Everyone tells you toddlers are a lot of work.
The minute you announce you are pregnant, in fact, people start warning you that the toddler years are fraught with tantrums and noisy outbursts over unpeeled apples and socks that feel funny.
Three year olds have just enough vocabulary to make it very clear that they are unhappy with every single one of your parenting decisions.
You are smarter than a three-year-old and you will win the argument. Most days, anyway. And if you are looking there is always Goldfish crackers and Paw Patrol to diffuse most any argument.
You feel pretty cocky as your child ages, giving yourself a high-five and a pat on the back for surviving what everyone tells you is the hardest part of parenting.
You soon find out, though, everyone was lying to you.
Toddlers have nothing on teenagers and their teenaged tantrums.
Teenagers, what with their eye rolling and their moody silences and their “my parents are so dumb” attitudes, test your patience in ways you never expected when he was doing pretty much the same as a three-year-old.
But, the difference here is that the arguments you had over socks that felt scratchy didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. A toddler tantrum is a fleeting moment in time. Okay, yes, some toddler moments are endless and exceedingly loud, but as fast as a toddler starts a tantrum, the storm is over just as quickly.
Teens need to be handled with care.
Because they are wrestling with very real feelings of insecurity and growing independence. They crave structure but they sure as hell don’t want the rules to come from their parents. It’s toddlerhood all over again. Only this time, you can’t pick them up and deposit them on the couch with a snack.
And they remember everything you say.
Especially when you lose your patience in anger.
In those moments, when your teen is testing your patience, it can be hard not to put him in time out and tell him to sit on his bed until he can say sorry and mean it.
It can be hard to watch her dig a deeper hole as she argues and refuses to back down over breaking curfews or wanting to borrow the car.
In short, it’s hard to hold your tongue because we as parents are usually always right.
We know what’s best for our teens.
Because we survived their threenaged meltdowns.
We know what makes our teens tick and we’ve seen it all before. When my son is towering over me, arms crossed and with a look of annoyance on his face because I’ve said no to him, it’s hard not to see the little boy who used to do the same when he barely reached my waist.
It’s hard to resist the urge to tell him to go to his room and take a nap.
It’s hard not to say things like “I told you so” and “you should have listened to me.”
It’s hard to hold your tongue when you are parenting a teen.
But, holding your tongue means you are listening.
Holding your tongue means you are letting your teen have a voice.
Holding your tongue means your teen sees that his opinion matters, too, even if you silently think he’s making a huge mistake.
Holding your tongue when your teen is being trying helps him realize that you won’t lecture him when he feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Holding your tongue means he’ll come to you when the big moments in his life are overwhelming.
Because teens really do carry more in their daily lives than we did. Their lives are harder and there’s more pressure to be perfect.
Teens need a safe place to land and we can provide that by withholding our judgement from time to time.
And, hopefully, by holding our tongues, that safe place to land will be next to us on the couch, stealing our popcorn as we binge watch Netflix.