I love being a mom. I love that my five-year-old daughter says “Good morning Sunshine!” when I wake her up (even after she’s called me from the other room yelling, “WAKE ME UP, MOMMY!!!!”) I love that my almost 9 year old wants to share with me all the gruesome ways people have died while wearing Disney costumes (don’t believe everything you see on the internet, kid). I love how my 11-year-old son asks me how to make shakes in the morning, and to find out whether the ‘Farm to Table Restaurant’ is available for a special lunch, just for the two of us. I love my 12-year-old son as well. It’s just harder to remember that when he’s yelling at me to shut up and saying how untrustworthy I am, when he’s chosen to sneak on the computer to play games at some ridiculous hour in the morning. As I am so gently reminded by my husband, sometimes, I need to take my own advice. So here it is for my benefit and yours: some tips on living with an Oppositional (Pre) Teenager.
1. You love them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this was the tiny infant you held until they fell asleep. Or played with on the swings for hours. But it’s the same kid. They are just buried in there under a tremendous amount of hormones. We need to remember that these kids are sometimes even harder to parent than typical teenagers because of their O.D.D. Remember, after the storm come the calm. Hang in there; it’s going to get better.
2. Tell them. When confronted, these kids will count the numerous ways they have been wronged, persecuted, maligned etc. Ignore it. Calmly tell them what they did wrong and walk away. Sometimes, it feels like they don’t hear you, but they are soaking in everything you say and do to incorporate into their adult repertoire. By telling them what they did wrong, in a calm manner, you are showing them that you are in control. Don’t take anything they say while they are in the midst of a “fit” seriously. They will say anything, and I do mean anything, to get your goat. Don’t respond. Stick to the topic at hand. Be short and sweet; then walk away.
3. Don’t fight, discuss sparingly. Even though they fight us every step of the way, we need to remember that these kids need boundaries. When we engage in fighting with them, those boundaries get loosened, and they get scared. Think of it this way: I’m going fight with you to push back against those boundaries (that’s what O.D.D. kids do), but if you fight back with me, those boundaries that I’m testing aren’t as secure as I need them to be, and now I’m lost. If you need to discuss something, or you think it’s a topic worth exploring, wait until both of you are calm and have a back and forth conversation. Always remain calmly in charge, and when you feel yourself getting tense, gracefully excuse yourself and walk away.
4. Let it go. I can hear Disney playing in the background…. But seriously, some things aren’t worth fighting over. Listening to a 12 year old interrupting, while a five year old sings “we don’t interrupt”, and an 11 year old continually trying to speak over him, and a 9 year old egging everyone on, trust me, I was tempted to walk in there and start yelling in order to gain control of the situation. You know what though, in two minutes, it all calmed down, and I didn’t have do a thing. It wasn’t worth me getting involved; they needed to figure this out on their own. My take away from this is, my 12 year old needs to learn from life, not from mom consistently stepping in and telling him what to do.
5. In Vivo learning. That’s fancy talk for learning from experience. Sometimes we want to tell our kids what to do, we want to reintroduce the rules AGAIN for the millionth time. Don’t. It’s more effective coming from someone who’s not you. You don’t want to sound like the teacher from Peanuts “wah wah wah”. Our kids learn so much quicker from real life experience. We can tell them if they play basketball in the rain, they are going to get sick, be cold, fall and get hurt. However, if we let them just do it, and they come in cold and wet and battling a sniffle, or if they fall and hurt their hand, they will think twice about playing in the next rainstorm. Kids learn so much more effectively from personal experience. Just as with neurotypical teens, it’s time to let our older kids experience things on their own. That’s not to say let them engage in unsafe behaviors or let them put themselves in dangerous situations. We still need to parent, but pick your battles and allow let them learn some important life lessons.
6. Take care of yourself. This is so important. I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s so important to remember that if you are happy, you are more likely to be calm. The calmer you are, the less they will fight. (Not that they won’t fight, it’ll just be less intense and not last as long.) They will also feel safer when you are calmer, and you’ll be happier and able to deal with these adverse situations much better.
Good luck. I promise you, it’s going to get better.