parenting, teens, teenagers, mom life, parenthood, kids, parenting-tips

Parenting teens can be a struggle and an additional stress on relationships. Your sweet easy to maneuver children turn into road blocks & obstacles. Parents wonder what happened & where did they go wrong. It’s really not about what went wrong it’s about understanding you’ve entered a new world and you have to find the flexibility to do things differently. Teens are hungry for respect & the power to decide things.

I’ve always believed children are more prepared for adolescence when they’ve had more practice with choices….birthday party or is the soccer team counting on you? All of our lives are built on choices & practice with guidance in considering all the context is so much more respectful then just telling them what to do. You have to call the soccer coach & find out if there are enough on the team to play or is it an important game…All of our lives are built on our choices & making bad choices is an important way to learn.

I believe too many parents want to control what their kids decide, that “safety” has become this over blown idea of what matters. Of course safety matters but a kid should decide about their clothes & haircuts within parental limits. Experimenting begins with tweens & giving them room really matters within family rules.

Kids should be a part of thinking about curfew & other family rules. My husband came home from middle school parent orientation & said the counselor came out on the stage with a paper bag over her head & she

accurately described that parents were not so important as peers. 

I believe that recognizing your role has been down graded from that lovely center of the universe to toddlers to Eunuch. (a eunuch for those who may not know is a castrated man to guard the harem) You are far more powerless than you would like to be. . .& not recognizing that things have changed creates problems. I’m certainly not suggesting a general permissiveness, but teaching your kids about negotiating & establishing trust through honesty is really helpful to reduce tension.

Adolescents are much more sensitive to whether or not they are being treated with respect due to the hormonal changes they experience & painful social dynamics. So lecturing them with 6 tons of information doesn’t really work. You have to back up from being judgmental; which they can smell out like elephants that have the most olfactory receptor genes. 

As I’ve said so many times, all relationships improve when you are able to have hard conversations. You have to risk being uncomfortable & your have to be willing to listen, not just talk at them (my own personal achilles heel).

Think about what they want instead of being lopsided in self righteous advice giving. They want to be seen for who they are, not who you wish them to be. They want to feel respected not backed into a corner. They want to have more power in decisions that are about their lives. You as a parent can’t let your fears for them crowd them into a box they can’t climb out of.

Choose your battles, don’t fight about everything or you will end up estranged. I think values collisions are some of the hardest times in relationships. Your values will get stepped on & it’s part of defining themselves. If you crowd them by always expecting the worst because you value hard work & they may wiggle out of every chore….try to remember they have good grades, try to balance the picture.

I remember back in the early 80’s we were in a training group for therapists with Marie Creelman (whom we were all scared of) &v someone was about to be a new parent & he asked for her advice….She said “You will make mistakes, because all do. Be honest about them with your kids so they trust you” That was probably the best advice I followed as a parent so I thought I’d share it with all of you…as words to live by.

My last piece of advice, Don’t take things personally. I tell Moms they may have a bullseye pinned to their chest because teens can’t safely unload on their friends or teachers but they know they are loved & will unload on you.


My guest today is Jax Anderson Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin, an expert on parenting teens. She teaches parents how to be helpful, responsive parents. I’ve enjoyed following her on Instagram psyko_therapy with her videos of advice & invited her on the show. Thanks for joining us today.

I saw on your website you recommend 2 of my favorite books, both by Daniel Siegel MD that I thought I would mention as resources for parents: Brainstorm The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain & his book titled Parenting from the Inside Out. So I wanted to give these books a shout out…. Is there anything you would like to add to my introduction that you believe is important when parenting teens?

Jax:  Oh my gosh, I think you covered it all. We could just end the podcast right now. I think this

I love the Dan Siegal and those books that you recommended. There are a lot of books out there right now. I’m reading one right now. And I know the name of the author is going to escape me I can always get it to you later. But It’s 14 questions before the age of 14 Oh, for your teenage girl. I’m reading that right now. And I really I really like it. I had never heard about the book before the author before. So it was just an Amazon like suggestion to me and I bought it and it some really good topics, so expect to see me talking about it.

Rhoda:  Right. I love books. I’m hoping my audience does some more reading than the general population. What do you think about the impact of social media on teens and their mental health?

Jax:  Just coming out with the big guns right out the gate? Yeah. Um, I think that the impact social media has on teens mental health can be positive, I think it can be negative. I think it depends upon how parents talk to their teenagers about it, how parents utilize it themselves, and how, you know, accessible is for teenagers. So there’s not a one answer for everybody to this because some kids probably shouldn’t be on social media until they’re older, some kids can handle it. But I think in general, to completely restrict kids from social media. Right out the gate is probably the most unwise thing you could do as a parent unless there’s extenuating circumstances in place, you know, but to restrict them is only going to make them want it more. And if we know anything about teenagers, we know that they’re sneaky and creative. And if they want to do it, they’ll find a way to do it.

Rhoda:  Yes. What was specifically some of the bad things that you think happened and some of the good things that come out of it. I love the yin and yang of that, because I think that’s always the truth.

Jax:  For sure. Yeah. I think when you’re parenting teenagers, you have to look at a lot of things that way. Some of the bad things that can come out of it, of course, are hits to their self confidence, delays in self confidence and growth, comparing themselves constantly, really getting sucked into that cultural phenomenon of this is what you should look like this is what you should act like this. These are the things you should be buying and wearing. And if you’re not, then you know you’re a loser. I think it’s, that can take a toll on them if they aren’t supported by parents, caregivers, that are already having conversations with them about that, and what that can do to their psyche and what that means. 

Some of the other negative things are, of course, getting sucked into talking to somebody that they don’t know who they are. And they think they are another teenager, but they might be another adult. And I don’t want to scare parents, because I don’t think we need to come from such a fear based place. When it comes to kids chatting with other kids on social media. I think just have access, make sure you have access to their social media accounts, whether you’re a friend of theirs on that social media, or a lot of these apps now, like, tick tock Snapchat, I believe even Instagram does now you can link your account with your kids and monitor their accounts. And you can slowly you know, wean them off of that as they show their maturity with social media.

Rhoda:  Oh, I like that. Yeah. And it’s them practicing choices and figuring things out. That’s great. I also love the point you made about parents are role modeling their use of social media, I was I was driving to the garden store to get plants. And this morning, and I saw a woman and she’s walking with, I’d say a two and a half year old holding her hand, but she’s on the phone just staring at the phone. She’s not talking to the kid. And it really bothered me. I was just like, Oh, please. So I liked that point. How can parents be more understanding about teens with anxiety? Because that’s such a prevalent issue?

Jax:  It is. And the thing about the in my first instinct here is to answer understand the adolescent stage of development, understand that when kids reach about the age of 12 ish, that is the beginning of the most massive brain development stage of a human beings career that we know of thus far, the adolescent stage of development, it lasts till about the age of 25 ish. So it’s a 13 year brain developmental stage that is already going to gift you with anxiety, like you’re just getting, this is your gift. When you hit adolescence, one of the things you get is something increased anxiety. So that in and of itself is just natural, then I would encourage parents encourage parents to understand anxiety, what is anxiety? What where does it come from? What does it mean? How does it manifest in my body in my kids body? What triggers my anxiety? What are the things that help me to manage my anxiety? What are the things that might help my kid to manage their anxiety, so really understanding that it’s a natural phenomenon for all humans, but specifically for adolescents, they’re going to experience more anxiety. 

And also, that understanding anxiety itself is a huge, like one of the biggest things that I teach parents, and it really does help them understand their teen and the anxiety that their teen has when they can understand that the anxiety itself and the developmental stage. But also to understand that anxiety comes from different perspectives. It’s it look, we look at anxiety through different lenses, there are people that are going to experience more school anxiety, more social, socio economic anxiety, there are people that are going to experience different cultural anxieties, different academic anxieties, developmental anxieties, some kids with ADHD are going to have more anxiety than kids that don’t have ADHD. So there’s lots of different things to take into consideration as well, when it comes to anxiety. Having an understanding of that and compassion for that, I think is a huge step in being supportive to your team that has anxiety.

Rhoda:  I used to tell parents all the time. And then I was really happy the British Pediatric Society agreed with me, I always say adolescents is 13 to 25 and sometimes 2627 Because that prefrontal lobe just isn’t getting those chemicals till the end, the mid 20s. And there’s a lot to figure out about without that prefrontal lobe, which is pretty important. So yes, I really agree with that. What are some of the ways parents are not helpful to their teens? Just one example I appreciated was your Instagram posts of when a team has a bad day and doesn’t want to talk do share more about that.

Jax:  I remember that video. I act out the teenager and then I act out the helpful versus unhelpful parent so and sometimes you can tell as a parent that your kid kind of wants to talk, but doesn’t really isn’t really initiating the conversation. And then when you ask, they say, No, I don’t want to talk right now. And they’re not manipulating you, they’re not trying to be difficult. They’re really probably just processing what’s going on in their body and with their feelings and their emotions. And they may not even know how to start the conversation. They could be worried about being judged, criticized. lectured too. And these are the things to avoid. And this is what is not helpful is when a parent will, you know, their teenager doesn’t want to talk. And parent says, Well, I know it looks like you want to talk like it looks like something’s wrong with you, which I always tell parents never say, What’s wrong with you. 

Ask them what’s bothering you. It looks like something’s but there’s a big difference between what’s wrong with you versus what’s bothering you. One implies that there’s something innately wrong with them, the other implies, oh, something’s, something’s like bugging you today. You know that happening to you. But when we jump into lecturing and saying, I know something’s wrong with you, I know something’s bothering you just talk about it, you’ll feel better. That’s coercion, that’s interrogating that’s asking questions and going against their consent of I’m not ready to talk right now. And you know, helicoptering them, and then watching them or lecturing them taking over the conversation and telling them a story about how you were a teenager, and you didn’t like to talk all the time, either. Sometimes just cut it off and say, You know what, it kind of seems like something might be bothering you. But I understand if you don’t want to talk about it right now. Just let me know, when you’re ready. I’m around and just leave it at that.

Rhoda:  I agree. I think that that, you know, I wish I’d listened to your tiktoks Many years ago, that would have been really helpful. So is there anything else that parents aren’t helpful about that comes to your mind that could help my audience?

Jax:  Yeah, I think when parents I see a lot of parents doing the micromanaging, you know, making decisions for their kids, because they know better, versus letting kids have failures or mistakes. I know, as a parent, it’s not fun to watch our kid, make a mistake that we you know, or have a failure that we knew was going to happen. But it’s their choice to make. And there’s so many, there’s a saying that is our greatest teacher is failure, because success is built on failure. If we don’t let our kids make their own mistakes, and have failures, we’re really kind of, you know, limiting them, we’re taking opportunities away from them, where they could learn something, there’s so many times I’ve watched my daughter, like, I know, she thinks this is gonna work, but this isn’t gonna work. And she’ll have a fail. No, of course, I’m not going to let her severely hurt herself. But you know, she has to try it in order to be successful. And it builds resilience and motivation, because they’ll keep trying to get it correct to have the success. And one other thing that I’ve noticed parents do is dismissing or diminishing their kids passions. You know, kids might be passionate about theater, but parents were sports parents, and they’re passionate about sports, and pushing sports on your kid to, quote, have a well rounded education. When your kid is only really interested in theater is unhelpful? Yes, no. Exercise is important. But there’s a difference between exercise and being in a sport.

Rhoda:  I completely agree with you even kids that follow their parents path. You know, I’m a lawyer, you’re going to be a lawyer, I’m a doctor, you’re going to be a doctor. Well, maybe not. Maybe you’re gonna, one of the things I would teach kids, particularly from suburbia is, you think life is a straight line of success. But honestly, there’s a lot of wandering around and that’s okay. You have to experiment. You have to try different things, you know, and not just be channeled onto this path. It’s all about that exploring, and that’s what’s exciting about adolescence, in my mind. Would you offer tips on what parents can ask their teens Besides, how was your day?

Jax:  Oh, yeah, that’s a big one. I hear that a lot. I still my mom still asked asked me that question when I see her. So how was your day? I? And I’ve told her multiple times, Mom, I hate that question. Stop asking me that. That is such. I don’t know how to answer that question. This is the last it’s like, it’s kind of like just an automatic thing I think that we do as humans, you know, how was your day? 

what do you do when you meet somebody? Yeah, there’s these habits. That’s right. Yeah.

You don’t get any information from somebody when you ask them how was their day? And they say, good. Like, that’s, there’s no information there. So I always tell parents, ask more open ended questions like I know, how was your day is an open ended question kind of, but be more specific about it as well. Like, you might ask, what was the funniest thing that happened to you today in school? Or I heard Mr. or Mrs. Whatever teacher is back from vacation? You know, tell? Did they talk about their vacation at all? How do they look, you know, like, ask them questions that don’t always have to do with academics that are more specific and open ended. My daughter is always much more willing to talk to me when I asked her about something or someone else at school than about herself.

Rhoda:  I bet that’s absolutely the best tip ever. And it also demonstrates that you were listening and paying attention when you say did so and so come back from their vacation. You know, it shows you’re really attending to what they are telling you.

Exactly. Which will what make them talk to you more, right? Yeah, yeah. So you know, you listen. Yeah,

that’s great. All right. There’s a quote by Fritz Perls that I love. Remember that too much obedience will end up in spite, you really believe teens need support for their autonomy and independence? Can you talk about this and why it’s so important?

Jax:  Yeah, I think that I talk to parents a lot about helping Listen, when parents bring a teenager to me for counseling, psychotherapy services, I usually end up working with the parents a lot more.

That is absolutely true. And the parents are convinced it’s all about the kid. Right? 

And it is it is because they’re the ones that are expressing and manifesting the feelings that they’re having from often the parents, their caregivers that they live with. And I’m not trying to blame and shame parents right now, this is just, you know, this is a fact, you know, but kids, you know, I’ll tell parents listen to you, when your kid hits 18. And they go off into the real world college or move into your basement, whatever it is, you know, they’re going to now they’re an adult, and they’re going to have adult responsibilities. Have you allowed them to be the CEO of their life while they were a teenager? Or did you essentially just manage them like a mommanager (I don’t even know how to say that) but like a manager, and if so, you might as well just hand them a walker, because or crutches, because that’s pretty much how they’re going to be starting out in the quote unquote, real world, because they didn’t get an opportunity to do some of those things themselves. 

So I’ll tell parents, like, yes, they’re your kids, they’re your offspring, you love them, you don’t want to see them get hurt, that’s valid. We don’t like to see our kids have challenges and get hurt. And if we know we can fix it, the urge to do so is very strong. But it’s so important that they have this sense of I’m the boss of my life, I say who I say when I say where, within reason. I mean, we certainly are their mentor, because they have limited life experience, right, and they have a developing prefrontal cortex like you addressed earlier. So there’s limitations. And we can, you know, be more watchful when they’re younger and slowly back off as they get older, knowing that they need to be the retraining a CEO, they’re an adult and training is what we can look at them as 

Rhoda:  Oh, I like that. That’s a really good way to image to hang on to I remember at the end of high school and I was about ready to break up with a boyfriend and my mother and father or clear that I should and so we stayed together another whole summer. You know, that’s just not happening. And if they hadn’t said anything, I would have been gone, you know?

What are your suggestions about boundaries and how to go about them with teens to have greater success and tell us more about teens setting boundaries also?

Jax:  Yeah, boundaries, talking about boundaries all the time since the minute they were born, whether they can understand you or not, because boundaries is learning boundaries, I think people learn how to set maintain and respect boundaries, largely by watching people who have good healthy, assertive boundaries. It’s something that we can talk about. But until we see it, it’s kind of difficult to understand, you know, because there’s so many different layers to it. But if you have good boundaries with your in laws, your partner, your friends, your boss, your work your kids, teachers, your kid, they’re going to constantly see that, and probably start to understand and express some boundaries themselves, and then you know, the conversation becomes, I see that you’ve set a boundary with me today, you don’t want me to, you know, open the door to the bathroom anymore without knocking in case you might be in there, that’s a very healthy boundary to have, I’m going to work on it, you know. So talking about things like that, like, I see that you are starting to shut your door to your room, when you’re in there by yourself. That’s a boundary that you have, and I want to respect it, here are my boundaries about that. And you know, like no locking the door, you can shut your door, but don’t lock the door, you know, and stuff, don’t yell at me through the door to try to get my attention, open the door to talk to me. So those things, so you respect their boundaries, as well as expecting them to respect your boundaries, but talk about them constantly.

Rhoda:  And all of that, I’m always saying to people, we need practice. If I if I get a wife who’s like, unhappy because her husband hasn’t changed fast enough. And I say, but he needs practice. And so there’s something about that practice negotiating that, I think prepares them. I can’t believe how many kids go to college, and are completely overwhelmed by a roommate situation, because they have no practice. We’re talking about boundaries, and what’s going to make this work for all of us. And they don’t want to deal with it. And they run away and they cry. And it’s like, no, no, no, you have to go out this person’s in your life to give you practice. And that’s important. You know, I agree too many crutches. What would your advice be for parents about the transition from tween ager to teenager?

Jax:  So I’m currently going through that myself. I would say don’t take anything personally. Even if, you know, their intention is to like, you know, personally attack you don’t take it personally, your kids are going through a very significant chemical change, and it’s messing with them. And they don’t like, always how they feel and what they say they don’t like it’s but they need our stability. And they need our calm as much as we can, so that they can navigate through that because it’s very difficult. And if we’re constantly reacting, and taking things personally, during this time, we’re going to, you know, they’re going to stop talking to us, they’re going to start talking to other adults that maybe we don’t know who that person is, they’re going to start talking to their friends or talking to strangers online, they’re not going to bother and you’re going to get so many chances with this, to prove to them whether you are going to be a solid, trusted, stable source in their life through this.

 So listen, learn as much as you can about adolescents. Have your own support system, get a therapist yourself, be patient, when things do activate you personally, if you have to take a break. I’ve done this before where, you know, my daughter has said something that really hurt me and I can tell that it hurt me and I’ll say it or you know what? I need to take a break. I can’t talk about this right now. how I’m feeling right now is not your fault. But I’m struggling right now. So I need a break. I’m gonna go take a break. I love you and I walk away. And I remind her that my reactions how I’m feeling is not her fault.

Rhoda:  That’s great. That’s a really nice addition. Yeah, I like that a lot. It’s tough. It’s hard. I think that’s what it’s about is, we’re really talking about is the generosity. 

Jax:  That because we’re the adults, and I always I’d say to my clients remap, do you remember being a teenager and maybe you were better than I was? No. I remember, I remember oh my god, I remember being arrogant and just thinking my parents knew nothing. I mean, the things that I think are ordinary, because of their hormones. You’re just you’re really trying to find your way. And it’s confusing.

You can find Jax on her website:

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