Are you wondering why your teen keeps getting so irritated and annoyed with you? Here are the two top reasons…
Parents of teens will be familiar with the following responses from their once sweet and loving child: Rolling of the eyes, yelling and blaming, and, let’s not forget, flailing hand gestures.
So, why does your teenager get so annoyed with you?
After all, you love him more than the most gifted poet could put in words and you’d happily throw yourself in front of a moving truck to keep him safe. How could he possibly keep reacting this way? First, it is possible that your teen is really struggling emotionally, and something deeper is going on that causes her to get so upset. It could be a social issue (conflict with a friend, an issue with a peer, or getting teased) or she could be struggling academically and feels stuck.
Regardless, she may need to talk to somebody safe to help her work through what’s going on – whether it’s a therapist or counselor at school. If you think that’s what is going on, take action and find her somebody to talk to. But from the experience of other parents of teens, nine times out of 10, it’s going to fall into one of the following two categories.
#No 1: They feel nagged
Around the time they hit 13 or 14, they just don’t want to be parented all the time – at least around the little day-to-day stuff (school work, what’s going on with them and their friends, etc.). They feel that you’re nagging. They’re at an age where they’re trying to demonstrate their autonomy, and they don’t want to play 20 questions about the simple details of their life every time they get in the car with you. So instead, they blow you off, get annoyed and retreat to the interior depths of the boundless world their iPhone offers them.
#No 2: They are tired of receiving ‘little lessons’
Very often I see parents trying to teach their teens what I call ‘little lessons’. These are the unsolicited bits of advice that kids generally already know but that parents still feel the urge to say in order to relieve their own anxiety about a given situation. You can usually recognise a ‘little lesson’ is being delivered because they roll their eyes or their expression glazes over, they try to physically move away from you and they mutter under their breath. Sometimes these ‘little lessons’ come in the form of rhetorical questions, sometimes they come across as sarcasm, and sometimes they come across as dismissive remarks.
Here are some examples of ‘little lessons’:
- “You know you’ve got a test coming up tomorrow. If you don’t study you’re going to fail like you did last time.”
- “It’s just a pimple. Don’t get so worked up about it.”
- “So your friends didn’t include you in their plans this weekend. It’s no big deal, you’ll get over it.”
Most of the ‘little lessons’ parents give to their teens don’t strengthen the relationship, they weaken it. They are not useful. Teens experience them as lectures and they feel discounted. These are generally common-sense things anyhow, and when you treat him like he can’t put two and two together for himself, he will often go on the defensive or withdraw. And really defiant, strong-willed teens may even take it as encouragement to do exactly the opposite of what you said.
What you can do about this
Here are things we recommend you do to reduce any compelling urge you may feel to nag or dish out little lessons:
Finding a good balance – for both of you!
As long as they’re living under your roof, you have rules and expectations they must abide by. To at least some extent, they still need your guidance. These are the roots you provide for them. It’s important that you take the time to think through and be confident in these rules.
Minimally, they need to be respectful to the other people in the house, and keep you informed of where they are and who they’re with. But you must also start to let them find their wings by giving them space. Don’t try to solve all their problems. Take a deep breath and work through your own anxiety without putting it onto them.
As much as you may want to avoid and delay it, they are in the phase of life where you increasingly have to let them find their own way. You understandably want to protect them from the mishaps they’ll surely encounter, but you’re limited in how much you can do. And if you keep trying to intervene, they’ll get more and more annoyed and keep pushing you away.
Let them make mistakes they can learn from. It’s called growing up.
Encourage common interests
Start doing things with him that don’t involve talking about anything significant – certainly not about the tension you’ve been having or your frustration with his choices. See a movie together. Throw a football around. Go fishing. Play Go Fish. Play laser tag. Play tic-tac-toe. Sort nuts and bolts. It really doesn’t matter. Just choose an activity you can both enjoy, even if it seems silly to you.
Find this common ground and start to build on it. Give him the feeling you can spend time together without prying into his life with a crowbar. If you can, you might even try to involve some of his friends in some of these activities. It will give you a good window into their world.
Talk less, listen more
Try this exercise: in the conversations you have with your daughter over the next few days, just practice listening to what she is really saying. Focus on putting your own agenda aside long enough to get a feel for what is really going on in her life. Just listen and don’t react. Then ask yourself: What does she really want? What is she trying to get to in her life? What questions is she really asking herself about her life?
Instead of trying to problem-solve or point out the six ways you think she’s being irrational, try these three magic words instead: “I hear you.” At the end of the day, your sights should be set on building and maintaining a strong relationship with your teen.
Don’t weaken it by nagging or giving ‘little lessons’. Life is full of unknowns and twists and turns. But if your teen feels like he has a strong relationship with you, then, when it really matters, you’ll be the one he talks to.