Then came adolescence. At this time they changed, or I changed, or the world changed. No longer did I have cuddles or was told "I love you more than anything." Somehow that lovey-dovey relationship turned, seemingly overnight, into an unrecognizable opposition. "Few of us are aware of how close we are with our children until we lose them to adolescence. We really have no idea how much we have come to place our own need for nurturing and love in the hands of our kids until they shred it up and throw it in our faces."--Dr. Michael Bradley.
What is this emotion we as parents feel when our child seems to hate us? Grief. Bradley says, "The grief these parents feel for the loss of their child is profound and relentless in that the loss seems renewed daily. Each day dawns with renewed parental hope that the old Junior will reappear. Each evening seems to end with the echoes of the day's battles fading into night along with their dreams of getting their child back."
Then when you didn't think it could get any worse, the rage starts. I have read Dr. Bradley's book Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! and I have been fortunate not to have experienced the type of rage he describes in Chapter 13, but I have danced around the edge. "In the face of true rage from your kid (or just a regular old argument too), the first thing to do is decide not to do all those things that feel so right to you in the moment, like screaming back, tearfully pleading, or punching her lights out. The second thing to do is switch your control center from your heart to your head: Become that dispassionate cop. . .As your kid starts screaming, talk more quietly, and with very few words in very short sentences. Let your child hear her own out-of-control voice echoing off the walls. Don't let her off the hook by screaming back. This only allows her to focus on your craziness instead of hers, and it makes her behavior seem normal in comparison with yours. Confront her with the insanity of her own behavior by isolating and contrasting it with your own quiet responses."--Dr. Michael Bradley.
This is way easier said than done and takes a lot of practices and failures to get it right. And I will bravely tell you that I have had many failures in this department. Even when I thought I had mastered it, I would fail miserably at a later date, so keep trying, trying, trying.
Dr. Bradley outlines the 10 Commandments of parenting your teen in Chapter 9:
I: Thou Shalt Be as the Dispassionate Cop Unto Thine Own Child: Be Cool, Not the Fool
II: Thou Shalt Listen Even as Thine Own Child Shouts
III: Thou Shalt Not Shout: Speak Thou Wisely
IV: Thou Shalt Add 15 Minutes to Every Interaction Involving Thy Teen
V: Thou Shalt Vanquish Thy Foolish Pride
VI: Thou Shalt Not Kill (Thou May Entertaineth Thoughts of Killing, But. . .)
VII: Thou Shalt Apologize at Every Opportunity
VIII: Thou Shalt Honor Thy Child's Identity (Even Though It Maketh You Ill)
IX: To Thine Own Self Be True
X: Know Thou, This Too Shall Pass
One of Dr. Bradley's colleagues says, "Adolescents are psychosis carriers: Contact with them can make you crazy. There's more truth than humor there as far as parents are concerned, for those difficult times with a teenager can slowly tear at the fabric of the parents' self-concept, causing them to begin to doubt their own worth and competence. We all joke a lot about adolescent acting-out behaviors, but we forget that somewhere a mom and dad are desperately soul-searching and self-blaming as they watch their beloved child act crazy."
I have been there many times, desperately soul-searching and self-blaming my parenting skills. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? Where do we go from here?
Don't give up. You can have a good, even great, relationship with your teenager, it just takes hard work and self-control. . . oh yeah, and the occasional glass of wine.