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?