Your teen is going through many changes, and growing up can be hard. They need love, support and understanding. The way we communicate with them matters more than we think it does.
Teens are not the most receptive audience to what their parents have to say. While you may think they're not listening, they are, and certain things we say can be more damaging to their mental well-being than you’d imagine. A lot of the time, teens take what their parents have to say as criticism, and they don't respond very well. If we really scrutinize it, it might not be their fault for responding in the way that they do. It could be that we are not saying the right things. Even if we are trying to say the right things, it's how we say it.
I know it can be complicated to decipher what we can say and how to say it, but that's just the truth of it. This doesn't just apply to our kids but to the people, we interact with on a daily basis.
The thing is, there is nothing more important than the relationship you have with your kids. But there are negative things that you say that are powerful and have a lasting impact on your relationship with your kids. It's important to take note of these and avoid them.
Here are the 7 hurtful things that parents say to their teens, sometimes without even realising it.
1 - POINTING OUT THEIR INSECURITIES
Our teens are most likely already insecure about some aspects of themselves. Whether it's their looks, their grades, or how they stand up with their friends. There are so many self-esteem issues that they are dealing with silently. Pointing out their insecurities when they're already insecure about them hurts them more than you know.
In my opinion, pointing out their insecurities is definitely a form of bullying. Whether it's their acne or weight, the clothes they wear, or their grades. They're probably already being hard on themselves and getting enough flack from their peers so instead of pointing them out and making them feel more terrible than they already are, it would be better if we talk to them about it and see how we can help them.
Doing this will show them that you are there to support them in whatever they need and are going through, and we love them all the same.
2 - COMPARING THEM TO OTHERS
One of the most important things to remember when you have kids is that they are 100% unique, and your teens are no exception to this.
Avoid comparing their behaviour, achievements and abilities with their siblings or friends. My son is an only child, so there are no sibling comparisons, but I must admit that I have caught myself silently comparing him to some of his friends - but as soon as I realise what I'm doing, I snap out of it!
You see, comparisons are pointless because we are ALL different.
Just take us, for example, and see how it would feel if we were to be compared to other mothers - we wouldn't feel all too jolly about it, would we? I'd be devastated if my son were to come home from school one day and say, "Why can't you be like so and so's mom? and continues to say - "she earns more than you", "she cooks better than you"...I think it would put me in a downward spiral for a moment.
Comparisons can certainly pierce the heart of anyone, let alone a teenager.
Instead of comparing my son with others, I'd rather focus on his strengths. He is uniquely himself, and focusing on his strengths and repeatedly reminding him of these will only make him a happier person who'll be able to flourish as an individual. Keep stressing on the positives and watch your relationship grow.
3 - JUDGING AND CRITICIZING THEIR CHOICES
Remember how difficult the teen years were? We all went through phases where we struggled like our teens are doing now.
There’s a good chance you aren’t going to like some of the decisions your teens make. He might be falling into peer pressure or might choose to procrastinate in schoolwork due to the focus on other interests that leads to failing grades.
Don't be too quick to judge and criticise their choices when we don't fully understand the reason why they made these choices in the first place.
Let's face it - teens do make poor choices. Whatever choices they make, remember that they are learning. Learning to make their own decisions, even though sometimes, it doesn't necessarily align with the choices you'd make. In addition to this, they are also learning to deal with the consequences of their choices. This is a big step in their growth as a person.
It's natural for parents to feel disappointed and frustrated with their teens, but instead of being harsh by judging and criticising their poor choices, which can sever the relationship you have with your teen, try being understanding instead!
Show grace in your actions and attitude towards them. Carve out time and truly listen to them. And ask them if they'd like to hear your advice or opinion.
No one wants to spend time with people who are consistently judging and criticising, let alone listen to what they have to say. Yes, they do need guidance, but they also need your unconditional love and support. Keeping stressing their positives and watch your relationship grow.
4 - USING THREATS TO CONTROL THEIR BEHAVIOUR
We've often used threats here and there since our teens were children. "Finish your homework, if not, you're not watching tv, "clean your room, if not, you're not going out of the house", and "you're not leaving this table until you eat all your vegetables". These are all some of the threats we say to our children. And if you notice, it's all to control some sort of issue with their behaviour that is not to our liking, and we don't see a way out other than to threaten them.
You might not have meant it when you threatened to throw your teenage son out of the house as soon as he reached 18 because of the bad behaviour he was demonstrating. It may have simply been something you said out of anger. However, your teen will remember it and will have the capacity to change his behaviour towards you.
Threats are an easy short term solution, but it affects our teens in the long run. Threats don't promote communication or empathy, nor does it promote a better relationship with our teens. It's counter-productive when what we truly want for our teens is for them to open up to us and communicate with us. Threatening just shuts down the communication between you and your teen, especially in the state of mind that teenagers are in.
5 - REJECTION FILLED WORDS
"I hate you." "You were a mistake." "I never wanted you."
These are some things that we would never ever want to say to our children. But often, out of pain or anger, the most hurtful words come spilling out and affect us all deeply. If you find yourself wanting to say something like this - or already have been saying them - it’s important for your entire family to take steps towards healing together before any more damage is done.
6 - BEING DISRESPECTFUL TOWARDS OTHER PEOPLE
It’s important to be mindful of what you say about others in the company of your teen. They might end up treating other people like they treat those individuals if they overhear their parents discussing them negatively.
This can certainly have long-lasting effects on how she understands respect for all human beings.
7 - LYING TO THEM
Your relationship with your teen is only as strong as your honesty. Lies can be tough to keep up with and eventually cause a rift in the trust you have for each other. So, tell an honest truth now so that it doesn't grow into something bigger later on down the line!
It's always important to be honest with your kids, but sometimes you want to protect them from the truth and not feel bad. It can be about anything really - financial difficulties, illness, relationships - when we bend things around for our teenagers because we don't know what else to say or do when faced with difficult situations - whether it’s lying outright or making up excuses —it backfires because it distorts reality, which is unnecessary and can be damaging.
When a teen is already down on their self-esteem, and they are told an untrue story that could have been easily prevented if the truth was just said from the beginning, it can hurt more than help them in the long run.
Secrets and lies create tension, and the truth has a tendency of coming out sooner or later. So, when you are not being honest with your teen, they lose trust in you and in the ability to trust themselves and those around them. Not forgetting that we are in a way promoting the fact that lying is acceptable. While the truth may be quite painful, it is almost always easier to deal with than lies.
With that, it is important, though, to be sure your explanation of the truth is age-appropriate.
As parents, we will occasionally make mistakes and say the wrong thing. It's important to own up when it happens and try to fix it before it worsens. We have to be willing to look within ourselves and evaluate our own attitudes and actions for us to build a solid relationship with our teens.
Your teen needs you to encourage rather than criticise them, guide and not judge them, support and not condemn them. Focus on positive behaviours, actions, and attitudes, and praise them for it! We can all work a little harder to have the best possible relationship with our kids.
A healthy relationship with your teen is not something that can be achieved overnight. It takes persistence and patience to build the trust of a child who's just trying to figure out where they fit in this world. As parents, we have an important role in shaping their future by loving them unconditionally while guiding them on how best to live life!