5 Things Your Teen Is Thinking

Teens are little enigmas, aren’t they? One minute you feel like they are growing into full-fledged adults, and the next minute they seem to be having a temper tantrum about the littlest thing.  I don’t know how many parents I have had in my office that say: “What are they thinking?!”

As a therapist who works with teens, let me ease your mind and reveal the secret:

1. I want you to care about what I do…wrong

One of the more shocking things that I encounter in my practice is when a teen tells me, “Sometimes I just want my parents to punish me.” I usually say, “Wait, so your telling me you want your parents to actually punish you? Most kids would die to have their parents lay off of them!” I usually get a big smile with this. When you think about it, it makes complete sense. Boundaries and consequences show teens that you’re paying attention, paying attention to their behavior, their attire, their friends and the choices. It shows that you care who they’re becoming. When parents let their teens do dangerous or reckless things, use drugs, or use excessive alcohol, they may think they’re being the “cool” parent, but it actually sends the wrong message; the message teens get is “you don’t care about me.”

2. Please don’t lecture me

Language is huge when talking to your teen. There are ways to show you care without telling them what they should do. Instead of telling your teen what they should or shouldn’t have done, be interested about their decision. Using language like, “I’m curious about why you made that decision,” or “Tell me more about what was going on when you decided to do such and such.” This opens up a conversation. Your teen wants to be heard just as much as you want them to listen.

3. Friendships/Peer Relationships are my world

During this developmental stage, social relationships are a BIG deal. In the world of high school, who you hang out with and what social groups you are a part of, set the tone for self-esteem, protection from other social groups (think bullying) and identity within their own environmental microcosm. Most teens simply want to hear that you know this is a big deal. They don’t want to hear that high school doesn’t matter, because high school does matter, in their world.

4. Just because I don’t want to hang out with you doesn’t mean I don’t love you

Since friendships/peer relationships are so important, your teen will naturally want to spend less and less time with you. I find that parents are often hurt by this. It is important for parents NOT to take this personally. This can be extremely difficult not to take personally. You have given the better part of 13 -14 years giving this kiddo every ounce of energy and love that you have, only to see them reject every attempt at spending time with them you can.

5. Sometimes it’s not about you

Ever gotten into a fight with your teen over something that seemed, inane, trivial or just plain stupid? Chances are that whatever you’re fighting about has absolutely nothing to do with you. When the hormones flow, the lack of ability to control emotions also comes with it. Often times letting your teen calm down and then coming back with empathy and curiosity will open up a much larger window into what is actually going on. Heartache, bullying, failing a test, all these things can translate into these emotional outbursts. Try not to take them personally either because more than likely, it’s not about you.

In Closing

As Christian parents, it’s hard to admit that we don’t have all the answers. I’ve met countless parents who, on the outside look like they have it all together Sunday morning at church, but who step into my office feeling hopeless and defeated about the struggles of understanding their teen. While it’s tempting to keep our struggles hidden for fear of judgment, the writer of Proverbs pleads with us to, “get wisdom…though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).  I encourage you, if you are struggling with your teen, reach out to a Christian therapist who has insight and understanding. You don’t have to struggle alone!