The words Ray said to his father haunted him his entire life. When he became a teenager, he rebelled against his father and they argued more and more. It finally came to a head when Ray said to his dad, “I can never respect a man whose hero was a criminal.” The man he was talking about was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, who was accused of being paid to throw the 1929 World Series. Ray didn’t believe Joe Jackson was guilty. He just said it to hurt his father. Then he left his father’s house and never saw him again.
Ray tells that story to another character, named Terrance, in the movie Field of Dreams. When Terrance asks him why he would say such a thing, since he knew Ray believed Shoeless Joe was innocent, Ray’s reply is simple: “I was 16.” Teenagers are emotional, filled with angst, and impulsive. They often say harsh things without even thinking about it. Although it makes us want to react, we have to be tempered and patient in our responses. That’s easier to do when we’re prepared for what they’re going to say. Here are 5 things teens say that they don’t mean.
1. I hate you.
Teens are impulsive and egocentric with a limited understanding of their effect on others. Add surging hormones and emotions and it can be a perfect storm of hurtful words. A friend of mine recently described how he confronted his son about how reactive he’s been. He said, “Every time I say something you don’t like, you storm off to your room and slam the door.” What did his son do in response? He stormed off to his room and slammed the door. Teens struggle with communicating their frustrations.
What they actually mean: It’s unlikely your teen actually hates you. He or she’s just mad and will eventually cool off.
2. This is stupid.
One of the biggest parts of being a teenager is individuating. They are becoming their own person apart from us. Their goals have changed. They want to spend more time exploring who they are and hanging out with their friends rather than with the family. As a result, they’ll complain about family time and even call it stupid. This can be frustrating and can hurt, particularly when we’ve planned a fun night that’s ruined by a bad attitude.
What they actually mean: They mean that their priorities have changed—but they’ve changed temporarily. Don’t take it personally. They will probably look back at an older age wishing they had focused on family time more.
3. I wish you weren’t my dad.
Teens typically say this when you don’t let them do something they want to do. It’s especially true when all of their friends’ parents have given their kids permission to do what you’re not allowing, whether it’s having a phone, being on social media, or going to a party. Teens tend to care most about their social lives, so if they feel like your boundaries and rules are putting them at a disadvantage, they may lash out or even rebel. But do they really wish you weren’t their dad? Most likely not, even though they seem convincing.
What they actually mean: They wish you weren’t standing in their way. While we don’t want to be overprotective, it’s our job to protect them from things they aren’t ready for. This is a tough one to balance, so we need to seek wisdom and discernment.The way we treat our kids needs to grow with their age.
4. Stop hugging me.
I believe we need to respect the physical boundaries of our teens. But ultimately, a comment like this comes when they feel like we’re still treating them like little kids. Treating them like they’re 10 and under is one thing, but when we do it in front of their friends, it hits a whole new level of embarrassment. With that said, most teens still crave physical affection and they will be more receptive when we treat them with the dignity of their current age.
What they actually mean: They aren’t kids anymore. The way we treat our kids needs to grow with their age.
5. You’re so awkward.
The current generation of teens loves to throw around the word “awkward.” Recently, I was driving with my wife and son. My wife was talking about dating relationships. She wasn’t being inappropriate, but my son kept calling her awkward. She finally asked me, “Is there anything awkward in what I’m saying?” My reply? “Nope.” The reality is teens don’t feel comfortable in their skin. Navigating the world is difficult and the slightest unpredictable statement or subject easily throws them off guard.
What they actually mean: They feel awkward. It has nothing to do with you, unless you’re embarrassing them on purpose. And if you are, good for you. It’s probably good for them.
Sound off: What are some other things teens say but don’t mean?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the best thing anyone has ever said to you? What’s the worst thing?”