As parents, we think we know teens. After all, we all were one, some of us longer ago than others. As a school counselor in a junior high for almost a decade, I have talked to thousands of tweens and teens. And somewhere along the way, we parents have lost sight of the truth of being a teen—that time in all of our lives when we are frustratingly caught between being a kid and being an adult.
Yes, they are going to want a lot of time to be alone, listening to music, texting, and other friend-related activities, and sleep. So much sleep! But the majority of the teens I talk to crave time with their parents. The tell me how upset they are about something, and when I ask if they’ve talked to a parent, they often tell me the parent was not around. (Many tell me that their parents go in their room after dinner to watch TV alone or with their spouse.) The truth is teens feel very lonely at home.
They might argue but deep inside, having rules and expectations makes them feel loved and can give them a great excuse when they feel pressure from peers to do things they don’t feel comfortable with. The truth is boundaries make them feel safe. Rules let them know that you care enough to set some.
The truth is they care. A lot. Kids want to feel that their parents are proud of them. The number one thing they crave is for you to not just love them but like them too. The truth is when they feel liked and respected, they will bend over backwards to please you.
I see a lot of kids first thing in the morning, often very upset because they had an argument with you before leaving for school. The truth is they want to please you. They often feel like they fall short of this and it bothers them a lot.
They think your jokes are lame. And that you are hopelessly out of touch with the way the world is now and what it’s like to be a teen today. But the truth is the best way to bond with them is to laugh. When you proudly tell lame jokes, and when you laugh at their lame jokes, it will help you bond with each other. When you laugh with them, the feel accepted by you. This means the world to them.