A mom and her teenage daughter, with arms crossed speaking angrily with each other

What no one tells you: Why Parenting a Teenager is SO Hard!

Parents often ask me why parenting a teenager is so hard. I’ll tell you why, it’s because of what’s taking place in your teenager’s brain.  The last time your child’s brain went through a similar thing to this was when they were about two years old; the terrible two’s!  Do you remember?!?  It was pretty awful, wasn’t it? 

At that time their brain was developing new neural connections and going through its first stage of learning how to separate from a caregiver.  This came with all kinds of challenges, not pretty!  Now, your teenager’s brain is going through a very similar thing.  This time, it’s just trying to specialize in brain development in terms of neural connections and get rid of things that no longer work for it.  But, prior to this, there was this really peaceful period of time during childhood when none of that was taking place.  Now, it’s starting all over again.  

If you don’t believe me let me make some comparisons between a two-year-old and a teenager:

  •  A two year old likes to rebel against parental requests, remember that’s when they learned the word “no!”  Well a teenager is going to be doing the same thing.  You might hear, “no, you can’t control me!”  Same thing, bigger body.  
  • A two year old is really fascinated but also somewhat scared of peers and other children.  Well, what do we see with a teenager?  They’re also fearfully fascinated with their peers.  
  • A two year old has a lot of control issues.  Remember when they didn’t want to potty train and that was such a problem?  Or when they would close their mouth and refuse to eat the green beans?  Well, teenagers are very similar only now they are going to rebel against things like curfews and their going to clench their mouth closed and not speak to you.  Sound familiar? 
  • A two year old is very possessive of their toys.  They want to have them to themselves, “mine, mine!”  A teenager is very possessive of any romantic interest they have.  So if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they are going to fearfully hold onto that with everything they’ve got.  
  • A two year old is going to struggle to dominate in play.  They want to be in charge or be the boss or come up with the idea.  A teenager is going to want to dominate in social structure.  This is the ever elusive “popularity contest”. 
  •  And even more scary is a two year old, remember, they put everything in their mouths from buttons to bugs and you just keep finding things on the floor you never knew existed before?  A teenager is going to want to put everything in their mouth as well, from alcohol to drugs.  

So as you can see, it’s the same thing just in a grown-up body.  That’s why parenting a teenager is so hard and you’re going so crazy trying to cope with it.  So, follow me, we’ll get you some tips on how to handle it and get through it.  Just know that you aren’t crazy, and your kid isn’t crazy.  Their brain is just going through a similar developmental phase as when they were to only now in that grown up body.  We will get you through it!

Kelly Petyon, expert in parenting a teenager

Author, Kelly Peyton, MA, LPC-S, RPT-S is an expert in Teen Counseling, Parenting a Teenager, and Child Therapy. Visit Kelly’s Page to learn more about her and her services.

You may find more places Kelly has been quoted as an expert and on parenting a teenager here:

CW39 News:  Parenting Styles and Pot Use in Teens

CW39 News:  Parenting and Behavior Problems

Addiction Professional June 2015:  Tackle Teens’ Resistance to Group Engagement

Katy Magazine April/May 2016:  The Truth About School Cliques

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