There’s a saying that being a mother essentially means spending the rest of your life with your heart walking around outside of your chest while also really sucking sometimes.
I don’t know where I heard it or who said it, but it is painfully accurate. Being a mother means loving someone so much it physically hurts you, but it’s also the most beautiful and happiest feeling in the world. Even when they’re teenagers, and they become more expensive, less chatty, and more sassy.
I have four kids, but only one teen. I’m a year away from having two teens, and I do worry about that. I’ll preface this with the statement that we are fortunately blessed with a lovely teenage daughter. While our friends with teen daughters regularly discuss bad attitudes, back-talking, and arguing, our daughter is polite, respectful, and easy.
She’s expensive AF, but she’s funny, charming, and she is well-behaved. She also spends most of her time at cheer, practice, with her friends, or upstairs in her room without socializing with us, so there’s a fair chance we just don’t see her enough to know if she’s a teenage a**hole (I don’t think she is).
Our oldest is sarcastic, though. But we love that and embody the same personality trait, so maybe we just don’t see her as being difficult because we appreciate her sass. Regardless, being the mother of a teen (or a pre-teen…or any child) is an exercise in patience. And counting in your mind.
Oh, and deep breaths. Kids are delightful. Staying calm as the mother of a teenager is an art. A gift, if you will. Sometimes, it’s even impossible.
They Say Patience is a Virtue, But They’ve Never Dealt with Teenage Hormones
You’re a mom, so you know a thing or two about hormones. Do you remember being pregnant with your darling angel? I remember being blissfully happy and on top of the world one moment, hangry and ready to rip my husband’s head off if he didn’t feed me right now the next, and crying dramatically over the Publix Thanksgiving commercials two minutes later. Pregnancy hormones are not for the weak, and I am convinced that parents-to-be deal with those as a way of practicing for the teenage years.
Teenage hormones are another level. I’m talking level “I brought you into this world, don’t think I will hesitate to take you out of this world,” stuff. It’s why being calm is probably the single most important thing you’ll do as a parent with teens, and I have the best ways to ensure you can that right here.
No one is asking you to become Mary freaking Poppins, okay? It’s not going to happen. Even with the best of intentions, you are not going to be Mary Poppins. Lovely as she is, she’s not a real person because no one is that patient, calm, and ready to entertain kids all day, every single day. With that in mind, I have some advice.
1. Take a Timeout
Timeout is not just for toddlers. It’s for everyone. Sometimes, the only way to remain calm and patient with a teenager is to put yourself in timeout. Tell them you’ll revisit the situation when you’ve had the opportunity to calm down, and then find a place to calm down. I’ve found that mommy timeout is the greatest place for me when the mere sight of my children’s faces is enough to push me over the edge.
2. Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to keep your frustration at bay and calmness at the forefront of your mind. Perhaps a gratitude journal is what you need. This allows you to find a few moments in each day that you’re grateful for. It’s particularly helpful on bad days when you struggle to remember the good. It allows you to stay calm in situations with your teen because you remember what you have to feel grateful for.
3. Learn Your Triggers
Everyone has them. What are yours? My trigger with my teenage daughter is when she finds flaws in my reasoning every single time I open my mouth. For example, she’ll come to me for advice, but then she gives me an immediate reason why everything I’m saying is pointless, useless, and won’t work.
Eventually, she’ll do exactly what I tell her, it works, and then she’s fine. But, it drives me absolutely mad when she listens only to respond. Learning to recognize what triggers me is essential because it also allows me to see it come, excuse myself, and circle back when I’ve had a chance to calm down.
4. Do Not Have Angry Conversations
Never, ever carry on an angry conversation with your teenager. Let it pass. Let the anger pass, and then talk when you are calm. This is the only way to stay calm, to avoid saying things you’ll later regret, and from causing the situation to escalate.
5. Do Not Place Blame
Don’t place blame. Take responsibility when you are wrong, and let your teen learn from that. Placing blame in a conversation with your teens only makes things worse.
6. Practice Your Breath Work
When I began practicing yoga, I thought breathwork was pointless. We all know how to breathe. We do it every single moment of the day, don’t we?
What I didn’t realize is that over the course of my learned practice, I became a calmer person because I was using my breathwork regularly. I didn’t even realize I was doing it at first, but it was the most tremendous thing. There are many resources online that help you learn about breathwork, and I recommend using them.
7. Ask Yourself if You’d Rather Be Happy or Be Right?
Teenagers are an interesting species. They are always going to be right in their own minds, so ask yourself this question. Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?
If the subject at hand isn’t life or death, threatening, or overly important in the grand scheme of life, focus on letting it go rather than being right. No one ever wins when they set out to be right.
8. Learn to Listen
This is excellent advice for anyone, but learning to listen is a game-changer. When I learned to finally hear what my kids were saying to me rather than waiting for them to finish so I could say what I wanted to say, I learned so much from them. Trust me. When you learn to listen, you learn so much from your teen.
9. Don’t Consider Everything Black and White
Rarely is anything black or white. There are so many shades of gray (and I’m not talking about the book). When you’re with your teen, be sure you’re understanding their perspective on a situation rather than refusing to consider things from their point of view. Sometimes, people do things for a reason you didn’t consider, and that might change your entire outlook.
10. Set Boundaries
We know kids need boundaries, but did you know that your teens still need them, too? They do. They thrive with boundaries, and it sets a firm line between acceptable and not.
This allows you to enforce the boundaries in a way that your kids cannot help but understand since you’re not throwing rules at them out of left field. The expectations are already there.
11. Ask Your Teenager’s Input
You might be surprised about what they have to say. Oftentimes, my teen and I are on the same page about so many things, even though we go into so many situations assuming we are not. When you’re raising teens, staying calm often means asking them what they might do in the same situation.
12. Keep Your Word
If you want to stay on good terms with your teen, the best thing you can do is keep your word. From enforcing the rules to keeping your promises, just do what you say and mean what you do. Trust is not easy with teens, but it’s easier to always maintain it rather than to build it from scratch once it’s been broken.
13. Remember Some Behaviors are Natural
It’s easy to forget that your teenager is not an adult, and he or she may not know everything you think they should know. They haven’t had the life experience yet, though they might pretend they know it all.
Remember, sometimes your teen is being a raging nightmare because they simply don’t know better in the moment, and it’s a natural behavior. Reminding yourself of this is helpful when you’re feeling less than calm.
14. Remind Yourself it’s Just a Phase
So far, as a mom, I can safely say my least favorite phase is the toddler phase. I don’t like kids I can’t talk to and negotiate with who don’t listen. They’re not such a great time. Teens, on the other hand, are a lot easier than toddlers. They’re also more likely to go through irritating phases.
There’s eye rolling, not listening, giving you the ‘why are you the worst’ look, and so much more. When you take the time to remind yourself that it’s just a phase (like the time they loved Elsa so much you had to listen to the Frozen soundtrack for months), it’s easier to remain calm.
15. Be Patient
Remember, that virtuous thing? Yeah, well, it’s true. When you practice patience with the world’s moodiest and most impatient people, you grow. Practice patience, and watch your calmness flourish. Fair warning – this is far easier said than done.
16. Look For Peace in Every Situation
According to the Child Development Institute, there is peace found in every situation. Okay, sure. But in all honesty, they’re not wrong. For example, each time you find yourself being less than calm with your teen, look for the peaceful situation. In this instance, the peace is being able to practice your calming techniques. It helps you grow.
Theoretically, each time you find yourself in a situation with your teen, you’ll end up stronger, calmer, and more peaceful at the end. I’m going to need some evidence of this one.
17. Learn to Compromise
My husband likes to joke that I am the world’s calmest, happiest person when everything goes exactly my way, the first time, and he’s not wrong. I’m not a fan of compromise. Why would I be? My way is the best way. But that’s not a good attitude to have with a teenager (or honestly, anyone, because people frown on that behavior).
Compromise is key. Learning to give a little is how they learn to give a little, and then things become a lot more give and take rather than them taking you giving until you’re no longer calm.
18. Practice Self Care
Sit down for a moment and listen. Practicing self-care is not selfish. It’s also not defined as spending a day at the spa or shopping. Self-care is necessary. You know the saying about not being able to pour from an empty cup? Yeah, that’s what self-care is. It’s the art of listening to your body and taking a break when you need it.
Furthermore, rest does not make you lazy. If you don’t make time to rest, your body will provide you time to rest (and nothing is worse than being forced to do something). Self-care is highly personal. For me, it’s a quite house and a good book.
My husband came up with the idea of Daddy Date Night a few years ago, and it’s my form of self-care. On Thursday nights when no one has sports, he takes our four kids to dinner.
He makes sure that there is no laundry to do, no dishes to put away, and no mess left for me to clean so that I can sit down, read a book, drink a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and read in the peace and quiet. It’s my favorite form of self-care. It leaves me feeling happy and good.
As a mom, everyone else’s lives and needs always come first, but you have to remember yourself on occasion. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s selfish. Anyone not taking care of themselves is doing it all wrong, and they’re envious.
19. Don’t Take Things Personally
Here’s the big one. I like to share this one with my kids because it’s a great lesson, but it’s also a lovely way to remain calm. Nothing anyone says or how they behave toward you is about you. It’s not personal. It’s about them, their feelings, and what they’re going through.
When you understand this, especially about teens, you find yourself more capable of staying calm. You also find yourself able to see things from a different point of view by gaining a better understanding of what others are going through. It allows you to empathize, and potentially help them even more.
20. Remind Your Teen You Love Them
Teens can be notoriously ugly to their parents. Why? Because they know that at the end of the day, you’ll always love them even when they’re not being particularly kind. Your job is to stay calm and remind your kids that you love them.
Sometimes, that might mean giving them a calm, quiet, “I love you more than anything in the world, but I don’t like you very much right now,” and rolling out of the conversation with your head held high (high enough that they don’t see your crazy eyes when you haul yourself to time out to practice breathing without breathing fire).