I recently woke up and realised that I had succeeded in raising teenagers.
Wow – my 17-year-old daughters aren’t drug addicts and are nice humans!
Do you have a teenage daughter and sometimes wonder whether you (or she) are ever going to survive the teenage years??
As the mother of twin girls who have made it to the age of 17 (nearly 18) and have finished school – there were times when I seriously doubted whether anyone of the 3 of us would make it!
I’ve been a seriously single mum since my girls were 9 months old.
Seriously single because their Dad, sadly, self selected to do a complete vanishing act early on.
I have worked full time since they were 9 months old and I’ve never taken a break from working.
I have always shouted from the rooftop that I love working, I could never stay home with kids and going to work has always been my ‘break time’.
I went through hell when they were between the ages of 11 – 14 years old. They were horrible human beings.
To be honest, there were times when I wasn’t even sure if I liked them.
Here is a snapshot of what it was like raising teenagers – I have no doubt you have an equally awful list:
- The constant comment was ‘why can’t you be a normal mother’ ie a mother who is always at the school and knows the other mothers!
- One daughter would literally throw 2 year old tantrums at least 5 times a week (I cracked my teeth from gritting my teeth with frustration)
- One daughter chose to live with my sister for a while because she was a ‘normal mother’ – and I had to wrench her back
- In the midst of a senior level guest speaking engagement in another city, I received a call from the school to say my daughter had run away – I had to exit, get to the airport and get home
- One daughter completely objected to me having a man in my life and would harass the life out of anyone who came close until she achieved her desired outcome
- One daughter spent a year completely traumatised by bullying- and would come home and bang her head against the wall and shout at me that I did not understand.
Can you relate?
So how did my now 17 year old girls transform?
I’ve always followed my own rule book to raising teenagers and made it up as I went along. We are an unconventional family and I have broken every ‘good mummy’ rule.
Here are some of the things I have done whilst raising teenagers which when culminated, resulted in us surviving- and finally, thriving – I still have to pinch myself because I honestly thought it would never happen, that I would never be in a state of peace!
Tips for raising teenagers:
- Understand that you have brats! I took them to Bali in a state of exasperation when they were 14 and made them work in an orphanage. I can vividly remember the moment when the light bulbs went on. We were at an Indonesian supermarket with some of the teenaged orphans- and my girls asked for an ice cream. I bought one for all of the kids and one of the beautiful young orphans started to cry – because she had never had an ice cream before. Honestly, it was like a frontal labotamy for my girls. They couldn’t believe it. There brains could not compute. They finally realised how lucky they were and what a privileged existence they lived! Alleluia
- Know what’s going on – warts and all! My home became the drop in house for teenaged girls. I might have been flat out during the week – but I stayed home every weekend. I literally had teenaged girls swinging from the rafters! I dropped and picked up. I made breakfast for them all and listened and chatted. I knew exactly what was going on whether I liked it or not.
- One rule only. We have only one household rule. I implemented this because I knew that in being a rebellious teenager myself – the more rules you have, the more likely you will be in a constant state of enforcement! Our one rule was: always tell me the truth! I would say to them that I didn’t care how bad it was, I would not get angry, I would help them sort it out. The only thing that would upset me was when they lied or didn’t tell me something. Now the downside to this is that now I have to raise my hand and say ‘STOP…..I don’t want to know’ BUT …..I know what’s going on for my daughters and all of their friends, and I prefer it that way.
- Be sad not mad. Teenagers can literally lead you to murder. They will push every button (usually when you are exhausted) – and I would never judge a parent who told me that they had had a good old fashioned tantrum! Now I wasn’t perfect, however, I found it most effective to be silent when they were revolting! I would take deep breathes, talk in a very low pitch and all that I was allowed to say was: ‘I’m very very disappointed…..and I’m so disappointed I can’t talk to you right now.’ I would put on my saddest possible face rather than my angry face. It got them every time – they couldn’t stand my silence and my feigned sadness!
- Schedule lots of TIME. I found that my daughters were at their most chatty first thing in the morning. When I wasn’t traveling- my non negotiable time was driving them to school in the morning. Typically this was through peak hour traffic and took a good 45 minutes – and we would talk non stop – about EVERYTHING – nothing was off limits.
- Great holidays. 2-3 times a year I scheduled adventure for just the three of us. We travelled the world – even when it was financially by the skin of my teeth. Those holidays are probably the greatest investment I have ever made.
- Exposed them to role models early. I am very fortunate that a good many of my friends are either successful female entrepreneurs or successful corporate women. I entertained my friends at home – my daughters sat and chatted and listened to the real conversations of the challenges we faced – and how we solved them. They developed a long list of ‘aunties’ who were never backward in giving them honest advice.
- Provide a broad definition of success. There is so much emphasis put on academic performance at school – I decided early on to focus on rewarding behaviours and habits rather than grades. For example, if my daughter came home and said ‘I got a B’, my first statement would always be ‘I’m very proud of you, you worked hard (endorsing the effort not the grade) – how do you feel’. If she was disappointed I would ask, ‘what could you have done differently?’ I would then praise her efforts next time when I saw her implementing those changes.
- Tell them the truth. If I was stressed and had a lot on – I would give them detailed descriptions of what was happening so that they really understood. For example, when we were having bad cash flow months – I explained cash flow!
- Develop family mantras. My favourite has always been ‘we will always find a way’. I would constantly explain that even when the world was falling apart, if we looked at our track record, we always seemed to find a way. I drummed into them that bad things were going to happen – BUT – if we put our heads together we would sort it out, because we always did!!
A few thoughts about raising teenagers for what it’s worth! I hope this helps. Good luck with yours – and never forget, you are only human.