Parenting teenagers has its ups and downs. In this series of four videos, parenting coach Amy Speidel offers strategies for some common parenting dilemmas, including:
- How to talk to teenagers so they’ll make better choices
- What to do when you’ve made a mistake
- Why we need to take a moment sometimes
- Why “AND” should be a regular part of your parenting vocabulary.
Video #1: Ask Questions Instead of Offering Solutions
Transcript: When we think about the challenges that we have with teenagers. so much of it is that is a that we are relying on are expertise from past years. Being a teenager is an entirely different thing than being a child. So those adolescent years are really about preparing for the future. And one of the things that we want to recognize is up until a certain time information is really valuable for children. We give them information. Here’s what’s happening, here’s how we’re doing this, here’s what you need to do, here’s what you need to pack. When they get to those teen years, they’re preparing for that future. So we’re going be more curious than informational. We’re going give a lot of curiosity to that.
So, that when teenager comes in and they say, “I’m going over to Justin’s for the afternoon.” Instead of saying, “You’ve got a report due tomorrow. You need to stay here and work on that report. You’re going to say, “Well, I’m curious. How is it that you see this working in with the other things that you’ve got on your plate right now?”
That puts the onus on them. Now I’ve got to figure out how to organize myself instead of having my parent do all that organization stuff for me. And what will normally happen is this: “I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done. Don’t be on my back about it.” You can say, “Okay so you have a plan. I’d like to hear that plan so that I know what’s going to be happening as well. So what’s your plan for fitting this into a busy week.” Then they’ve got to come up with the plan.
Nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to be reminded of the work. However, when you’re curious and helpful and getting them to problem solve that for themselves, then they take the responsibility instead a feeling that you’re always on them and they would have gotten it done if you just would’ve let them go. They’ve got do it now.
Let’s say it falls through the crack and they end up not getting the report done, then that’s a learning experience. You could say, “You thought you were going have time, then your margins just filled up and you didn’t have time.” Your teen may say something like, “Well, I didn’t know the car was going to break down. I didn’t know . . . whatever” You say, “You didn’t know all that stuff and so now that you do know you can get thrown off track, what would you do differently next time.”
So consequences are part living out your own decision rather than trying to avoid the consequence by trying to make sure that your kid never makes a mistake in the first place. Let them live it out. So curiosity trumps information once they are teens.
Video #2: When You Make a Mistake, Recover with Grace
Transcript: There are a couple reasons why at the end of the day, we may feel like we haven’t quite nailed it. In fact, not only haven’t quite nailed it, we have completely screwed up our kids. Like to the core. So when we go to bed and we feel as if they would be better raised by wolves, here’s what we want to do instead. We want to recognize that we get to make mistakes and recover as well. The more we make those mistakes and recover with grace, the more our kids really understand how to do that as well.
In this society right now, we don’t recover well from mistakes. So when you make them, let your kids now that you’re going to try to do that differently. However making mistakes is just part of being human. So the first piece that we’re going to do is acknowledge it. “That didn’t go so well. I’d like to do that differently.” In fact I recommend that more than saying “I’m sorry” because I’m sorry runs a little thin after a while. “That didn’t go so well. It didn’t work for me. I’m guessing it didn’t work for you. I’d like to try that again.” When we take personal responsibility, instead of saying “You’re the one driving me crazy. You’re the one that makes me look like I’m not a good mom,” then they learned to also take personal responsibility for their own mistakes.
The second piece to this is we’ve got to have a way to open back the part of our brain that is brilliant. So in conscious discipline, we teach smile, take a deep breath, and relax. There’s a reason for that. When you get tight and your heart rate goes up. Anybody out there, you know your heart rate goes up sometimes just when they walk in the door because now all of the stuff they’ve done that irritates you comes flying into your body right? So your heart rate goes up. We want to take the heart rate down. So you just push your cheeks up and smile.
With teenagers, I say smile away. A little confusion around what’s happening with you is a good thing. Like “Oh my gosh, she’s going crazy.” So you smile, then you take a deep breath. When you do that, you have taken down your heart rate and you repositioned your brain to actually keep your executive state open.
The reason that we don’t act out of our brilliance is because we’re acting out of our emotional state or our survival state. So what we want to do instead is bring ourselves back up here and you do that by turning off the alarm system, when you push your cheeks up, it turns off the bells in your head because it takes your heart rate down. Your body thinks you’re actually delighted even though you’re not. Then you take a deep breath and you bring in oxygen, that’s brain food, and then you relax your body, which turns off any residual flight, fight or defend.
So we I do those steps, now I’m ready to pick up the tools that I had. How many times have you known that it could have gone differently, if you just would have done this instead. You didn’t not do it because you didn’t want to. You didn’t do it because you were not in the part of your brain that knows how to do it. So smile, take a deep breath, relax go and back to your brilliance.
Video #3: I Can’t Manage Right Now
Transcript: So, we all know that kids can drive us nuts. We all know that. And what I want you to really think about is, When is it more likely to happen? So have you ever noticed that your kids are more likely to get on your case and bug you when you’re tired and in a hurry and have got other things on your mind? When you have already exhausted your willpower for the day? So it’s important to recognize that will power is an exhaustible resource. We only have so much of it. I sometimes say about myself, my kindness bank can be depleted and then I just don’t want to be kind anymore. So there’s a point where we need to refill.
If we’re on each other’s case about that, instead a recognizing perhaps this is more about me than you right now. Perhaps I’m not in the best place to manage all that’s coming at me, we will stop blaming other people for upsetting us. If I’m feeling upset, then I’m going to take responsibility for that. Just take a moment. Think about what’s going on in me that makes this feel so much harder than it did just hours ago.
Perhaps it’s because there’s so much going on I can’t respond to you in with my best self. It’s important for kids to know that as adults we get tanked. They get tanked out. So when I say to them, “I’m not at my highest self right now. I’m going to back up out of the situation, so that I can regain my composure. I’ll be back.” It gives us a chance to stop and reflect. We don’t have to stay in the argument.
It’s kind of like, you know, when you get that craziness and you’re on the crazy train and it’s like I’m going to stay on a crazy train and you’re going to get the power of this. As soon as you recognize, it’s not going in a positive direction. Stop, change directions, and say “I’ll be in charge of me.” It’s not anybody else’s fault that I got crazy. Again, we all want to blame somebody. But back it up, take a deep breath, relax your body, and pay attention to what you can bring to that circumstance rather than what you don’t want to bring.
Video #4: Use “And” Instead of “But”
Transcript: One of the things we have in our language is the word “but.” We put “but” into lots of different places. For instance, we apologize with “but.”
“I’m sorry that I yelled at you, but here’s why it was your fault. I wouldn’t get out of control if you would manage yourself. I wouldn’t have to yell if you would listen first time.”
But says whatever comes after this word I find much more important than what I just said to you. So when we are encouraging kids and we think we’re encouraging them by saying things like, “Well, you got some of it done but you still have a lot more to do.” What we’re saying is the first part of that sentence really doesn’t matter nearly as much as the end of it. “You know you picked up a couple things but look at the rest of the room,” says I’m noticing the deficit instead of what just happened first.
So we’re going just shove “but” out the window and replace it with “and.”
“I’m sorry that I yelled at you all and I believe that we can do this differently. I would like to give it another shot. Are you willing?” So “and” puts a connection between the first thing that we say and the last thing. And when we’re encouraging, it sounds like this. “Wow, you already got a couple things done and you have a few more things to finish up. Yay for you. You’re already on track. Go for it.”
That feels a lot more encouraging than feeling as if the first things that I’ve already done are less important than the deficit. So “and” instead of “but.” Just pay attention to that one little thing see if it makes a difference. You’ll know if it works because you’ll get a different response. If it doesn’t get a different response that’s not the one for you. But try it out see how it goes.