With Teenagers, You Just Have to Laugh!

teensAfter my youngest son’s 13th birthday next week, I will have four teenage sons living in my house. Crazy? Sure. Horrible? Not at all. It’s actually so much easier to enjoy my sons now as teens than when they were all toddlers and preschoolers a decade ago. Don’t believe the cultural stereotype that teenagers are awful. After speaking at Hearts at Home this spring I even had one mom comment, “She made her teens out to be angels. GET REAL!” Well it is real, not “angels” but certainly extremely enjoyable, fun people. And I know I’m not alone in this “anomaly” of actually enjoying the teenage years.

I’m not sure that those of us who actually like being around our teens have a secret, but I do know that humor and light-heartedness is helpful. It’s so easy to slip into a pattern of frustration and anger because, after all, these are the young people who want to sleep till noon and really don’t see their laundry on the floor or the dish in the sink.

My teens are NOT angels and I AM tempted to nag, repeat, or have a general freak-out mom-tantrum, but what keeps me sane (and calm) is humor. I remember that if I “lose it” then I lose a little piece of the positive relationship that we so enjoy. It’s through this relationship that they learn about themselves and the world. A lighthearted attitude doesn’t mean we are best friends or that I am weak. But rather it sends the SAME message as nagging yet the child feels less of a need to rebel against it.

Often times our kids rebel simply because they are trying to figure out who they are. And  what they first need to learn is that they are not us. This is why if you mention to a teen that the sky is blue they may say, “No it’s not!” What they are really saying is “I have my own thoughts and they are not yours.” So try to give them as much room as possible to be them. (Of course there are consequences sometimes to them being them.)

Here are a few minor adjustments to consider:

Nag: “How many times do I have to tell you to put your laundry IN the hamper?” (mom picks up laundry)

Empower: “Looks like your jump shot needs work with your laundry. Let’s just do slam dunks for awhile.” (Teen picks up laundry and “dunks” it.)

Nag: “You have such bad habits when you eat! It’s disgusting.”

Empower/provide wisdom: “I’m not sure when you are going to stop using your fingers like that but I’m pretty sure that your girlfriend’s dad won’t be impressed. You do know how to eat without your fingers right?”

Nag: “An ‘F’ on a math test?! Did you not even study? You’re grounded for the next two weeks so you can focus on math!” (Mom “solves” teen’s problem and teen is focused on Mean Mom rather than solving his own math problem.)

Empower, “A 58% yikes! Were you surprised or did you see that coming? What are you going to do? (LISTEN) That sounds like a good plan. At least now you can check the box for “flunking a math test.”

Nag: I keep telling you to put your dishes in the dishwasher! How hard is that? Why am I the only one who can put a dish in the dishwasher?”(Mom loads dishes)

Empower: “Is that the sound of a dish in the sink?” Or “Someone feed the dishwasher, it needs plates and cups.” Or “Dishwasher door is not broken anymore. You can load it.” Or “I know you didn’t leave these for me. That would make me your maid and not your mom and maids cost money.” (The very natural consequence is that a teen leaves whatever they were doing to come to the kitchen to load. That’s painful. They learn. Or you can suggest they need more practice remembering and tell them you will offer up your dishes for the week to help them learn.)

Nag: “Go get the groceries out of the car for me. It’s the least you can do around here. I don’t want to hear about why you don’t have time. Just do it!”

One of my favorite ways to interact whenever one of the boys doesn’t really want to do something I have asked them to do (which is a lot of the time) is that I respond for them in their voice. So I will start with, “Michael, can you please help get the groceries out of the car?” He’ll usually look at me ready to explain what he was right in the middle of and I’ll say in his voice, “Sure mom! I’m on it! I know this won’t take long and I’ll be back doing __________in a couple minutes!”

I guess that I used this so often that once Michael asked me if I would buy food for when he had a couple friends over. I paused and he said in MY voice, “Sure, Michael! I’d love to pick up some Mountain Dew and a carton of Goldfish crackers!” Touché


If we can add some levity and embrace our kids for who they are today—pimples, smelly laundry and all, then we can walk alongside them along their journey into adulthood rather than being the person who tries to block their path by setting the stage for teen rebellion.


With Teenagers, You Just Have to Laugh!





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