And Your Teen's Diagnosis is..."Too Much Yes"!

Aug 05, 2020

Does this sound strange to you?  Well…it might but it is important, and I have worked with many, many teenagers who I have diagnosed with this “condition”.  Now, I am obviously being a bit sarcastic to make this point, but it is because I have seen the positive changes that can occur when parents (and their teenagers) realize that “too much yes” is central to many of the issues they are having.  "Too much yes" happens when parents have not been firm enough with limits, restrictions, and in saying “no” to some things their children want or want to do. 


“Too much yes” results in teenagers not understanding that they sometimes need to work harder to get what they want.  “Too much yes” results in teenagers not understanding there are consequences for their actions.  “Too much yes” results in teenagers not learning to tolerate discomfort or negative emotions.  “Too much yes” results in teenagers not experiencing the real world where they will hear “no” over and over. 


It is understandable how parents can fall into this trap and it can happen in a few different ways.  First, parents want their children to be happy, so they try to give them what they want and what will make them happy.  This makes sense, however, if teens get everything they want, they never learn to sit with the discomfort of not getting their needs met immediately.  This makes it challenging to teach them to work hard for what they want.


Second, as children move into the pre-teen and teen years, they often begin questioning, badgering, pleading and guilt tripping parents.  These behaviors can be exhausting so sometimes parents “give in” to their demands because it is simply easier and less stressful than dealing with their teen’s full on attack of them.  As the parent of a teenager, you are tired and likely juggling too many things at once so if you have fallen victim to this, it makes complete sense. 


Finally, this can occur when 2 parents are no longer together and one or both are wanting to go above and beyond for their teen, either out of guilt for no longer being with the other parent, or because they are in conflict with the other parent and want to be the “favorite parent”. I know this one may sound a bit harsh, however, I have seen this happen many times and it is not an effective way to parent.  When parents are not parenting consistently, whether they are together or not, teenagers will pick up on this and use it to their advantage. 


Regardless of how this situation develops, what happens is that teenagers who have experienced any of these scenarios cannot tolerate hearing “no”, or having limits set on them.  They want what they want, when they want it and cannot tolerate anything different. Parents with teenagers who are in this situation find themselves in a battlefield when they attempt to exert authority or set limits.  Teens push back so much that it often results in parents compromising or “giving in” out of pure frustration or exhaustion. 


In order to rid children of the “too much yes” diagnosis, parents must change their own behavior.  In a perfect world, we would just be able to have teens change how they are acting, however, that is not realistic or within a parent’s control.  The strategies below are 100% within your control, as the parent.  It will not be easy initially, but the lasting impact will make parenting your teenager easier and ultimately will help them develop the life skills that will help them succeed in the “real world” where they will hear “no” on a regular basis.


The tips below will help you make changes that will reduce conflict, help your teen have a more predictable environment with clear expectations and will help you, as the parent, have more confidence and assurance that you are preparing your teen for what they will experience throughout the rest of their lives.


  1. Decide what few things you really want to change and make a commitment to change them. For example, do you want to establish a consistent curfew and stick with it?  Do you want to have your teen off their electronics at a certain time every night?  Do you want to require that your teen eat family meals with you?  Do you want your teenager to stop speaking to you inappropriately?  Whatever it is, be clear with yourself about what you want to change.


  1. Sit down with your teenager and let them know that there needs to be some changes. They will not like this, however, having an honest conversation about this is important.  Acknowledge that you have allowed things to get out of control and that is not want you want for your family, and then be clear with them about what you feel needs to change.


  1. Validate them. Hear what they have to say and reflect it back to them (you don’t need to agree with them).  Let them know that you understand these changes can be hard and that you want to work with them and not against them.


  1. Ask them for input. Teenagers like control and it may feel to them like they are losing all control in their lives.  Ask them if they have ideas about rules or if they have suggestions and try to listen with an open mind and incorporate any that seem reasonable.  I have found that teens can be surprising and sometimes their ideas about what is reasonable is not that far off than the ideas of their parents.  If they feel like they have some control and input, their buy in will be much better.  If their ideas are not reasonable, you can still acknowledge that you heard them, however, you will want to stick with your initial plan regarding what needs to change.


  1. Review and be clear. Let them know what is changing, what the consequences will be for not following the new rules and when these changes will go into effect (ideally right away).  Sometimes writing the new expectations down is helpful.  Keep it short and sweet and remain calm, even if they are trying to escalate the situation.  Remember, they will likely feel like they are losing control so they may do what they can to attempt to get you to change your mind.


  1. Do this all from a place of love and respect. Be sincere and be respectful towards your teen during the conversation – even if they are struggling with this on their end.


  1. Don’t Give In! All of this will be undone if you don’t follow through and BE CONSISTENT.  They may challenge you, but you will need to start over every time you give in.  It may be hard or feel worse initially. If this happens, remind yourself that things need to change and that you want to teach them patience, responsibility and how to tolerate negative emotions appropriately when things don’t go their way.


With your commitment and consistency, the “too much yes” diagnosis can go away forever.  You’ve got this! For ongoing tips and support, go to my How To Parent A Teen Facebook group.  I look forward to seeing you there!

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