How to Be Mentally Strong When Your Teen is Driving You Crazy

Stay mentally strong even when your teen drives you crazy.
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As the author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do," I’m often asked about how parents can apply the principles of mental strength. Certainly, raising a teenager isn’t for the faint of heart. Today’s teens face a multitude of problems and temptations – ranging from designer drugs to cyberbullying - that no other generation has experienced.

Teaching your teen the skills that will help her become a responsible adult can be hard.

As teens try to gain independence, rebellion and a “know-it-all attitude” become commonplace. Combine those factors with the mood swings that accompany puberty, and you’ll need to muster up plenty of mental strength to survive parenting an adolescent.

Developing mental strength requires a three-pronged approach – managing your thoughts, regulating your emotions, and behaving productively despite your circumstances. Building mental strength will help you parent according to your values, even on the most challenging days.

Take Responsibility for Your Feelings

Whether you think you can’t hear one more minute of complaining, or you’re convinced your teen never listens to you, you’re not alone. All parents have days when they feel like they’re child is driving them crazy.

The way you manage your irritation makes all the difference. Yelling, saying something rude, or giving in to bad behavior will only make behavior problems worse.

Being mentally strong means controlling your emotions so your emotions don't control you - even when your teen is being defiant or disrespectful.

Accept full responsibility for your feelings. Instead of thinking, “My child makes me mad,” remind yourself that your child isn’t forcing you to feel anything.

Replace it with, “I feel angry,” or “I feel annoyed.” Changing your language - and your perception - can change the way you feel.

Control Your Thoughts

When your frustration meter skyrockets, pay attention to your thoughts. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand to deal with her drama for one more minute,” or “Why can’t he ever listen to me the first time?” will only fuel feelings of anger and self-pity.

The more upset you feel, the more likely your thoughts will become exaggerated. You may begin thinking, “He never listens to anything I say,” or “She always treats me disrespectfully.” Although those thoughts may feel true when you’re upset, it’s unlikely that they represent reality.

Replace exaggeratedly negative thoughts with more realistic statements. Remind yourself that, “All kids break the rules and test limits sometimes. It’s a normal part of growing up,” or “My child is showing me he doesn’t yet have the skills he needs to manage his behavior better. It’s my job to continue coaching him until he learns.”

Rational thoughts will help you remain calm, even when the going gets tough. Controlling your thoughts will also assist you in working on a solution – rather than staying focused on the problem.

Choose to Behave Productively

Your teen is likely well-versed in pushing the limits and testing your reactions. The way you respond to those behaviors will either fuel your anger or diffuse your frustration. Yelling, begging your child to behave, or making bold threats you don’t intend follow through with will only create bigger problems.

The higher your anger level, the less likely you’ll be able to respond rationally. If your frustration is growing to the point that you think you may lose your cool, take a break. Put yourself in time-out if necessary. Stepping away for a few minutes until your intense feelings begin to subside will help you behave in a more productive manner.

Make a concerted effort to avoid power struggles. Only offer warnings when you’re fully prepared to follow through with a consequence. Repeated threats without consequences will train your child that he doesn’t need to listen to you. Mean what you say and say what you mean.

Raising a teenager can be anxiety-provoking. Some parents try to manage their anxiety by becoming a control freak, but it’s not healthy for teens to live under constant surveillance. Focus on influencing and empowering your teen, rather than controlling or micromanaging his daily activities. Take steps to minimize your teen’s risks – like making sure he’s wearing a seat belt – while also allowing him to experience a healthy amount of freedom.

Build Mental Strength

Taking care of yourself emotionally and physically is an essential component to mental strength.  If you’re stressed out and feeling frazzled, you’ll likely struggle to be strong during the more challenging times.

Just like physical strength, building your mental muscle requires regular exercise, but anyone can choose to become stronger. It takes practice and dedication, but over time your resilience to stress will increase. In addition to the benefits for yourself, proactively working to become stronger will demonstrate the importance of mental strength to your teen.

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