If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Teflon Mom

I used to be so sensitive.

As I kid, you only had to look at me the wrong way and I’d practically burst into tears. As I got older, I toughened up a bit.

But I still took things personally. (Just ask my husband.)

Little did I know that there is a sure-fire, cure-all for developing a thick skin. You might have the antidote in your house right now. If not, don’t worry. You’ll acquire one soon enough. Your penchant for taking things personally will be remedied when you find yourself the parent of one of these:

Now, a teenager can’t cure you overnight. No, when I first got one, I used to be regularly wounded and devastated by the parenting critiques and cries of injustice. But over time, they began to have a numbing effect and I’m learning to become “Teflon Mom” -- unfazed by the dramatics and undeterred from doing what I know is right despite the opposition.

Here’s a few familiar teenage mantras that I’ve become adept at deflecting:

Teenager: Everybody’s doing it!
Teflon Mom: Really, is this all you’ve got? I bet Cain and Abel used this one on Adam and Eve. Considering they were the only humans on earth, I doubt they had much of a case, either.

Teenager: You hate me!
Teflon Mom: Well, duh! Clearly any decision a parent makes to protect and guide their children is obviously motivated by extreme cruelty. What’s your point?

Teenager: I’m going and you can’t stop me!
Teflon Mom: Without transportation? Not likely.

Teenager: You guys don’t let me do anything!
Teflon Mom: Not true, but that can be arranged.

(Now, I'm not advocating using sarcasm with your teen, but I've found a little good-natured humor in these situations can help defuse the tension.)

Even the best cures usually take some cooperation on our part. And learning to become a “Teflon Mom” requires you refrain from doing three things:

1. Over-reacting. This is my personal favorite because I used to be so good at it! For example, when your teen tells you, “You hate me!” it's not a good strategy to say, “Don’t you know how much I’ve done for you?! How can you say that?! You are so ungrateful!” and then run to your room and burst into tears. Just sayin’.

2. Defending. We’re the parents. At times, it might be appropriate to explain your decision and use it as a teaching moment. However, teens are experts at putting you in defensive mode, which is always a position of weakness. I’ve been trying to remember Matthew 5:37 (NLT): "Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.' Anything beyond this is from the evil one."

3. Being manipulated. Teens just want their way. And you are the barrier. So, they’ll use any means or argument necessary to get you to see things from their point of view. “You let me do this last time.” or “So-and-so’s parents let her do it. Are you saying they’re bad parents?” Stand firm. They'll never admit it, but they actually do want consistent boundaries from us. It gives them stability and shows them we care.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I LOVE my teenager. God has used her more than anything or anyone in my life to shape me and challenge me to be more like Him.

But that doesn’t mean I need to get sucked in on lines like this one (used on me last week): “Mom, studies show that parents who let their kids have lots of freedom are a lot less rebellious than strict parents like you guys, who don’t let their kids do anything. Studies show!!”

Nice try, Molly, but it ain’t gonna stick.



  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm so glad you're going through this before me and can share your wisdom. lol I'm already becoming Teflon mom to my toddler's (surprisingly) withering glances and "No hug mama!" strategy. My husband, on the other hand, said yesterday in the car--and I'm not even kidding---"Stop kicking mama's seat or...I'll tickle youuuuu!" Really? Really? He hasn't yet become accustomed to being on my son's bad side. In time, in time.

  2. I think my husband is more guilty of letting things stick then me. I try not to let those things stick. :O)

  3. You have to give her credit for trying, though!

  4. Great tips! I love that last line! LOL!

  5. I'm glad I've got some time before we hit those years! This is seriously good advice though--it's pretty much how my mom handled me.

    Rachel's right--they start learning it early! Sweet'ums has already thrown a few teen-worthy tantrums, complete with running to her room and throwing herself on her bed, crying. Luckily for me right now she's in the middle of a sweet phase and can't seem to give me enough hugs. I wonder what she's up to...

  6. Such appropriate timing Melinda! I need to staple this post to my forehead! It can be hard in the heat of the moment to remember these guidelines but I am going to try try again!

    For me, the worst is "It' not fair!" I just want to screech at that one!

  7. Having three grown children, this post sounds strangely familiar. LOL

    I've heard all of these lines, and more. Parents need to remember that children need us to be their parents and not their friends. Sometimes we feel guilty and let them get away with things because we want them to like us, and we don't want to feel guilty about saying "no".

    Of course, I tried some of those lines too when I was a teen. GASP.

  8. **Laughing*** Oh yes, preach on! Funny but hard to do. I'll cheer you on, dear friend. Yay!

  9. Oh, Melinda, you're wise beyond your years -- and thanks so much for sharing it with us! I think teaching teenagers helped teach me a bit before ours aged into that. But you're so right! More power to you.

  10. Read my post Teenitis, you'll get a kick out of it. Thanks for your tips! From one trying to be Teflon to another.

  11. I agree with Rachel - so grateful for your wisdom! :) I need to be a Teflon wife, too, I think... ;)

  12. I am currently the parent of a Tween and she is always trying to work us. But I give myself a littl pep talk everyday and am resolved to do what is best for her in the long run, not what is easiest or what would make me more popular with her.
    It is going to be a long few years, but I hope that all the effort will pay off in the end.
    Thanks for the great post!

  13. Ha! Yes, been there done that! The alien that held our boys hostage finally left when they turned 18. Now they are wonderful adults, but I remember those years all too well!

    My favorite line when trying to 'talk' to my middle and youngest sons, which meant me asking them because they never offered any information, was, " OK 20 question mom"

    I was the 20 question mom, although I'm sure I asked more questions than 20!

    I'm gonna have to follow along to see more of your great wisdom!

  14. Great blog and so true! I had a spell where 2 separate times I had 4 teenagers at once. I wrote a blog entitled, "Who Is This Teenager In My House and What Did You Do With My Child?"
    Some days I feel like I am still recovering.
    You have a great attitude!
    Keep up the great work.
    It is so worth it!

  15. This is good stuff!! I can see myself as a teenager between those lines. I will have to bookmark this and read it when my 6 y/o & 2 y/o are older. Actually, forget that. I can already apply these principles to those little stinkers!

    On another note, thanks so much for featuring me as the guest blogger for the weekend!! I really do appreciate that kind gesture.

  16. Kids are still using that "But everybody's doing it!" line? It never worked on my parents so I thought it had gone out of fashion. LOL. Seriously, I'm going to have to echo all the others who said they are thankful you are going through this first - the wisdom you gain from parenting a teenager is definitely going to be of huge benefit to us when we get there.

    Thankfully I've still got some time to grow thicker skin as my daughter only turned 1 today. But I'm pretty sure time is on fast-forward these days so there's that... ;)

  17. Oh I love this Melinda! Teflon Mom. I'm going to start practicing now so I'll be ready for the teen years.


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