Why is my teenager mean to me?
Founder of the Impactful Parent, Kristina Campos, gives parents 5 reasons why their child might be mean AND 5 things that parents can do to help cultivate a better relationship with their child.
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Why Is My Teenager Mean To Me?
They eye rolls and snarky eye stares. The “selective hearing” and the attitude in their voice. You’ve heard it before: teenagers are a hormonal mess. But what does that mean? Are they all going through some phase? How should an impactful parent respond to the crazy, stank eye?
Hello, my name is Kristina Campos. I am the founder of the Impactful Parent. Every week I give you parenting videos that can help you in your parenting journey. If you have a particular topic or parenting question about your school-aged child that you would like me to address, please submit it at [email protected] or by messaging me on social media. All submissions are kept anonymous.
Today, I will talk to you about why your teenager is so mean and stick around to the end because I will also give you tips for dealing with these frustrating situations. Let’s get started!
It’s true about the teenage brain not being fully developed. It’s also true that teens will get an instinctual urge to detach from the family and assert independence. But is this really causing your teen to be so mean and lash out at you (and maybe even everyone else)?
The next time your teenager is giving attitude, I want you to think about WHY this is happening? Most of the time, there are layers underneath those big emotions. Here are some reasons why your teen is throwing you shade and my suggestions for what to do about it.
Why Is My Teenager Mean? Reason 1: It’s easier to be angry than sad.
One of the most common reasons teenagers are mean to their parents is their anger. Anger is a powerful emotion that can manipulate others, distract from sadness, and cover up fear. Since teens don’t have the skill set to deal with negative emotions in healthy ways, they may take out their anger on you. Remember, kids, see their parents as a safe space. You’re supposed to love them no matter what, even if they are mean. You’ll see a lot of teens pushing these boundaries and testing your love- even on a subconscious level. Yes, TESTING your love! Teens are sometimes so insecure and frustrated with their life that they’ll test the security of home and your love to ensure it’s still “safe.” They need that safe place to vent and the stability of your love to be their security net. Of course, none of this is said aloud. Parents are just supposed to know this and pass the test.
What to do: If you’ve noticed your teenager being angry, try talking to them about it in a non-judgmental way when the dust has settled a little bit. Say something like, “I’m having trouble understanding why you’re so upset with me lately. Can you tell me what’s happening and how I can stop annoying you?” This will allow your teenager to vent—and hopefully help them see how hurtful their behavior has been toward you.
Why Is My Teenager Mean? Reason 2: They want to be independent.
Most teenagers are constantly testing their boundaries, but that’s not necessarily bad. They’re figuring out who they are and what they want out of life, which involves making mistakes, taking risks, and trying on new identities. You may notice that your teenager is more critical or sarcastic than usual—or even downright mean—because they need to make decisions independently. Your teenager needs to develop a sense of self-reliance to effectively function in the adult world after high school.
What to do: If you see your teen being mean to assert independence, focus on correcting their tone and NOT their message. Let them speak and declare their opinions but remind them that their opinions and voice will be better received if their tone is strong but respectful. I often tell my kids that I won’t hear what they say until they control their emotions, body, and tone. Then I am all ears. This is also a situation where you must practice what you preach and model the behaviors you want to see. You can’t demand your teen to talk to you respectfully if you raise your voice at them consistently. This brings me to reason number 3…
Why Is My Teenager Mean? Reason 3: The influence of their friends and YOU.
As I said before, it’s normal for teens to try out new things and most of what they will try out is learned behaviors from peers, media, and you.
It’s natural for teens to want to fit in. They need friends, and they want their peers to like them. Parents are often seen as a barrier between their teens and other kids at school, so they sometimes act out against parents to get attention and approval from their friends.
While you may be tempted to blame your teen’s behavior on peer pressure or immaturity, there is another possible explanation: Your teen may be modeling their behavior after yours!
If you are mean or disrespectful towards your child, then this can become normalized for them. Suppose you constantly yell at each other or use sarcasm (even in jest). In that case, your child will believe that this behavior is acceptable when interacting with you and even people outside the family, including authority figures like teachers and coaches.
What to do: Model the behavior you want to see and talk to your kids (when they are in a good mood) about the boundaries and appropriateness of using sarcasm, jokes, put-downs, tone, and other language nuances with others. This is a learned social skill for children. Teach them.
Why Is My Teenager Mean? Reason 4: Maybe they’re trying to get attention from you and don’t even know what they are doing.
Most teenagers are fighting an internal battle of wanting to stay in the safety of their parent’s nest or fly away and make a new nest for themselves. They are stuck between being too young and yet too old. They aren’t kids, but they’re not quite adults yet. And whether your child voices this internal battle with mood swings or by using their words, there will surely be times when your teenager is longing for the attention of their parents but can’t say the words anymore. If your teen is mean to you, they may be trying to get your attention so that you will spend more time with them. They also might be trying to get you to pay attention to their needs. Teens feel like adults don’t listen and aren’t interested in what they have to say, so teens can feel ignored.
What to do: Kill your child with kindness. When they are being rude and eye-rolling, don’t take the bait to start an argument; instead, take a deep breath. Once you got your composure- start thinking about how you can show your child you love them by speaking their love language. Maybe you can text your child a few words of encouragement before a test or make some popcorn for their homework hour? Whatever you do, focus on killing your child with kindness. This will give your child the attention they didn’t even know they needed, strengthening the bond you can create with them. To discover more about your child’s love language and get specific examples of what to do, check out my podcast/blog/video called How to Love A Teenager: The 5 Love Languages.
YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10vqibwLmXE
Why Is My Teenager Mean? Reason 5: Your bond is broken.
It happens to some families. Maybe the parents must work long hours to keep food on the table. Perhaps the personalities of you and your child don’t mix. It doesn’t matter WHY or HOW you got here, but maybe you don’t have a bond with your child anymore. Your child may feel wronged or abandoned. This is a big cause for concern. Your child can develop mental health issues.
What to do: Stay silent, keep a journal tracking your child’s behaviors, focus on creating a healthy relationship with your child, and get professional help.
Staying silent is also a good tactic when presented with any of the other 4 reasons your child is being mean. Staying silent is great because it doesn’t take the bait for starting an argument or show how badly your child is bothering you. Now, I get it. Many parents think, “I can’t just let my child talk to me like that,” and I agree. There are consequences in my home for mistreating others. However, sometimes it’s better to stay silent at the moment to not escalate the situation further and then revisit your response, consequences, and next steps when emotions are regulated.
Keep a journal of your child’s outbursts. Can you spot patterns in their rage or rudeness. Journaling can be handy for finding answers and help.
And finally, focus on creating a new bond with your child. Get help to get started. The Impactful Parent app offers several suggestions for cultivating a relationship with your child again. I also do one on one coaching for families who want personal attention. I also recommend healthcare professionals who can work with you, your child, or the whole family to open up the lines of communication in your home again.
The bottom line is that teenagers are going through a lot. They want to be independent, but they also want to be loved. They feel misunderstood, angry and sad all at once. They don’t know how to deal with big emotions, so they take it out on others instead (like you).
Pause the next time your child is being mean, and ask yourself, What Is Really Going On Here? Is this even about you, or maybe you’re just the punching bag? Playing detective and discovering the WHY behind the behaviors is your Impactful Parent challenge. You can do this.
If this information was valuable for you today, BECOME a more impactful parent by downloading The Impactful Parent App. The Impactful Parent app is FREE and full of episodes like this one that will help you in your parenting journey. Investing in your family looks like learning the warning signs of certain behaviors so you can stop bad things before they start, discovering new parenting techniques to make your parenting more effective, and joining a community of like-minded parents that also want to be the best parent they can for their child. All this, plus so much more, can be found inside The Impactful Parent app, so download it today. You got nothing to lose with this free parenting resource. Go to theimpactfulparent.com and discover how you can step up your parenting game and be a more impactful parent.
But until next time, you got this, parents. I am just here to help.
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