Sitting on the floor near the oranges and apples in the market, my then 3-year-old screamed, “I hate shopping! I want to go home and play with my trucks!”
“He’s fine,” I reassured my fellow shoppers as they stopped and stared.
We all know about or have experienced those terrible twos or threes — especially with spirited children. But what about the terrible teens?
Thankfully, my youngest son, now a 13-year-old, does not throw himself on the floor of the market anymore. Instead, we have moved on to slamming doors and screaming, “You aren’t the boss of me!” or “You are the worst mom ever!” Somehow, we parents are seen as crushing their independence and controlling every aspect of their lives.
The terrible teens are testing every aspect of my parenting skills — and then some. Parenting is truly humbling. I have read blogs and books and tapped into all sorts of advice, but in the heat of the moment, all the advice and skills seem to go straight out the window. I survived these teen years with my eldest child but seem to have forgotten the details. Similar to my labor experience with my first child, all I remember now is the prize. What worked with my eldest does not always work with my youngest during this testing time.
With each age comes a different milestone for children and young adults but also a different testing phase for parenting. And I’ve found as I enter each new phase of my own life, what I could tolerate years ago has changed. In heated moments, I wonder how we will get through them? And I constantly have to remind myself that it is all so temporary. When I was in the thick of the sleepless nights while working full time, the night terrors, the terrible two/three phases, I wondered how I would survive. But I did.
Our eldest tested us in every phase, trying to figure out who he was and how he fit into this world. And then one day, I looked up to find this six-foot-tall man who gives me hugs and is compassionate, intelligent, creative, and a gifted athlete. I know the same will happen with our spirited 13-year-old — this phase will pass before we know it.
But in the meantime, I am tapping into a few new strategies to keep my sanity and my composure. These new strategies include more self-control and self-care — a focus on myself and how I react. Our children learn from what we do, even when we don’t think they are paying attention or listening.
- Calm breeds calm (most of the time). Sometimes I must walk away and give myself a time out. “I’ll speak with you when you are calm.” And when I am, too. We talk when we are both calm and often discuss what happened and try to figure out the why. What was the trigger for the behavior?
- Deep breathing. This has been working for my 13-year-old as well as for me. We do it together (not always — it depends on how heated things are).
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Count down from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then seek a mind shift. I thank Mel Robbins for this “five-second rule.” It works.
- Make consequences for the behavior, not the anger.
- Don’t fuel the fire by yelling back.
- Take time for yourself. Self-care is critical. You cannot help someone with their emotions and moods if yours are not in control.
Here’s to survival of the terrible twos, threes, and teens. It is all good in the end.