Do you kind of hate your teenager? Do you sometimes wonder how it’s possible that the sweet little toddler you loved so much has turned into a monster? Are you out of ideas for how to make things better – or at least not so bad – at home?
The good news is that you don’t have to hate your teenager. The bad news is that it’s going to require significant effort on your part. You may think that they are the one who has a problem. But if you want things to improve, it’s up to you to take action.
Please understand, parents are not to blame for kids’ behavior. Our kids are their own people, with their own temperament, their own experiences, and their own free will. But when parents complain about their children, they have two choices:
- Keep complaining and feel hopeless about ever getting along with a difficult teen.
- Look inward and see what changes we can make ourselves to improve our experience of the relationship.
When we choose the second path, there is a chance for change, both in ourselves and in our kids.
But remember, this is not coming from blame. It is not meant to suggest that you haven’t tried your very best and given your child everything you could so far. It’s just that if you kind of hate your kid, then what you’ve been doing isn’t working so well for you. Read on if you want to consider one possible way things could get better.
You are not a bad parent, and this isn’t about love
If you kind of hate your teenager, you may feel like a bad parent. You may think that your feelings of dislike for your teenager mean you are unsuited to parenting them. And you may cry out in pain because you love your child so much, and you just can’t figure out what went wrong.
When our kids act out and infuriate us, it’s not because we didn’t love them enough, and it doesn’t mean they don’t love us. But it does mean that your relationship needs help. And if you’re reading this article, then it means that you are motivated to improve it. You’re motivated to translate your love into the sort of behavior that will build a deep and loving relationship with your child. That’s a good place to start!
Remember that we can’t change other people, but often when we change ourselves and our behavior, we change the way people respond to us. This is the key to rebuilding a relationship with a child who drives you crazy. Recognize that you can’t control or fix your child into treating you better. But you can change the way you behave, and you may see some positive results.
4 tips for improving a relationship with your teenager when you sort of hate them
1. Get professional support
This is going to be challenging. You need someone on your side, but not just a cheerleader or someone on whose shoulder you can cry. You need those people, too. But for serious work, you need a professional who can guide you towards a healthier relationship with yourself and your family. A therapist, counselor, coach, or another person will hold you accountable for your part of the dynamic while gently guiding you towards more productive behavior.
2. Work on your boundaries
A teenager who behaves angrily and hatefully toward their parent is struggling with roles and security. Maybe your boundaries were overly-harsh, and they feel penned in and trapped. Maybe your boundaries were too porous, and they don’t know where you end and where they begin. All of us thrive in relationships that have good boundaries, but a lot of us never learned how to set and hold boundaries with the people we love. Learning to establish appropriate boundaries will improve your relationship.
3. Learn about attachment
All of us have an attachment style. This is based on how we were parented. And while about 56% of adults have a healthy (“secure”) attachment style, the rest have less-secure attachment. Attachment is nobody’s fault. It’s something that happens to us before we have any free will. And even the most loving parents may have less-secure attachment. And even secure parents can raise kids who have a less-secure attachment style. Less-secure attachment can result in a teenager whom you kind of hate. And one of the most important things you can do to rebuild your relationship is to learn about attachment and move towards greater security.
4. Rebuild your relationship
Remember that if you hate your teenager, it means your relationship – that means both of you, and possibly your whole family – needs some relationship repair. Even if it seems like your child is the problem, relationships are, by definition, interconnected. This means that everyone involved plays a role. And the good news is that if you work on yourself and your role, there’s a good chance that your relationships will improve. Perhaps not magically, easily, or quickly. But over time, and with effort, parents can usually rebuild relationships with angry teens.
Bad behavior is a reflection of the relationship
One of the hard lessons we need to learn as parents is that “bad behavior” in our kids is not a result of our child being “bad.” It’s more often a reflection of the state of our relationship.
From a parents’ perspective, it often seems like the child has a problem. Perhaps they are “too stubborn,” or “a jerk.” But a child’s behavior towards their parent is almost always an attempt to communicate.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time our kids’ “communication” seems rude, condescending, and tests our boundaries. But these behaviors are always our kids’ attempt to get our attention and ask for our help.
It makes sense to blame our teens for bad behavior. It also makes sense to feel angry and ashamed when our teens act out. But if we actually want to stop hating our teens, the only possible path forward is to look inward and seek to change our own behavior, which is often the only way to change our family dynamics.
Why teenagers are so difficult
While hormones and maturation tell some of the story of why teens are difficult, they miss a major element: parental attachment. Without a healthy and secure parent-child attachment, teens become increasingly difficult to parent as they age.
How do you know if you and your teenager lack healthy attachment? Well, the most obvious sign is that you don’t like them very much, and they don’t seem to like you, either. If you’re struggling to like your teenager, then it’s time to work on your attachment relationship. This is within your control and it’s something you can do without your child’s active involvement. But it will be hard, so it’s best to find a therapist or coach who can help you understand what’s going on and what you can do to change your dynamic.
You don’t have to hate your teenager
It may seem impossible, but you don’t have to hate your teenager. You don’t have to white-knuckle your way through adolescence. More importantly, if you build a more secure attachment, you will find that life is much easier.
Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!
- Calming strategies
Ginny Jones is on a mission to change the conversation about eating disorders and empower people to recover. She’s the founder of More-Love.org, an online resource supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders, and a Parent Coach who helps parents supercharge their kid’s eating disorder recovery.
Ginny has been researching and writing about eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.
Ginny’s most recent project is Recovery, a newsletter for deeply feeling people in recovery from diet culture, negative body image, and eating disorders.