I am writing to you because my relationship with my 14-year-old son is getting worse. Every since he turned 13 years old, we have been going at each other regularly.
He thinks he knows everything and is starting to challenge me. He does not listen to me and acts like he is a little adult. I am trying my best to hold it together, but my frustration is really building. It is taking everything inside of me to not beat the heck out of him. He was nice and listened to me. Now he is trying to figure things out by himself.
Why did my son change after he became a teen? Please help me understand what he is going through before I lose it.
Dear Teen Mom,
I remember my mother feeling like you. While I did not understand my behavior as a teen, I certainly understand it now. Life experience has a way of teaching us things that verbal instruction cannot.
When talking with your son, keep in mind that he is probably struggling with self-discovery and developing a sense of autonomy. His willingness and ability to follow instructions is not solely based on his learned ideas or understanding about what is right or wrong from you, but his desire to test his own thinking and reasoning skills.
The pursuit of autonomy or independence drives or influences most teen behavior. Teens definitely possess the ability to think logically, but frequently they make decisions that are emotional in nature.
Your son might experiment with his life and others when in emotional distress or to just simply test his cognitive ability or capacity. During this self-discovery process, your son is likely to become defensive when his ideas are challenged regardless of whether he believes that they are right or wrong.
Most parents do not do cope well in the midst of such illogical behavior and often ask, “How can I understand or be open to dealing with this inappropriate and irrational behavior?” The answer to this question is simple: I remind parents, like you, to seek to understand that self-discovery is a normal developmental task that all teens struggle with it.
I also remind parents that self-discovery is just as painful for some teens as it is for the parents. In order to better understand this behavior, I challenge parents to think about their own teen years.
Do you recall what it was like to be a teen? Do you remember experiencing an array of emotions ranging from uncertainty, confusion, sadness and depression to excitement, courageousness, confidence and occasional happiness?
I personally recall experiencing the aforementioned emotions. I also recall thinking that I was invincible and believed that nothing could stop me from doing what I felt like doing; and sometimes, I felt insecure and vulnerable. During these turbulent years, my relationship with my mother changed as well.
The best thing that you can do to better understand your son is to engage in self-reflection. Self-reflection is the ability to gain insight about one’s self by examining one’s own thoughts and feelings. As parents and mature adults, some of us have learned the importance of processing our emotions and making healthy decisions, but must we forget how we felt, thought and behaved as teens.
During the self-discovery phase, teens begin to understand that they possess a gift called “free will.” Instead of fighting with your son, try listening to him, so he can better undersand his behavior. Remember, you will not calm him down by trying to control him. Attempting to control him will only intensify situations.
What your son is going through is normal, but how you cope with it can make it abnormal. I know it is difficult, but do not personalize his rejection. He is a growing boy who is confused and searching for answers. Today’s teens are facing things that most adults cannot make cope with. He needs your help to make sense out of what he is going through.
Consider attending counseling and/or a support group for teen and parents. You might learn more about how to cope with teen development and behavior.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to [email protected]
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.
BMWK, what advice can you share about how to deal with the emotions and behavior of a teenager?