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2 Pieces Of Advice That Might Stop Me From Disowning My Teen

Modern Parent

Daniil Onischenko

One night about six months ago, my newly-teenage daughter went to bed with a sweet smile nudging her cheeks. The next morning she awoke with the tsunami-ish mission to personally break me.

Topped up with rage, she overflows at everything I say. It matters not if I’m giving a compliment, offering advice, doling out chores, or reprimanding her. Her response is always anger.

“Why would you compliment me? Are you weighing my worth on my outer appearance?” she shouts before stomping holes into our flooring and sending a few loose laundry items on her bedroom floor flapping. One blankets the cat who, just as shocked, somersaults over a slippery stack of books.

I can’t win.

“How the hell am I going to live through this?” I ask a friend who is still ingesting way too much booze and rom-coms years after her obnoxious teen finally exploded into a wonderful young woman.

“You make it through. I don’t know how, really, but you do.”

This advice doesn’t seem to help. My personal search for answers leads to very few practical suggestions. Start drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Check. Find some personal space. Every time she storms off, I am left alone, so Check.

Somehow you’re just supposed to “make it through ” and hope that no individual is harmed in the making of this adult.

Finally, I sought the recommendation of my daughter’s therapist. Here are her two pieces of advice that I’m hoping will help. Acknowledge and Validate.


What does it mean to acknowledge, I wondered? Corporate Communication Experts explain it as “acknowledging what someone has said is a way of letting the person know that you are listening and that you have heard what they have said.”

I’m a fixer. I’m the kind of person who swears that there is a solution to everything. If you tell me your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, I will give you my experience as well as 45 googled procedures for you to try.

Apparently, though, instead of trying to Mike Holmes my way through it, I need first to acknowledge. I need to hear what my teen is saying.

Tony Calabrese offers the following ways to acknowledge someone.

• What you’re saying is …….
• Let me see if I get this …….
• I’m hearing you say ……..
• What you’re telling me is that ……..
• In other words …….
• Let me give that back to you so we can make sure I got it.

At first, paraphrasing my daughter’s words felt awkward. “So you’re saying you were angry when I…” After the third time on the first day, she turned to me, sighing, “Mom, why do you keep repeating what I’m saying?”

It has gotten easier. Rather than immediately offering solutions, I simply repeat back what I think is her emotion. When I’m wrong, she corrects me. It feels like we are slowly getting to the heart of the matter.

“So you were frustrated that I didn’t let you finish your chapter before insisting you clean the bathroom?” “No, Mom, I’m angry. Why do you get mad when we interrupt you? But I’m not allowed to be angry?


I can’t simply acknowledge, though, without the next step of validation. AbsoluteTransitions explains that “While acknowledging is your way of indicating that you hear a person’s words, validating is getting in touch with their emotions.”

Not only do I need to recognize my teen’s emotions and responses, but I need to validate her. Empathy is also essential. Validation is about accepting, not judging.

“Validation comes with no judgment as to if they are right or wrong. No judgment as to if it is a good idea or a bad idea. When a person receives validation from a listener (which could be their boss or their manager or someone in authority) they feel that they have a right to feel the way they do. They feel validated.” Corporate Communication Experts

My teen wants to be heard as well as ratified. She needs to know I have listened, and I empathize.

Bonus: this applies to all people

And the perk is this doesn’t just apply to teens. I’ve realized that being a “fixer,” I often offer suggestions rather than simply listening. I’ve been trying it out on innocent victims such as friends and colleagues alike. Acknowledging and validating can apply to everyone. Who doesn’t like to be heard, after all? And who doesn’t want empathy?

So far

Sure, my daughter is still Crankster Galore, and I’m still ingesting enough wine that I probably should invest in a vineyard somewhere. But she seems to feel a little more understood. And maybe, just maybe, I will make it through these teen years with what’s left of my sanity intact.

Care to join me…on my trip to the liquor store?

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