Teenagers are Difficult: Is That True?

Since last summer I have been mother to two teenagers. We have our moments. But then, with teenagers, who doesn’t?

That’s pretty much what you’d expect the mother of a teenager to say, isn’t it? If you’re not too keen on teenagers you might roll your eyes and say that they are selfish layabouts and the only good thing about the teen years is when they are over.  If you feel more empathetic you might say that teenagers are going through a time of transition and so things get difficult. For a while I worked on a helpline for parents and most calls came from parents of teenagers, so that does seem to suggest that maybe parenting teenagers is the most difficult time of all.

Or does it?

Firstly, there’s a practical reason why more parents of that age group called the helpline. During the pre-school and junior years, parents take their kids to places, including nursery, school, and after school events. They meet other parents doing the same thing. They talk, they listen. They might compete with each other to prove who has the most intelligent, sportiest and all round best kids, but they also share worries and reassurance. By the time kids reach their teens they are often making their own way to school, and contact with other parents is less frequent.DSCN1209

Secondly, I don’t think teenagers are  that different to anyone else. And I don’t think parenting teenagers is any more difficult than any other time. Yes, they are going through a time of transition – but who isn’t? Let’s take a quick look at childhood from the baby years to teens, and see which part is transition free.

The Baby Stage.

I’d say being born is a pretty big transition. As is starting solids,  teething, rolling over, sitting up, crawling. Or how about being able to pick something up intentionally – and to drop it. Or smiling? Laughing? Do  you remember your baby’s first smile? I remember my second daughter’s better than her older sister, because of the context. She was in hospital, recovering from bronchiolitis, and I saw a smile in her eyes. That’s what I remember, the sparkling look in her eyes, that came days before any smiles with her mouth.

So, babies certainly don’t escape transitions.

How about Toddlers?

Learning to toddle is a transition in itself. And then there’s the discovery of “I” and “other.” The toddler realises that they are not in control of everything. Actually, let’s not beat about the bush. Todderhood is just one long time of constant change.

In fact, let’s not beat about the bush at all. Childhood is just one long time of constant change. Actually, life is one long time of constant change, and the teenage years are just part of that.

Some  beliefs about teenagers that seem to be prevalent are:

  • Teenagers are surly.
  • Teenagers are unruly.
  • There’s nothing you can do to get teenagers to change.
  • Teenagers don’t listen to their parents.
  • Teenagers are rebellious and want to do the opposite of what you ask.
  • Teenagers don’t care about anybody but themselves.
  • If parents don’t control teenagers they go wild and do dangerous things.

Right now I don’t actually believe any of those above statements are true, so although it was my  intention to do an inquiry on one of them, that seems a little contrived and fake, and therefore not in the spirit of The Work.

Instead, I’ll do it on this belief: People shouldn’t be so negative about teenagers.

(As always, if you are unfamiliar with The Work, I recommend you read the About page first, or some of the earliest posts in this blog.)

People shouldn’t be so negative about teenagers.

Is it true?


Do you absolutely know it’s true?

No. I can’t know that.

How do you react when you think that thought? 

I feel frustrated. I want to argue with “people” either individuals who say something I perceive as negative, or to rant about “people” in general. And, yes, I can see the irony in this!

In my mind, I imagine individuals who have expressed one of the opinions above, and I mentally argue with them.

I feel on the edge, as if how I see the world is different to most people.

Sometimes I hold back from saying positive things because I expect disagreement.

Supplementary question: What’s the payoff?

Hah, that’s easy! I get to feel superior to these imagined people – for a second or two before I feel guilty.

Who would you be without the thought?

I’d feel happy. I’d feel gratitude to these imagined people for showing me the judgements I hold in mind, and that create stress in my life. I’d feel more compassionate towards them and connected to everyone. I’d see where we have common: that they seem to be unsure how to cope with teens and I am unsure how to cope with people who are negative about teens. So I’d empathise with them.

Turn the thought around to its opposite. 

Turnaround 1:
People should be so negative about teenagers.

Find at least 3 reasons why this is as true or truer than the original belief:

1) It’s reality. (And when we think reality should be different, that’s stressful.)

2) Perhaps when people remember their own time as a teenager they remember the negative stuff, and so feel that way about today’s teenagers.  If so, they have little choice but to feel negative.

3) On the surface it’s easier for people to “go with the herd,” and prevailing beliefs that appear in media and in conversations is that teenagers are difficult. At times I’ve even held back from saying positive things because others seem so adamant things are difficult that I’ve imagined they will either disagree or think I’m bragging. So perhaps other people do the same.

4) Related to (3) I can see that complaining about teenagers could give adults a sense of solidarity and companionship.

Turnaround 2. 

I shouldn’t be so negative about teenagers.

1) Because when I’m negative about teenagers it hurts me, particularly when those teenagers are my children.

2) Because when I am negative about them I miss the beauty of who they are.

3) Because when I am negative about them, I miss opportunities to learn from them, to see myself reflected in them.

Turnaround 3.

I shouldn’t be so negative about people (who are negative about teenagers!)

1) Because when I am, it hurts!

2) Because when I am, I listen to my own negative thoughts (such as they shouldn’t be so negative) and I miss what they are feeling and what they are really saying.

3) Because when I am, I miss an opportunity to connect.

4) Because this is my path, to let go and feel freer. Not everyone chooses that path, and I can learn from them too.


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