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Parenting a teenager can feel like a roller coaster! At times it’s because of the teen’s issues, but sometimes it’s parents that can damage the relationship by getting stuck in the past.

In Scott Sell’s book, “Parenting Your Out Of Control Teenager”, he shares toxic behaviors that can poison your relationship with your teen. One that really struck me was about “Bringing Up The Past”.

Do you forgive your child for bad choices? Do you forget them or remind your child of it often when there’s conflict?

Here’s some ways that getting stuck in the past can damage your relationships with your teen:

They will never feel that their punishment is over

It is hard to forgive and forget, especially when there is a long history of pain. But reminding your child of their mistakes over and over will do nothing good in your relationship with them. It will make them feel punished for their mistake every time.

They will give up trying to change

When you struggle with getting stuck in the past, a child feels like they can’t win. This could cause them to give up trying to change. If trust never gets regained and you always look at them as the mistakes they make, they might feel like love and acceptance will not happen. They may feel that you don’t believe they can change, so why should they even try.

They may feel that the positive is ignored

Of course you can’t forget the mistakes, just make sure you don’t talk about them as punishment and criticism. As your child makes positive changes, try to focus on how far they have come and not how bad they were before. Hearing only the negative can make them feel deflated.

They feel judged

Getting stuck in the past can feel shaming and judgemental. I wouldn’t want someone to only judge me for my past behaviors, so why do that to our kids? Strive towards a closer relationship with your kids today by letting go of the past and focusing on the present and the future.

They don’t feel safe in the relationship

Emotional intimacy requires you to see someone for who they are and not who they were. Getting stuck in the past can blind you from seeing who your child really is now. When this happens, your child might not feel safe to open up and let you in. The trust can be broken and create a lack of safety.

Remember that these things can apply to any relationship- not just parenting! So be aware of getting stuck in the past in any relationship.

Regardless of what age your children are, I hope you will be able to use this information to better your parenting skills and keep a healthy connection with your kids.