Grudge Match

Grudge Match

The other day, I noticed something different.

“Hi Sweety!”

“Hey…” she mumbled under furrowed brows.

“Hmm…” I thought, “That’s funny. What did I do? What did I do?” See, my daughter isn’t really one to hold a bad day against everyone she meets. She’s also not the type to act crappy to others when one person was crappy to her. Yeah, this is about me.

The day before, she got yelled at for chores, and by that, I mean,

lack of doing her chores. Normally, this results in an hour or so of resentment during the chores, and an acknowledgment of why I made her do them. But not this time! She’s still mad. “What the…?  It’s been over a day!  She’s still mad?”  I don’t know when she went from “Yeah, I get it. Your rules are stupid and all, but they serve a purpose” to “Alright, jerk-face-head, I’m never going to forgive you!”. OK, so she’s somewhere in between.

The point is, she’s started holding a grudge. Remember when they would be mad at you, then something shiny showed up and all was good? As they grow older, I guess our kids stop being easily reminded that we’re the good-guys.

Making it right

A few hours or a big hug and “I love you” don’t really do it anymore. So, the time to take action is upon us!

Post parental-fury, we need to remind ourselves it’s important to re-connect with our teens. They now have a support system, other than us, and it’s really easy to lose them entirely to it. Since it’s always our job to lead the relationship with our children, we can easily re-connect with them by doing something together.

It doesn’t really matter what it is – as long as it meets three simple criteria:

1. They don’t hate it entirely. I know… I know… teens hate everything! But, there’s really varying degrees of teen angst. Pick the least hated thing.

2. It helps nurture and maintain the type of relationship you want to have with your teens. For me, it’s laugh and have fun. I figure if you’re not having fun with something, what’s the point of doing it? Since that’s a lesson I keep trying to remind my daughter, I pick things we can easily laugh about.

3. It doesn’t take the entire day where they can’t do anything else. At that point, you need to plan it, so it doesn’t feel like they’re being punished and have to spend the day with you.  And while I’m at it, when did spending the day with you become a punishment?  I sure know spending the day with mom feels like torture.


Yep, I made her help me plant some things. I ordered a couple rhizomes a few weeks ago and they’ve been living in the fridge. So, now was the perfect time to get them in the ground – well, in the pots. The cool thing about planting with kids of any age is that you can always use the plants as a way to connect. For the next few months, we can check to look for growth, foliage, and buds. I know it sounds silly, but it is a little deeper than “How was your day?” “Fine.”  Even if there’s an emphasis on “a little deeper”.

If you choose to go this route, you can make it more fun:

  • Plant their favorite flower – even if it’s a Venus flytrap.
  • Plant something you can eat – peppers, mint, etc.
  • Name them – yep, we planted Hoptimus Prime and Magnumtron.

Try go-karts, grabbing or making their favorite meal together, or starting a puzzle. These things sound trivial, and like you’re teen will totally hate them, but they’re good ways of creating a space for easy conversation. Please, please, please, I beg you, do not suggest you “sit and talk”. I guarantee that’s going to seem like a punishment.

A trick that works for me is asking for help doing something instead of offering to do something together. “Hey Bot!  Can you help me with this post I’m writing? Perfect!”  Also, note the lack of giving her time to answer. Key parenting move right there.

By the end of our little deviation from mad-train, she was smiling, we had a little fun with dirt, got some pics together, and no more Mr. Bad-guy.  Grudge successfully thwarted!

Oh sure!  That’s not gonna work with my kid.

I’m not a huge fan of forcing teens into a scheduled time with parents. I do think taking the time to remind our teens (and ourselves) that we can still have a great relationship even after we’ve been the big meany head. I know it gets tougher each day to say “Hey, let’s do something together!” and not get discouraged by the barrage of “I’m busy”, “Not now” and “Seriously?” replies. We are still the parents, though, so let’s keep at it until they leave home.

Then, we can act like humans again! But, for now, being able to enjoy the fruits of our relationships with our kids – and making sure those relationships stay healthy and in tact – is the next best thing.


Now, you can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.





  1. Avatar
    Rachael Kay Albers October 25, 2013

    Stu — speaking as a former “begrudging” teen I think your article is spot on: kinda wish I had planted some stuff with my parents back in the day! (p.s. Love the photo documentation)

  2. Avatar
    Megan October 25, 2013

    Great post, Stu! I love the creative approach you’ve used in engaging in a project that you can continue to connect with over time. Pinning this to my board of “things for future kids”. Love this post!

  3. Avatar
    Erin Muldoon Stetson October 25, 2013

    Thanks Stu!!!!!! That was VERY helpful. My youngest sister is 15 years old and likes to hold a grudge. It can be so painful and seemingly impossible to penetrate at times. So, inspired by your sage advice, I just texted an invitation to her to help me carve pumpkins with my 3.5 year old daughter and 4.5 year old son. I’ve got my fingers crossed. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Stu October 25, 2013

    That’s perfect! I mean, she just helping out for the little ones, right? Well played! I’d love to know how it goes.

    It is heartbreaking at times, but as the elder, it’s great that you’re taking the initiative. I’m impressed.


  5. Avatar
    Stu October 25, 2013

    Thanks Rachael. I think you hit on something there. I know I do a lot of things with my daughter that I wish my parents had done with me. As a younger parent, I still kind of remember those days.

    Check out some of my other articles for more fun photos. I’m terribly lucky at how funny she is.

  6. Avatar
    Stu October 26, 2013

    Creative parenting is a [b]must[/b] these days! On a totally random note, we also planted “mystery bulbs” that were her favorite flower. They blossomed while I was traveling back from Portland. She texted me a pic all excited.

  7. Avatar
    Carley October 30, 2013

    I couldn’t agree more with your approach… and I’m hoping it works when my girls are teens, but right now they’re “pre-tween” (age 8) and I already notice how much they value my time and attention. As working parents with long commutes and busy schedules that include sports for them and grad school for me, our routines are very “must do” oriented. We must grab a meal, we must get homework done, we must go to their cheerleading competitions. We enjoy all the time we spend together, but the girls long for time together that is not a “must”. Sadly, there is not much “extra” time to commit to these little “me & you” adventures. However, I notice when I make the time – they’re behavior and attitudes completely reflect it… for the better. Thanks for reminding me of the important patterns and groundwork I need to lay now so the teenage years might be a little easier (if there is such a thing with 3 daughters)…

  8. Avatar
    Stu October 30, 2013

    Wow! Hopefully when grad school is done, that’ll free up some schedule for “you & them” time. It becomes increasingly important, I think, as kids get to the stage where they don’t think they “need” it and even more so when they simply don’t want it.

    Thanks for the comment,



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