You can listen to the people who tell you teens can't be trusted, or you can listen to two expert moms who don't want you to waste a single minute disliking your teenager. If the latter sounds good to you -- this is your book!
Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids
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marti AT slowparentingteens DOT com
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As the CEO of Envision Possibilities and the mom of twins I was delighted to read this book now before entering the teen years. The authors have put together a masterpiece that truly teaches you as a parent not to fear the teen years. I especially enjoyed the chapter on how listening is effective, because I work with busy moms who want to take their life back I will use this as a resource for those moms who have teenagers to help them navigate the parenting waters.
Dixie Andrade - the Mom Coach
One of the biggest worries parents have is with the “boyfriend/girlfriend” and all the issues that surface from your teenager’s intimate relationships. It’s harder when you just don’t like your kid’s choice. It’s even harder when you see changes in your teen you don’t like and that scare you.
Nothing will test your relationship with your kid more than when your teenager has a girlfriend or boyfriend. Your teen’s attention shifts, priorities change, interests show up or disappear, grades can suffer, drama can increase, you rarely get time alone with your own kid anymore, and there is that pesky issue of sex.
Now add onto the inevitable changes, the fact you don’t like him or her. This is a set up for some BIG Mistakes that could really damage your relationship.
What’s a Slow Parent to do?
First you must recognize your mistakes. We are going to help you identify the top 5 mistakes parents make so you can start fresh with your teen and actually build your relationship, not tear it down. In future blogs we will share Slow Parenting ideas for how to stay influential in your teen’s life when it seems you have lost all status to the boyfriend or girlfriend.
Blaming or judging the boyfriend or girlfriend.
When you blame or judge your teen’s girlfriend or boyfriend you are begging your teen to defend them and explain to you (often loudly with great emotion) why you are wrong, unfair, and can’t be trusted with intimate knowledge of the relationship.
Remember, this is someone that matters to your teenager (at least for now). To attack, or even seem to attack them is to question your kid’s judgment in picking them for a relationship. Now you might actually be questioning your teen’s judgment, but it will never pull your kid closer to you to point that out.
And a side note – even after they break up, do not speak badly of the ex. Teens often get back together and your comments will be remembered.
Putting your teen in a position where they have to choose between your approval or the relationship.
Be very careful with this one. You may think you aren’t asking them to choose yet every criticism and every snarky comment is doing just that. Loyalty is very important to teenagers and your teen will “pick” their boyfriend or girlfriend over you the majority of the time.
It’s hard to find things you approve of when you are worried for your kid or just don’t like their boyfriend/girlfriend. Do it anyway! Find the places they tell the truth, spend time with the family, share stories, hang out with siblings, set boundaries, do kind things for each other, and display good judgment. It’s all there, you just might have to look underneath the attitude, untruths, broken rules, and bad judgement.
Thinking your teen doesn’t see your dislike and judgment.
They do. Both your teenager and their girlfriend/boyfriend know how you feel. So own it and apologize for it. Then work on it. Your approval must be sincere, so make sure you are approving and complimenting what is real for you. Later you will get to share your fears and ask for what you want (next blog), but for now you need to be the adult and role model.
Expecting your teenager to change because you are afraid.
It is not your teen’s responsibility to change so you aren’t afraid. It is your responsibility to manage your fears first. We will talk more about this later but this is the premise upon which Slow Parenting is built.
Your teen intuitively knows when you are doing this and it drives them underground. “If my behavior and choices are so uncomfortable for my parents, then I will hide what I am doing and thinking about.”
Wouldn’t you rather keep the dialogue open, keep the mistakes happening while you’re there to help, and be the one your teen turns to if/when their heart is broken? Then you must manage your own fears and be the safe place for your kid.
Telling your story rather than listening to your teen’s story.
Do not presume to know what it is like for your teen to be with this other person. Do not presume to know “it will end one day” or tell your kid that. Do not take this experience away from your teenager by overlaying your past experience on it.
You really don’t know what might happen, who might be hurt, what is the best outcome in this situation, or how your teen should handle an issue. Listen and encourage your teen’s own discernment and judgment. Trust your own kid to know what’s best in the long run. Will they make huge mistakes – YES!
It’s good to make mistakes, to have to deal with betrayal, hurt, shifting feelings, and confusing choices. When you have a strong relationship with your teen it is often you they turn to when the relationship isn’t working for them anymore. That’s good! So remember to listen, don’t lecture or take over the conversation. Let your teen tell you about his/her life and be careful you aren’t telling about yours instead.
This is a tough emotional conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments so we can address them in future posts. Next blog we will be discussing how to identify your fears and ask for what you want from your teen in ways that draw them closer not push them away.