Whenever I start with a mom whose kid is older than about 11, I anticipate a tough conversation around 6 weeks in. It usually goes something like: “I just don’t think this is working. I thought we had some wins, but this kid just doesn’t care and isn’t changing. I can’t go on this way!” Then we have the “Don’t Give Up” talk and get our second wind.
Working with big kids is a marathon, not a sprint. No sugar-coating: it takes grit and patience to transform these kids’ behavior and our relationships with them. Here’s why:
- Old dogs and new tricks. These kids have over a decade of habit building and misconceptions under their belt...and so do we.
- Success starts small. Early wins can be hard to see. 15 minutes of respectful dialogue, 10 minutes off their phone, a few less missing assignments... these seeds of change can go unnoticed...and unwatered.
- It feels urgent. Misbehaviors at this stage can be alarming. We’re not talking about a little tantrum or throwing sand on the playground here! Big problems make us want immediate change. When it takes time, people tend to panic, pivot, and throw away hard-won gains.
- Our focus is blurred. When kids’ behavior is triggering we go into problem-solving mode. Our focus is on our kids and how to fix this NOW. It’s hard to believe that shifting focus to our own wellbeing and self-improvement is a crucial part of the solution...but it is.
- One size does NOT fit all. With little kids, blanket approaches often work, but this isn’t a toddler! These kids are complex proto-adults, and we often need adjustments and collaboration before we find what works.
Looking at this list, how do we stay the course on our own? Honestly - we don’t. There’s a reason my clients get results - that “Don’t Give Up” talk means they’re not alone and whatever happens, we WILL figure it out. We run that whole damn marathon together and make it to the finish line.
If you are working on improving things with your teen or tween and feel ready to throw in the towel, it’s time to get support.
I’m leading a FREE workshop on Parenting Teens and Tweens on March 16th and you need to be there with me.
Thanks for reading!