You can’t build your relationship on bribes. You can’t build your relationship on control. Love is the only foundation for a parent-child relationship. Love is the only thing that will overlook faults, suffer long and bear pain. Love is what will eventually get you through your differences. A relationship that is founded on love will stand the test of time and outlast any temporary challenges.
Teenagers demand unconditional love but seldom give it. They expect you to be faultless, able to give and give and give, listen and listen and listen. They expect you to endure getting emotionally dumped on and then continue parenting with a smile as if nothing ever happened. They expect you to keep up with the intensely changing pace of emotion they throw out and stay stable through it.
To teenagers, their relationship with their parents is a one way street. And not surprisingly the destination is centred on them. I have rarely met a teenager who doesn’t expect their parents to place their interests, needs and emotions as a priority. For parents, the journey of parenting a teenager is long and there may feel like there is no end in sight.
Does this sound familiar? I hate you BUT…
Can you drive me to Emma’s house?
Can I have $10 to go to the movies?
Why isn’t dinner made yet?
Why can’t I have another pair of shoes?
Why aren’t my clothes washed?
When I am 17 can I have your car to drive?
And now for the BIG ONE … I hate you but I expect you to love me!
It is difficult to love when there is nothing coming back in return. You have the incredible challenge of being the adult, staying the adult, and loving unconditionally regardless of what your child throws at you.
Parents need to be prepared to make a sacrificial investment into their child’s life. This investment can’t be replaced by someone else’s input. This investment is costly, draining, demanding, annoying and testing to say the least.
I see such a dramatic difference in those young people who are privileged enough to have a relationship that offers them this. Providing undeserved and consistent love is probably the most important gift you can give your teenager. When you offer your teenager undeserved love, it enables them to feel safe. They know they don’t have to earn your love or perform to be accepted. They have the security of knowing that there is one person who is always fighting for them.
Teenagers look intently for this type of love, especially when they feel unlovely (which all teens do at some stage!). It is natural for teenagers to look outside of the home for this acceptance and belonging. This doesn’t mean parents aren’t providing enough love for them. It does however mean that parents need to be even more diligent in reinforcing that they are the safe place that their teenager is looking for.
I encourage parents to communicate their love for their teenager deliberately. Once a year is not enough! Once a month is not enough! Do it every day, regardless of how they are responding to you. Don’t wait for the big deep and meaningful discussion to communicate to your teenager that you love them. What stays with them the most is what is communicated to them on a daily basis.
THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family. If you have a topic you would like me to blog about email me at email@example.com and I will respond to it as soon as I can.
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MOST IMPORTANTLY if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at email@example.com.
What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.
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