Stress is high and tempers are short. We’ve all been stuck inside together for months, and sometimes the world feels like a big old pressure cooker. On top of all that, my son just started high school. In order to help us survive, and even continue to enjoy each other’s company, I’ve decided to stop caring — and nagging — about three things when dealing with my teen.
Well, that’s kind of a lie. I still care. A lot. It hasn’t been all easy breezy, like it sounds. I bite my tongue a lot. And my nails.
But not nagging has paid off. Relaxing my inner control freak has improved our relationship and even reduced my own mental load. And I hope that I’m also encouraging my son to become more self-sufficient and accountable.
No More Nagging About:
I’ve given up forcing my teen to eat breakfast. I know, it’s the most important meal of the day and everything. But I am so sick of starting each school day with an argument. What an efficient way to put everyone in a lousy mood before the clock strikes 7.
I’ve learned that if I get up early to make cinnamon rolls, he will probably swipe one (or four) on his way out the door. If he’s hungry, he’ll hunt down a granola bar or string cheese. Most days he doesn’t, but I’m done having that fight. No more nagging from me.
He’s also spending more of his own money than is nutritionally advisable on fast food and beef jerky from the gas station. But as long as he’s home for dinner and eats the healthy meals that I make (which he does, without complaint), then I’ll pretend not to see soda cans and candy wrappers. And I’ll continue to set a good example.
When the COVID lockdown hit, I awarded my kids the privilege of eliminating prescribed bedtimes. As long as they got their schoolwork done, completed their chores and acted like respectable humans, bedtime became a free-for-all. And it has stayed that way. No more nagging from me.
My teen knows that if he stays up too late, he’ll be tired and crabby the next day. And if he’s making noise late at night, either getting too boisterous on video games or playing music or watching a movie too loudly, I’ll tell him to turn it down (or off, if I’ve already given him a warning). But if he’s respectful to the rest of the household and can still function decently the next day, I’ve moved bedtime squarely into his realm of responsibility.
3. General messiness
Our household rule is to take off shoes as soon as we walk in the door. It’s our way of life, period.
But something happened around the age of 13. Out of nowhere, my son decided to stop removing his shoes. Is it laziness? Or disrespect? Or a small move toward independence? Or something he picked up from a friend? I can’t tell you.
It’s something I’ve nagged him about it a million times in the past two years. And I. Am. Done. No more nagging from me.
If he drags in dirt or mud, he is required to clean that up. Otherwise, I just keep my lips zipped.
Similarly, I stopped worrying about whether his room is clean. I even walk over the piles of clothes next to the laundry basket and actively ignore the dirty socks that magically appear in all corners of my house. The expectation is that if family or friends are visiting, the whole house—his room included—must be presentable. Since he likes having people over, he’s quick to comply (though having company is a rare occurrence these days).
I’m done fighting the battle over his messes.
As a parent, I’ve learned that I need to pick fewer battles, period. And not nagging, arguing or even thinking about these things frees up my mental load to focus on the big stuff, the stuff that matters most: his mental health, the way he treats others, his performance in school. I can still get all mama-bear about those, when I need to. There are plenty of non-negotiables. And, as a high school freshman, he’s certainly not ready for me to let him go completely.
He knows I’ve got his back, if needed.
If I want my teen to gain independence, I need to loosen the reins. And I found that when I take a step back on some issues, he will either step up and be accountable or face the natural consequences.
Either way, he’s learning something important—for himself.