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Parenting a Teen

Hannah is a babywearing sister!

I have a bunch of littles (sometimes it feels like fifty but really it is just three) and one daughter firmly entrenched in her teen years.  So many blogs are devoted to parenting a young child; I thought it might be a refreshing change to address what it is like to be an attachment parent with a teenager.

Whenever I post something thoughtful or awesome that Hannah has said or done (like Sunday, when she got out the laptop and put together a quiche to surprise me with dinner while I put Cooper down for a nap, or the time she wrote this letter) it results in several people asking me what it is that we did to get such an amazing kid.  It isn’t one particular thing.  In fact, I think its two parts her awesomeness by nature and one part how we work as a family. Do we fight and yell at each other? To be honest, yeah. I wish it was not the case, but we do have our yelling matches.  My mom was a yeller, and my natural reaction is to yell when I get overwhelmed or aggravated.  I’m working on it, and I’m getting better at taking a breath and a moment to calm down before I flip out.  It helps that Hannah sounds exactly like me- sometimes half way through an argument we fall into giggles because it sounds like one person arguing back and forth.


But we also talk. A LOT. Our kids aren’t just our kids.  They’re people and we treat them as such.  There is a ton of “it bothers me when you do A, B, C,” and “it hurt my feelings when” and “I feel blah blah when” going on around here.  When I screw up or make a bad decision, I talk about what happened and why. We talk about how we feel, what we’re thinking, all day long. Hannah is a person with valid opinions and reasons for her actions, and we talk about the choices she has and what she could do with them. When I’m upset with her, I explain why and when she is upset with me she does the same.


If I had to give advice on how to raise a thoughtful and kind person, I would say…

1) Listen to your kid.  Actively listen.  Don’t just nod your head and make agreeable noises, but hear them.  Last night Hannah and I stayed up until two in the morning talking.  I needed sleep, and so did she, but it was more important that we spent some time together.  Listening is imperative. 

2) Own up to your mistakes.  Your kids will learn more from you admitting you screwed up and then seeing you try to fix it than thinking they have a perfect parent. 

3) Explain why you set a boundary or rule in place.  We have very few rules in our home, and Hannah understands why each one exists.

4) Nurture honesty.  My kids know that if they have screwed up big time they just have to tell us- and we’ll help them fix it, whatever it is. 


Is there a recipe for producing the perfect child?  Of course not, but the way we choose to interact with our children sets up the way they treat others and how they feel about themselves.  I would love it if she wouldn’t nitpick at her brother so much, or if she could do the dishes the first time I ask or even just remember to take the dog out more often…  But the flip side is that I have a daughter that is strong, thoughtful, compassionate, talented and kind.  She is articulate, funny, and a fierce protector of her siblings.   She stands up for what she thinks is right and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.  She is beyond awesome.

7 Responses to Parenting a Teen

  1. WOW!! That is great. I am also a yeller and I am working on it. If I do wrong I do aplogies to my girls. I talk to them and listen. My girls are very helpful with things. my 7 year old loves to clean. She started cleaning at 5 and my older one loves to help do dishes. Talking to your children does help to understand them. I feel like a better mother when I listen to them talk and we ask questions back and forth. When they get pushed I give them a few minutes and then asked them do the understand why they got punished and they tell what they did and that they now know it was wrong.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks! This post gives me a lot of hope for my daughter’s teenage years. I know a lot of people (especially from my parents’ generation) look at me like I’m crazy for how I interact with my daughter, but at 4 1/2 she’s already learned that she can tell me how she’s feeling & if she doesn’t agree with a decision I’ve made, she can talk to me about it & sometimes I’ll change my mind.

    I hate admitting that I make mistakes all the time. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I seriously overreact, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed & can’t deal w/parenting so things don’t get done (I’m still learning to be a *single* attachment parent, because the single happened recently). But, when I realize that I’ve over-reacted or yelled, I apologize and we talk about what I was feeling that made me react that way. I didn’t really see the effects of my parenting choices until recently, when my daughter used logic on me to explain why what she wanted for lunch wasn’t as unhealthy as I had asserted. The fact that she felt comfortable challenging my decision & did it with a reason is a HUGE deal for me, as I’ve always had issues with any sort of confrontation due to how I was raised.

    Also, I know what you mean about a child just being awesome. People have told me for a few years that I must be a great parent because my daughter is such a good kid. But, I think she’s mostly a good person in spite of my mistakes. I’ve been truly blessed to have her in my life …. now I just need to remember that (more often) when I’m tired and stressed.

  3. I’m trying very hard to overcome yelling abusive household. This post definitely excites me for that. My son is 15 months (tomorrow) and I keep fighting the urges to force control down his throat…
    My own mom has just now started actually admitting her mistakes but there never is a discourse to it. If I try to talk to her we have another explosive fight that leads to another 2 months of silence.
    I dont want to be that mom!!

  4. You are so right about the listening and talking with honesty. I am the mom of 4 awesome girls. 22, 19, 18 and 14. I look them and how awesome they are and I think.. ” I don’t know how I did that, raised them so right, but I sure am proud that I did.” Sure, we had our fights and the typical teenage angst, but they’re awesome. My oldest is newly married and a great new mom herself, the 2 middle are off at 2 different colleges, and my youngest, well she’s my baby, has THE BEST heart and has been told that she can never get any older and has to stay with Mom forever. (She just rolls her eyes at that, so if any of you have any magic spell to keep her here, let me know!! LOL) Being a parent of a teen is hard. But with patience, honesty (and yeah, sometimes a lot of yelling) what you get in the end is worth it. :) Cheers to us good Moms. :)

  5. Yelling, yeah that is a hard one to learn not to do. I have two teen girls and a little man (7). We have always talked and talked a lot. My oldest daughter is actually my step daughter who recently moved back in with us. She is re-adjusting to how we handle things without violence and as little yelling as possible.

    It is awesome though to see the results of attachment parenting in your own children as they grow up. Those late night talks are awesome BTW.

  6. You make it sound so simple. I am reassured to see some of my own strategies / practices here, but I worry that I don’t make my children feel wanted enough – especially when I see how close you & Hannah are. I hope you recognize how special that relationship is, but I bet you do.

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