Tag Archive for: #parentingteens

A Two-Podcast Week!

I’ve had some really wonderful conversations with folks lately about the new book

This week, two podcast conversations aired and I’m so excited to share them with folks. The first one is Zach Beach’s Learn to Love podcast. He is all about love and the transformational aspects of it and we spent some time talking about why it’s sometimes hard to love teens, but why it’s so important. Check it out here.

The second podcast is from the Conscious Family Project, which is all about and for home schooling families. Ally and I talked about teens and motivation and we had such a great time that she invited me back for a second round to talk about teen social relationships. That one will air soon, but for now, even if you aren’t a home schooling family, you might find some good information here (plus, Ally is an absolute delight to talk to because she is so enthusiastic).

Stay tuned for some more good conversations and please, let me know if you’ve read the book and it has spurred any good talks on your end (or good questions).

Answers Network Interview Question: What if my daughter and grand-daughter are at each other’s throats?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Allen Cardoza of Answers Network about the new book 

We were having such a great conversation that we ran out of time at the end of the show to answer questions, but I wanted to address this one that a listener sent in because it is something I hear often – that there is a pervasive tension between a teen and one or both parents. It is not uncommon for something small to spark what feels like a Cold War and trying to figure out how to get to a place of calm and ease again can feel impossible. So how do we build relationship when it seems like we can’t even stand to be in the same room as someone?

I have a few suggestions:

1. Start Small – small, consistent acts of kindness add up and over time, our kids will begin trusting that we truly do love them and want to be in relationship with them. One great way to do this can be stopping what you’re doing when they walk in the room (close your laptop or put your phone face down, turn to face them), make eye contact, and say, “Hey there! I’m glad to see you.” Don’t ask if they’ve done their homework or chores, challenge them about where they’ve been or where they’re going, comment on what they’re wearing or admonish them for grabbing a snack right before dinner. Just acknowledge your child’s presence and let them know that you’re happy to see them. Period. This will likely seem so unusual that they may be suspicious, but hold your ground. We all love it when someone pays attention to us and acts as if they care that we exist.

2. Include them in the conversation – When you’re debating what to wear to your big meeting or trying to figure out what to cook (or order) for dinner or deciding what caption to use on your latest Instagram post, ask your teen for their opinion. Find things where the stakes are not too high and see what they think. Often, we are all so busy that our interactions with teens become purely transactional – how will you get from Point A to Point B, have you completed your homework/chores, when is that paper due, it’s time to put the phone away and head to bed – and we forget that they have rich inner lives and opinions about all sorts of things. We often tell them what we think they should do, but they don’t usually get to weigh in on our choices and asking them can help them begin to trust that we see them as intelligent, capable human beings.

3. Let your teen be the expert – Teens don’t often get a chance to demonstrate their abilities and ideas to adults unless they’re completing a task we gave them, and they are keenly aware that they are being graded or judged on their performance most of the time. Imagine what it does to a young person to constantly feel as though they are being “taught” (which, by default, means that we are focusing on what they don’t know). Flip that on its head and ask your teen to teach you something, even if it’s not something you are terribly interested in. Maybe they have a favorite video game or are skilled in a sport or creative activity you haven’t ever done. Spend an afternoon letting them take the lead and showing you all the ways they are the expert in something. Let them laugh at how inept you are and don’t take it personally. I am horrible at video games, but I’ll play them if it means getting to hang out with my kids for a while and laugh (even if we are all laughing at me).

These are just three simple ways to begin building connections with our tweens and teens that show them we are interested in who they are as individual people more than we are interested in “teachable moments” or discipline. When we are curious about what others are thinking and feeling, what they’re passionate about, it shows, and if we can see and hear our kids without judgment or feeling like we have to jump in and direct their every move, we are building a foundation that will last for years.

Often, the source of hostility between teens and parents lies in power struggles. Teens are working hard to find parts of their lives where they get to have some autonomy and agency, where they get to make choices, and if we as parents are constantly reminding them that they have no power (and maybe that we aren’t giving them any because we don’t think they’re able to handle it), they will react by shutting down relationship. The fact is, it’s impossible to be in a safe, trusting relationship with someone who has ultimate power over you. So if what we want is to be in relationship with our kids, we have to be willing to start sharing power and seeing them as whole human beings worthy of our consideration.

Thanks to Allen Cardoza and Answers Network for the really great conversation and thanks to the listeners for their important questions. Please grab a copy of the book for more insights and information like this and reach out with other issues you have!

Parenting Soapbox of the Day: Please Stop Using the Word “Independent”

Photo: Imgflip user NickMartin1 https://imgflip.com/user/NickMartin1

I’ve said this before, but I believe it bears repeating. The goal for any of us as adults (or teenagers) is not independence. The opposite of dependence might be independence, but human beings were not designed to be fully separate beings, and, frankly, if we expand our understanding of what it means to be alive, we quickly realize that independence means death. We rely on the natural world to provide us with food and water and air to breathe. We rely on microorganisms within our bodies to help us digest our food, etc. etc.

The goal of raising healthy young adults is interdependence. Humans have a long childhood (much longer than most of the rest of the animal kingdom) for a reason, and that is to allow for optimal physical and brain development. Even if we haven’t set up our school and economic and social systems to support it (spoiler alert: we haven’t), our job as the elders is to nurture our young until their brains and bodies are fully developed. This is typically around age 22-25. Sorry. It just is. And even after that age, these individuals will not be fully independent. I just really wish folks would stop using that term because the more we say it, the stronger the belief that it is possible, and the worse we all feel (parents and kids alike) when it doesn’t happen.

I live alone and mostly handle all my own stuff. Getting food, paying bills, feeding my pets, managing my work schedule. But I am hardly independent. I get food from the grocery store, I go to the doctor when I’m feeling sick, I take my car to the mechanic when it breaks down. Other less “practical” examples include me texting or calling a friend when I’m emotionally overwhelmed and need support or a reality check, heading outside to walk on the beach and stick my toes in the sand when I need a break from being inside, reading a really good book to expand my ideas of what is possible. It is a key life skill to be able to discern when I need some support or help and whom to reach out to in order to get those needs met. When we talk to our kids about them being “on their own” or “independent” someday, we often skip past these kinds of lessons.

How do you know what to do when something goes sideways? How did you learn that?

What are the qualities of the people you trust the most to show up for you in ways that are most helpful? How did you learn that?

Where do you get stuck when you think about asking for help? Is it paralyzing to imagine asking someone for emotional support when you’re (still) grieving the loss of a loved one a year or three later? Who taught you what it looks like to know when you need help and how to ask for it without shame?

These are key questions we as parents need to ask ourselves so that we can begin helping our kids come to terms with the fact that they will never be independent, but they will need to be interdependent. Being interdependent means learning what healthy relationships look like and how to be part of them, but because of all the subtle  – and not so subtle – cultural messages we get about independence being the ultimate goal, it takes practice. The more we give our kids the impression that it is somehow shameful or signals that they are not truly grown up if they aren’t fully independent, the harder it may be for them to seek help and support when they need it, or to even admit that they need it. The mixed messages of “teamwork makes the dream work” co-existing with “you will be graded individually” are mind-bending. Normalizing the concept of relying on other people and discovering what it is that makes us and them trustworthy and accountable to each other can go a long way toward helping teens feel secure. Knowing that we aren’t expected to do everything on our own, solve every problem by ourselves, and be strong and stoic, but rather being able to rest in the larger web of friends and family, understanding and trusting that it is ok for us to ask for help builds a much stronger foundation. I think as parents, on some level we all understand this, but it is incumbent upon us to begin using the right words to convey those messages. If we say to our kids, “you can always come to me for help” in one breath and in the next, tell them, “you’re going to be out on your own someday and I need you to know how to handle this,” that’s confusing. If we pretend that independence is actually an attainable goal and voice that often enough, our kids will believe it and feel as though they’re falling short when they can’t get there. We would do a lot better to help our kids practice knowing when they need to find help and how to do it.