6 Ways to Combat Teenager War Fatigue

6 Ways to Combat Teenager War Fatigue

We’ve all been there. Exasperated. Beat down. We’ve thrown our hands up in defeat, weary and punch-drunk from our teenager’s constant begging. Begging to do stuff that scares the shit out of us. Like parties, and trips to concerts out of state, and day-long hikes with overnight camping. They plead like lawyers trying desperately to win their first case. And they plead with a slew of what sounds like reasonable reasons and facts. Facts like, “but Cody’s Mom will be home!” or “We’ll have our phones on the whole time!” or “It’s only 50 miles away!”

And we have all, at some point, sighed (or screamed) “just do whatever the hell you want, I don’t care!” This, of course, doesn’t make us feel any better about giving permission. Actually, it makes us even more deeply pissed, and resentful of this thing they call parenthood. Why do we have to enforce the damn rules all the time? Why does our constant fear of harm coming to our children completely rule the show non-stop? Wouldn’t it be nice to just skip the teenage phase entirely and run away to a place where we don’t have to be role models, make all the decisions, and provide a slew of legitimate, well-researched stats regarding the likelihood of injury all the time?

Because of the fatigue, we want to “not care,” and just quit sometimes. But, that’s not the reality of parenting teenagers. The reality is that it’s an imperfect science, and we are mere lab technicians doing the tedious work, experimenting with different variables as we go, while hoping for the best, possible results.

As teenagers, we probably did ALL the things our kids want to do, and then some. It’s just that our parents didn’t seem to know a thing about what we were doing. We were fabulous, sneaky liars! Without cell phones and Facebook, we were able to get through our teenage years, make our mistakes and learn a few things along the way without getting caught.

It’s different for our kids. Our kids live in fishbowls (for the most part) and there seems to be WAY more to be concerned with nowadays. We are up in their business day in and day out – it’s difficult not to know what’s going on. Hence, our fears for their safety.

While we’ve all had our moments of “just do whatever you want” parenting, can’t we find our way to a happy medium? We simply can’t be too tired or beat down from the begging to set boundaries and rules. We need to find some sort of balance so we don’t say “no” all the time. We can stop the incessant fighting about it. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Here are 6 ways to combat “do whatever you want” teenage war fatigue:

1) Don’t provide an answer to their requests right away. Kids want instant yes or no answers for their plans, but they need to learn to live with the fact that mom (and dad) need some time to talk about it, and think. Kids hate when we need to think about our answers, but they will get over it. I often simply blurted “no” before I really thought about it. After being beaten down, I would eventually say yes. This always made me feel like a wishy-washy parent. We can avoid this feeling by taking some time to think and ask a ton of questions before granting permission for anything. The ball is always in our court, but most of us forget that under the pressure of incessant begging.

2) After you’ve thought about it, and your answer is no, let the games begin! Keep the discussion as brief as possible. You can provide a few real reasons, but keep in mind that ANY of your reasons are valid – because they’re your reasons, and you are in charge. For example, if you don’t want your 15-year-old daughter to go to a certain party because you just “don’t feel right” about it – that’s your reason! No debates or negotiations. Be prepared for glaring, tantrums, insults, sulking, and general bitchiness. Be prepared to employ your nerves of steel to get through this cold war period. It’s all okay. When she is a little older you will relax your rules a bit, but for now, this is how it’s going down.

3) If your answer is yes, (perhaps your son wants to go to a concert with friends in the city), then provide a specific set of conditions to go with the yes. Conditions such as “you must text me 3 times” and then give him the times. Apply some rules to your yes answer, and then let him prove himself. See how he does. If he rolls his eyes at you, just laugh and say, “that’s right, buster, this is a little test, don’t mess it up!” and leave it at that.

4) Pick your battles wisely. Before you grant or deny permission to do anything, really give it some careful thought. The last thing you want to do is teach your children is that fear of harm always outweighs spontaneous fun or adventure. Let go a little in some places, and tighten the reigns in others. Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page.

5) Have 5 BIG family rules that never get broken. These rules could be about curfews, texting at certain times, drinking and driving, sleepovers, lying, disrespect, etc. Being super clear about the BIG rules makes enforcing them a lot easier.

6) Finally, let your children blame you if they can’t do something with their friends. It’s okay. Let them call you names. Let them tell their friends that their stupid mom won’t let them go. That way it’s not them being lame, it’s their mom being lame. Give them an out to save face.

Getting through the teenage years isn’t easy, or fun. Don’t expect it to be. You will feel better as a parent if you don’t cave to their demands (very often) and you have a plan for the many inevitable battles.

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