My Teenager Scares Me

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Are you intimidated by your teenager?

Lets admit it. Being mom to a teen who is growing into an adult can be intimidating. Add in the hormones, typical teen attitude problems, and maybe a bit of teen insecurity, and you have a recipe for disaster. I’ve been talking to a number of moms lately who sometimes feel downright afraid of their teenager. If this describes you, please keep reading.

Remember, I genuinely like teens. Boys and girls – I’ve raised two of each – they come in different shapes and sizes, and with unique ways of pushing their parents’ buttons. Some of the attitudes that teen boys are encouraged towards are the same things that make it really hard to get along with them. And some of the attitudes teen girls show toward their moms can be pretty intimidating!

My eldest son was a full-out bully sometimes when he was younger. As he got older, he and I talked alot about the issue (okay, I talked in short snippets, he listened in even shorter snippets, but it did pass for a conversation if you add all the snippets together), and he tried his best to treat people with respect. Today he is a wonderful young adult. But we went through some really tough years. Especially when he was feeling insecure, afraid, tired – actually when he was feeling anything intensely – he would “buff up” and I’d feel intimidated. Sometimes I’d choose not to talk with him at all if I wasn’t feeling particularly able to withstand his aggression.

One of my daughters pushed all my buttons too. We spent many years trying to get along, with various degrees of success. Sometimes I’d let things go just to keep the peace.

If you’re feeling intimidated by your teen, take a look at the strategies below. Intimidation is a serious problem in alot of families, and is something that often triggers a mom’s feelings of insecurity. Stop the cycle now! Get some help addressing this issue, and learn how to create a place of safety and respect in your family.

1. Even if you’re feeling intimidated, don’t act like it. I’ll admit, this can sometimes feel like an impossible requirement. When my son, sweaty and smelly and muscles bulging, leaned over me and yelled, I most definitely felt intimidated! When my daughter had a verbal meltdown over my request for interaction or information, sometimes I felt afraid! But it is super important not to get in the habit of cringing. If you’re like me and have some of those “issues” from way back when, its even more important to get some help dealing with your stuff.

2. Talk softly, and say ONE thing. When your teen is in “aggression mode”, they can’t hear you. So choose one thing to say and say it softly. How about these phrases:

- “Lets talk later”

- “You sound upset; lets talk later”

- “Sounds like you had a hard day; lets talk later”

Do you see a pattern? Respond in the moment, don’t confront the aggression (you’ll make it worse, trust me), and give an ‘out’.

3. When you talk later, do it briefly. We moms are often gifted with gab, and we just plain talk too much (according to our teens). If you need a place to vent, using your teen as a sounding board is just not a good idea. Being super confrontational isn’t a good idea either. Don’t give your power away by letting your teen know how much they push your buttons.

Say something like, “I really didn’t like it when you yelled earlier today. Do you see a way you could work on that? Maybe wait to talk to me until you’re not quite so angry?” If the intimidation comes back up when you try to talk about it, send a text (or other social media) message instead and give your teen a chance to think about it.

4. Get some help. Chances are, if your teen is behaving in a way that intimidates you, there are two things going on: his pattern of behavior, and yours. Both need addressing. You may be the one person in a million who can figure this all out for yourself, but if you’re not, get some help.

5. Have a bottom line. This one scares some moms, but I stand by it. If you don’t have a bottom line, how will your teen ever learn appropriate behavior? If things get totally out of control and you feel yourself losing it, YOU be the one to walk away. If you hear yourself yelling, YOU walk away. (Let go of your need to have the last word!) If your teen is getting violent, YOU walk away and let go of your need to convince your teen to regain control in the moment. And on the violence subject, there nothing wrong with threatening to get “the authorities” involved, so long as you follow through once you say it.

6. Don’t “set him up” to fail. This may not be the most popular point, but I believe it is important. If you’re a naggy mom who won’t stop talking, don’t be surprised if your son reacts negatively. If you’re often making statements about how much of a disappointment your daughter is, how he is failing to live up to your expectations, how you wish she were more like someone else, don’t be shocked if she blows up. You’re the parent; act like one!

This whole intimidation subject is a really tough one, and moms have a special struggle in dealing with teens who “push our buttons”. Get some help. If you’re a mom who resonates with this, now would be the perfect time to take advantage of my free ”Meet the HOPE Coach” consultation. Things can be better!

Your turn: What is one time you felt intimidated by your teen?

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About RJ

I'm passionate about HOPE! As a first year medical student, I spend most of my time studying like mad. Somehow I still find time to build a successful entrepreneurial venture that is helping to change lives. I also keep up with writing, make a few videos here and there, and hold as extra precious the time spent with friends and family. I'm thrilled to work with you as you create your own abundant health, wealth, and happiness.
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21 Responses to My Teenager Scares Me

  1. Joy says:

    Hi~
    Is anyone still on this thread? I feel like I am “late to the party,” but I just recently found this site.

    I read all your comments on here and got very teary. I totally understand and hurt with you.

    I have an older teen who is mildly autistic and has ADHD and OCD. Until the OCD emerged, he was the sweetest, happiest, kindest, most gentle and respectful kiddo I could have prayed for…but the OCD (he is receiving treatment for it) has made me ashamed to say I do feel afraid of him at times. His temper is hair-trigger at times. I also can’t see a pathway for his future, though we (my husband and I) are doing all we can to press forward…he is bright and has many talents, but is struggling socially and maturity-wise.

    I’m not really looking for advice — though won’t be offended by any tips, of course — but I guess (as pathetic as it sounds), I just really want a cyber hug or understanding from those brave enough to come on here and admit how they feel. I feel for you all, as I read the emotions. I have to say, I feel so alone. I just do not feel at ease talking to relatives or even friends about our daily struggles…all that happens — to be honest — is that they worry and stress me out more, or just sort of blow it off or can’t relate at all etc.– it’s the one time in my life that I pretty much need strangers who “get it” to talk with…what a pickle.

    My heart feels broken. Although I do think my son is making some progress with his OCD, it is not a linear path, amd he has such a tough road with having three conditions. I would do anything to take these conditions on myself for him, but,of course, I can’t. I can only love and support and pray he makes wise decisions.

    Sometimes my son is is sweet, happy self…but I have to say that this has been the hardest time in our lives, as a family. My son seems to take out his frustrations mainly on my husband and me (mainly me), and he can be SO MEAN when his anxiety level/OCD peaks at times. Later he is sorry, but I am such a sensitive person. I feel like the walking wounded. He shifts blame; falsely accuses; yells amd belittles and screams at us in ways he never has before. I swear, I am in shock. You would think this would be absorbing some by now, but because he has always been such a sweetheart, I feel like my brain just can’t absorb this. My heart dies though. :(

    I am sorry this is so long. I’m obviously struggling, to be strong and stay emotionally glued together, for my son. I also don’t even know how much of this is teen behavior run amuck, since he is developmentally delayed and an only child. If I had a crystal ball and could see an endpoint — or at least enough to know it will significantly get better as he takes proper medication, matures and does ERP (a therapy he does do) — it certainly would help. But don’t we ALL wish that! :)

    I feel so stuck and sad. Every morning I wake up, hoping I just had an awful nightmare. But no…this is our lives at the current moment. As I try to press on doing the best I can and the right things to help our son, I just pray things will get better. I guess I’m not very patient…his OCD (we think) has always been there since he was little (though we misunderstood it as part of his autism), but it just really revved up fiercely almost two years ago. Until then, he was progressing along so well. It just really hurts. :( It’s not fair…but saying that doesn’t help anything, so I just try to take it day-by-day. Sometimes moment-by-moment.

    Thanks for listening, if anyone reads this.
    Joy

    • RJ says:

      Joy,

      Thank you SO much for your comment. As a mom who lived through those years of being afraid of my kids, I know the pain you’re feeling. There’s nothing I can do to “fix” it magically, I know that. But I will tell you from the deepest most passionate depth of my heart: you are not alone. It is not your fault. Whether or not your son improves, YOU can find your own hope and healing.

      I really resonated with so much of what you shared – not least was your mention of not talking with friends and family about struggles at home. For whatever reason, I had the very same experience. I found that any time I’d mention even a tiny part of what we were dealing with, folks who I expected to be supportive were quick to judge or offer ‘advice’ that was inappropriate and sometimes downright hurtful.

      There are only a couple of nuggets I’d like to share with you, gleaned from my son who has since shared with me his own experience of those years.

      First, continue to be his advocate. If one medication doesn’t actually work to alleviate the symptoms, try another. If one doctor doesn’t pay attention, find another. If one counselor isn’t full-on working to find solutions, go to another.

      Second (and, according to my son, the most important), no matter how crazy it gets, please please do not ‘lose it’. I know (believe me, I know!) how nearly impossible that sounds. These days, my son will describe his out-of-control meltdowns saying he knew he was out of control and absolutely could NOT stop, and was scream/praying (his word) inside that I’d stay calm and just ride it out. There were many times I was unable to do that. But the times I could just continue being calm (and preferably not saying anything at all no matter how horrid or hurtful my son was) are the times my son remembers most as beginning his own healing journey.

      No matter what, here’s buckets of HOPE. The kind of HOPE you can lean on, knowing your heart is safe here. If you need more or would like to connect further, feel free to send me a private message.

      RJ

      • Joy says:

        RJ,

        Being the savvy tech person I am (LOL), I finally found my way back to your blog. I am so glad. Now I have it as an app, so I won’t “lose” it again.

        Thank you so, so much for replying to me. Just your understanding and caring words did me so much good. :) I also thank you for sharing your son’s reflections. I will ansolutely will take them all to heart. Most of the time, I manage to stay very patient amd calm, but I find the times I increase my VOLUME is when my son is really scaring me…and like THAT helps — not! This gives me a reminder to give 100% of my calmness….because 90% is not enough. I love my son enough to do that!

        I thank you so much…and if it is not too much trouble, can you reply back to me every once in awhile, whenever you find the time? How pathetic I must sound! But just a human, loving, understanding, motherly voice is really what I need. I have honestly never felt so incapable in my life. Anyone who knows me would be shocked to know what fear lies in my heart.

        I have a question for you, or your son — whomever you feel is best to answer. My son is stubbornly trying to find his wings (which I actually think is good!), but then keeps trying to draw me right back in…right before my husband just took him to his martial arts class, my son announced to me all the things he was going to talk to his martial arts teacher about (just random interests), and I said (kicking myself as it came out of my mouth!) “Well, remember, she is there to instruct you on martial arts.”

        I made a big mistake. He immediately countered with: “I know how to handle it myself,” (major attitude in tone), and I quickly said: “Then just handle it. There is no reason to report this to me and involve me. Tell her what you like.”

        Needless to say, he left home with a reason to be ticked at me, and I knew I failed THAT test.

        I am not sure what my question is exactly (that’s probably half the problem!), but it’s like my son is never satisfied. His mantra is “give me my freedom!”, while at the same time, he demands my feedback and continues to run everything by me, still insecure deep down. So I feel that I can’t win for losing!

        ANY tips at how to handle this is so appreciated. I am finding that the less I say to him the better (I swear, at this time, I’d like to say nothing all the time!), but I sure would like to have some new tools to deal with this contradictory teen! :) Despite his conditions, sometimes I feel like he is just setting me up so he can have someone to be mad at…and that really hurts and is hard to combat.

        Thanks so much…I so appreciate what ypu already posted, and I will take any and all suggestions on how to keep our home more peaceful and stable during this really rough time.
        :)Joy

    • Carole says:

      I am happy I found this also. I too am scared of my daughter. She has seen a therapist, a phycologist and a psychiatrist and it has not helped. She screams and yells at me and calls me mother f er, tells me to go f myself, tells me she hates me – it just does not end. Her remarks are so hurtful and I do not engage her but it is frightening.
      I can be out with her and she will tell a clerk at a store don’t listen to her she is a liar and deceitful. I do not know what to do. She does not want to live here and says she does not like me and never will.

      • RJ says:

        Carole, thank you for writing. You’re describing a situation that is sadly more frequent than most folks realize.

        You mention that your daughter has seen a Psychologist and Psychiatrist. I would encourage you to get some support for YOU. Your daughter may not choose to find a healthier way to relate, but YOUR heart is hurting and you need – and deserve – tangible support. I know that place of frustration and self-blame, trying to find some way not to ‘set her off’, saying too little or too much and watching your dream of ever getting along slowly die. But THERE IS HOPE. I cannot promise that your daughter will ever be any better/different than she is now (although I pray she one day makes some positive changes). What I CAN promise is that YOU can find hope and healing. Sending you buckets of HOPE, comfort for your hurting heart, and assurance as a mom who survived those years that you CAN make it and YOU can be okay.

      • Joy says:

        Carole,

        I am so very sorry. My heart really hurts for you.

        Conditions or not, I think sometimes teens go through phases where they are just so internally frustrated, confused and insecure that — most unfortunately — some vent out at those they love most. I guess this is because they know they are “safe,” in that we love them unconditionally, and they know this. I think the more scared someone is, the more likely they can sometimes react in anger. This does NOT make it right, how your daughter is treating you.

        I wish I could offer great tips, but as you can see from my posts…I also have my hands full.

        RJ is right though, in that there is HOPE in various forms.

        I hope this encourages you…my son just recently apologized to me for being so testy and icky at times. Maybe this will help you. He said (his exact words): “I am not making excuses for my bad behavior, but this teen years can be so hard! They can stink! Whenever I’ve said hurtful things, please realize it was never personal! Mom…you and Dad are great parents. I just react badly to anxiety at times. I don’t really mean the harsh things I’ve said. I just feel really awful in that moment.”

        Now…of COURSE it feels “personal” to us…but I very much understood what my son was saying, and we talked about better ways to release his frustrations. And by no means are we “free and clear” from more eruptions from him, but he is making progress in becoming more self-aware, and he has a book dealing with anxiety that he’s put effort into…so never give up hope!

        And in the meantime, protect your heart, as best you can. Be kind to yourself. Go out and treat yourself to a sweet treat. Take a walk with a kind, understanding friend. Take a soak in the tub. Write a list of all the things you like about yourself. Build yourself up…because when the kids we love so much are less than supportive of us, I think we need to be our own cheerleaders.

        I totally understand. I’m here, if you want someone to chat back-and forth with…or just someone to “listen.”

        Sending you cyber hugs.
        Joy

      • Joy says:

        Carole,

        I forgot to address what your daughter is sometimes saying to people when you are out (like clerks at stores). I can only imagine how embarrassing and distressful it is to have her doing that!!

        I think most people probably get something is up with HER, not you (not sure that makes it any easier), but from your post, my guess is that you don’t say anything when she does this. That is probably the best course of action, as you don’t want to pump things up…but, internally, it may really be stressing you out; right or not, that would stress me out.

        This is just a suggestion, and it may sound totally ridiculous, so absolutely disregard if it would make it even worse for you…but you could write a short sentence on index cards, to keep in your back pocket or purse. For instance, if your daughter has ADHD, you could write: “My daughter has ADHD and is going through a really rebellious phase with me. My apologies for how she is behaving.” Or whatever it is that is best to say that makes you feel a little better in explaining. Then you just slip the card to whomever — maybe on your way out…to be honest, I’d slip it to the person the minute my son started talking like that…because not only would it make me feel less stressed, but you may be surprised at how kind or helpful people will be when you reach out like that and they understand what you are going through. Shoot, I’d hope someone would look right at your daughter and say: “You need to be respectful of others.”

        Now maybe that would just embarrass you more than just doing nothing, or possibly provoke your daughter more. I admit that it’s unpredictable as to how it would go, depending on many factors. So you would know best. But I just really feel for you being put in that kind of position…sounds really unpredictable what she will say, and it makes me cringe that she is doing that. So sorry. Remember: that’s about HER, not you.
        Joy

  2. Rosalinda says:

    I’m having the same issues with my 16 yr old son, he goes into rages that really scare me, he’s broken my car windshield, this Sat he broke my bed, punched 5 holes in the wall and yelled and cussed at my face, he’ll punch his head and tells me I make him crazy??? but all I did was prevent him from taking the xbox out of our home. he’s on meds but doesn’t always take them. most of the times he goes off on a rage when my husband is gone, my husband is scared he will hit me or my 2 younger daughters and I didn’t let my husband call the law bc he already has charges pending for something else. btw he smokes weed quite often.
    not sure what else to do.

    • RJ says:

      Rosalinda,

      My heart aches for you! I’ve SO completely been exactly where you’re describing, and it can feel completely hopeless.
      Though its the toughest thing you can imagine, please do call the law. A teenager as out of control as what you describe desperately needs an external source of control, and will thank you later for intervening. This won’t get better all by itself.
      The other thing you can do is to contact your local Social Services office and request mental health services. They are trained to handle crises and will provide you with other resources that will help.

      Please do not wait. Please make the calls now, not after a greater tragedy happens. Sending you HOPE – yes, things can be better, but only when you’re willing to act!

  3. Logan says:

    My son is 16 going on 17. We relocated 7 years ago and now that he is older, he hates me for moving the family and wants to return to our old area. His anger is explosive and scary and he is defiant and beligerant. He tells me how much he hates me and that he is going to to whatever it takes to get away from me. He ran away tonight and although he did eventually come home, it was so scary and challenging to cope with. He has been in therapy for a year now and takes some medication (just started) to help him with his depression and anger. I’m scared of him and I am scared for him. I worry that he will get so angry that he will hurt himself or me. I’m also so afraid that he is making decisions now that will hurt him in the short and long term. He is not motivated to do well in school and has disconnected from us. He manipulates and is an emotional bully. I have been patient and kind and as helpful as I know how to be but I am doubting my ability to handle this anymore. He has 2 younger brothers and our household has been turned upside down. I see sadness through his rage and want to help him but have no idea how to. Therapy, medication, love and attempted guidance at home, help from the school…you name it, we’re trying it. Nothing is helping.

  4. Amy says:

    My son gets really mad. He yells curse words at me and I think he started have sex. He is 16 almost 17. If I tell him no, on anything he will not back down and then normally does something stupid. Just recently he was caught with a girl in his room, I grounded him for two weeks. It has not been two weeks and now he wants to go places. I keep telling him no and he keeps cussing me. I am scared he may try and kill me. I am scared of my son even though I do not show it. I don’t know if I should call the police because he has not made any threats on my life but I really do not know how much longer I can life with this.

    • RJ says:

      Amy, My heart aches reading your comment. I encourage you to get some outside help. In your community there will be support groups and / or counselors who are trained to help with the kind of challenges you are facing with your son. You DO NOT need to live in fear. Please get some help for you. You deserve to find relief, and help is available. Write again if you need assistance finding resources in your community.

  5. kitty says:

    i wanted a outlook on this from someone not im my family. my boyfriend has a 12 year old boy going on 13 soon. He has been a bully also. he hits his brother and sister . my car has been getting vandalized. he breaks things on purpose of all of ours stuff. just had my niece and nephew over and he was calling a over wait 3 year old a fatty and telling me he could not eat any food of ours. he waited to bully the girls so i supervised them because he will hit and bully my family too the point of them not coming over.

    • RJ says:

      Kitty, it sounds like you’ve got your hands full! I’m sending you an email… but in the meantime, I would strongly encourage you to get some help rather than just put up with this sort of bad behavior. And it usually doesn’t work to simply “send them to therapy”. A teen at 12 or 13 who is stuck in bully-mode can do a whole lot of damage to the whole family (as you’re seeing), and it take the whole family working together to make a positive change. There is hope!

  6. Kimberly says:

    Loved the suggestions here…especially the one about not nagging. Lord, I DO that. And it backfires. And I know it. So, why do I do it????

    I’ll just keep trying to be a better mom :)

    • RJ says:

      Oh Kimberly, you are in very good company as I think every parent has been a nag at one time or another! You may do it because that’s part of the parenting modeling you received from your own parents, or simply as a way to cope with a teen who isn’t paying attention to what you’re saying. You’re right, it always backfires:-) Try this. Choose just one thing that you tend to nag about, and make a decision to practice a new way of communicating. It will take time and practice (kinda like learning to ride a skateboard – get on, start moving, fall off rather dramatically, get back up and try again) but I am confident you can Learn a more respectful – and effective – way of communicating with your teenager. If you’d like some personalized help in your practicing, shoot me an email and we’ll come up with a strategy together!

  7. Karen says:

    I agree – especially with your point about speaking softly and keeping what you say short and sweet until the situation diffuses. I have used this and had parents I work with use this stragegy with very aggressive teens and it really makes a difference. Thank you for this great post!

  8. mjhighroad says:

    My son is fifteen. Sometimes I do everything I can to help him arrive at a decision I can support. At other times I walk away and let the full consequences of his decision land on his back.

    • RJ says:

      MJ, my heart aches reading your note. I know the feeling of being a parent to a teen who challenges every bit of you. Here’s courage and hope as you both walk through some of the toughest years ever. If you need a little help, send me a private note.

  9. Denny Coates says:

    Parents (and their teens) face a perilous journey. I watched the special on the Phoebe Prince suicide last night. Her emotions took over after puberty. Depression. Left her school to relocate in U.S. Desperate to make friends and have boyfriends. Clueless about teen romance and relationships. Other emotional teens angry at her for dating other girls’ boyfriends. More hurt, depression, then suicide. The sad thing is her dad was in Ireland and her mom was a busy school teacher, and neither understood their daughter’s needs or why teens get emotional. Most parents get lucky and the kids outgrow adolescence and nobody dies. Not the case with these parents.

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