3 teen traps every parent should avoid

teenage attitudeI used to be so sensitive.

As I kid, you only had to look at me the wrong way and I’d practically burst into tears. As I got older, I gradually toughened up.

But I still took things personally.

Little did I know that there is a sure-fire, cure-all for developing a thick skin. You might have the antidote in your house right now. If not, don’t worry. You’ll acquire one soon enough.

Your penchant for taking things personally will be remedied when you find yourself the parent of one of these:

Now, a teenager can’t cure you overnight. No, when I first got one, I used to be regularly wounded and devastated by the parenting critiques and cries of injustice. But over time, they began to have a numbing effect and I’m learning to become “Teflon Mom” — unfazed by the dramatics and undeterred from doing what I know is right despite the opposition.

Here’s a few familiar teenage mantras that I’ve become adept at deflecting:

Teenager: Everybody’s doing it!

Teflon Mom: Really, is this all you’ve got? I bet Cain and Abel used this one on Adam and Eve. Considering they were the only humans on earth, I doubt they had much of a case, either.

Teenager: You hate me!

Teflon Mom: Well, duh! Clearly any decision a parent makes to protect and guide their children is obviously motivated by extreme cruelty. What’s your point?

Teenager: I’m going and you can’t stop me!

Teflon Mom: Without transportation? Not likely.

Teenager: You guys don’t let me do anything!

Teflon Mom: Not true, but that can be arranged.

(Now, I’m not advocating using sarcasm with your teen, but I’ve found a little good-natured humor in these situations can help defuse the tension.)

Even the best cures usually take some cooperation on our part. And learning to become a “Teflon Mom” requires you refrain from doing three things:

1. Over-reacting. This is my personal favorite because I used to be so good at it! For example, when your teen tells you, “You hate me!” it’s not a good strategy to say, “Don’t you know how much I’ve done for you?! How can you say that?! You are so ungrateful!” and then run to your room and burst into tears. Just sayin’.

2. Defending. We’re the parents. At times, it might be appropriate to explain your decision and use it as a teaching moment. However, teens are experts at putting you in defensive mode, which is always a position of weakness. I’ve been trying to remember Matthew 5:37 (NLT): “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

3. Being manipulated. Teens just want their way. And you are the barrier. So, they’ll use any means or argument necessary to get you to see things from their point of view. “You let me do this last time.” or “So-and-so’s parents let her do it. Are you saying they’re bad parents?” Stand firm. They’ll never admit it, but they actually do want consistent boundaries from us. It gives them stability and shows them we care.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I LOVE my teenager. God has used her more than anything or anyone in my life to shape me and challenge me to be more like Him.

But that doesn’t mean I need to get sucked in on lines like this one (used on me more than once): “Mom, studies show that parents who let their kids have lots of freedom are a lot less rebellious than strict parents like you guys, who don’t let their kids do anything. Studies show!!”

Nice try, Molly, but it ain’t gonna stick.

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  • Well said! I have pretty thick skin; it takes a lot to offend me. But my teens can do it.

    As the mother of five who are 14-21, I’ve walked this road more times than I’d like. My two best strategies are to know their currency and have an escape.

    Once I know what matters to them, that’s where the arguing goes. “You’ve asked me three times. I’ve said no three times. Ask again and you lose your phone for a week.” Trust me, it works. As long as you follow through. For another it might be the computer. For another it’s going out with friends. It’s about knowing each child.

    And having an escape is vital. Sometimes I just lay down the law in no uncertain terms, they start whining and complaining, and I go to my room and turn on some loud music so I don’t have to listen to it.

    I have to admit, I have great kids who are basically very obedient. I get the whining and complaining, but not usually open defiance. Either they’re just great kids or they believe me when I tell them I’ll be the first to call the cops on them if they step out of line. It’s one of those two things, I’m sure.

    Fun post. Good luck with the teens. You can do it. And even if they don’t think you’re a good mom, I do. And they will some day.

    Happy Sharefest. Have a great weekend.

    • {Melinda} What a helpful and encouraging comment, Robin! Thank you! I completely respect your opinion — you have total credibility as a mom of multiple teens.

      What you are saying about currency is right on. It does work wonders. And I’m learning to escape. That one took longer. I’m now giving myself permission to not be a captive audience to the dramatics.

      I think most of the time they think I’m a good mom. But every now and then I’m a horrible, uncaring, unfeeling mother who just doesn’t understand them at all! 🙂 This too shall pass …

      Thanks so much for the encouragement. I think you’re a pretty great mom, too. Love your blog.

  • Children really do help us develop thick skin! I love your responses to the different situations. They can be so dramatic that it’s important to keep an even tone or things can escalate beyond control.

    Stopping by from SITS.


    • {Melinda} Keeping calm when they are going crazy is SO hard, but it is the key to keeping things sane. They NEED to know you are in control because they are often so out of control! 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ll return the favor.

  • Fantastic!!! Having three teenagers at home I can relate! I love my teens!!!

    • {Melinda} They definitely keep my adrenaline pumping, Robin! 🙂

  • Oh man! I am dreading the day when my daughter is a teenager. The attitude she gives me as a four year old about drives me to drink. Sometimes does. Maybe I need to practice some of your mantras 🙂

    • {Melinda} It’s almost like they revert back to being four-year-olds when they become teens — the tantrums, etc. But having teens is a lot of fun, too. Some days are more fun that others!


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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