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What Bugs My Teen About Me?

Perspectives from my teenagers

The other evening my husband and I were having dinner with our 16-year-old daughter when she proposed we play a game that our kids came up with awhile back. I have decided to call this game “Truth if You Dare.”

The game came about one evening as our whole family was having dinner together. Desiring some positive family interaction, I took it upon myself to suggest each family member say something positive about another person. It was no surprise that my kids thought this was totally corny. Instead, they came up with a variation of the game.

Here’s how it goes. One person begins talking and then we each take a turn sharing one thing that bugs us about that person. Needless to say, I was reluctant.

I thought to myself, “Is this going to be a sarcasm match, end up in a fight, or create hurt feelings?”

Surprisingly, after we made some ground rules and required it mandatory that there would be a spirit of goodwill, it resulted in a lot of great conversation. I watched, as there was laughter, liveliness, and a connection that was created when feelings were honestly shared with one another. Yes, this can be scary. We can feel defensive, however, the perspectives of others can provide an opportunity for growth if we willingly take it in.

We received helpful insights and a deeper realization of how our behavior impacts one another. We also exercised giving and receiving feedback.

Let me just say, that this game is not for every family and I don’t want to convey that our kids should be in authority where every criticism is allowed. What I do want to suggest is to keep the lines of communication open to aid healthy relationships. Learning to communicate honestly and responsibly—how we feel, what we like and don’t like, is a skill that will benefit all areas of our lives.

With my desire to establish and maintain healthy relationships, I have learned that it is essential to allow myself to be open to feedback from my kids, my spouse and others—even though it’s not always easy to hear.

Since you’re reading this, you may be wondering what my kids had to say about me.

At the risk of exposing my weaknesses, I hope this makes you smile and co-voyage with me on some of their complaints.

Here are 5 things about me that bugs my kids.

1. “You don’t listen. You interrupt”.

Darn it! I talk about the importance of listening all the time. Aren’t I the queen of listening? Apparently not.

The truth is, I find it is easier to talk about how to be a good listener than to actually be one. I talk way more than I listen. Sometimes I need to shut up and just listen. Few things say “I love you,” “You matter to me,” and “I care,” more than really listening to someone.

2. “You dance too much in public and it’s embarrassing.”

I had to laugh about this one but felt a little defensive too.

“I love to dance. I’m fun and a kid at heart.”

To my response my daughter added, “It’s weird and you do it a lot.”

Yeah, maybe dancing while waiting for the hostess to seat us at the restaurant is a bit too much. I remember when my mom used to do the same thing and I thought she was weird too—although, I never would have told her so.

Later, as I reflected on this statement I thought, “Could I be trying too hard to be cool in order to be my kid’s friend?” Maybe. I miss being young and a teenager myself (note to self: go out and have more fun with my husband). I remember wanting my mom to be my parent, not my buddy. At the same time, I am a playful person and I want to be sensitive to embarrassing my teen.

Here’s what I decided: Dancing at home is cool. Dancing in public with no dance floor in sight, maybe not so cool.

3. “I hate when you poke me and ask too many questions.” (Aka – I’m being irritating).

When my kids aren’t listening to me, I can be slightly annoying (reference the finger poke).

I hate not knowing what’s going on in my kids’ lives. One of my kids is especially quiet. It can feel like pulling teeth to just acquire a little feedback. I find myself pelting them with questions to extract information.

Teens are private. Their antennas go up when they sense even the slightest infringement into their private world.

I recently heard the analogy, “ teens are like cats. The more we chase them, the more they bite, scratch and hide under the bed.”

It is so much more effective when I purposely carve out the time and space to have fun and allow conversation to flow naturally. When I avoid peppering my kids with questions, they feel safer, and eventually in their own time, begin sharing their thoughts—or whatever is on their minds.

4. “I hate when you expect me to jump up and do something right away.”

I image that we have all experienced coming home to a house that is a total mess—tripping over the shoes in the doorway, dishes piled high in the sink, and food left out on the counter. We know the scene.

Coming home to a mess is a huge trigger for me. I instantly feel overwhelmed, taken advantage of, and disrespected. Not to mention, I feel like I must be doing a horrible job as a mom for my kids to be so clueless. If I don’t catch myself, I immediately start barking orders, expecting my kids to jump at my command.

Becoming a bellowing drill sergeant never works very well. I agree that it’s our job to teach our kids to pick up after themselves, to be considerate of others, and to have chores and responsibilities. However, when I walk in the door and drag negative energy into my home, it doesn’t feel good for anyone.

Is this who I want to be? Wouldn’t I rather create a positive environment where my kids are willing participants and part of a team where we all work together? My power lies in making my expectations clear and holding each person responsible for what is expected of them—without a barrage of disapproval and negativity.

5. “When I share something with you, you turn it into something about you.”

I hated hearing this. It made my heart sink when my son gave me this feedback. I asked him for more clarification about when and how I do this.

He explained, “When I share something I learned, you start talking about what you know about it. Or, when I share a story, you talk about the time when…I don’t feel like you really listen—there it is again. “I am excited about sharing something with you and you interject something without allowing me to finish what I have to say.”

Ugh. That is so true. I do this. This was a blind spot and it hurt to hear this, but it was great feedback. My intention was to connect around a certain subject. What I didn’t realize was that I was stealing his thunder. Rather than me talking about myself, he was looking to be heard, acknowledged, and affirmed for all the interesting things he is learning and doing in this life.

I am grateful that my kids created this game—even though it was a little scary at first. I believe it is easy to discount our teens’ insights. They can be moody and self-absorbed. When they want their way, they can even be manipulative. “You’re so unfair,” or, “You’re mean.” Yet our kids can also be our best teachers. Their opinions, feelings, and feedback should be invaluable to us. And, our willingness to receive their feedback is important to them. It is a powerful exchange that speaks volumes. Remember, our kids want to know that, “What they say, think, and feel matters to us (their parent).” It rarely gets much better than that.

Questions: Have you received feedback from your kids that was invaluable to you? How did it feel? Did you do anything differently as a result?