Yes you will survive 13!
“He’s so snarky at home; she’s so rude; he’s an angel in the outside world, a real good kid; why is she so mean to me?” These real quotes from parents of 13 yr olds hit home for so many parents. As a parent dealing with a tween turned teen it can be a relief to know you are not alone; there is truly solace in numbers.
So why is it that so many new teens can seem insolent and even rude or mean at home toward their parents and siblings? How is it that in the world at large they are cooperative and kind?
Of course there are no simple answers to these questions. It is best to think of this age as the ‘perfect storm.’ There are a host of factors that contribute to early teen mean. First and foremost perhaps are the biological changes your teen is experiencing. The change in hormone levels can contribute to shifts in mood. It is not uncommon to detect flashes of irritability, frustration, sadness, and even anger that seem to cycle quickly. Their increased cognitive abilities (aka brain functioning) also contributes to their predisposition. As their ability to acknowledge and understand the world around them broadens, so does their desire to control it. A few years ago for example, your child would have probably barely acknowledged let alone understood a major national or world event. Today however, he may not only have an awareness but an understanding of the more global impact it has on the world outside. This is because ‘his world’ no longer just encompasses life at home and school, he now sees himself as part of a greater picture. With knowledge there is power. This is one reason why he may have an attitude with you. Now that his eyes have been opened, he believes he knows as much if not more than you do. The technological advances that have been made over the last several decades including the internet and cell phone connectivity increase his access to information and contribute to this point of view.
So understanding why your early teen acts as if he is the devil incarnate is great, but what do you do?
1.) Work with her to set clear expectations and boundaries. If you give most early teens an inch, they will take a yard. If for example you tell her she can stay out at a friend’s house until 10pm don’t be surprised if she pushes for 11pm. It may often feel as if no matter what boundary or guideline is set she is always pushing for more. Rest assured, it is not your imagination. Early teens are looking to be in control so they will continue to try to push the limits. Your job is to clearly define what those limits are.
2.) Be consistent. Yes, he can be relentless when he wants something or at least something more. Your job is to hold the line. If you give just a little, he will try to get more. This is why it is important to be clear in your mind about where the line is. I is also important to consistently follow through. Bottom line: say what you mean and mean what you say.
3.) Try not to take an attitude personally. Your early teen works so hard to keep her anxiety and concerns about what others are thinking and saying about her under wraps during the day. She sees home as her sanctuary. This is one reason why she may be short and testy with you; she feels comfortable enough to let go all the stress of negotiating the outside world. Unfortunately this often means that you bare the brunt. That being said, it is important to address your concerns about a negative or nasty attitude. Create rules and consequences that focus on remediating this issue if it begins to become a real concern.
4.) Take emotion out of the equation. The urge to yell back when your early teen is giving attitude can indeed be overwhelming. In reality, anger and frustration only beget anger and frustration. Yes, having a good yell may serve as a momentary release, but in the end it solves nothing. Do what you have to in order to keep calm. Take a deep breath, walk away, at all costs DO NOT ENGAGE! Even if it sometimes feels like you have lost all influence over your teen, in reality you are his role model. When you respond to his negative emotions with calm and caring you are teaching him an important lesson about how to respond to adversity. As an aside, if you do lose it and yell; give yourself a break, after all you are human. An apology to your teen for this reaction at time when things are calmer sends an important message to her. It tells her that you are able to own inappropriate reactions. It also suggests that you respect her enough to acknowledge your wrong doing toward her.
5.) Savor the moments of serenity. Life at home may often feel like a battlefield. It is important to enjoy the time you have with your teen. Seek out opportunities to spend time with her even if this means watching a TV show of which you are not too fond or listening to music you believe sounds more like noise. Although at times you may feel reticent about seeking her out because you are unsure of what mood or attitude you will have to deal with, in the end she really needs your support and input, even when she swears up and down that she knows better.
Turning 13 is a milestone in your child’s life. As he enters the next phase of development his mind and body will change and grow right before your eyes. The early teen years are often fraught with challenges for parents and teens. As your teen continues to grow and learn you will be privy to an incredible transformation. Once he hits adulthood you are likely to look back longingly. For now try to enjoy your time with him even on days when his company may be far from enchanting.