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Teenagers: Choosing Your Battles

choosing your battles

Teenagers: Choosing Your Battles

Teenagers. The very word can make adults shudder! Often the mere mention of the word is accompanied by a head shake or a groan. But it doesn't have to be that way. A little understanding and "choosing your battles" can go a long way with your teenager in your homeschool!

Resistance is Futile

Resistance can look like many things in teenagers - from refusing to put on a coat when asked, to bringing home a big can of worms, their resistance to our common sense can be so frustrating! When our children are young, sometimes parents work hard to train children that resistance is futile - just obey mom and dad! But when teenagers get older, we realize that OUR resistance is futile. They simply won't do what we ask - it's like leading a horse to water, you can't make them drink!

Trying to be an Adult

When your teens are growing up, remember they are also growing into adulthood. They are trying hard to become an adult, and make adult decisions. Decision making doesn't happen overnight. They need practice. They are wanting to become independent, and we want to encourage them to grow up.

Five Year Plan

This is that time in life when you have to think about the 5 year plan. When giving advice or direction, consider whether it will really matter in 5 years. You can always give advice, but don't get too emotionally invested in children taking your advice unless it will matter in five years. Most of our suggestions really won't matter in 5 years at all.

Personal Preference

Independent adults are all unique individuals with personal preferences, and your child is becoming an adult with their own unique interests, habits, and desires. As they get older, try not to step in if they are doing something that is just personal preference. Consider the habit of wearing a coat ... or eating a meal. These are things that you might see in another adult and think "I wouldn't do it that way, but whatever!" That's how you know it's a personal preference - if you wouldn't confront a neighbor about it, you may not need to confront your child.

Life-threateningly Stupid

On the other hand, do try to step in when it's life-threatening in some way, or "life-threateningly stupid" as my husband and I would say. For example, when a blizzard is expected in Montana, it might be life-threateningly stupid to leave home without a coat, but usually it's one of those things that won't matter in 5 years. Most teenagers, especially older teens, are trying to make their own decisions. They do need to face the consequences of their own decisions so they can learn. If a decision isn't going to hurt and won't matter in 5 years, and another adult might make that same decision without you intervening, then perhaps they need to learn something by making that particular decision.

Life-alteringly Stupid

There are other decisions that may not cost their lives, but they can certainly ruin their lives. In our society premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and drug use are common examples. Some decisions are permanent and can't be taken back. Decisions about tattoos, for example, are life-altering (although not everyone thinks they are stupid, of course!) and it might be best to delay those decisions until adulthood, just to be sure.

Learning from Discomfort

When they make choices you wish they wouldn't make, it may cause some discomfort. I remember when Kevin wanted to take engineering classes AND honors level courses in college. Ouch! That sounded painful! But when a decision will cause discomfort, your child may ultimately learn to avoid that sort of discomfort when possible - and ultimately not volunteer to do something that isn't necessary or important. When our children were two years old, I focused on "natural consequences" so they could see the results of disobedience. With teenagers, focus again on those natural consequences so they can learn.

Practice Making Decisions

Right now is the best time to allow decision-making practice. You can help them consider their options (it may sound like advice to them, I suppose) and support them in their decision, even if you wouldn't make the same decision yourself. You can help them learn from their decisions as well - pointing out both the good and bad things they learned. Allow perfectly fine decisions, personal preferences, and a decision that another adult might choose to make even if you and I wouldn't make that decision.

What does "choosing your battles" look like with your teenagers? Which things do you let go?

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Comments 10

Guest - Rebecca on Monday, 20 January 2014 17:29

Thanks! I needed this today! (Mom of two teenagers - turning 18 and 16 in a month; wonderful most of the time, but awfully frustrating some of the time.)

Thanks! I needed this today! (Mom of two teenagers - turning 18 and 16 in a month; wonderful most of the time, but awfully frustrating some of the time.)
Guest - JW on Monday, 20 January 2014 18:58

The hardest thing I've had to do with my older teen is to not insist she become an English major. Carpal tunnel syndrome notwithstanding, writing is a lot safer career than training horses. She's already faced down a mare who tried to kill her. At any time, she could become crippled for life. And there's no way on earth we can afford our own horse, but we've found creative ways around it.

The hardest thing I've had to do with my autistic younger teen is to acknowledge that she's having trouble differentiating between me as "Mom" and me as "Teacher." My older child always knew the difference and had no trouble with switching back and forth throughout the day. But as my younger child entered her teen years, me always telling her what to do all day long became way too much for her to handle and she rebelled - one morning she ended up riding in an ambulance to the hospital because she couldn't calm down. Home school co-ops haven't worked for us, and we have zero money for private school or lessons to develop her strengths, so I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to put her in public school. Fortunately, this district does special ed waaaaaaay better than mainstream classes. I'd bring her home in a heartbeat and have lots of outside activities if I could, but I can't.

The hardest thing I've had to do with my older teen is to not insist she become an English major. Carpal tunnel syndrome notwithstanding, writing is a lot safer career than training horses. She's already faced down a mare who tried to kill her. At any time, she could become crippled for life. And there's no way on earth we can afford our own horse, but we've found creative ways around it. The hardest thing I've had to do with my autistic younger teen is to acknowledge that she's having trouble differentiating between me as "Mom" and me as "Teacher." My older child always knew the difference and had no trouble with switching back and forth throughout the day. But as my younger child entered her teen years, me always telling her what to do all day long became way too much for her to handle and she rebelled - one morning she ended up riding in an ambulance to the hospital because she couldn't calm down. Home school co-ops haven't worked for us, and we have zero money for private school or lessons to develop her strengths, so I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to put her in public school. Fortunately, this district does special ed waaaaaaay better than mainstream classes. I'd bring her home in a heartbeat and have lots of outside activities if I could, but I can't.
Guest - Birdie on Monday, 20 January 2014 19:37

JW. Your child and you will do well. The beauty of living in a "free" country is that you get to chose where your child needs to be educated. I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties. I'm glad that you have a place that your child will be helped. May you find comfort in knowing that you love your child and want only the best for them.

JW. Your child and you will do well. The beauty of living in a "free" country is that you get to chose where your child needs to be educated. I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties. I'm glad that you have a place that your child will be helped. May you find comfort in knowing that you love your child and want only the best for them.
Guest - Birdie on Monday, 20 January 2014 19:42

I do poorly in debate. Guess what, our dear teen may be the greatest debater of all!! And very strong willed 8->. Oh yes, God has a great sense of humor, hee hee.

I do poorly in debate. Guess what, our dear teen may be the greatest debater of all!! And very strong willed 8->. Oh yes, God has a great sense of humor, hee hee.
Guest - Terry on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 11:21

A very timely reminder for me. Mine are now 14 and 17, my daughter being the younger of the two yet way ahead of her brother in her quest for independence. I am an admitted "type A" and have had to purpose myself to back off, loosen the reins, and to drastically alter the tone and vocabulary I use in communicating with both children, but especially my daughter. The good news is that our relationship is improving because of our mutual desire to guard it. There has, however, been a high cost, to me, at least. This may well be her last year home schooling.

Her brother is a completely different case. I may have to shove that sweet little chick out of the nest at some point. He seems a very young 17 when compared to age mates, which has provided many benefits and presented only a few real challenges, the inability to dialogue openly notwithstanding. I am concerned, however, over his lack of interest in his future. As for finding his self-identity, that may well have been set in stone at an early age. He remains (passively) stubborn, slightly opinionated, argumentative, and doggedly loyal. He is "painfully" shy, happy in his own skin, rarely finds a fad he wants to follow, enjoys group activities more as an observer than a participant, and continues to love the Lord. And he has a great sense of humor that often elicits belly laughs, though only his closest friends and family members know it. I expected a little more forward thinking by this point but am, very possibly, basing this on my own development - the "16 going on 21" syndrome. Having taken driver ed two years ago, he has only recently decided to go for his permit - no place he needed/wanted to go that he didn't.

Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.

A very timely reminder for me. Mine are now 14 and 17, my daughter being the younger of the two yet way ahead of her brother in her quest for independence. I am an admitted "type A" and have had to purpose myself to back off, loosen the reins, and to drastically alter the tone and vocabulary I use in communicating with both children, but especially my daughter. The good news is that our relationship is improving because of our mutual desire to guard it. There has, however, been a high cost, to me, at least. This may well be her last year home schooling. Her brother is a completely different case. I may have to shove that sweet little chick out of the nest at some point. He seems a very young 17 when compared to age mates, which has provided many benefits and presented only a few real challenges, the inability to dialogue openly notwithstanding. I am concerned, however, over his lack of interest in his future. As for finding his self-identity, that may well have been set in stone at an early age. He remains (passively) stubborn, slightly opinionated, argumentative, and doggedly loyal. He is "painfully" shy, happy in his own skin, rarely finds a fad he wants to follow, enjoys group activities more as an observer than a participant, and continues to love the Lord. And he has a great sense of humor that often elicits belly laughs, though only his closest friends and family members know it. I expected a little more forward thinking by this point but am, very possibly, basing this on my own development - the "16 going on 21" syndrome. Having taken driver ed two years ago, he has only recently decided to go for his permit - no place he needed/wanted to go that he didn't. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight.
Guest - Kincaid Donovan (website) on Thursday, 23 January 2014 01:46

It must be the teenage hormones that's fueling their impressive ability to argue.

I have one teenager daughter and I have to admit that she's pretty talented in surprising me with her excuses at times.

Thanks for sharing this post! They're true!

It must be the teenage hormones that's fueling their impressive ability to argue. I have one teenager daughter and I have to admit that she's pretty talented in surprising me with her excuses at times. Thanks for sharing this post! They're true!
Guest - MOMofK on Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:13

Reading this again and feeling grateful for the advice. This past year has been a real roller coaster with our 16-17yo son and I'm emotionally and physically exhausted. Even dh has reached the end of his rope of patience. Lee, these nuggets of wisdom, along with the awesome video done by your husband, provide the encouragement we need to keep on keepin' on. Thanks!

Reading this again and feeling grateful for the advice. This past year has been a real roller coaster with our 16-17yo son and I'm emotionally and physically exhausted. Even dh has reached the end of his rope of patience. Lee, these nuggets of wisdom, along with the awesome video done by your husband, provide the encouragement we need to keep on keepin' on. Thanks!
Guest - Assistant to The HomeScholar on Monday, 04 August 2014 13:53

Dear Mom of K,

We are in the trenches with you! You can do this!

Robin
Assistant to The HomeScholar

Dear Mom of K, We are in the trenches with you! You can do this! Robin Assistant to The HomeScholar
Guest - Kathryn Lairson on Monday, 09 March 2015 08:18

I so needed this. I now realize what nag nag nag I had become. Thank you.

I so needed this. I now realize what nag nag nag I had become. Thank you.
Guest - Assistant to The HomeScholar on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 14:52

We all need that reminder from time to time, Kathryn!
Parenting teens can be the most demanding, rewarding task we have ever undertaken!
Robin
Assistant to The HomeScholar

We all need that reminder from time to time, Kathryn! Parenting teens can be the most demanding, rewarding task we have ever undertaken! Robin Assistant to The HomeScholar
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