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Don’t take bratty teen behavior personally

Publisher, editor-in-chief and author at Chicken Soup for the Soul.

"Don't take it personally." This is the single best piece of advice I give other mothers as they navigate their children's teen years. It really worked for me.

My kids' teen years were fairly easy, but it wasn't because they were that much better behaved than other kids. They got good grades and were on varsity sports teams, but they also engaged in some of the normal undesirable high school behavior, usually involving beer.

What made it different for me was that I knew their bad behavior wasn't directed at me; it was just something that teens do. They can be really dumb! As I affectionately told my teenage son when I was explaining why he had a curfew, "You lack wisdom, judgment and common sense."

I remember one of my friends telling me that she picked up her teenage daughter at school one beautiful spring afternoon and was reprimanded for not opening her convertible, turning on the radio and enjoying the nice weather. The next day my friend picked up her daughter again, this time with the top down and music playing. Her daughter said she was embarrassing. My friend and I just laughed about it and recalled how we treated our own mothers when we were teenagers.

Some of my friends took it personally when their teens were rude or got in trouble. They would say things like "I can't believe he did that to me." Did they really think their kids were doing those things specifically to them? I doubt those kids were thinking about their mothers while they were playing beer pong with their friends.

Kids often know they are being bad and need to find a graceful way out. If we overreact, it makes it harder. We have an example of this in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School, in which Teresa Cleary writes about the day she ruined Thanksgiving by being a brat. She was upset because her parents took the family out for dinner instead of having their traditional meal at home. Luckily, her parents didn't respond to her bad behavior and that caused her to reflect on how hard they worked to raise her large family. She ended up correcting her own behavior and apologizing to her father, who lovingly replied, "You just took longer than the rest of us to get used to the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving in a different way."

If all else fails, remember what the columnist Doug Larson said: "Few things are more satisfying than seeing your children have teenagers of their own." With two of our four children planning weddings next year, my husband and I are on our way.

For a similar story, read "The End of Sibling Squabbling" from Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide.

Photo credit: David Pereiras Villagrá/iStock/360/Getty Images
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