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3 Parenting promises I'm making to my teenage kids

As my kids grow bigger so do my parenting problems

“Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.”

These were the words whispered in my ear 18 years ago when a friend saw me struggling with my two young toddlers. It was her gentle reminder for me to take a deep breath and remember these little monsters might be a handful, but their struggles have a small scope of influence. My young children still looked to me as the center of their universe and the source of all truth. My dear friend had a perspective that I had yet to gain: what comes after.

Since that experience, my number of children has grown to a half dozen and I’ve learned firsthand what my friend was referencing. Having teenagers changes a mom. When my children were younger, I prided myself on keeping my voice and temper calm with my children, but apparently my children crossing that magic age of 13 years old transforms me into Crazy Psycho Mom. She possesses no ability to react in a rational manner when her children make the most idiotic of choices.

Let me prove my point with some firsthand battle reports that brought out the worst version of this mom.

After an especially exhausting day of work and parenting six kids, I asked my teenage daughter for some help by unloading the dishwasher. Apparently asking the oldest of my children to lend a hand was just beyond fair because she roared into an ear-bending rant about how she “works harder than any other person in the whole house!” Not just a snarky comment mind you, but a long lecture to prove to me how unfair her life was compared to everyone else.

When my son began driving, I allowed him to use my precious Honda Odyssey. It was the first car I had ever bought new off the lot, and let's just say I was a bit overprotective of this four-wheeled child of mine. In a matter of weeks, he was involved in three minor accidents. Thankfully, no one was hurt in any of these incidents, but the outside of my once-pristine van now looked like it took part in some type of street fight with bigger and tougher minivans.

Finally, there is my worst mother-of-teenagers moment. It was the time my child missed her 11:30 p.m. curfew. Instead of coming home as soon as she could, my daughter decided since she was already in trouble, so she might as well just stay out as late she would like... 3:00 a.m. Then to add the cherry on top, she turned her cell phone off so she wouldn't be bothered by her frantic parents calling over and over again looking for her.

I was a complete amateur and so unprepared for these types of “big kid, big problems.” I was naive enough to believe that my teenage kids would be different than all the other hellions I had seen and heard about. My kids were so extremely well-behaved as young children and to the deepest part of my core, I believed that though they might get a bit moody at times, they would still be genuinely happy teens and fun to be around.

When that fantasy didn’t become a reality, I really struggled! I yelled — a lot. I was easily baited into arguments I could never win because my kids just wanted to argue for the sake of arguing. Especially frustrating was how little they turned to me for advice and help, instead choosing fellow peers as their source of great wisdom. Nothing like a crazy 16-year-old getting life advice from another crazy 16-year-old!

I still have three young children at home, who have yet to enter those teenage years — and I honestly, I view it as God's gift to me. This is my chance to get it right this time around.

Here are the three promises to my teenagers that will make me a better mom to them than I was to their older siblings.

  1. I will be just as calm, quiet and patient with you as teenagers as I was when you were younger. It will just be so much harder! Crazy Psycho Mom will stay far away as I wisely pick my battles. Many of the things that quickly frustrate me just don't matter in the long run, so I will carefully pick those things that matter the most and let the others go.
  2. Much to your disgust and dismay, I will continue to be physically affectionate with you, even when you moan and groan about it. When you were little, you would often need some snuggle time to help heal your wounds. That doesn't change now that you are a teenager, but I also recognize that you will rarely vocalize that need, so I will initiate it quietly on my own.
  3. No matter how busy and distracted I may seem, I will always be ready to listen and drop whatever else is going on when you are ready to talk. The lack of open communication from you is one of the hardest changes for me as your mom. I find myself trying to interpret every sigh, comment, facial expression or Tweet into what used to be an open discussion about your day and feelings. I will constantly be on the hunt for the few times you initiate a conversation because I know it will often lead to you opening up and sharing, at least for a bit!
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