in our teen’s brains, we might parent with a lot more patience, grace and understanding.

Despite their size 10 shoes, towering six-foot presence, and mature outlook in at least some areas of their lives, researchers have known for a while that even though our teens may look all grown up on the outside, they’re most certainly not grown up on the inside. In fact, their brains (and bodies) are under such massive construction that they themselves have a hard time keeping pace with the rapid changes going on. 

Bottom line, those snarky comebacks, unpredictable emotions and mood swings, and delusions of immortality can more often than not be blamed on their growing mind and body. 

Behind the Eye Rolls, Heavy Sighs and Closed Bedroom Door is a Child Who Needs Me

You ask them to hang out and watch a movie with you and they say, “Nah, I’m going over to my friend’s house tonight.” You ask how their day was when they walk in the door after school and they roll their eyes, tell you they don’t want to talk about it and retreat to their bedroom. You peek in their bedroom to check up on them (and because you miss them so much your heart aches) and they look up from their computer and say, “Ummm, so… yeah. You’re leaving soon, right?” 

But don’t let them fool you. Behind the eye rolls, behind the heavy sighs, behind the closed bedroom door, behind the “I’ve totally got this, I’m grown up now,” teenager is a child who really needs you.

Keep asking. Keep knocking. Keeping trying. Keep hugging them. Keep doing little things for them to let them know you love them. Keep telling them how much you love them. And, don’t take it personally. 

Look for ways to step into their world (timing is everything here). Love what they love. Take them out to lunch. Go for a long car ride (where the best conversations happen). Ask them about school, their friends, their interests, hopes and dreams. Despite their “offish” behavior, they need you. They need your guidance, your support, your touch, and mostly, your love – both now and well into their adult years.

It Won’t Be This Hard Forever

When you’re parenting teenagers, everything seems bigger – your kids’ problems, the consequences of their actions, their moods and emotions, the pressure to help them stay on track, your worries – heck, even their feet are bigger. But just like you thought those toddler temper tantrums and sleepless nights would kill you when your kids were young, you did survive. And, you’ll survive this, too. 

No season lasts forever. Some seasons with our kids will be glorious, while others will bring us to the brink of insanity. But no matter how wonderful or trying, every season will eventually come to an end and we’ll be left with only memories.

So take these days in stride. Remind yourself often. Your teen is only a teenager for seven years and 2555 days. Soon enough your moody, self-absorbed, “I really don’t need you… leave me alone,”  teenager will come back around. Until then, love them hard – on their good days, their bad days, and every day in between. Because the only thing (besides a homecooked meal) that will bring them back home, whether they’re 17, 27 or 47, is your unending love. 

If you enjoyed reading, “Mantras to Think About When You’re Having a Hard Time with Your Teen,” check out these other posts!

6 Powerful Truths Every Parent of Teens NEEDS to Hear

12 Must-Watch TED Talks for Parents of Teenagers

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Kristy April 28, 2022 - 2:43 am

I love this post so much! The opening quote especially got my attention. Thank you for sharing these mantras, I’ll be revisiting this article often!

Nancy Reynolds April 28, 2022 - 6:33 am

Thanks, Kristy! That’s SO good to hear! I think these are mantras we all need to refer back to from time to time. I’m so happy you found the post helpful!

Vanessa May 14, 2022 - 2:30 pm

Thank you do much for this as l so needed to hear it. My eldest son is 15 & has needed me longer than most growing up,as he has additional needs,so l’ve been finding it hard that he is pushing me away. I was his rock but l’m happy he has become more independent & so proud of him. I love the quote aswell.

Nancy Reynolds May 16, 2022 - 6:57 am

I’m SO happy to hear you found the post helpful (and hopefully somewhat comforting to know so many other parents of teens are going through the same thing). As hard as it is to accept, it really IS a good thing our kids “push us away.” It means we’re raising an independent child who’s slowly learning to take on this world without us… and that’s a good thing. I’m sure you’re so proud of your boy!! It sounds as though he’s come a long way and he’s doing fantastic! Keep going, mama… xo

Andrea Hicks July 19, 2022 - 10:07 am

Thank You! I Remind Myself Everyday what is was like being their age and the roller coaster of life. The ups and downs, learning that life isn’t linear and that I felt out of control. We’re raising our daughter differently and so far = it’s working wonders! We ( hold space for her ) to speak, to feel, to express of course with respect! So Everything that you Wrote, is So Encouraging to me to keep on our path raising our daughter!
So Again = Thank you!!!!

Nancy Reynolds July 19, 2022 - 1:29 pm

That’s so great to hear! These years (for our kids and us) really ARE a roller coaster and, as you said, when we hold space for our kids to express themselves with the utmost respect, it really can be a game changer in parenting. Thank you for your response and keep doing what you’re doing… it sounds as though it’s working beautifully! 🙂


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