When I was fifteen my mother jokingly told me she wished she could send me away until I was eighteen. I was a strong-willed child from birth and being a teenager, I thought I had all things figured out. On the one hand, I didn’t like being told what to do. On the other hand, I was insecure and not sure I had what it took to be successful in life. I was too ignorant of my own dependence on my mom and too proud to admit that I needed her.
Teenagers can be challenging. Sometimes they pull you close, and sometimes they push you away. Over the course of eighteen years, you, as a parent, will have gone from having complete control over them at birth to limited influence as they reach adulthood. Looking back, in an effort to understand my teenage daughter, I have to remember that my rebellious, teenage brain was saying, “Back off!” but my heart was saying something different. Here are 3 things teens want and need from their moms.
1. “I need to know I am good enough.”
I’m dealing with the pressure of comparison at school. There is always someone else who gets more attention from boys, better grades, has more friends, or performs better at sports. I often feel insignificant and unwanted. I need you to tell me that God sees me differently than my friends. I need you to tell me, often, who I am and what I offer the world. I need you to tell me you love me a lot. I need to know that even though I act like I want you to stay away, I really need you to pursue me and let me know that you believe in me and that you want me near. I need to know that you think I have what it takes to be a success in life. Don’t make me prove it first. Believe in me before I prove it. Give me room to make mistakes and to learn from them. It’s better that I make a smaller mistake under your care than a larger mistake when I move out.
2. “I want to be understood.”
I need you to really listen to me when I try to tell you how I feel about things. I am a mass of confusing thoughts, feelings, and mixed-up hormones. One day I will think one way and the next day another. Resist the urge to correct me or discount my feelings. I’ll figure it out eventually. Really let me know you are listening, but don’t react in astonishment to anything I say. If I have it all wrong, sometimes it’s best to wait a couple of days before you bring the subject back up. Then you can present me with another viewpoint. I may have already changed my mind by then.
If my opinions are outrageously out of our family core values then share your heart with me in a way that doesn’t make me feel small. Don’t let me see that you’re afraid of my thought processes. That will communicate to me that I am incompetent of thinking for myself. I probably don’t even believe what I’m saying to you. I could be just trying it out like a new hairstyle. Trust that the core values you’ve taught me my whole life will win in the end.
3. “Give me limits even though I fight you on them.”
I hate having rules. I want to be independent and make my own choices about my own life. But I am also really terrified about being responsible for myself. I need to know that there are limits and that I can’t fall. I need to know that even though I push back, throw a fit, sneak around, or blow you off that there are consequences. This shows me that you have my back and that I can really only go so far. As a teen, I may not be able to express my gratitude for your steadfastness in discipline but I feel safe inside because of it.
Tell us! What do you think your teen is thinking that I missed above?