Translating the Awful Stuff Your Teen is Going to Say To You


“You are the worst parents, EVER!” I remember screaming to my parents when I was 16. They would not let me get on a plane with my friends and spend a 3 nights in Cancun with my friends for Spring Break – rotten, evil people. Not letting their teenage daughter go to Mexico – a totally different country – with a bunch of other teenagers with no supervision during Spring Break. Yeah, what terrible parents ruining my life by making responsible decisions and keeping me safe and alive (insert eye roll here). Now that I’m a parent, I get it. I understand that most of the life moments in which I hated my parents weren’t easy on them, but they were for my safety. I’m a mom now, and despite my kids not yet being teenagers, my husband and I know with certainty they will say some pretty nasty things to us.

Let me just interrupt here and ask everyone my age whether or not they would have said some of the things teens today say to their own parents back in the day? I’m guessing no; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be alive today to witness the way kids behave if I’d treated my parents with the kind of disrespect that seems so apparent today. Regardless, parents are now a lot more tolerant of the hateful comments their kids make, and that means we’re going to hear a lot more of it as they grow older. I’m hopeful and optimistic that our kids won’t be terrible teens if we do this parenting thing right. The twins are only 15 months, but our daughters (7 and 4) are very polite, respectful and very calm, so we do hope that their behavior sticks – but we are prepared for the sullen, angry, hate-filled teenage years (especially me with three daughters who will probably take their fair share of turns hating me for various reasons).

Even though my kids aren’t teens, yet, I do a lot of thinking about it. I have friends with teens and when they share with me the things their kids say to them on occasion, I think about that, too. For me, it seems a bit easier on the outside looking in to translate what their kids are saying to them in their fits of anger, but I know it can’t be easy for parents to hear what their kids are saying. So as someone who was a teen a mere 13 years ago (see how I made that seem so recent?), maybe I can help parents translate what I feel teens mean when they say some seriously awful things.

I hope you die!

Ouch. That’s difficult to hear. I remember thinking that about my parents growing up on occasion when I was furious. I never meant it – ever – but teens are not quite rational in their thinking. When your teen says this to you, he or she really does not want you to die, though it’s going to hurt to hear. What they’re trying to convey to you is their anger that you are not giving into them. There’s little you can do about this now but understand that one day they will remember this with shame and guilt because they will understand that you weren’t looking to hurt them with your decisions, but protect them from the horrors of life.

I wish I was never born!

The regret that your child is feeling about being alive is typically not something you actually have to worry about in the sense it might worry you, but it’s hurtful. It can make you feel as if you have failed, but you have not. Your teen is going through something right now that is difficult. She’s not sure how to handle the situation, she cannot see how it will improve and she’s lost. What she needs is someone on her side, whether she acts like it or not. Tell her you love her and make sure you show it constantly.

You are a terrible parent!

You are the worst mom ever! So it’s not nice and it’s hurting your feelings, but I’m here to tell you to suck it up, butter cup. Every single time I told my parents they were terrible, they were so very right. They were terrible for not letting me go to Cancun unsupervised at 16. They were terrible for grounding me and taking away my car when I got caught drinking beer at a party I drove my friends to. They were terrible for grounding me when I skipped school one day and got in the backseat of a convertible with six other kids when I was 16 and took a two hour road trip. They were terrible for not letting me go to unsupervised parties or to the houses of certain friends (I later realized it was because they knew the parents and knew the types of things that happened in their households) without any explanation other than, “Because I said so and I’m the parent,” – my current favorite parenting phrase.

If your teens tell you that you’re a terrible parent and you’re not starving them or abusing them in any way, shape or form, you’re probably just being a good parent.

I’m never going to parent like you because I want my kids to actually love me.

All right, they’re frustrated, mad and angry with you. Usually because you stood your ground and did not allow them to walk all over you or do something that might get them in trouble of some sort. Remember this; you said the same thing to your parents. And your parents probably told you in response that they hope you have a child just like you as punishment. And you probably do. And now it’s kind of amusing. Take solace in the fact that your child will have to eat these words one day when you come out of her mouth on a daily basis as she raises her own kids. She’s going to hate it, so you can think of it now as karma – parenting style.

You don’t love me!

Of all the statements that your teens can make to you, this one is probably the most hurtful. This is a statement that probably makes you feel as if you are hurting more than any other. It’s not even about you. It’s about your child. When your child says this to you, it’s because he or she doesn’t feel very lovable. Your child is verbalizing his or her most internal fear, that his or her personality is not even lovable enough for a parent. The only thing you can do here is show unconditional love and remind your kids of this regularly.

Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images


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