Your Teen’s ‘Tude is a Developmental Stage

by Christine Agro

As we get out of the car, Caidin says to me, ‘I’ll come back for my stuff.’

I immediately react and start in on him with, ‘why don’t you bring it in now. Go back and get it and just bring it all in.’ I will admit, I went on a bit about it.

Finally, he says to me, ‘Mom, I don’t mind when you tell me important things, but really, I’m pretty sure the world’s not going to end if I bring my bag in later. Why can’t you just let me make this decision for myself.’

Seriously. That’s what I get for raising a conscious, verbal child. Of course, he was right. 

This isn’t the first time Caidin has stopped me in my parent-mode tracks with his clarity and logic. 

The tween/teen years are where our kids are becoming the adults they will be. If we parent too tightly, we take away this significant time in their lives where they can experiment, make choices, and still have us right there to guide them and support them when they need it.

I see these years very much as parallels to the early toddler years when Caidin would move away from me to play, but always come back to touch me as a moment of reassurance. The tween/teen years are so similar. They are becoming who they will be — testing out what works for them and what doesn’t. Venturing farther away from us, but then circling back for that moment of grounding. 

As your child is evolving, keep in mind that this is the time for them to test things out and try things on. We have to hope the seeds we planted and the values we instilled are there growing in the core of their being. We have trust and give them the space to become who they want to become. 

It can be easy to overlook this important developmental stage. Let’s face it, our days of looking for developmental milestones and googling, ‘what should my child be doing at…,’ fade away as our kids get older, but the developmental stages continue right on up and through their twenties. 

In addition to eating more and needing more sleep, the difference in social and emotional intelligence will morph significantly between 13 and 18. You’ll see the child become an adult, seemingly overnight.

The transformation between the Seventh and Eighth grade was particularly wild to witness. I take a photo of Caidin at the beginning of each school year and often will post them side-by-side because as he’s moved into his teens, his physical development has been so incredible to watch. 

Gone is the little boy. Enter, the young man.

But it isn’t just the physical changes. Our teens are going through cognitive, social, and emotional changes that are just as dynamic, but we don’t always take the pause to acknowledge and explore what they are experiencing during this powerful transformation.

Here are a few things your teen is experiencing:

Cognitive

  • Begin to set goals for the future.
  • Develop a strong sense of right and wrong.
  • Actions are predicated on that sense.

Social/Emotional

  • 14 Year Olds – Are embarrassed by their family. Yes, it’s a developmental stage.
  • 15 Year Olds – Don’t want to talk as much and can be argumentative.
  • 16 – 18 Years Old – Start relating to family better and seeing parents as ‘real people.’

So where we understood and made room for our child to have a temper tantrum as a 3-year-old, we forget that the development continues and the surely, argumentative nature of an early teen is par for the course.

When we understand this, we can move away from taking it personally. We didn’t take the toddler tantrum personally, so there is no need to here. It’s a stage. 

Give your teen space to make decisions. Give them understanding and room to be in the developmental stage they are in while at the same time, offer them the compassionate guidance to help them navigate the tremendous transformation they are experiencing. 

Christine Agro is a Conscious Living & Conscious Parenting Expert, seen on Good Morning Connecticut, Good Day Chicago, Late Night with Seth Meyers, featured in The New York Times and quoted in various outlets. Her life’s mission, aside from raising a Conscious Child, is to offer a perspective on our day-to-day lives that provides clarity, insight, and life changing ‘aha’ moments.Christine can be found at www.awakenandgrow.com and on all social media as @christineagro and she’d love to hear from you!