Betsy Kerekes shares more helpful phrases from her book, Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying, to keep handy when raising teens.
“I was in the blues because I had no shoes, until I saw a man on the street who had no feet.”
If you have a stubborn one who persists in his “woe is me” attitude, be like my mom who would wisely remind me that no matter how bad I thought I had it, there was always someone who had it worse. You could also recite the above little poem, which works well for younger kids too. It’s a great way to put perceived problems into perspective.
“What is the worst thing that can possibly happen?”
Use this phrase, for example, if your teen is in anguish over the need to ace a test, or get into the college of his or her dreams. While whatever they tell you may be the be-all and end-all of horribleness, gently remind them that, ultimately, the worst thing that could ever possibly happen, no matter what the situation, would be going to hell. Then ask if failing that test would result in a short trip across the River Styx. Of course it wouldn’t. Hopefully that perspective will help them lighten up a little.
“It was nice while it lasted.”
Sure, a good thing came to an end, like the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but focusing on the blessing that was had, even for a short while, makes one happier than dwelling on the void in the freezer. Remind your teen that it’s more satisfying to be grateful than to feel bitter.
“Bullies love to get a reaction, so don’t give them the satisfaction.”
If your child is bullied, suggest he or she show a lack of concern by making a joke. Here’s a for instance. Bully: “Hey, Camel. Nice nose.” Camel, I mean, kid with big nose: “Thanks. If anyone wants to know what’s for lunch today, just ask me. I can sniff the cafeteria from here!” He can end the conversation with, “Hey, smell ya later!” Perhaps you can help your child come up with snappy comebacks, but not ones that could insult the bully, i.e.: “I could smell you coming a mile away.” Antagonizing a bully is never a good idea. If your child shows he can’t be moved by harassment, the bully will move on.
“What’s your deal, kid?”
Finding out that your kid is being bullied is pretty awful. What may be even worse, is learning that your child IS the bully. Kids generally become bullies because they feel inadequate and therefore overcompensate/hide that fact by lashing out at others, hoping to make themselves feel better and/or rise in the esteem of their friends. If you find out your child is bullying others, get to the root of that. Ask him what’s going on that makes him feel justified in behaving that way. Brainstorm how he can feel better about himself, perhaps by getting involved in something constructive. If it turns out your kid is just mean, my condolences. Ask why he's being so uncool. When he can't come up with a good excuse, because there is none, ask what reason there is to continue. Besides, has he watched movies? Nobody cheers for the bully, but they applaud when he gets what he deserves in the end.
Ultimately, the best way to deal with difficult teenagers is through patience, love, and giving them space, but let them know you’re there for them if they need you. If you’ve formed a solid relationship with your kids since childhood, that will help him or her open up to you as they age. But during every stage, remember to cover the relationship, and your child, in prayer.
Copyright 2021 Betsy Kerekes
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About the Author
Betsy Kerekes is the author of Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying (Our Sunday Visitor 2019) and coauthor with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press 2016) and 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (Ave Maria Press 2013). She homeschools her four children and writes about her experiences in motherhood at ParentingIsFunny.wordpress.com.