Beyond Drama: Signs of Growth in Your Teen
The sky was deep blue, no humidity, and the temperature was 60 degrees. I decided to take advantage of this beautiful day in Houston. Days like these are rare in Houston and I wasn’t going to miss it. (When was the last time you heard someone bragging about the weather in Houston?) The red buds were out and some of the trees were covered with that yummy-rich-yellow-green color that only comes from new foliage. I noticed that half the trees were completely bare and dead–at first glance.
On closer look I noticed at the end of each branch these “dead” trees was a very small green bud and then in some random place I could see a small green leaf. These trees were not dead. They just needed more time to catch up with the full-blossomed trees.
So what does this have to do with my teen or me?
Though our teens may look like adults they are still a work in progress. The way they think, express emotions, and the choices they make are immature–because they are. They are not supposed to be mature adults. They are teens and still need your guidance and direction.
I think what’s hard for moms are that we can compare our daughters to other teens who seem to have it all together. We end up feeling bad about our daughters, our parenting and ourselves. We worry. We stress. We feel pressure. We end up disappointed, frustrated and often angry. We see the “dead” tree (the areas of your teens life that is not growing) and we miss the signs of new growth.
It’s easy to do. Growth is slow and is not flashy. It often shows up in unremarkable ways. That’s why we have to intentionally look for it.
Signs of Growth in Your Teen
1. Where to look for growth
I don’t see any growth.
The growth is there, even if you don’t see it. You need to know where to look for the growth. It may not be obvious at first glance.
Human beings have a propensity to focus on the negative (the dead tree), which then that takes up all our attention. We start creating stories in our head about the negative and then we end up feeling discouraged.
So where do I look?
You look for small growth in her choices, attitude, reactions, habits, relational interactions and character traits.
Your daughter has a D in Chemistry.
The small growth could be…
- Admitting that she hasn’t done her homework. (Taking responsibility)
- Asking you if she can go to tutoring. (Asking for help)
- She starts her homework without you telling her. (Showing initiative)
Your daughter has unhealthy eating habits. She won’t eat breakfast and then binges on gummy bears.
The small growth can be…
- You have a discussion about healthy food choices and she listens instead of yelling at you. (She’s controlling her reactions.)
- She tells you she will eat yogurt for breakfast but she doesn’t like frozen waffles. (She is being collaborative instead of throwing the waffle in your neighbors yard.)
- She admits that she feels fat around her friends. (This shows emotional growth that she can name her feeling instead of acting out this emotion.)
2. Intentionally look for the signs.
Another challenge for moms is that your daughter will never be making perfect progress. It’s messy. She may be making progress in one area and then will blow it in another. For example she finally brought up her grades to all A’s and B’s but then she comes home after curfew reeking of alcohol.
It can feel like the curfew-alcohol incident cancels out the growth of good grades.
But it doesn’t!
All growth counts and can help ground us especially when there is a big upset or disappointment (like the alcohol incident) with your daughter.
One practical way you can intentionally look for the signs is that everyday you write one sign down. You can create a growth journal. Before you go to bed write one things down that shows she is growing. It might be that she ran up to you and gave you a hug out of the blue. That counts. Write it down.
3. Looking for signs of growth help both you and your daughter.
Your teen daughter is hard wired to make mistakes. It can be really hard when your daughter makes a big one. Our imagination torments us. We picture her having a terrible future and homeless.
What we are really looking for is reassurance that our daughter will turn out okay.
We look for A BIG SIGN to calm our fears.
The problem is that the BIG SIGNS don’t happen very often.
As you know, developing a healthy mindset, positive character traits, creating healthy habits and patterns, and maturity takes time (a lot of time) and it often shows up in one little tiny choice or interaction.
Be intentional and look for the small signs that happen every day.
When you see the first bud of maturity in your daughter, it can be such a relief. It’s a sign of new growth, but more importantly it’s a sign that your daughter is going to be okay.