As a single mother of two, now 18 and 21, I can tell you the one and only most important thing to tell your teenager, every day, over and over is "I love you”. A teen psychologist I consulted during a rough time with my kids prompted this epiphany. No matter what else you do or say, “I love you and nothing will change that," can make all the difference. It changed the way I dealt with my teens and it changed the way they related to me.
I started telling my daughter I loved her for no reason. I just said it; in the morning, every time before she walked out the door, during dinner, before bed. Said the same to my son as well. Almost overnight, I could see the change in the way they spoke to me and how much more respectful they were when they came to me with a request.
When my daughter (never my son, boys don't tend to say this) said to me "I hate you!" my standard response was not anger, but to turn to her and say "I'm sorry to hear that, because I love you." She never had a response to that. She might have slammed the door to her room, but it left her with a positive response from me. The "I hate you" statement quickly dissipated because she knew it wasn't getting to me, and that's a priority for a teen, to get you riled up and engaged in angry and combative activity. Doesn’t that leave you feeling awful and out of control? With “I love you” there's hope, which leaves everyone feeling that “I’m sorry” is not far off.
To this day both of my children tell me they love me at the end of every phone call, often and freely. Can’t get much better than that.
Editor's note: Michele Slater is a guest author. Michele is a native New Yorker, small business owner and single Mom to two terrific young adults.