Bullying or Normal Teen Behavior? How to Connect With Your Teen

kids in high school, normal teen behaviorIs this normal teen behavior or…?

Remember way back in middle school when all you cared about was who wore what, who’s listening to who, and how you styled your hair? 

There was so much pressure to fit in—it was borderline exhausting. 

Eventually, we grew into ourselves. We became ok with our unique style and stopped caring about others’ opinions. 

Fast forward to now, moms of teens, and you are going through it. I feel you!

Protecting Your Child Who Wants to Fit In

When it comes to fitting in and wanting so badly to be friends with “the right people,” we know how difficult that can be.

We want to protect our children while letting them know how amazing they are, even without being in “that” group and having “these” clothes. We teach our kids respect, kindness, honesty, and work ethic, and hope it sticks. 

But what happens when your child is being hurt, emotionally or physically, by a child who does not have the same value structure? The thought of another kid putting yours down because of their likes and dislikes is gut-wrenching. The worst part is that you can’t always be sure how to help your kid through these trying situations. 

Is this normal behavior for teen boys and teen girls, or is it bullying? And if it is bullying, what do we do about it? How do we help? Frankly, I’ve been there, and I’ve wanted to meet the kids at the swings and give them a piece of my mind. However, I’m not interested in a lawsuit, and the optics of that scenario aren’t what I’m after. 

To make matters worse, kids aren’t just trying to fit in at school. They’re also being bullied on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. It feels impossible to keep track of their online conversations. It’s impossible to know the source of your child’s sadness! 

Bullying or Normal Teen Behavior?

So, we wonder: Is this where you step back and let your child be independent, or do you step up and talk to parents or the school? Is this normal teen behavior or is this is this bullying?

No matter what, take immediate action to let your kids know you support them. If it’s a bullying situation, contact the school administrators and teachers as soon as possible. You may not realize it, but bullying is a legal violation, and if administrators do not protect your child, you can file a lawsuit against the school.

Parenting teens is a balancing act. You don’t want to step out of bounds and violate the trust you have with your child, but you also don’t want to see your child struggle

Rest assured, you are not alone.

Your child may not believe that one day, not so, ahem, long ago, you too were striving to fit in and to make lasting friendships with the right people. In a situation where your teen comes home from school, throws their backpack down, and heads to their room, you panic. Do you rush to check on them? Do you ask about their day (only to be shrugged off or ignored?) Or do you give them space?

Connecting With Your Teen

The best way to connect with your teen is to check your listening skills. You may be in “fix-it” mode, but let’s be honest with ourselves, did we ever want our parents telling us how to fix things at the moment?! 

Hit the rewind button and think about how you felt in these situations. Unfortunately, our teens get so focused on the present that they lose sight of the big picture, and that’s completely normal. What happens today are the only moments that matter in our teen’s eyes.  

It may pain you to see your child hurting due to the opinions and actions of others, but give your child the opportunity to talk without you rushing to give advice. This is extremely important! Give your teen the floor so they can speak about anything and everything. You can die a little on the inside if you need to, but become a warrior mom on the outside. One who keeps a caring heart and a love for their child’s experiences, no matter what they speak of. 

Be present.

Have intention with your words. 

Become invested in what your teen says. 

Remind them how amazing, innovative, and funny they are.

A New Parenting Relationship Calls for New Behaviors

The things happening in your child’s life are significant to them, and they want those things to be important to you, too. Dealing with social groups and striving to fit in is exactly how they’re supposed to be behaving. They may ask for your advice, they may not, but what they will know is that you are there, and you will listen. 

This whole new parenting relationship you are getting to experience, and not knowing how to navigate it, is ok. The most important thing you can do is build a foundation of trust, love, and support. Your child is growing up, and you’re growing with them. 

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins, two 15 year olds. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog, ichoosechange.com