The Teen

Audrey is 15.  She just celebrated her birthday and is looking forward to obtaining her driver’s permit.  I can’t believe my *baby* is only three years away from being an adult.  In one way it is “She is only three years away from being an adult.”  But it is more accurate to say “She is still three years away from being an adult.” 

We are in the grips of the teen years.  By society’s standard, Audrey is a “good” girl.  (I really hate the labels “good” and “bad” when referring to children, but that is another story.)  She gets good grades, she is responsible, she cleans her room, she helps around the house, she watches her brothers for me if I need to run errands, she doesn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.  She isn’t out having sex.  She would be perfectly content to continue sleeping in my bed with me if I’d let her (she talks in her sleep and it keeps me awake).  She sounds like a lovely child, right?  She is.  I adore her. 

I do not adore hormones! 

Yes, her one flaw is that she is a slave to her hormones right now.  They make her irritable, moody, weepy, but most of all, they make her attitudey.  She has something to say about pretty much everything and much of it is not nice or kind.  She also has an inability to not have to have the last word. 

The ravages of hormones are enough to drive her father and I to distraction.  We disagree on how this should be handled.  I tend to offer her more grace whereas he can only see how disrespectful she is and that the disrespect needs to be quashed.  He seems to think that she is already an adult because she is only three years away from being considered an adult.  He seems to think that she should be able to control herself at all times because she’ll have to in three years.  He is firmly in the “She is only three years away from being an adult,” camp.  I, however, am firmly in the “She is still three years away from being an adult,” camp. 
She is still a child.  She still needs firm guidance, discipline, and help if she is to control her hormones instead of letting them control her. 

The key is that she still needs help.  I try to provide that for her and the first thing I’ve done is to develop a very thick skin.  Most times I can remind myself to act like a duck and let it roll off my back like water.  She doesn’t mean the things she is saying in the heat of the moment.  I have to remind myself that she was over 3 years old when I first learned that spanking isn’t the only tool to be used with her.  She’s grown up in a mostly punitive household.  I’ve only truly been on the grace-based discipline road for a couple short years.  I have failed to give her the tools in the past that she needs to fight her hormones and I’m now teaching them to her, right when she is in the hormone wars.  I give her lots of grace because I can see how I’ve not done my job as a parent.  Giving her grace doesn’t  mean I ignore the behavior and let her get away with it (although that is how I think Lee sees it).  Giving her grace is stepping back from the situation and realizing that she doesn’t know how to control her hormones, that she doesn’t mean what she is saying, and that if I disengage, she will calm down faster.  I can’t look back over the past year and not remember a time when she hasn’t come to me after to apologize for her words or actions.  She knows what she is doing is wrong but she can’t control it……yet. 

Over the past few months I have seen astronomical leaps ahead in her ability to control herself.  It started out with me saying “That was not kind.  Try again.”  Sometimes it would take me repeating that four or five times while each try of hers improved until it was said in an acceptable manner.  Audrey’s big trigger is Logan.  They are like cats and dogs.  Logan can bring about an Audrey explosion in no time flat.  Her favorite name to call him is “Smart One” that is dripping with sarcasm and nastiness.  A typical conversation used to go like this.

Logan would do something to irritate her.
Audrey: That’s brilliant, Smart One.
Me: That was not kind. Try again.
Audrey: Smart, Smart One.
Me: That was not kind. Try again.
Audrey: That was dumb, Logan.
Me: That was not kind. Try again.
Audrey: That was not smart, Logan.

Since her nastiness was gone and she was trying to express that he did do something that wasn’t the best idea in the world, I’d let it go. I would talk to her later (when she had calmed even more) about how her words were hurtful and that she owed her brother an apology. I do not force my children to apologize to each other. Sometimes I help them and walk them through it with the proper words, but Audrey is old enough to recognize the truth when I tell her why and when she owes an apology.

After many, many months of this type of conversation, this is what I most often hear right now.

Logan does something to irritate her.
Audrey: That was dumb, Smart……uh, I mean….I’m sorry Logan.

She is getting it!!!!  More and more she is learning what is an acceptable way to communicate with her brothers.  Yes, she still needs reminders but then again, she is still three years away from being an adult.

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19 Responses to The Teen

  1. tealrose1 says:

    I am so glad to see you are understanding the hormonal thing. For some girls and women it is a really bad thing. They have no control over it really. I am 56 and although my periods were agony my hormonal mental state wasn’t too bad usually! However my sister, who is 7 years younger than me, who had no pain, DID have the mental fluctuations! It got worse over the years .. from being ‘tetchy’ .. to being full blown dangerous to be around. She tried all the natural things first of course [perhaps your daughter could too???] and eventually at about 40 was finally put onto Prozac – which she didn’t want – but it made a HUGE difference to her life and to her family’s !

    Honesty, if your daughter is coming back and apologising, she knows she is doing wrong … and that is good. But I do think you have to have another heart to heart with your husband explaining that most of the time, it really is out of her hands. And throw a little maths his way .. she might be ‘only 3 years from being an adult’ but that at the moment .. is a whole 1/5 of her present age – and the first year or two of that she was only a baby!

    • lucy1903 says:

      Thank you for your comments. Yes, I’ve had many heart to hearts with Lee. I think it is going to require a paradigm shift on his part that, honestly, I don’t think he is ready for yet. Since we starting this shift in parenting, I’m trying to go the full route of “no punitive parenting” and he is still thinking that it just means “no spanking.” He comes from a very traditional Chinese background and that plays into it too. He is trying but it is hard for him to understand exactly what is going on with a teen girl. I just keep telling him that 3 years is a long time and she will mature so much in that time.

      • tealrose1 says:

        My daughter went through a really bad patch around this age – she even upped and went to live with my mother for a year! She was up and down … and was quite antsy … then she decided to get married and asked me to help! [she was .. 22 at the time and you could have knocked me down with a feather as she was so .. different!] I arranged this big wedding, she helped …and we got on very well! She became pregnant, and we visited her quite often, and she had our first grandchild. That time from the wedding arrangements, through having her first child, was like having a different daughter. She now has a young 2 year old too .. and is the most patient woman I have seen! So .. tell Lee, that it WILL happen, he just has to wait a little…

        Maybe some of these natural herbs might help her? Vitamins help others [often the B vits…]. She might feel a little more in control if she gets the opportunity to talk about these and find out if she can take them and have them help her?

      • lucy1903 says:

        Thank you! I will pass your experience along to him. My mother and I fought horribly when I was a teen. We’ve been very close since I went to college at 18. It took me moving out for me to realize she was smarter than I gave her credit for. I just keep thinking that if I can raise Audrey with the same love and patience that my Mom raised me, things will be fine.

  2. April G says:

    I love reading about how you’re dealing with your teen (very helpful), but if my mom wrote about me on a public blog when I was 15 I would have been fuuuuuurious. The “public blog” version of my teens was mom sitting on the phone – while I was in the room – commiserating with her friends about her teen daughter’s bad attitude. It drove me crazy and just made my attitude even worse. So I’m curious… how does she feel about being blogged about? And does she read your blog?

    • lucy1903 says:

      I let her read everything that I write on here before I publish it. I try to make her see that my purpose in writing about her is not to display her behavior but to tell others how we handle things and how our relationship has changed since my attitude about how I parent has changed. She absolutely hates when I talk to my friends about her (even if it is just “This is what happened, what would you have done?”) but she doesn’t mind this so much. Plus, it helps that we all have our “secret identities” here. She helped me pick everyone’s pseudonyms. 😉

      • April G says:

        Very smart to keep her in the loop! 🙂 And I’m relieved to hear these are secret identities… it’s so hard to know if people are doing that or not. hehe

        Keep sharing… I’m filing this info away for when my son hits his teens in less than 6 (gulp!) years.

  3. -Angie says:

    It’s awesome to read this. I like your approach and I’m so happy that you’re seeing progress. Respecting her will return success 10 fold.

    I wonder if I might present a thought however, a sort of paradigm shift, as it were…
    You stated that you are now teaching her how to fight the hormones, the influence and craziness they trigger. What if, instead of fighting it and having a war on her hands, you and she could learn together what it feels like to accept and work with the body and its processes.

    What shifts in thinking and processing, and physical responses, might come of realigning the perspective and portal you and she view things through on this particular subject?

    Just some thoughts. 🙂
    Thanks for your post.

    • lucy1903 says:

      Thank you! I’ve never thought of it like that before! I’m still in the process of learning to be more gentle and didn’t even think of that wording needing to be changed. I appreciate the thought and will strive to view it like you suggested. I never do talk to Audrey about it in that way though – it is just my internal way of thinking of it. I can see though, that changing my thinking will change my attitude and can only help her as she learns to work with her body as she grows. Your thoughts mean a lot to me!!!!

      • barefootbetsy says:

        It’s been a while, but I seem to remember reading in Christiane Northrup’s book “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” about how different times during women’s cycles are good for different things – like one half is very introspective and creative and the other half is good for getting things done. I don’t remember exactly, but it’d be worth looking into finding that information! It might have been mentioned in “Cycle Savvy” as well (a teen book by the same woman who wrote Taking Charge of Your Fertility), but I don’t remember.

        I definitely think that it’s important to learn how to work with the hormones rather than fighting them! I really need to look that information up again for my own knowledge too 🙂

        ~B.

  4. Rosie says:

    Just a thought – “Hold Onto Your Kids” by Mate and someone else I can’t remember. Why peer orientation is at odds with parental/adult orientation. That changed my understanding of teens and the underlying causes of some of that “attitude”.

    Also, could she try some hormonal-balancing nutritional supplements when she feels out of control? I wish I’d known about such things when I was a teen – I had terrible mood swings where I could barely contain myself, and would be mean or yell etc without even understanding why. In fact, it was a little bit scary, like when you’re a toddler and you have a tantrum but it’s not to control other people, you just can’t help it and it’s scary.

  5. Mrs W says:

    Are you also teaching her brother to leave her alone and stop annoying her? It used to bug me at that age when my parents blamed it all on me and let my sisters keep doing annoying things, and then I’d get into trouble for the whole lot.

    • lucy1903 says:

      Yes, we emphasize this to each of them because they all seem to enjoy egging the others on. We are trying to teach them to not do things they know will annoy their siblings along with “this is what you are expected to do when they are annoying you.” It is a work in progress for all three of them.

  6. Pingback: Gentle Parenting of Teens | Why Not Train A Child?

  7. Emma says:

    She may be 3 years away from being an adult legally, but biologically she’s actually FIVE years away from it, since the human brain is not fully adult until age 20 (the age the Jews considered young people to be fully adult in Biblical times)!

    • lucy1903 says:

      I was so not going to tell her this. I was so thankful that one of her freshman classes went over brain development. I was so happy when she came out of class one day to report that her brain would not be fully developed until she was 25! She told me all about how a teenaged brain is not mature and it seemed like a great relief to her to find out so much of what she is going through is normal development. I was so happy to see this taught in her school. A few times I’ve even used it when talking to her about issues we are dealing with, telling her that it will get easier as she matures over the next few years. (But I don’t let her use it as an “excuse” for her behavior.)

    • -Angie says:

      There are studies that point closer to 25 for many adults. I think, in my own life, I was in my mid 20’s before I began to view things in a manner which appeared to be objective and, well, functional. I became fully independent at 17, but didn’t begin to feel as though I could manage the adult world properly until about 24.

      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec04/brain_10-13.html

      If anyone can find the actual studies (like, the data not just articles/comments/documentaries), please share.

  8. Sheryl says:

    I liked it a lot. My husband is much the same way with my kids..always rounding their ages up. I wish we did not have ages. Some kids are adults at 15 and some are not anywhere ready to be an adult at 18. It is not attaching anything negative to a child who is *young for their age* it is just who they are.

    • lucy1903 says:

      Thank you! I completely agree about ages. There is such a wide range of maturity levels that an age can be deceiving. I always try to parent my kids by their maturity level instead of by their chronological age. Logan, at 12, is just starting to display maturity levels that Audrey had before she hit 10. They are totally different children. Audrey is extremely mature for her age in some respects and in other respects, she still has a lot of growing up to do.

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