It can seem impossible not to take personally when your teenager yells at you, points out your faults, does what you thought they knew not to do, and blames you for everything wrong in the world.
But learning to not take what they say and do personally may be the best gift you give to yourself. It will also help your relationship with your teen.
As children, we take everything personally because we have to – we’re vulnerable and our very survival feels at stake. What we don’t know is that everyone else thinks the same thing: it’s all about them and therefore cannot be about us.
When our kids become teenagers, that survival instinct is joined with the need to grow and learn and become independent, so they must separate, they must learn where the boundaries are, they must search for meaning and purpose and value.
They say mean things and make dumb mistakes because they are in a huge growth and learning mode and because their brain hasn’t fully connected and yet they feel like they’re pretty smart compared to how they used to be.
All of this can feel so personal to a mom. It’s so hard to transition from meaning the world to someone to being viewed as the enemy seemingly overnight.
But when you take things personally, you are giving meaning to events or actions that are not about you.
For example, if your child decides to start smoking (whether you smoke or not), does that have anything to do with you if their reason to smoke is to piss you off or to rebel against you? Nope.
Does it have anything to do with the way your raised them, the times you failed them, or all the things you didn’t do right, like they might want you to think? Nope again.
It’s about them. It has to do with their need to piss you off or rebel against you, to fit in, to self-medicate their anxiousness, to feel independent, to experiment, or whatever their need is.
When you take it personally — when you feel hurt or judged, it can heighten the emotions in conflicts.
It can block you from being able to communicate about what it means to THEM. It can stop you from truly understanding what’s driving them.
When your teen comes at you or acts out, find time to look at it as if you are someone outside of the situation. Is it really about you?