How do I get my teenager to be nice to me? 

Episode #2

How do I get my teenager to be nice to me? 

Question from Amber:

“I have a great teenager. He’s hard working, fun to be around, nice to his sister, in fact, he’s nice to everyone, except ME. When I sit next to him on the couch, he gets up. When I try to hug him, he ducks away. The other day, he was helping his sister with her math and I said, “Thank you so much for helping her, that is so sweet of you.” He immediately stopped helping and walked away. Everything I say is wrong in his eyes. I’m just want to feel close to him and love on him and he won’t let me. I expected some teenage rebellion but the only thing he’s rebelling against is ME. to be. How can I get my teenager to be nice to me?”

The parent educator answer 

A teenager’s job is to fire their parent. A parent’s job is to earn a place at the board of director’s table. It sounds like your teenager is doing his job. He’s telling you, mostly through body language, your work here is done. I don’t need mommying anymore. I don’t need your approval, hugs, attention or anything that makes me feel like a boy. I’m ready to stand on my own two feet and be a man, take responsibility for my life and I can’t be that man when I have the same relationship with you that we’ve always had. The parents job then, is simply, to let go. Easy, right? 

The life coaching answer

Easier said than done. 

Some helpful questions to ask are: WHY is it so hard to let go? What are you making it mean that he pulls away from you? And what is it that I really want?

Let’s take a look at the facts of the situation. He stands up when you sit next to him. When you try to hug him, he ducks away. He tells you, you are wrong. These are just neutral facts.

Can you imagine another mom might not be bothered by this? She might think, “Finally, some time to myself!” or “Fine! He doesn’t want me around, I don’t want him around.” or maybe she wouldn’t notice or care?

The reason this is bothering you is because of what you are making it mean. 

Right now, with his behavior, I’m going to guess you feel annoyed & frustrated.

We all have a default emotion, something we feel easily often. Underneath this is a hidden, more vulnerable emotion, one that we try really hard not to feel. 

My hunch is that what Amber is making her son’s behavior mean is “I’m losing him” and the feeling she’s trying not to feel is sad.

Some moms have no trouble with sadness but many of us avoid it and get annoyed instead.

In this case, Amber doesn’t want to think about losing her baby boy but every time he pulls away, she clings on tighter. Feeling more & more vulnerable as she tries to control something she has no control over. She thinks, “If he would just be nice to me, then I wouldn’t have to feel insecure.” She’s putting all her power to feel secure and happy, in the hands of her rebellious teenager who is trying to DISTANCE himself from her. The more he pulls away, the tighter she holds on.

The solution to this isn’t to “make him nicer” but to acknowledge the truth of what is happening here.

You are losing your little boy. The relationship you had with him will never be the same. It’s ok to grieve the loss of the wonderfully close relationship you had with him. 

This is not to say you won’t have a relationship with him. It’s just time for the relationship to evolve. Right now, you can’t say or do anything right because of the ENERGY you are bringing to him. It’s so one sided.

When this was happening to me, I was so confused. My husband helped me see it this way…

“It’s like you are his stalker. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. You could be the most perfect mom on the planet, nobody wants to agree with their stalker. No one wants to hug their stalker.” 

The way to get your son to be nicer is to pull your energy WAY back. To grieve the loss of the relationship you had. Treat yourself to a vacation for all the work you put into raising him. Give yourself a certificate, a trophy, something to signify that your work is done and it’s time to change the power dynamic from you as authority/approver/holder of wisdom and put you on the same level as your son so you are both imperfect, learning, growing and changing.

Here are 3 tips to help you let go of your teen so he doesn’t need to push you away.

  1. Love more, care less. When kids are little, love and care go hand in hand. Care involves food, clothing, hygiene, how they spend their free time, etc. As they grow into adolescents, mommy taking care of them, thinking about their food, clothing, hygiene, etc, feels overprotective. Teens want to care for themselves so learning to separate love and care is an important milestone for Supermoms. You will always have “mother’s eyes”. You will always be able to spot potential hazards, ways he could do better, chores that need to be done, better food choices to make, improvements in hygiene, appearance, ways he could challenge himself more and increase his potential. Probably, until the day he dies, you will be able to notice these things. The trick is to love the imperfect teenager he is today (without futurizing and catastrophizing), and care less about the details of how he’s living his life. Focusing on loving more, while caring less about them, will set them free to grow into independence.
  2. “Would I say that to a roommate?” You are co-habitating so using a roommate analogy will help your relationship step into adulthood. You might ask your roommate “How did you do on your test?” but you wouldn’t ask “Did you study?”  You wouldn’t say to a roommate, “Thank you so much for helping your sister with her math” because you are interjecting yourself into his relationship. A simple “you are so nice to your sister” would be enough. You can ask your roommate to take out the trash but you wouldn’t get weepy if she didn’t feel like hugging you.
  3. Focus on yourself. “Who am I if I’m not his mommy?” sends us into an identity crisis. Think about how the lives of your parents changed after you moved out and see if it’s something that looks appealing to you?  If not, you are probably going to cling even tighter. Create a vision for yourself separate from your roll as mom. Supermoms are very involved with their kids lives and the thought of not being needed or wanted in the same way, can cause us to panic.
  4. Create a vision of yourself and your future that excites you. Do you want more time for creative projects? More time for outdoor adventure? Learning a new skill, taking on a new challenge, pushing yourself to play bigger in your life. Is there anything you enjoyed but put on hold when the kid’s activities took over?  Use your imagination to create a picture of your future that is fun and energizing.

Supermom Kryptonite – Letting your teenager take the emotional lead in the home. When we put our ability to be happy in the hands of our teenagers, we ride the emotional roller coaster along with them. If you think, “I can’t be happy until my teen is” it will exhaust you. Instead, you decide how you want to feel, and let your teenager follow your emotional lead. 

Supermom Power Boost – Use your creativity (photography, crafts, etc.) or at least use your imagination to create what you want.

Quote“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” Steven Covey

 

Is your teen constantly arguing with you?

Try “letting go of the rope” to get your arguing teen to relax.

There is a family therapist in my area who specializes in working with teens. We both speak at the same conference every year and she has a very different take on how to handle arguing teens.

“If your teen isn’t telling you they hate you once a day, then you aren’t doing your job.”

What?!?!   SERIOUSLY?

If my teen was telling me that she hated me everyday, then I would HATE my JOB!

If I hated raising teenagers, I would disengage, avoid them, be resentful of them and white knuckle it until they were out of the house. WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER!

Arguing teens and power struggles are very normal, but not much fun. We go back and forth, fighting for who’s right. It’s annoying and exhausting.

Mom – “Get off your cell phone and do your homework”

Teen – “I am! My homework is on my phone.”

Mom – “You can’t concentrate with all those distractions”

Teen- “It helps me study”

When we argue and disagree with our child, we begin a tug of war with them where nobody really wins. Even when we fight for a good cause, it doesn’t give us the result we are looking for.

Teen- “I’m so stupid/ugly/fat”

Mom – No your not honey, you are beautiful inside and out”

Teen- Yes I AM! Look at this ZIT! I’m HIDEOUS!

What happens in a tug of war power struggle, is the teen yells louder and pulls harder in the opposite direction, in order to “win” the argument.

Teen – “I hate school. Ms. Wilson is such a loser.”

Mom – “Now, honey, I’m sure it’s not all that bad.”

Teen – “YES IT IS MOM!  YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! SHE’S A HORRIBLE PERSON!”

Mom – “Don’t talk that way about people!”

Instead of entering into the power struggle, try “letting go of the tug-of-war rope” by agreeing with them.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Mom – “Get off your cell phone and do your homework”

Teen – “I am! My homework is on my phone.”

Mom – “Oh yeah, your teachers want you to work on Google classroom now. How is that working for you? Do you like it?

Teen- “It’s ok”

Mom – Is it hard to stay focused on school work when your phone has so many temptations on it? Let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you.

——————————————————————–—————————————————

Teen- “I’m so stupid/ugly/fat”

Mom – “Wow, your brain is telling you all sorts of mean things about yourself right now.”

Teen- Well, I AM!  Look at this ZIT!

Mom – I see your zit. I’m sorry that you are feeling ugly. That’s not a fun way to feel. Is there anything I can do?

———————————————————————————————————————–

Teen – “I hate school. Ms. Wilson is such a loser.”

Mom – “Wow! You REALLY don’t like school and you sound especially mad at Ms. Wilson.”

Teen – “School sucks and Ms. Wilson is totally unfair.”

Mom – “You did not have a great day today.”

Teen – “Do we have any food? I’m STARVING”

When we agree with our teens, we diffuse their energy. There’s no need to keep driving home your point, getting louder and more emotional. Eventually the conversation gets boring and your teen moves on.

This “letting go of the rope” strategy will help you ENJOY parenting your teens.

When we enjoy parenting, we engage more with our teens, take classes, read blogs and learn to become better versions of ourselves. Creating homes that feel peaceful, make it a more relaxed and enjoyable place for everyone.

If you aren’t enjoying parenting your teen, schedule a free discovery call to see if life coaching is right for you.

How to get your kids to go to bed on time

Are you doing the Back to School Happy Dance! YEAH!!  woo-hoo!

via GIPHY

But oh my what a pain it is to get kids to go to bed at night, so they can be on time for school in the morning.

Last spring, I wrote a blog about how to get kids out of bed in the morning so now seems like the perfect time to write about how the heck to get them to bed.

Here’s the problem: Some kids are easy. They just go to bed. This sets us up with the expectation that ALL kids should easily just go to bed. Combine our expectation that it be easy, with our own end-of-day fatigue, and you’ve got a recipe for conflict and drama.

If you struggle to get your kids to bed on time, read through these steps and see where you can focus your attention to help you get a peaceful evening routine.

The first step

is to accept that your child just doesn’t like going to bed, without blame or frustration. Being a night owl, and taking a long time to wind down at night, are wired into us. What makes people sleepy is when certain hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, rise during the day, and drop at night. Lots of things can mess with this hormone production: not getting enough exercise or daylight, getting too much blue light from screens, or artificial light after dark. When puberty hits, and stress of any kind, these hormones can get out of whack. It’s not always our kid’s fault if they are up until midnight and can sleep until noon. If you start trying to change your child’s bedtime routine by trying to change something you have no control over, you will frustrate yourself. Acceptance and compassion must come first.

The second step

is to get your kids on board with the idea. As you may have noticed, you cannot make someone go to sleep who doesn’t want to. Pay attention to what motivates your child. Some kids are motivated to please their parents and like being seen as responsible. (How awesome is that? If this is you, enjoy it!)

For the rest of us, we have to get clever. Some kids are motivated by fun, (and watching mom lose her sh*t at bedtime is entertainment for them!). Other kids are motivated with bribes (“I’ll give you a $1. if you are in bed before 9:30, but $5. if you are in bed by 9:00.” You can encourage going to bed without complaining by rewarding with treats in tomorrow’s lunchbox. If you have a kid that is motivated by power, partner with them to design a bed time routine that works for both of you, making sure they think it’s all their idea.

Many Supermoms can get caught up with an idealistic picture of what the bedtime routine should look like: reading books, cuddles, pillow talk, but if this isn’t working for you it’s time to let it go. My daughter hated reading (so much for the years I spent as a reading specialist.) Instead, we played games before bed for about 8 years. Now that she’s in high school and I’m older than dirt, I want to go to bed earlier than she, so we had to switch up our bedtime routine using step 3.

The third step

is all about making your home conducive to sleep. I remember one power outage we had. After our makeshift dinner, we hung out by candlelight, talked, played charades, and all 4 of us were SO SLEEPY and ready for bed. When we checked the clock it was only 7:30pm! Melatonin is released when it gets dark outside. If you want your kids to get sleepy, turn off the stimulation. Fast moving images on TV and video games, release chemicals in the brain that tell us to wake up and get moving. Try making it darker in your home an hour before bedtime. Light candles, take baths, play music or just turn the wi-fi off all together.

With our constantly wired world, sleep rates are dropping for kids and teens, making it even harder for moms to get kids up and out of bed in the morning.  The first step in improving the morning routine, is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. By accepting the things you cannot change with compassion, understanding what motivates our children, and creating an environment conducive to sleep, you can create a more peaceful morning and evening for your whole family.

Are you looking for support establishing routines that work for you and your family? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

When a sensitive teen enters puberty

We all start out listening to our own internal compass. If Great Aunt Mary wants us to hug her, and we don’t want to, we won’t. If a movie is too loud, we will cry, hide, or just walk out. If we want to wear our favorite Dora the Explorer pajamas everyday, no amount of criticism will change our mind.

When puberty starts, along with it comes an increased social awareness: what’s in, what’s out, what’s cool, what’s not. During the ages of 12-16, peer acceptance becomes very important. We are learning to separate from our parents, but we aren’t strong enough to stand on our own so peers become our safety net until we achieve independence. The ability to tune into social cues and interpret meaning becomes key to enjoying the adolescent years. If your child is on either end of this “social cues spectrum”, he or she may start having difficulties at school. 

On the far side of the spectrum are kids who have difficulty understanding social cues, missing nuances, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions and interpreting meaning. They may have a diagnosis like Autism or Aspergers, higher testosterone, or just be more cerebral and “left brain” dominant. School counselors can be very helpful for these kids, taking the subtle and making it clear and concrete.

I like to work with the teens and adults who lie on the other end of the spectrum, HIGH empathy kids. These kids notice EVERY subtlety and can soak up other people’s energy like a sponge. Sensitive kids with high empathy can be very social, but find themselves exhausted with too much social activity, sometimes feeling anxious or depressed when left alone. They have a hard time differentiating their emotions, from everyone else’s, and may find the company of animals and children easier to deal with.sensitive-teen

It’s common for sensitive teens, preteens, and adults, to assume the negative. When we tune in to the people around us, it’s easy to notice someone or something is “off”. Maybe it’s a delayed reaction time, maybe it’s a surprising tone of voice, maybe it’s that the words didn’t match the emotion behind them. Any of these subtle nuances can make a sensitive person’s radar go off and question “What was that about?”  Empathic kids (or adults who haven’t learned to manage their energy) can feel really bothered by this, they may get physically weak, tired, sick with headaches or stomachaches, get nervous or anxious. Our brain goes to work trying to solve the puzzle of “What was that about?” and we often end up making it mean something negative about us: “I said the wrong thing.” “She’s mad at me.” “I hurt her feelings.” “People don’t like me.”

It’s important to acknowledge your intuition and respect that it picked up on the fact that “something is off”. We were born with this intuitive ability to sense danger and it’s a valuable skill set to have. (Your intuition is always calm and easy to ignore, your brain is hard to ignore and keeps repeating itself, don’t mix the two.) Our job is to respect our inner compass sensing “something is off” and manage our mind to think thoughts that are true and helpful. The adolescent years are when negative self talk really explodes so it’s important to make sure we aren’t telling ourselves horrible things about our appearance, our intelligence, our futures and our failures.

Beware of invisible assumptions. You may have no idea why her words didn’t match her emotions. It could be she was distracted, she had a bad morning, was worrying about an upcoming test, just started her period, drank three red bulls, we don’t know. If you are going to allow your brain to answer “What was that about?”, make sure it’s something that feels good to you like, “I don’t know but I know I care about my friend’s feelings.” “She’s having an off day and that’s ok.” “I can still like me, even if she doesn’t.”

Just because you didn’t want to hug Great Aunt Mary, didn’t mean she was an evil person, or that you were rude for not wanting to hug her. Just because the volume of the movie was too loud for you, didn’t mean you are wimpy. And you, refusing to wear anything other than your Dora the Explorer pajamas, doesn’t make you weird, unless you like believing that you are weird. Your inner compass is here to get your attention and guide you, but you get to decide what you make it mean.

Help kids overcome their fears

I am in Costa Rica, getting ready to zip line over the canopy of trees and I am NERVOUS. I’ve got my harness and helmet on, feeling the natural fear of being VERY high up and doing something very unnatural to humans. I tell myself, “freaking out is a choice”. I access my logic with the question, “What’s the mathematical probability of something bad happening?” I remind myself, “I get to choose how I want to think and feel right now”. I decide to focus on this really cool opportunity to see what it feels like to be a bird. 

Once I take off and am flying through the trees like a bird, the thought comes to me, “I have always wanted to do this. This is my dream coming true.” 

Oh yeah, with all the fear, I had forgotten that. 

But while I am using all my tools to deal with fear, I’m watching others, drop like flies.

Not out of the sky, thankfully, but off the platform, out of line, and back onto solid ground. Teens and tweens, crying unconsolably or standing frozen with fear. Moms and Dads doing their best to reassure, convince, console and talk their kids out of their freak out. None of these parents had the capacity to override the reptilian part of their kid’s brain. The reptilian brain is the part that hyjacks the more intellectual parts of our brain and can only focus on fight, flight or freeze.

Have you ever been in this situation? Your kid is too scared to ride a roller coaster, or be left alone in the house, or talk to someone they don’t know, or eat a vegetable, or other scary, yet typical hallmarks of childhood?

When the reptilian brain kicks in, it’s pretty hard for a parent to override it with logic. In fact, none of these parents I’m watching on the zip, line were successful. All these kids ended up walking back down, or refusing to step up to the platform, surrendering to their fear.

So what is a parent to do when their kid is scared? How can we encourage them to be brave, in a way that actually works?

The important thing to remember is to be respectful of their fears. Life is full of scary, vulnerable things and we want our kids to learn how to overcome their fears. This is a VERY important life skill and one worthy of respect.

The trick is to help kids shift out of fight/flight/freeze response so they can make a decision from their higher brain. Helping kids calm down is first priority. Bring them away from the immediate threat and speak to your scared kiddos with a calm, confident voice. Don’t try to talk your child out of his fears, instead listen with respect, almost reverence. Then repeat what you hear them saying, adding in these key words: YOUR BRAIN. As in, “Your brain is telling you that you could die.” or “It sounds like your brain is thinking this spider can harm you.”

When children avoid their fears, it can encourage anxiety, so we don’t want to let them off the hook entirely. Once you’ve calmed them down, try asking your child, “What would make you feel more comfortable?” or “What’s one small step you can take towards overcoming your fear, that would make you feel proud of yourself tomorrow?”

Fears are a natural and beneficial part of being human. When kids get to work through them one at a time, at their own pace, they will slowly learn to manage their reptilian brain, take risks that align with their values, and learn how much fun there is to be had on the other side of their fears 🙂

Pura Vida!