Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
(Robert Fulghum)

Even though you haven’t been able to close the bathroom door and have a minute to yourself for who knows how long, parenthood has its rewards. While there is no award for best parent, there is a time during the teen years where you are frequently holding back your thoughts while your teen works through their frustrations and growing pains. However, as a parent there are probably three teen disagreements that as parents we can handle better and create learning opportunities and growth for our teen.

The messy bedroom. I know it is hard to let go. I have read the same article that stated, just close the door and ignore the messy bedroom. That may be easier said than done. Afterall, what happens when I need glasses for drinking or spoons for serving food and I know my teen has them in their room. Or what about when your teen is frantically looking for something that is in their room, under the bed or who knows where in their room. Well, enter the learning opportunity. Now is the time to help your teen find whatever they are looking for and resolve that crisis. The next opportunity is to ask your teen how they can better manage their stuff and what could be a better organizational system for them in their room. The organizational method that they come up with may not be what you had in mind or wanted, but it starts the process of teaching organization and that not finding something is the consequence of not putting items where you can find them easily. The lesson is powerful, and as a parent you are not to blame. After all, you didn’t throw their favorite shirt on the floor to be lost until they wanted to wear it again.

Getting the silent treatment. If you haven’t experienced this yet, let me describe it for you. One minute your teen will be talkative and laughing with you, the next something happens and your teen is quiet. Your teen retreats into their own world and may become moody. When your teen is in this silent treatment zone demanding them to engage with you will create frustration for both of you. Instead let your teen process their emotions, thoughts, and how they want to discuss or if they want to discuss what is going on with you. Moody quiet teens are normal and not a reflection of your parenting. I do encourage regular check-ins with your teen, but if they are hanging in their room and are quiet, let it be. If it does go on, or you suspect something more, then yes, reach out to school counselors or a therapist but part of the silent treatment is personal growth for your teen.

Your teen’s future. When your teen starts high school, they will be inundated with discussions about their future. They will be told as a freshman that the next four years are “make it or break it,” and they will be asked a million times what they want to do, where they want to go to college. Some teens can answer those questions confidently, and that is great. But if your teen is undecided or looking at options let them do that. Resist the constant pressure and talk of career and college planning; instead, let them take the lead. Listen to your teen talk and ask questions, lots of questions. Nagging your teen constantly to make decisions about their future when they’re just not ready can escalate into fights and breakdowns in the relationship and in communication. Remember parenting is not a contest. There is no prize, and your teen’s journey is unique to them and supporting their journey will make sure that the relationship between you stays strong and healthy.