Stop Teaching and Judging Your Teen

Parenting a teen can bring a new set of challenges that you didn’t need to think about during the toddler and elementary school years. It is easy to fall into the trap of criticizing your teen for every decision he makes and action he takes.

This is particularly true if his decisions and actions are so far removed from what you would have done as a teen and even now as an adult.

You may feel that you need to constantly judge, teach, and correct your teen. Whether to prepare him for the world at large or simply because you disagree with his choices.

However, this might not be the right approach to take with your teen.

Taking a break from judging your teen and thinking that every moment needs to be a teachable one can help you form a different and better relationship with your teen.

Breaking the negativity cycle

When you’ve struggled with a defiant and often angry teenager, it can be hard to step outside of a cycle of negativity. It can feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of nagging and lecturing your teen.

Not sure if you’re in that cycle? Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Do your homework
  • Pick up your shoes
  • Take your plates to the kitchen
  • Help with household chores
  • Do your laundry
  • Why did you do that?
  • What were you thinking?

These are examples of negative feedback, even if the intention is positive.

If you were to hear almost nothing but negative feedback, the odds are it would impact your mental wellness. Your primary focus with a defiant teen is to get them back on track, but without a focus on the good things in their life, you’re straining your relationship.

What can you do instead? How can you fix the fractured relationship with your teen?

Pay attention to what your teen says

Do you know what’s going on in your teenager’s life?

How are they doing in school?

How are their relationships with their friends going?

It’s easy to forget that our teens are individuals with active social lives and stress brought on by responsibilities at school. Your teen may have had a rough day, only to come home and be berated because his laundry is on the floor and his bed isn’t made. His stress response may be to snap at you, which will only make the situation between you worse.

The more attention that you pay to what your teen is saying, the more likely they are to open up to you about the things that matter.

Spend more time together

As your teen gains more independence, he will want to spend less time at home with the family. This will continue until one day he moves out.

Keep this in mind and set aside some time for you and your teen to spend a day or a weekend together doing something that your teen loves. Or perhaps enjoy dinner together, just the two of you. Time spent together in a different environment can help you to reconnect with one another.

Spending more time getting to know him versus constantly judging his actions and behaviors and trying to teach him life lessons will help you both learn so much more about each other.
During this time together, avoid the urge to judge him and teach him.

Not every moment needs to be a teachable moment. Spending time together should be about being together.

Let minor things slide

At some point, it’s doing more harm than good to continue going on about the little things they forget or mess up. Think about it, if you and your teen have gone several rounds about his shoes being left by the front door and his dirty laundry thrown around his bedroom, what good is it going to do to continually bring it up with him?

His bedroom isn’t tidy and organized. It’s not how you choose to keep your personal space.

However, these arguments are not worth continuing to stress about if he’s still refusing to listen to you. Let it go. Let it slide. Focus on the major issues at hand.

Evaluate how you like to be managed

Think about how you prefer to be managed at work.

Do you enjoy a barrage of negativity that focuses wholly on the things you’ve done wrong? Or do you prefer being recognized for the work and skills you bring to the job that you do?

Now apply this to how you’ve been managing your teen and your relationship with your teen.

Taking a break from the idea that you need to constantly evaluate and correct your teen is hard to do, but it’s essential. Your teen needs to figure things out in his way, in his own time. Even if he could benefit from more of your help, if that help comes across largely through negative interactions with you, this is just going to make the situation worse.

Even questioning his choices in general terms can be perceived as drilling him, driving him crazy, judging him. Ease back on interrogating questions, demands, and frustrated reactions.

Offer praise when there’s an opportunity to do so

Perhaps your teen loaded the dishwasher or took the trash out without being prompted. A simple acknowledgement and recognition can make him feel good about his actions.

These may seem like they aren’t going to make much of a difference to the negativity cycle you’re stuck in, but these are positive steps.

If your teen starts to alter his behavior and actions without being prompted to, this is your opportunity to recognize him positively. We all like to be praised and enjoy feeling good. When you spot your teen doing something positive, offer up that praise.

These may not seem like they are big steps to take, but their impact can be significant. Another consideration is to get your struggling teen the mental wellness help he needs. This could come in the form of therapy, both individual and family.

Another option is to allow your teen to reset his mindset in a new environment that will allow him to thrive in an environment with structure and support.

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