Teen Behavior: Don’t Take It Personally

Posted June 22, 2011 by

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a Mom is this one:  It’s not personal. Meaning, I can’t take things personally in regard to my teenager. A lot of what we go through with them will feel like its personal, or maybe I’m just more sensitive! I’ve come a long way with not taking things personally, but it still creeps in now and again—I’m only human, right?!

What I’ve seen is that our kids have their own issues, too. For me to not take things personally, meaning that my daughter is doing something against me or because of me, I’ve had to separate the labels of “child” and “mother” when I’m trying to get perspective.  It might sound like Crazyville, but honestly it has helped so much.

For me to detach from those roles, even if it’s just for a few minutes, helps. I look at my teen as a human being. I view her as an individual apart from me, someone who is just a girl, trying to get through these trying years as a teen. If I view her in this way it helps me see that she has her own struggles, and that they really don’t have anything to do with me, but with her.

Here’s an example. She went to Prom a few weeks ago, and we were doing pictures at her boyfriend’s home. When we arrived with my daughter, we were not greeted. Her boyfriend’s Mother didn’t say how beautiful she looked, let alone “Hello.” For the next hour it was like an organized boot camp, and extremely uncomfortable. I was so taken off guard and shocked at the way this woman behaved that it threw me off my game. I spoke up and asked directly and politely when we were going to do photos with my daughter and her family. When I did that, my daughter shushed me. That kicked me in the gut. I felt at that moment that she was embarrassed of me. I noticed throughout this photo taking boot camp, that my daughter was very keen on what would come out of my mouth, almost like she was watching me. I could feel the tension.

I felt awful and was totally taking it personally. I felt like my daughter was against me and for her boyfriend’s Mother. I felt like she was choosing them! It was very difficult and painful to go through. We never know what is going to throw us off. I mean, why would something like this affect me so much? Why was I so hurt?

It took us a good week to iron this one out. But WE DID. With commitment and perseverance and TIME. It would be something a lot of people would just move on from and not get to the bottom of, but I refused to accept that. I wanted to teach my daughter conflict management, and I couldn’t do that if we’d just moved on or swept it under the rug. We both knew there was a deeper issue, and we were able to get to the bottom of it together. She even said a few times, “Mom, I’m so tired of talking about this, we’ve been on it now for days, can we just let it go?”

My response was that, yes there is a time and place to let go, but if conflict hasn’t been resolved, or even in the midst of it being resolved you can take breaks, but until we are reconciled, it’s not time to let go.

We learned so much about the both of us—I learned again that it wasn’t personal-she wasn’t embarrassed of me, she wasn’t choosing them over me. I learned that my daughter is at the age where she can hurt me; whether intentionally or unintentionally. And that I need to learn how to handle it when she does.

My daughter learned that she cares too much about what others think. She’s known this for a while, but she put caring about what they thought above recognizing that the whole family was uncomfortable and it was frustrating for us. I told her that all she had to do was come up to me quietly and say, “Mom, I know this is super annoying and frustrating, I’m with you, I hear you, but it’s almost over.” Something like that. But hey, she’s 16! A lot of adults don’t do that!

We both see new (and old) areas of our worse self that we need to work on and improve. We are both up for the challenge and together we are stronger for going through this rough patch.

Everyday I’m learning more and more that it’s not personal, my daughter is not just my baby girl, she’s her own individual with her own struggles and shortcomings. It’s not about me most of the time, it’s about life and herself.  But I had to make the time to see the truth of these things. I’m so thankful it wasn’t about me, because I have my own self to manage!


Gina Norma grew up in St.Paul MN, and enjoys art, reading, traveling, thrift shopping, picnics, volunteering and spending time with her 17-year-old. One day she hopes to go to Italy, attend college, and solve world hunger. Gina says, “To me, parenting is all about building relationships with our kids and walking along side them — not trying to control them or use shame.” You can read Gina’s blog at www.walkwithyourteen.blogspot.com.

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  1. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    River123: Gina and I have offered you two different perspectives here based on our own experiences. Something to keep in mind is that you know your child best. Gina’s approach works well for kids who can manage their emotions well, who are fairly mature, and get along quite well with their parents overall. For a child who lashes out, has difficulty managing his anger, and has pulled away from the family, trying to reason with him when he’s angry may just fuel the argument. Or possibly escalate it, leading to yet more holes in the wall or even him turning his aggression toward you. When choosing a technique to try, I urge you to use your discretion and carefully think through what might happen in each case before making a decision, with your safety in mind. It’s possible to combine these two approaches by first walking away as I suggested, and then approaching your son once he’s calmed down to ask the questions Gina suggested. Pick your battles here and take care.

  2. ginanorma (Edit) Report

    Thank you for your comment “grouchy mama” so much! Your comment was uplifting and encouraging and I appreciate it so much. I’m so happy you see that there are new ways we can approach things with our kids/teens. It’s not easy, but we can start and keep trying.

    River 123, I would maybe ask you–have you asked your son why he thinks it’s your fault? You stated that he just yells and tells you it’s your fault. Have you asked him what he means by that? I’ve learned that by asking questions, and giving them a voice, and not controlling them, can really help. For some reason he is frustrated obviously. Also ask him what he means by “you make him feel guily”—maybe it would shed some insight for you on yourself.
    I’m sorry for your troubles there, and I hope you find a way to find some peace. Thanks for your comment! Keep commenting if you want to.
    And thanks for reading!

  3. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘river123’: Your son’s behavior sounds very frustrating and exhausting. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like you are engaging with your son quite a bit during his outbursts. Trying to reason with kids during an outburst is not effective, as it only keeps the outburst going. One thing you might try to change this is to walk away from your son when he starts to shout at you. You don’t need to subject yourself to his behavior, and walking away will show him that you are in control in the situation. If at any point your son does damage to your home or threatens you, call the police. There’s no excuse for abuse of any kind and calling the police will send your son the clear message that his behavior will not be tolerated any longer. Calling the police is also a good way to get some authority involved– parents may need the support of a higher authority when their own is no longer enough. Here are a couple articles that will give you more information and ideas about this type of behavior:
    Dealing with Anger in Children and Teens, Part 1: Why Is My Child So Angry?
    Dealing with Anger in Children and Teens, Part 2: Effective Tools to Help You Handle It
    We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

  4. river123 (Edit) Report


    I totaly understand where Gina is coming from but I wonder has ant one any ideas of how to talk to a teenage boy of 18 who wull not listen and becomes very angry and starts hitting the walls and shouting and then when I point out that this sort of hehaviour is not appropriate he tells me it is all myfault if I would just shut up. sometimes he says I make him feel guilty he resents this but he will not talk about it so I can understand what is going on.

  5. GrouchyMama (Edit) Report

    I am going through lots of new things as well with my 16 year old. I have made myself sick with worry & the fear that it is all going wrong but realise that I have to let go of my baby & trust the young adult to take over now…. if only it was easier!! Your website makes me realise that this is common & look at things abit differently to the way I normally do.



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