Do you have to wake up a grumpy kid in the morning who doesn’t want to get out of bed?

Are you struggling to get your grumpy kid out to the door in the morning?

The first part of the day is stressful for many parents as they try to gently cajole their pre-teen out of bed. When gentle doesn’t work, they resort to pulling off bedsheets, yelling, threatening and other antics that make them feel resentful and annoyed that the day has now taken an ugly turn.

It seems like it’s your KID that is causing you to get frustrated in the morning. That if she was to wake up happy and on time, you could be happy, too. But it doesn’t work that way. Our feelings come from our thinking. There is always a thought that causes us to feel the way we do and it’s helpful to see what we are thinking, before we take action.

Have you gotten yourself into a power struggle without even knowing it? Beware of “right fighting”. If you and your kid are both fighting for to be right, no one will win. Perhaps you are thinking “A good Mom would start her day with a happier kid”. Blaming yourself or others leads to inconsistent parenting which doesn’t usually give us the happy house we are trying to create. Remind yourself that good moms have grumpy kids who don’t want to get up in the morning, too. This is not a reflection on YOU, or you kid, just a problem to solve.

Below is the problem solving strategy I love from “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk” by Faber & Mazlish. Using this strategy will neutralize any power struggles or right fighting, while empowering you and your kid to solve the problem.

Do you struggle to understand your teenager?

Understanding your teen

Try this exercise to figure out what your teen (or child of any age) is thinking, feeling, yearning for and needing from you.

Sometimes teenagers act in ways that truly mystify us. We want to help them, ask something of them, or appeal to their sense of fairness or logic, but nothing seems to be working. If you’ve tried to put yourself in your kid’s shoes and still can’t understand them, this exercise is for you.

1. Pretend like your kid is a funny zoo animal. You are looking at them in their cage, totally curious and perplexed, but without emotion. You decide you’d like to study this animal like a Scientist would. (This won’t work if you are in worry, frustration, self-pity or any emotion other than neutral curiosity).

2. Ready?  Ok, Scientist, the next step is to EMBODY your teenager. Like an actor getting into character, you are going to BECOME your child. Think about his posture, his voice tone, volume and articulation. Think about the words he chooses. Imagine you are in his bedroom (or wherever he spends the most time.) Look around as though this is your room, your books, your backpack, your clothes, etc. Imagine looking at his phone as though it’s your phone, what’s on there? Who is contacting him? What does he look up when he’s bored? Think to yourself “I am (my teenagers name)”

3. BE your teenager and name 3 adjectives to describe YOU as your teen. For example, “I am tired, I am stressed, and I am lonely.” or “I am uncertain, I am nervous, and I am happy”

4. Then think to yourself this sentence, “What I yearn for the most is _______” and see what pops into your head. Then do, “I am _____ (teen) and the message I’m trying to send my Mom is………”.   (If you hear your own voice coming in or any of your negative emotions, go back to step one.) 

5. Finish this next sentence with whatever shows up in your mind, “What I need most right now from my Mom is ………” Try it again with Dad, siblings, etc. If this is working and you are learning from it, try adding on “When I look ahead to my future I feel ……”

This is exercise is easy for me because as a life coach, my empathy dial is always turned up very high. Not all of us practice tuning into others on a regular basis so be patient with yourself if you find your own thoughts and feelings don’t go away that easily.

Remember that the primary need for all of us, including our funny, teenage zoo animals, is to be SEEN, HEARD and FELT. When all else fails, stop talking, look them in the eye and just listen. There’s a lot of information coming through those howls and growls. 🙂

Where are your kids getting their dopamine?

Our bodies and brains are wired to release a “feel good chemical” called dopamine when we eat, have sex, or exercise. We also get a dopamine release from creating something, accomplishing something or being in the flow state of learning.

Our culture has introduced many more dopamine producing activities to younger and younger children: Sugar, caffeine, TV, movies, porn, youtube, video games, social media, are all designed to flood massive amounts of dopamine into our systems. Our current culture seems to promote fun, excitement, productivity and keeping busy.

The problem is that our brains and bodies aren’t designed for this much dopamine. Some experts theorize this is one of the reasons we are seeing such a huge increase in ADHD, depression, anxiety, addictions and other brain centered differences.

Not everybody reacts the same way. I can’t get out of shopping malls and casinos fast enough but I have family members who come to life and love the dopamine release of shopping and gambling. When my kids were little, my daughter could be in a room with the TV on and barely notice, but the TV had a hypnotizing effect on my son that turned him into a zombie. We tend to gravitate towards things that give us these delicious hits of dopamine. When we get rewarded with dopamine, it motivates us to come back for more….and more….and more.

Can your kid sit in a room with her favorite sugary treat and not be tempted? If you take away the cookie or the ipad, does your son hyperfocus on the object until he gets his dopamine hit? Can your teenager sit with her phone nearby and not be tempted to check it? Every text alert or social media “like” is designed to release dopamine and create addiction.

When we don’t reward our brains with dopamine (by checking our phone or eating sugar, etc.) we can create anxiety and insomnia. But overtime, the flooding of dopamine in our systems creates addiction and increased feelings of depression.

So basically, the world our kids are growing up is a challenge to their mental health.

What can we do?

  1. We need to become really deliberate about where we get our dopamine and not just follow a “If it feels good, do it” mantra.
  2. Observe ourselves and our children closely to see where we might be flooding our systems with too much dopamine.
  3. Re-wire the brain BEFORE we become addicted and show signs of depression and anxiety.

I have a lot to say on this topic and invite you to join me for a FREE Webinar called,

“How Much is Too Much?” Screen time, Dopamine and Mental Well Being.

In the meantime, here are a few life hacks below to help you and your kids conquer this challenging culture.

  1. Establish a Streak – Middle School kids have discovered a dopamine hit from “maintaining streaks”, or seeing how many days in a row they can text friends about silly things. Instead, establish a streak of how many days in a row you made your bed, walked your dog, ate a vegetable. Mark it off on a calendar and celebrate your victory. Check out the app Calm and start a meditation streak.
  2. Create Something – When we can get immersed in a project, creative or not, it can give us a healthy dose of dopamine. Many of us think of art or music but for me, creating webinars, class content and writing blogs count. Encourage your kids to create a Rube Goldberg, a fort, or cooking project.
  3. Seek balance. Don’t let your kid play a video game WHILE also watching TV (choose one!). Turn off ALL alerts on their phones so they don’t hear “So & so posted a new video!” No cell phones while studying, or in the bedroom while sleeping. Buy an old fashioned alarm clock. Try allowing movies and video games only if interspersed with exercise. Save sugar for special occasions.
  4. Music! Turn music OFF on video games but turn it ON while your child is doing an activity you’d like to reward. Playing music shoot hoops outside or while they set or clear the table, might help them linger and want to do it more often.

What it’s like to live with teens

When I try to sit next to him on the couch, he blocks me with his feet. When I reach out for a hug, he turns away. Anytime I try to contribute to a conversation, he tells me I’m wrong. If I dare to ask him questions, I get arguments.

As I type this, there is an enormous pile of dirty tissues sitting on the coffee table next to a stack of dirty dishes, all his. Nearby lays a laundry basket of clean and wrinkling clothes that I naively asked him to fold. Today is his “dish day” and the dishwasher remains full and will until I remind him.

Raising a teenager presents us with a lot of challenges. Today, I’m challenged with the question,

Why, in the world, do I think I am the luckiest Mom on the planet?

Here I am making him a cup of tea and preparing him a snack. Why? Why do I offer to bring him a cup of tea, when he never offers to bring any for me?

Because of my thoughts.

My thoughts accept reality, instead of argue with it.

“He’s doing his job as a teenager.”  “This is what it’s like to live with a teen.”

My thoughts are present focused. When I do futurize, my thoughts feel good, not disastrous.

“He’ll learn this next year.” “I hope he has a tolerant roommate.” or “He’s thoughtful in many other ways.”

I stay in my own business and don’t make it about me (This one took me a while to learn!)

“I’ve done my job to teach him how to treat me, it’s his job whether he does it or not.”  “He’s very thoughtful to others, this just his way of separating.” “At least he’s not a ‘Mama’s Boy’”.

Senior year is an emotional roller coaster. I need to make it as easy on myself as I can. Am I being naive? Tolerating more than I should? Maybe. All I know is that loving this crazy teen and feeling peaceful, feels better than being annoyed. 

Sometimes teens shit in the nest before they leave it.

It’s an important time to be really compassionate towards yourself.

If you need help finding peace while raising your teenager, sign up for a free life coaching call.

Is your kid not acting in line with your expectations?

It can happen at any time: 4 weeks, 4 years, or 14 on up.

The child we’re parenting, doesn’t match with the one we expected to be parenting.

Ida’s* story….

Ida thought she had the ADHD thing under control. She adapted her parenting style, adapted his diet, bedroom and after school activities to allow him to be his best self. This Supermom worked with the school teachers and counselors to make sure they understood what his challenges and strengths were. Ida worked hard to help him fit in with the school system and peers, while helping him appreciate his unique gifts. And then he turned 14 and the sh*t hit the fan. Nothing seemed to be working. He was emotionally out of control, stubborn and rebelling against everything she’d worked so hard for. This was NOT what she was expecting. 

Emma’s* story…

Emma was a quiet, gentle, loving mom. She could be content to stay home all day, reading and tinkering in her craft room. Co-sleeping and baby-wearing made her feel closely connected with her daughter. She imagined doing puzzles and art together, quietly co-creating beautiful things. By the time her daughter was 4, Emma was exhausted. Her sweet baby turned into the bully of the playground: pushing, pulling hair, biting, you name it. She would climb anything she could, using furniture to build towers to access higher and higher places. Her art activities lasted about 20 seconds and resulted in huge messes in the house. Emma’s relationship with her daughter was more about keeping her alive than creating beautiful things. 

So what does a Mama do when her expectations are different than her reality?

  1. Take time and recognize that it’s your expectations that are causing you to struggle. When you think thoughts like “She shouldn’t behave this way” or “He should have figured this out by now!” you are making things harder. A better thought to think is “This isn’t what I was expecting and that’s ok.” 
  2. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of the dream or expectation you had for your kid. Another way to say this is “Be kind to yourself”. Allow yourself to be sad that things aren’t easier and forgive yourself for wanting things to be better. It’s our job to hold a higher vision for our kids but we can do this WHILE accepting they aren’t there yet, and that’s ok.
  3. Hold a higher vision for YOURSELF. What if you’ve got the exact kid you need to help you fulfill your destiny? What if these challenges you are dealing with, are teaching you something you couldn’t learn any other way?  Could it be possible that this crazy kid of yours is growing a side of yourself you didn’t even know you needed to grow?

Ida’s teenage son helped her break out of her belief that “the only path to success is to follow the rules”. Watching him carve his own path through adolescence taught her to let go of expectations and and control and trust in a greater plan. She realigned her values, let go of her people pleasing addiction, and learned to prioritize the things SHE loved doing. By following her son’s example, she made time for mountain biking every weekend, and yoga every day.

Quiet, gentle Emma learned to set clear and consistent boundaries with her daughter. For a long time, she tried to avoid taking the leadership role but once she got the hang of it, she got hooked! She started setting appropriate boundaries in all her relationships, built up so much confidence and self pride that she started selling her art online. She gives herself plenty of breaks from her high energy daughter so she can still be her introverted self. Even though her daughter is still a challenge, she appreciates the lessons she’s learned from her and loves the person she has become because of it.

If you are struggling with a kid who isn’t acting the way you think he/she should be behaving, schedule a free life coaching call. Let’s find out where you can let go, find acceptance, and see if there is a divine lesson in here for you?

 

*names have been changed to protect the exhausted