5 Things Your Teen Wants You to Know

Remember when you brought your first baby home and you didn’t take them out of their carseat carrier all night because you were afraid if they woke up, you wouldn’t be able to put them back to sleep?

So you just watched them most of the night.

No? Maybe that was just me.

I was terrified of that 8 pound bundle of baby joy. She cried loud, fists clenched, purple face and that was just taking her socks off.

I was new on the job, uncertain, inexperienced, scared and she was totally the boss of me.

I was a new mom, trying to figure out what my baby needed. I learned that first night that kids bring out the best in you. And the worst. And this classroom of sticky floors has taught me that God uses parenting to reveal my weaknesses.

She’s gotten bigger and we’ve had our ups and downs. Our eyes have locked in the middle of stand downs. We’ve comforted each other, and loved our way back to one another. We have an imperfect relationship. I’ve learned a few things, but some days I feel like that new mom, trying to understand my teenager.

5 Things Our Teens Want Us to Know

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve discovered 5 things our teens want us to know:

1. They are tired, the exhausted kind: Every time I see another parent of a teenager, I ask them about their teen’s schedule. And I get the same answer: it’s brutal. We held off a lot of extracurricular activities when my kids were younger and I’m so glad we did. Because high school is a whole different game. My daughter is in marching band and she has very long days and is up more than 20 hours on game days. Even without this extracurricular, her academic work load is heavy and then there is homework and projects. We may not be the norm, but across the board, teens don’t get enough sleep and they require more than most think. I’m cautioning her not to add more to her plate, letting her sleep in on the weekends, and mostly, acknowledging that she is tired and needs to rest.

2. They want time alone, but they don’t want to be alone: Teens need space. They want a place to listen to music, read or just relax. I’m learning to give my kids this freedom to unwind. At the same time, teens don’t want to feel alone in the world. They want to know we love them, we understand or we care even if we don’t get it.

3. They thrive on change. Sometimes: The scene goes something like this in our house: “Mom, I love eggs. Can you fix that for my breakfast?” I stock up on eggs and by Wednesday, “I never ever want to eat another egg.” And I’m like, huh? I read recently that teens thrive on change, but don’t stay at one place long. It’s part of their growth and development. Everything in their world is changing constantly–fashion and friends and they figuring out who they are. Remaining unchanged- a constant source of consistency will help them in this sometimes turbulent season.

4. They want you to look for the best in them, even at their worst: We all have horrible, bad, no-good days. I don’t want someone to summarize or stereotype me based on one of these and we shouldn’t do that to our kids either. Call it what it is and start every new day with a fresh start. Don’t hang yesterday’s bad day over their head.

5. They need you to try and understand their world: My favorite time of the day is at night when my older kids are in their rooms. After giving them some time alone to unwind, I like to enter their world, crawl on their bed and just wait for them to talk. They always do. I’ve learned important things going on in their lives when I’m quiet enough to listen. And I’ve discovered they want me to know them.

I love this time in my life with my teens. They challenge and inspire me. They make me laugh and sometimes, cry. We are learning together and making mistakes along the way. But I want them to know I’m on their side. I’m for them.

And sometimes, the best way to tell them is by listening to what they aren’t saying.

Talk to Me: Parenting Survey

Update: Wow, Thank you.

Congrats to random commenter #230 Julie K on winning the family shirts!

I’m in the middle of a big research project. I might even call it one of the biggest, most challenging writing projects of my life.

And I’m not even being dramatic.

I need 1000 people to complete this parenting survey (click over or complete it right here on my blog). It’s anonymous and mostly multiple choice. It will take a few minutes and when you’re done, if you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be entered to win “My family rocks” shirts for your entire immediate family! (Winner will be chosen randomly at the close of the survey).

Talk to me, people.

Would you also consider hitting Share on this post below to help spread the word?

Thanks, friends!

*updated to add* If some of the answers don’t fit your family, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment area. I’m not trying to prove entitlement. I think it’s already been proven in our culture. I’m just trying to determine if we think it’s a problem in our homes and how we are trying to teach our kids to be grateful in light of it. Thank you!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

What We Need to Say to the Mean Girls

“I asked my friend if she would fold me a fortune teller out of paper like she did for the other girls,” my daughter told me after school.

“But she said she only makes them for her prettiest friends,” she said and her lip quivered.

That girl is not your friend, I whispered in her ear.

It’s my second time to have a second grade daughter and this isn’t our first rodeo with mean girls. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I hugged my little girl and reminded her that not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was on the inside, too–where it really mattered.

“What did you say to her?” I asked, trying not to show my anger.

Nothing. She said. I turned away from her.

Sometimes the best thing to say to a mean girl is just that–Nothing. It speaks volumes.

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Like most 7 year old girls, mine is obsessed with cheerleading, much to her older (band member) siblings dismay. “This will pass, right mom?”

She’s never been a cheerleader, never really performed a cheer, but that doesn’t stop her from joining the other second grade girls from cheering for the boys playing football at recess. We are the Texas stereotype down here. The struggle is real.

My daughter explains one of the girls who is a “real live cheerleader for her brother’s team” has put herself in charge. So naturally, she tells everyone what to do, where to stand, what to say. She’s the “Cheer Coach of the Second Grade” if you will.

On the playground, after this had been going on for a few days, a new girl wanted to join the “squad.” But the Coach wouldn’t let her “because she didn’t like the dress” the new girl was wearing.

It was at this point in the retelling of the story, I stopped my daughter, “What did you say about that?”

“Well, Mom, I felt bad for the new girl. She’s really nice and I liked her dress,” my daughter said. “And it made me sad when she sent her away.”

She finished her story, but I could tell we weren’t done.

Because sometimes the best thing we can say to a mean girl is stop.

“Honey, you know that yucky feeling you had when your “friend” said you weren’t pretty? It’s the exact same way the new girl felt when she was excluded. Here’s the thing about girls who are mean-they change the rules. What happens if you wear red tomorrow and she decides everyone wearing red can’t cheer? I think if you stand up for your new friend, you both might feel better.”

And I could tell by the look on her face, she was thinking hard about this. I knew she understand standing up for someone being targeted, might make you the target.

After school the next day over a snack, she said very nonchalantly, “Mom, it worked. The girl in charge changed her mind and now everyone gets to cheer.”

Moms, here’s where we get to teach our daughters and speak into their lives that we are sisters. We protect each other. We support one another. We turn away from the mean girls by saying nothing. And sometimes we tell them to stop making up their own rules because we won’t follow them. Because when we go along with something wrong, we aren’t helping. We can encourage our daughters to stand up for each other.

It didn’t take more than two weeks of school for my daughter to encounter her first mean girl. It happens. And maybe that little girl wasn’t even trying to be mean, but she was asserting control over others. You know what’s crazy? We’ve all seen it in grown up women and it’s just as ugly.

We can live by the same rules. The next time a friend  talks badly about another or excludes someone, we can do the same thing we want our girls to do.

My Family Rocks (Even When It Doesn’t)

Friday mornings around my house are hectic.

With one kid in the high school marching band with a football game at night, it means for a very long day. This past Friday was no different, except that my marcher overslept, my son had to be at junior high early and my youngest was still asleep. My husband and I tag teamed it and while I took my son to school in the dark, he went the opposite direction with our girls, one still in pajamas.

There was traffic and a bad hair day and drama in the car and a lot of oh-my-goodness-the-weekend-is-almost-here thoughts.

Our second grader is years behind her siblings and usually takes their schedule in stride. But not on Friday.

What started out as a small thing, quickly grew to a full blown meltdown. You know the kind. At one point, she was so angry, she started spouting off all the bad words she knew, words like dumb and stupid and shut up. And then she let out the big one she read on the wall at the taco bar we visited this summer. The one I hoped she had forgotten. I knew it was a mistake eating there when she read loudly off the wall “The best damn tacos around” as we were ordering. A good reader has its disadvantages.

We hushed her and told her that was a bad word. Our first mistake.

Because when you’re riding in your pajamas, taking your sister to high school and you’re not getting your way, those bad words are the first thing you think of. Oh, sin nature, you do start early.

She used the word completely wrong and it wasn’t funny at all-the whole morning was a disaster, and when I looked down at the shirt I was wearing, I really wanted to laugh.

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Sometimes I think people think our family has it all together. Childless young married couples have told us, “We want our family to be like yours one day.” Oh, to be a fly on our wall.  Sure, we run a non-profit and we said yes to God and it looks good from the outside…like we are perfect parents with perfect kids. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. We are a big fat disaster most days and that’s why it’s remarkable. Because God uses weak, messy people to change the world.

Two out of three of our kids told us we were mean parents that morning. I don’t know what’s wrong with the third one.

But after taking her consequence like a boss, my little girl hugged us hard and apologized. I chaperoned the marching band on Friday night and thought I saw pride in my high schooler’s eyes. And most of all, I was reminded that my family rocks.

Even, when it doesn’t. Especially then.

We are just [damn] normal.

And I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Get yours here.

The Danger of Protecting Our Kids From Unhappiness

I put the Java Juice gift card a friend sent me on the kitchen counter, thinking it would be a fun after-school treat one day. And every time my daughter saw it sitting there, she asked if we could go. She’d never been to Java Juice, but she was convinced it would be her new favorite place.

We finally had a brief break in our busy lives and piled into the car after dinner for a quick trip. But from the moment we buckled seat belts, the arguing started. My kids love each other, but “liking” one another seems optional some days. The bickering quickly escalated and I threatened them from the front seat. Stop or we’re turning around.

They ignored my warning and continued picking and pestering each other. I warned again and they didn’t stop long enough to listen. A mile or so later, I sighed and gave my husband a questioning look. He shook his head no and I knew we were about to have some unhappy kids.

You know that feeling you get when you’re about to knowingly make your kids mad? I hate that. But I’m compelled to do it anyway. Like that time I told my daughter we were done with Disney Channel sitcoms and all their sassy backtalk and bad attitudes. It was like the apocolypse for 30 minutes. I encouraged her to “get it all out” because I wasn’t changing my mind.  She wailed and whined and then in true Disney fashion let it go. She never asked to watch them again.

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I actually love seeing my children happy and I don’t set out to make them unhappy. But my husband and I are the authority in their lives. It’s our job to place rules and guidelines in our home. It’s also our job to follow thru on consequences when they are broken. One is a lot easier than the other. And so it happens nearly every day in some way–unhappiness.”Disobedience leads to discipline. It’s not a suggestion; it’s a consequence. We discipline our children because we love them,” Jason Sheppherd.

Because their temporary unhappiness as kids–learning to submit to authority and obedience –is worth it if produces adults who love God and others. 

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We live in a culture that is obsessed with not only making our kids happy by giving them everything they want, but also by trying to keep them happy. It’s an impossible, exhausting task. I’ve tried it. Maybe you have to. But instead of making kids happier, it just makes them want more. And more often leads to more emptiness.  Because deep down our kids long for authority and structure. They crave guidelines and rules because that’s one of the major ways they fill loved by us.

But that doesn’t make it easy. As a matter of fact, the tension of doing what’s best for our kids even when it means they are temporarily unhappy is just plain hard. I wrestle with it constantly and actually cried a bucket about it recently. The temptation to fix all their problems, ease all their anxiety and make life easier without difficulty or challenge is real. But when we do just that, we actually make life in the future a lot harder. Letting them experience small disappointments now helps them handle big ones later on. And it leaves me wondering if this question by author and therapist Lori Gottlieb could be true: “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?” 

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My husband turned his truck around and headed back to our house. It took a minute, but the arguing died down and it got very quiet in the backseat. Then there was a little begging, promises and a lot of regret.

But the beauty of parenting is the grace of second chances. That Java Juice gift card will get used and even better, it will be appreciated more the second time around.

And the temporary unhappiness will be worth it.