Episode 49 – Is my child a sugar addict?

Episode 49 – Is My Child Addicted to Sugar?

I’m struggling with my daughter (age 14) being so ungrateful and unwilling to help out.
I’m thinking I need to stop making nice meals for her since she’s not willing to make so much as a piece of toast for herself. She’d rather sit on her phone and, if I let her, she’ll go without eating or grab whatever sweet snack she can find. It was important for me to teach my kids how to prepare healthy meals for themselves and my son will do it on occasion. We give him lunch money because when he buys lunch it’s healthy. My daughter, however, will just buy rice crispy treats and pirates booty or won’t eat at all. I’m worried about her addiction to sugar and have thought about her seeing a nutritionist but, with the attitude, I’m thinking family counseling could be useful. Could the sugar addiction be the cause of so much negative behavior? Tina

Parent Educator Answer:

Let’s talk about sugar addiction. Many people might minimize it or laugh it off, but it can be a real problem for many people. This isn’t just “OMG I’m addicted to peppermint mochas,” It is a physiological addiction that affects the brain.

I am not a nutritionist or addiction expert but my son had an experience with sugar addiction so I’m happy to talk about it in simple terms, from a mother’s perspective.

The way I understand it, sugar releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that floods the brain and creates cravings. When the dopamine high from sugar wears off, withdrawal symptoms set in. The brain requires even more sugar to bring the same good feeling, creating a craving for sweet foods. Without the dopamine inducing substance, sugar addicts feel tired, restless, anxious or depressed, making the craving even stronger to alleviate the unpleasant feeling.

Signs of sugar addiction can be: headaches, lethargy, fatigue, craving sweet and/or salty foods, insomnia, hiding sweets, making excuses or deals regarding sugar, avoiding foods without sugar, turning to sugar when feeling negative emotion, going out of your way to get sugar and feeling guilty about sugar intake.

Could Tina’s daughter negative attitude be a result of sugar addiction? Absolutely. But being ungrateful and unwilling to help, could also be a normal teenage state of mind. If you are seeing that she is constantly negative, fatigued, lethargic, fighting with her brother, avoiding emotions, and seeking out sugar to the exclusion of other foods, the root of the problem might be sugar addiction.

In a way, we were lucky. When my son was 12, he had a QEEG done of his brain and they told us he had the marker for addiction, meaning his brain was wired similiarly to the brain’s of people who struggle with addiction. We thought this was good information to know before he goes off to college and gets exposed to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Later, when he developed a terrible sugar addiction, we had already prepared ourselves and could spot the signs of addiction.

I learned that some people have a pre-disposition for addiction but you don’t really know what will trigger it. Whether it’s sugar, alcohol, video game addiction, gambling, or porn, it’s all coming from the same place: dopamine. Different brains react differently. It is not a character flaw nor a sign of bad parenting. Getting frustrated with your child for not being able to manage her sugar intake is like getting mad at your child for having dyslexia.

I found a quote about addiction by Luke Davies who defines it like this: “When you can stop, you don’t want to and when you want to stop, you can’t.”

In the case of my son, my husband and I sat him down and told him, “We recognize this is a real problem. We love you, we are on your side and we will help you.” I remember his Dad saying, “It’s the three of us, against the addiction.”

Once he was able to experience life without sugar and noticed how much better he felt, he felt motivated to manage it and his eating habits more.

Life Coaching Answer:

It can be agonizing to watch our teens struggle with a problem. We want them to change their behavior so that we can feel better and stop worrying so much! We think, “If you could just DO better, then I could FEEL better.”

Step 1 – The first step to helping you get out of your own way is to acknowledge your maternal instincts or intuition. Thank your higher self for alerting you to the fact that something isn’t right. What happens is our maternal instincts start sounding an alarm bell. We try to shut it off by changing our child’s behavior. This doesn’t work, so we try to make peace with an alarm bell constantly ringing in our heads. Instead of that, thank it for doing it’s job. Acknowledge that your instincts are picking up on something that needs addressing.

Step 2 – Accept reality. Instead of saying, “She shouldn’t be acting this way”, accept that this is exactly what’s supposed to be happening. Allow your teen to have problems. The reason you haven’t been able to solve this problem is because it isn’t yours to solve. Your daughter needs to be involved and motivated. She needs to experience the problem as hers, with you and Dad there for support, love, and guidance. Find the facts of the situation and deal with them head on.

Step 3 – Drop the Rope. Right now you and she are on opposite ends of the rope, playing a game of tug of war. She wants sweets. You want her to eat healthy. The more you pull in your direction, the more she will pull in the opposite. It’s hard, I know, but it is so helpful to drop the rope and walk around to her side of this tug of war game. Let her know you are here to support her. Her guilt, although invisibile, is a big part of the problem. Once she knows you are on her side, and that it’s not her fault she has this predisposition, she can start releasing the guilt that is keeping her stuck. Think about how you would handle it if you found out she had dyslexia. You wouldn’t be mad or expect her to fix it on her own. You would help her find resources, outside experts, encourage her to be patient with herself.

Once you thank your intuition, accept this as HER problem that might be with her for the rest of her life, and get on her team, then you can move to step 4.

Step 4 – Hold a higher vision. It is really easy to see problems our teenagers are dealing with and catastrophize and futurize. It feels to us like an immediate problem we need to fix or else bad things will happen but this intensity will only make your daughter pull harder in the opposite direction.
Parents can help their struggling teen by imagining that their struggle has a purpose. I found it very helpful to believe that my son would use his challenge to help others. Imagine she will overcome this someday. Communicate this belief with her. Tell her that overcoming this will deepen her compassion for others and give her a broader understanding of the world. Let your daughter know that you believe in her ability to do hard things, ask for help, and prioritize her health and happiness.
We aren’t meant to go through life without problems, but we are meant to grow because of them. Let her know that good things wait for her on the other side, and you are there to support her every step of the way.

Supermom Kryptonite – “Putting on the cape”

Many of my clients are excellent at “putting on the cape.” They see their child suffering in some way and they “put on their Supermom cape” and fly to the rescue.
We love feeling capable and saving our children from problems; we were made for this! But sometimes we don’t have the resources necessary to help our kids solve all their problems. Expecting to be able to solve any problem your child ever has will drain your energy. You will know if this is your situation because everything you tried hasn’t worked. It could be that it’s your child’s problem to solve and all you need to do is drop the rope and join her support team. Or it could be that your child isn’t capable of fixing the problem on her own and it’s time to add outside experts to the panel. Just make sure it’s all of you, against the issue.

If we are dealing with addiction, we are dealing with a brain that has been hijacked. Getting professional help can be life changing. “Putting on the cape” and trying to do everything FOR our teens will drive us both crazy and exhaust us. Instead, hang up the cape, step into your daughter’s shoes and try to see things from her perspective.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Do something impossible

When my son’s Naturopath described the cleanse she wanted him to go on (no sugar, no gluten, no dairy), my first thought was “There is no way I could do that”.

Of course there is nothing like the health of your child to motivate you. My husband and I didn’t feel right asking our 12 year old to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves so we put ourselves on a cleanse. No sugar, gluten, dairy, no coffee, no alcohol, NO FUN!
But it was FASCINATING.
I learned so much about my eating habits. Something about the hormonal change made me feel weepy and wacky. I didn’t miss sugar at all, which surprised me, but I missed corn of all things. My husband LOVED how he felt: clear headed and energized.

My favorite thing that came from this experiment was doing something I never thought I could do. When you have the belief “I could never do that,” and then you do it, it makes you wonder “What else am I saying I could never do, that I’m fully capable of doing?”

If you want a boost of energy, try a cleanse. Or bungee jump, take a vacation by yourself, start a blog, something where you currently think, “I could never do that”. Do whatever crazy thing strikes your fancy just to prove to yourself how capable you truly are!

Quote of the Day:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous

What if you don’t like your kid?

Our topic for this episode: do you have an annoying pre-teen?

Episode 44: Annoying Pre-Teen: What if you don’t like your kid?

“My daughter is a pre-teen, and already immersed in puberty and the mood swings and irritability that goes with it. Getting her to do anything is a battle: homework, chores, coming to the table to eat, putting her device away, going to bed, you name it. It takes every ounce of patience I have to get through the week with her. By the time the weekend rolls around, I. AM. DONE.

This weekend, as my husband is heading out the door, he says to me: “Don’t let her sit on her phone and watch Youtube all day. Find something fun the two of you can do together.”

It sounds like a great idea. I used to love being around her and would like nothing more than to have something fun we both enjoy doing. The problem is, she doesn’t like doing anything I like and when I try, it becomes another battle. She complains, argues, insults, and criticizes everything I do. I would not want to spend time with anyone who treats me this way. Yes, I love my daughter, but she treats me like the enemy.

I feel so guilty, but I really don’t like my being around my pre-teen right now.”

 

Parent Educator Answer:

From a parent educator’s perspective, nothing has gone wrong here. The situation you are describing is exactly what is supposed to happen.

Pre-teens are supposed to start separating from their parents, especially their moms. Mother-daughter identities get enmeshed with each other. We feel proud when our child excels, we feel happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad.

Does your child ever get embarrassed by your behavior?

“OMG Mom, you are not going to wear that.”
“Don’t you dare dance or sing in the car, EVER.”

Have you ever been embarrassed by your child’s behavior?

“Don’t talk to your friend like that! She was trying to be nice.”

“Your grandma is coming over so please be on your best behavior and for God’s sake, clean up your mess before she arrives!”

These are signs of enmeshment, where our ego identifies with our child’s behavior and vice versa.

Understanding Your Teen

Teens and tweens will criticize, insult, argue and reject our ideas as a way to individuate. It’s a sign that your daughter is ready to see herself as different, unique and competent. Through bickering, girls can affirm that they are separate individuals from their mom with their own tastes, personalities and preferences.

It is developmentally normal for pre-teens to reject family activities or parental ideas of fun, (unless a friend can come along with them). When they reject our suggestions of fun things to do, it’s as though they are saying “I’m not a baby anymore”.

Child development experts suggest holding tight to participation in family activities such as holiday dinners with grandparents, going to church, chores and other family rituals. Let them complain and argue all they want but hold tight to these things.

They may start to seem like an annoying pre-teen. You cannot make your child be nice or enjoy spending time with you.

Instead, encourage them to develop a “group identity” separate from you. Many tweens will do this naturally by adopting a best friend or tight group where they dress alike, talk alike and do everything together.

These days, group identity can take place online. Following certain YouTubers or face-timing with friends helps the tween feel safe while learning to stand on her own. Tweens benefit from a transitional bridge between being one with their family and feeling confident enough to be independent.

When we see our kids rejecting our ideas of fun to sit on their phones all day, we see it as a terrible waste of time. But when kids play online games, Facetime, YouTube, Netflix, vsco, and tic toc, it’s really more about understanding the culture of their peers, identifying as someone who is socially “in the know”, and exploring interests separate from mom.

annoying pre-teen

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from viewing this as normal tween behavior instead of an annoying pre-teen?

The circumstance you described is completely neutral. But it doesn’t feel neutral because of what you are making it mean.

You feel guilty so you must be making it mean something like, “Something is wrong with me”, “I’m a bad mom”. “If I were nice, I would like her.” “I should want to be around her.” or “She shouldn’t want to be on her phone all day.”

Notice how you feel when you think these when you start looking at them as an annoying pre-teen? Guilty. Awful. Heavy.

How do you parent when you feel terrible? You suck it up. Try harder. Get annoyed with yourself and her.

When we feel guilty and annoyed, we tend to parent inconsistently and have trouble sticking to rules around phone time and family obligations.

What is the result of parenting this way? You feel like a terrible parent. This reinforces your belief that you are doing it wrong and you are a terrible person.

Changing Your Perspective

In order to see your daughter’s behavior as normal and a sign of healthy social development instead of an annoying pre-teen, you’d have to give up the belief that you are bad and wrong.

Sometimes we hold onto beliefs like “I’m bad” or “I’m not a nice person” as a way to motivate ourselves to be better.

It’s like this: “At my core, I’m bad and mean. I need to remind myself of this in order to motivate myself to be nice.”

This might work for a little while but the long term effect of this is exhaustion and irritability.

You don’t like being around someone who complains, criticizes, argues and insults you, SO WHAT?

Let’s imagine for a minute that you didn’t think this was a problem. If you believed that you were a good person, and felt neutral about your daughter’s behavior, what do you think you might do?

You certainly wouldn’t let your husband’s parting comment bother you. You’d probably leave her alone, which it sounds like is what she’s wanting. You might drop her at a friend’s house and enjoy your own company, guilt-free.

If you believed, at your core, that you were a kind and loving mother. You would look for ways to prove yourself right. This might involve paying attention to your own needs. Spending time with people who uplift you instead of insult you. It might mean cooking her food or buying her a gift or whatever felt kind and loving to you.

Believing we are kind and loving, makes us act kind and loving. No guilt. No drama. Just unconditional love. Where your pre-teen can say or do anything and it doesn’t take you away from feeling loving.

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Motivating yourself out of negative emotion

Many of us use negative emotion to motivate ourselves to do something. We think telling ourselves “I’m a bad person” will make us act nice.

We used this in school: We’d tell ourselves we’re going to flunk a class to motivate us to study for a test.

For instance, if we want to lose weight so we tell ourselves how fat and lazy we are in order to motivate us to exercise. We think this will make us go to the gym and eat healthily, and it might once or twice, but over time it just makes us feel bad about ourselves.

Even if we do lose weight, we don’t feel any better because we are still thinking mean things about ourselves. What’s the point of losing weight if you feel terrible either way?

Motivating yourself with negative emotions will give you a negative result. Telling yourself, “I’m going to flunk if I don’t study” might get you a good grade but it will increase your stress and make you dislike school.

Believing, “I’m a bad person if I don’t like spending time with my ornery pre-teen” might motivate you to make an effort and do things together, but leave you feeling guilty and resentful.

When we motivate ourselves out of positive emotion, it’s easy to keep going. We don’t get burned out or resentful because feeling good is its own reward.

 

Supermom Powerboost: Liking your own child.

Of course, we all want to like our own children. But sometimes the best way for us to do this is to not be around them so much.

When my son was 13, I used to think maybe there was a reason families would send their 13-year-olds off to apprentice for an uncle.

I would love to send my daughter to be a live-in nanny for another family so she can be more appreciative of what she has and learn some skills.

My husband pointed out that I always talked about having another baby when we were away from our children for the weekend. Apparently, I never mentioned at the end of an exhausting day!

What thoughts can you think about living with an ornery teen, that help you feel like a kind and loving mom? I would start with “I love her, but I don’t enjoy this phase and that’s ok.” or “I’m not supposed to like this behavior.”

How much time can you spend with your child and still think kind thoughts? It may be easier to like her when you aren’t spending so much time together. Certainly it’s easier to like her when you aren’t telling yourself that she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing, and you shouldn’t be feeling what your feeling.

You don’t want to convince yourself something is true if you don’t believe it. If you say, “I love this phase of her life” and that feels like a lie, it will not work. We want to think something that feels true and gives us a softening feeling in the body. “I don’t like her and that’s ok” “I’m prioritizing my emotional well being over her screen time, and that’s ok.” “I’m a good, but imperfect mother.”

 

Quote of the Day:

“‘It is what it is’ This means we parent our children as our children are, not as we might wish them to be.” Dr. Shafali Tsaberry

Stealing, sneaking and lying about it

Question of the Day: Stealing, sneaking and lying about it

sneaking“Thanks so much for the podcast! I am really enjoying you approach and using it with my kids has helped a lot. My almost 8 year old has been sneaking and lying for a couple of years now.

I used to keep candy around the house but stopped because she would steal it and keep it under her pillow or bring it to school.

She steals little toys from school, toys from her sister and friends, and I even found $40 in her nightstand that she stole from my wallet.

A couple of months ago she took our house keys without asking and lost them–she lied about it at first and then confessed. Nothing I do seems to help. 

When I confront her, I tell her to just ask for what she wants. She apologizes and seems remorseful — or maybe worried/scared because she is “in trouble”. I tell her that she’s down a bad path with this habit that could end up with shoplifting and juvenile hall (catastrophizing?). 

We have a bit of a personality clash because I am such a rule-follower. She is doing fantastic in school, her teachers rave about her but she does break rules sometimes. I am worried she will steal my jewelry next.

She does have a lot of jealousy over her younger sister and sometimes explodes if she feels that her sister is getting more attention. Please help!    Esther

Parent Education Answer:

I want you to take a look at the things your daughter is sneaking: candy, toys, money, keys. She is taking treasures. Things that other people VALUE.

Kids steal things that others value as a way to feel that value inside themselves. For whatever reason, your daughter doesn’t feel treasured and thinks that taking other treasures will help her get this emotion. 

The jealousy she has over her sister and the perception that she gets more attention all point to a feeling of unworthiness. 

When adults feel unworthy, they often find external ways to feel more valuable. We might go shopping for nice things, shrink ourselves down to conform to society’s definition of beauty, or try to make people like us.

Think about it like this: It’s the end of a rough day, you are just settling in to watch your Netflix show.

The thought, “I have ice cream in the freezer” comes to mind. You promised yourself you wouldn’t snack at night.

Then you see that you don’t like what the scale tells you. You want to eat healthy food. Most of the time you resist the urge but sometimes, you cave. You say to yourself, “I deserve it” “I earned it” and you indulge. 

It’s similar to what your daughter is doing. Most of the time, she resists the urge. Occasionally, especially when it’s been a particularly rough day, she gives in to the impulse. 

Your daughter is showing you that she doesn’t feel good enough as she is. It’s easy to treat lying, stealing and sneaking as a moral issue but this feels like an emotional issue to me. 

If it was a moral issue, she wouldn’t show remorse or try to hide it from you. She knows it’s wrong but she’s still looking for a solution to an internal problem. 

 

Life Coaching Answer: Handling the Sneaking Kid

I love that you caught yourself catastrophizing and futurizing and yes, in a case like this it is SO EASY to do. What makes it hard to address this as an emotional issue and try to fill our daughter up with love, is  because of what you are making it mean about her and you. Especially as a self described “rule follower” I can only imagine how awful this must be for you! 

Embarrassment is “I did something wrong”. Shame is “I am wrong. I’m a bad person.”

It sounds like you are making your daughters stealing mean something that is causing you shame. Nobody likes feeling shame so we do our best to run away from it. The funny thing about it is as soon as you shine a compassionate light on it, it goes away. It can only live in the dark, when we aren’t acknowledging it’s there. 

It’s easy to think: “My daughter is stealing & lying, she’s doing something wrong. She must be a bad person, therefore I must be a bad mother.” 

When we believe we aren’t doing it right, and feeling ashamed, we want to stay hidden. We don’t want to ask for help.

The Love Tank

The only way to get her to stop, is to address the root cause. We need to fill up her love tank so it overflows with self worth and value. She needs to know what a treasure she really is. 

I would start by taking her to a family therapist who works with children. For whatever reason, the love you’ve been giving her isn’t getting through. She can’t receive it. This is not a reflection on you, just a personality trait.

If she had an allergy, you would take her to an allergist. If she’s showing signs of poor emotional health, she needs a mental health counselor.

Kids are unique when they come into this world with their own paths. Sneaking doesn’t mean she isn’t a bad kid, but she is showing you that she needs inside help. 

Understanding the Love Language

The second thing I would do is to understand her love language. There are a handful of books written about this concept that people give and receive love in different ways. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, affection.

You might be giving your daughter words of affirmation, telling her how much you love her, but it’s not getting through because it isn’t her love language.

Perhaps hers is gifts? Or quality time if she complains about sister getting more attention? Read the book and determine her top two love languages so you can fill up her love tank in ways that she is more likely to receive. 

The Urge Jar

The third thing I suggest is an urge jar. My life coaching teacher Brooke Castillo came up with this concept for her weight loss clients who were learning to resist an urge to overeat. I think this could work with your sneaking 8 year old.

Many teachers keep a marble jar on their desk and when kids behave, they put marbles in the jar. This works similarly only every time you resist an urge, you put a marble in a jar. There is something so satisfying about the clanking sound and watching it slowly fill up. 

My hunch is that there are many times when your daughter feels bad about herself and DOESN’T steal, sneak or lie. Let’s reward those times by putting a marble in the jar every time she resists the urge to take something!

You can tell her that the marbles are symbolic of how much love you have for her. When she fills up her marble jar, she gets a reward of some kind. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite – Motivation for Misbehavior

Not understanding a child’s MOTIVATION for misbehavior – such as sneaking – keeps us focused on the behavior. This is frustrating because nothing we try works because we aren’t addressing the root of the problem. 

When we can’t understand our child’s behavior, we start catastrophizing, futurizing, making it mean we aren’t doing enough or they are bad kids. 

The main motivations for misbehavior are:

  1. Excitement
  2. Revenge
  3. Display of Inadequacy
  4. Superiority
  5. Power
  6. Attention
  7. Peer Acceptance

When we know our child’s motivation, we can find ways to give them what they want, but on our own terms.

 

Supermom Power Boost: Finding shades of gray

Many of us think in black and white terms. Stealing is bad, Giving is good. Lying is bad, truth telling is good. I’m either a rule follower or a rule breaker. Often, this black & white thinking ends up biting us in the butt. Try and make room, in your mind and in your vocabulary, for shades of gray. 

We are all good moms, who occasionally say things we regret.

There are rules we like which we follow, and ignore ones we don’t. 

At times we can be generous at times, and selfish at other times. 

We are all kind people, who sometimes say mean things. 

Finding the shades of gray, gives you room to be an imperfect human who is also wonderful. 

Quote of the Day:

“Inside every child is an ’emotional tank’, waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally but when the love tank is empty, he will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior in children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank'”. Gary Chapman

Lazy teenage sloth

FREE WEBINAR LINK www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/back-to-school

 

Question of the Day: Lazy Teen

Dear Torie, 

“My 13 year old daughter is driving me crazy.  She lays around all day like a lazy teen sloth, scrolling mindlessly on her phone. When I ask her to do something, she’ll say “ok” but never does it. I arranged my life around these kids so they could have the best opportunities to succeed. When I see how unmotivated and ungrateful she is I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I’m very hardworking and responsible and I just thought they would absorb my values. I feel disrespected when she lays on the couch, zones out, ignores me. I’m worried my daughter will always be like this and it’s too late to teach her to be different.”

Paulalazy teen

 

This might be the most common complaint I hear from moms of teens. It really boils down to a generational culture clash. 

Think of a typical 50’s mom whose teenage son starts wearing bell bottom pants, floral shirts and growing his hair long. Mom and Dad start freaking out because of what they are making it mean ABOUT THEM.

They feel embarrassed that they are raising a kid who is so disrespectful to their values. They think their child will be a loser who will never get a job because he doesn’t understand the importance of showing respect to authority through civil obedience. The kid just thinks he is making a fashion choice and adapting to new cultural norms. 

Today we’ve got a culture clash between hardworking moms who demand a lot of themselves, and typically lazy teenagers who refuse to adapt to our stressed-out ways. 

We also have a problem with kids who DO absorb perfectionistic values, work their butts off in school, stress about SAT’s and AP classes, and push themselves to be their best.

These kids don’t bother us hard-working mamas because we relate and it feels normal. (If your child’s stress does bother you, email me and let me know). Usually, we don’t recognize this as a problem until it threatens the mental or physical health of our kids. 

There have been times when I catch myself telling my teenager to “try harder, work harder, live up to your potential, grab life by the horns, seize the moment, do more, put yourself out there, etc.“

In a nutshell I am telling my healthy, balanced teenager: “Can’t you stress a LITTLE BIT MORE so I can feel like a better mom?” 

I hope my kids think I’m crazy and disregard my fearful pleas. If they don’t, I worry all they hear me say is “You aren’t good enough as you are.” 

Parent Educator Answer: Let’s talk about normal adolescent behavior:

Verbal aggression / verbal jousting / arguing, 

Difficulty tolerating the feeling of frustration, 

Withdrawl from family (physically and emotionally) and increased interest in peer relations.

Sleeping longer and harder with an increased appetite. 

Impulse control, risk taking and susceptibility to peer pressure.

Concerned with physical appearance

Fighting for independence and testing limits: ignore rules, argue rules, or refuse to obey rules. 

Quitting things they used to enjoy

Selfishness

Changing Identity (gender, sexual identity, socio-political identity, etc.)

Mood Swings 

 

To Paula, I’d say congratulations. It sounds like your 13 year old has officially entered adolescence and is a typical teenager. Is it too late to teach her to be different? Kind of. She HAS absorbed your values. She knows what YOU want for HER. Now is the time for her to figure out what HER values are and what SHE wants for HERSELF.

 

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from peacefully raising a typical teenager? 

Three things: Our ego, our expectations, and Futurizing & Catastrophizing

#1 Our ego

When we see our kids laying around, scrolling their phones and appearing like a lazy teen, we make it mean that we have failed in our job as mom.

Because when we have tried to lay around ourselves, kick up our heels and just hang out, we beat ourselves up for it! 

We have this negative voice in our head that yells and keeps us from having too much fun or enjoying too much relaxation.

There are many countries around the world that would think this is insanity. That the best and most important parts of life come when we are relaxed, hanging out and savoring moments of doing nothing. 

We want our teenagers to get busy, work hard and do something so that we can relax! We think we can’t relax unless everything on our to-do list is complete but this will never happen! 

It’s possible that our teenagers are wiser and less susceptible to cultural insanity than we are. What if they are here to remind us of the importance of relaxation? 

Can you imagine there is another lazy teen, somewhere in the world right now, scrolling on her phone while laying on the couch?  Imagine that you see her mom in the kitchen and you think, “Wow, she is a really good mom.” “I really admire the things she is saying and doing.” In your mind’s eye, what do you imagine a good mom would say and do, while a daughter lays on the couch?

Notice that it is possible to be a good mom and have a lazy kid. In fact, you can be a good mom, no matter what your teenager does or doesn’t do. You are two separate people and it’s time to untangle your ego identity, from her behavior.

#2 Our expectations

Can you imagine there is a parent in the world who isn’t bothered by their teenager having a lazy day, laying around scrolling on their phone? It is possible. 

When parents expect the teen years to be really dreadful, filled with sneaking out of the house, failing grades and back talking, and they see their teenager lazily scrolling on the couch, they feel relieved. It doesn’t bother them at all! 

If your pediatrician told you that when your child turns 13, she’s going to need lots of time to zone out, lay around, and get physical and mental rest, and the best thing you could do as a mom is to encourage this sloth-like behavior, you would feel like a successful parent because your expectations would be different.

The problem is that we Supermoms have high expectations for our behavior, as well as our children. We think they will slowly, gradually take on more responsibility, more confidence, and become tall children we are proud of.

We forget, however, that no one self-actualizes at 13 years old.

That the teen years are filled with insecurity and fear as they try to carve out an identity separate from mom & dad.

It’s hard to remember that adolescence is the most stressful time in a person’s life (according to psychologists) and all the dramatic physical, social, intellectual and emotional changes cause them to need more sleep, more rest and less pressure. 

 

Under STRESS, we REGRESS, and when moms can EXPECT imperfection, it’s easier to RESPECT imperfection.

#3 Furturizing & Catastrophizing

When we see any negative behavior in our teens, we want to be on the lookout for our brains favorite passtime, imagining a big, dark and scary future.

Catastrophizing Thoughts: 

“She lays around ALL DAY”……does she really? Or is there an occasional potty break in there? Maybe a walk to stare in the pantry or leave the fridge door open? 

“When I ask her to do something she NEVER does it”……Is that true or does it just feel true? 

“I’ve wasted my time”…..Wow, can you imagine telling yourself that the last 13 years of your life has been a waste of time? That’s a pretty mean voice in your head who loves to beat you up, not one to listen to and believe. 

Futurizing Thoughts: 

“My daughter will ALWAYS be like this”. If we were to listen to that mean voice in your head, the end of this sentence would probably be, “…..and it’s all my fault.” 

“It’s too late to teach her to be different” is probably true but it’s coming from a voice in your head that really wants to throw you under the bus. It’s the same voice that keeps you from joining her on the couch and saying, “Yes, let’s kick up our heels and watch some Tic Tocs. Teach me how to play wordscapes or Brick Breaker. How do you use the face swap filter again? 

You’ll want to build a relationship with this mean voice in your head. Notice she is the one that won’t let you rest, wants to tell you what a bad mom you are and how your kids are losers and it’s all your fault. This voice is creating a lot of unnecessary drama and keeping you from enjoying THIS stage of your life. 

Decide how you want to feel, while raising perfectly imperfect teenagers, and get this mean voice out of the driver’s seat of your brain. 

Once you’ve moved this voice out of the way, you can remind yourself that, though she may appear a lazy teen, this is a TEMPORARY phase in your teen’s life and you can help her through it by being compassionate to the needs of her growing body, mind and spirit. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite – blame

Blame is like cookies. It tastes good in the moment but too much, over time, leaves us feeling a little sick.

When we think, “If my kid would change I could feel better.” we get a temporary reprieve from that mean voice in our head that wants to beat us up.

We think, “It’s not me, it’s them” and we get a break. Over time, blaming someone else for our emotional upset leaves us feeling powerless and helpless to change. 

Thinking my teenager’s lazy, rude behavior is all my fault doesn’t feel good either.

First, question the thoughts that are saying that her behavior is wrong and bad. Once you are feeling neutral about the behavior and have quieted your inner mean girl, you can ask, “How am I contributing to her behavior?” and “What do I have the power to change?” 

 

Supermom Powerboost – Understanding your energy cycles

Now this question is not asking, “How long can you relax before the mean voice in your head tells you you are lazy and wasting time.”

The question is, “What are your natural energy cycles?” Do you feel energized in the morning but drained in the afternoon? Do you feel tired after eating carbs and energized after yoga class?

Having a compassionate understanding of your energy cycles will help you recognize you and your teen are different people. 

Help your kids get to know their natural energy cycles. Do they feel drained after being at school all day? Does it help them feel energized to socialize after school, nap or be alone for a while? How many hours of social media can they enjoy before it starts to drain them? Are 2 back-to-back Netflix shows rejuvenating but 4 are suppressing?

Help your child get to know her own energy cycles with compassionate curiosity and self-awareness. When you can honor your own energy cycles, you’ll find you have the power boost you need to help your daughter discover hers. 

Quote of the Day “Teen “addiction” to social media is a new extension of typical human engagement. Their use of social media as their primary site of sociality is most often a byproduct of cultural dynamics that have nothing to do with technology, including parental restrictions and highly scheduled lives. Teens turn to and are obsessed with whichever environment allows them to connect to friends. most teens aren’t addicted to social media; if anything, they’re addicted to each other.” 

Danah Boyd, author of “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.”

perfectionistic teen

Perfectionistic Teen

Question of the Day: Perfectionistic Teen

This is about Jenny and her perfectionistic teen:

“Hi Torie, I recently started listening to your podcasts after finding Brooke Castillo from a friend.” 

(If you haven’t heard Brooke Castillo’s podcast, I highly recommend it. She is one of my life coaching teachers and her podcast is called The Life Coach School Podcast. If you’re looking for a new podcast to listen to check her out for sure.)

Jenny says, “I’m fairly new to this life coaching stuff, but I’ve seen huge changes in myself since listening and applying the principles you and Brooke teach. I find that I’m not sure how to help my children discover these amazing liberating principles. 

My oldest, who’s 13, is a lot like me (or who I was). He’s a total people-pleaser and major perfectionist. This sweet boy does everything he can to try and control everyone else’s happiness to his own detriment. I think he thinks that, if he’s perfect, I (or his teachers) will be happy.

When I try to give him suggestions or point this out he calls himself “dumb” and a “failure”. In fact, he is calling himself these things almost daily! Just today he said, “I’m so dumb why can’t everyone else see that?!” This is a constant issue for him. He would rather get a worse grade or not perform to his full ability, than to talk to his teachers or coaches and admit he doesn’t understand how to do something. How do I help this well-intentioned but out of control boy? He is literally destroying and hindering himself to make everyone else happy.”

perfectionistic teen

Parent Education Answer: Handling Your Perfectionistic Teen

Here are some parenting tips that you can implement to help your perfectionistic teen (or child no matter what age). 

  1. Celebrate mistakes – It’s a tricky one to do when you are a recovering perfectionist yourself, but it’s worthwhile. Go around the dinner table and ask everyone to share their biggest mistake. Whoever made the biggest faux pas gets the biggest dessert. Talk about your “failures” or embarrassing mistakes you made when you were his age. We can mess with his mind by viewing mistakes as a good thing. We make mistakes when we take a risk, push outside our comfort zone, and live life to the fullest and live as a human.

Right now, your son feels shame, when he even contemplates making a mistake. Shame can only live in the dark. When you bring it out into the light, laugh at it, own up to it, and celebrate it, it loses its power.


2. Two magic words
– Incorporate these magical two words into your vocabulary. “Oh Well” Using these words on a daily basis is one of the greatest ways you can help your child learn to go with the flow. “We’re late again. Oh well!” “I didn’t get my homework assignment in on time. Oh well!” “I was too scared to talk to the coach about getting more play time. Oh well!” “I’m trying to make everyone happy except for myself, Oh well.” Try it and notice how your muscles relax and the tension melts away. 

  1. Personality Puppet Show –  I like to tell kids that they have a personality puppet show going on in their brains. When your child is calm, grab a piece of paper, sit down with him, and draw pictures of your inner perfectionists. Together, create characters out of the voices in your heads that say, “You aren’t good enough.”

Does it sound like a male or female voice? Is it more of an animal or cartoon character? What kind of clothes does it wear? What kind of movements and facial expressions can you imagine? Really create a clear visual of this inner perfectionist. Draw a speech bubble over its head with the things it likes to say: “I’m dumb” “I’m stupid” “Whatever I do is never enough.” 

Ask Yourself

To begin with, ask yourselves: “Would I want to be friends with somebody who spoke to me that way?”  “Would I ever talk to somebody else like that?” If not, thank your inner perfectionists for trying to keep you safe, tell her, “Your opinion is noted, but not welcome.”  Feed her a snack and send her out for a walk. She or he will be back anytime you do something outside your comfort zone. Talking to authority figures sounds like a trigger for your son, so expect this inner perfectionist to show up every time he admits his imperfection. 

Perfectionistic Teen

As you write and talk about your inner perfectionists, you will remove the shame of it. When you can separate out this character from the other parts of you, it creates breathing space. You realize, “I am not my inner perfectionist.” “I am the one who can observe it.” 

Also, encourage your son (when he’s calm) to think of a time when he made a mistake and he didn’t beat himself up for it. I guarantee there was a time! Maybe he spilled some milk or forgot his jacket at a friend’s house. It can be very simple like he forgot to put the toilet seat down. Have him notice the voice that didn’t make a big deal about it. What did it say? It was probably something very easy going like, “Oh well!” or “No big deal”. Show him that he already has this voice in his head. Ask him which voice he would rather be friends with? Which voice does he respect more? 

Life Coaching Answer:

What gets in the way of being able to implement these strategies? Well, I’m sure you realize that your own in her perfectionist is going to get into the way. 

When you have a situation like Jenny has here with her perfectionistic teen, it’s not unusual for a mom to type into the search bar “How to help a perfectionistic teen”. What comes up, is a lot of articles that make you feel so bad about yourself that you are unable to help your son. 

You read an article with well-meaning advice like “It’s crucial to teach this to your children.” Your children are watching how you react to every situation.”  “Make sure you are modeling good behavior.” “Children need to know blah blah blah so don’t dismiss it because you need to demonstrate these skills….” 

It’s easy for a perfectionistic mom, worried about doing everything right, will read this and think, “I suck. His anxiety is all my fault. I totally screwed him up and I’m doing it all wrong.”

ARTICLES LIKE THIS IS WHY I STARTED THIS PODCAST

It’s true, that there are at least 20 different things that mom can do to help her son’s perfectionism. But listing 20 ways MOM needs to change, overnight, or else SHE is causing her son to be unhappy and stressed. Umm…NOT HELPFUL!

So what keeps us from helping our kids deal with their perfectionism? Our own perfectionism and a culture that feeds right into it. 

The best way for Jenny to help her son is to pay attention to her own emotions and keep doing what she’s doing, to tame her own inner perfectionist. Focusing on herself and her own growth, while staying away from media that make her feel like she isn’t already perfect as she is.

Working on Yourself

Work on yourself, in front of your son, in these 3 ways:

  1. Talk out loud about what your inner perfectionist saying. “I can hear my inner perfectionist getting mad about my being late. She is saying, ‘I should have left earlier.’ ‘I should have allowed more time.’ ‘I’m such an idiot.’ ‘They are going to be mad at me.’ I would never talk that way to anyone else. It’s super mean! So, I’m going to send my inner perfectionist to Starbucks and just say, ‘Oh well!'”
  2. Talk out loud about your emotions. Because your son is 13, I would start by modeling this yourself. Say, “I’m feeling embarrassed because I didn’t do everything perfectly. My cheeks are hot and I feel like crawling into a ball and hiding.”  Or, “I’m mad at myself because I said something dumb. I wish I could take it back. I feel tension in my shoulders and my fists are clenched.”

If he was younger, I would ask him where in his body he feels the emotion, what color is it, what it feels like, etc. Perfectionism is a kind of anxiety and anxiety is an avoidance of emotions. When you can learn to process emotions, there is no need for anxiety. 

  1. Love more, care less. This is something I work on in my Leading Your Teen Masterclass. 

First of all, love the person your kid is today, with flaws and imperfections, and care less about how he shows up in the world. Care less about his grades, whether he talks to coaches or teachers, but love him more, as the perfectly imperfect 13 year old he is.

It helps to know that, care, unchecked, can feel controlling. Love is expansive, compassionate and is just what a stressed out perfectionistic teen needs. Take the pressure off by accepting him just as he is today. 

Supermom Kryptonite – Suppressing our inner perfectionist. 

When we first realize we’ve got this voice in our heads that is mean and not helpful, our first instinct is to kick it to the curb and get rid of it. When we hear our kids saying, “I’m dumb” we want to jump in and shut that awful voice down! We tell them that of course they aren’t dumb and as you’ve learned, that doesn’t work. He gets annoyed that you don’t agree with his mean and limiting beliefs! 

The same is true for us. When we deny or suppress our inner critic, it creates tension, resistance, and “exploding doormat syndrome” where we explode at minor problems.

Instead, try turning the volume up on this mean, critical voice. When we turn the volume up and, create a character and personality associated with this voice, there is no resistance. It allows us to see it separately and not believe that everything this voice says is true. It also teaches us that if we can turn a voice up, we may also be able to turn it down. 

Supermom Power Boost – Queer Eye Netflix Show

If you are going to have a harsh inner critic, you’ll want to have a powerful inner cheerleader, too. We can be this for our children, but sometimes we need inspiration. I find the Fab 5 from the Queer Eye show on Netflix to be a great source of inspiration.

These 5 men help someone change without making them feel bad for being the way they are. The show offers life makeovers, but also love, kindness, and compassion. Watch this feel-good show for inspiration and ideas on how to support yourself and your kids, while being perfectly imperfect.

Whenever I’m feeling embarrassed or inadequate, I like to pretend the Fab 5 are talking to about me. “We love Torie, she’s gorgeous, look at her fabulous self, she’s so great”. It makes me smile every time. We all need our own cheerleading squad to help us cope with being imperfect in a perfectionistic world. 

Quote of the Day 

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” 

Carol S. Dweck www.mindsetonline.com 

Letting go of a sunscreen power struggle

Question of the Day: Power Struggle over Sunscreen

“My kids put up a huge stink when it comes to wearing sunscreen. I can get them to wear hats and sun shirts occasionally, but every time they step into the sun, I get so anxious. We live in a sunny place, near the beaches, so this is a frequent problem. I think my oldest is genuinely sensitive to the texture of sunscreen. He used to freak out when we tried to wipe his face or if his clothes got wet. My second child just copies his brother and has turned sunscreen into a huge power struggle.

I just want to relax and enjoy a day at the beach but I get so anxious that doing so is really difficult. I need to let it go but I can’t help but think they are going to get skin cancer and die and it’s going to be my fault.” Louise 

power struggle over sunscreen

Parent Education Answer:

The parenting rule of thumb with power struggles is to avoid them at all costs. As a parent, you CANNOT WIN a power struggle. They will play out in one of two ways:

  1. The parents use coercion to manipulate children into doing what they want. They might use guilt, fear, threats, sarcasm, yelling, or any attempt to control or force the child to do something against their will. Sometimes this works and they get the kids to wear their sunscreen, but the cost is that kids learn to ignore their own wisdom and depend on an outside authority to make decisions. Children who surrender their will to their parents learn to blame others for their mistakes, feel helpless to change on their own, and make other people responsible for their happiness. 
  2. If your child “wins” the power struggle they feel victorious. They get the benefit of depending on themselves for wisdom and happiness, but they can’t ever wear sunscreen or they feel like a loser! In order to prove that they are independent-minded kids, they cannot do what you want them to do. Wearing sunscreen would feel like giving you a victory rather than it being a choice they make from their own thoughtfulness. 

Both of these scenarios create separation and disconnect between parent and kid. Power struggles are lose-lose situations. 

Think of a power struggle like a game of tug of war. The harder you pull in one direction, the harder your kid needs to pull in the opposite direction. Tug of war creates a winner and a loser. Getting into this power struggle is like teaching him how to dig his heels in and not budge. 

Avoiding the Power Struggle

The way to avoid a power struggle is to stand in your authentic power. You do have wisdom beyond your kids. Present the pros and cons, but let their action be their choice. 

In your calmest, most confident voice, offer them some options:

  • You can either wear a hat and shirt, or you can wear sunscreen. 
  • You can either wear sunscreen and play in the sun, or not and stay in the shade.
  • If you want to play soccer on the beach, you’ll need to have sun protection.
  • Would you prefer stick, cream, or spray? You can apply it yourself or I can do it for you. 

Giving your children options will help them trust their own inner guidance to make decisions that are right for them. 

 

Life Coaching Answer:

What gets in the way for moms is our biology. Our brains are wired to look for potential hazards. Especially once we become moms, we scan our environment looking for things that can harm our precious ones: My child’s fair skin is exposed to the sun. Sun causes cancer. Wearing sunscreen prevents harmful skin damage. It seems so easy and obvious to our brains, doesn’t it? 

Every mom I know have an invisible instruction book called How to be a good mom. In this book, it says things like, “A good mom makes sure her children wear sunscreen at the beach.” “A good mom is always available to her kids.” “A good mom doesn’t allow her children to suffer negative emotions.”

There are rules about everything: What kind of grades our kids should get, how they should treat their siblings, when it’s ok to quit a sport you signed up for. You name it, we’ve got rules about it in our invisible instruction book. 

This invisible instruction book can cause us a lot of frustration. We get really annoyed when our children won’t let us be the mom we want to be! Our ego gets involved and we put our ability to feel like a responsible, caring mother into the hands of our strong willed children.

We cling really tightly to being right and accomplishing whatever goal we think will make us feel like a good mom. This makes us parent from fear, instead of love. 

Throw a little anxiety into the mix with the thought, “My children are going to get cancer and die!” and you’ve got the recipe for a power struggle.

When we get caught up in “catastrophizing” and “futurizing”, like we seem to be with this thought, our brains react as though there is an immediate problem to solve.

Blood rushes to our extremities, our hearts start pounding, our eyes focus on that beautiful pale skin and we leap for the sunscreen like it’s a life raft. We are in fear. Our kids sense it and want nothing to do with it. 

We think, “If they would just put sunscreen on, then I could relax.” But chances are, this anxious brain will just find something else to focus on, worry about, and catastrophize. 

Parenting from Love, not Fear

In order to relax and parent from love instead of fear, we need to question the anxious brain. We start by recognizing that there is no IMMEDIATE threat. Even though your brain perceives one, your kid won’t allow you to take the one productive action step you want. So instead, take a deep breath and realize that in this moment you and your children are safe. 

Once you have calmed your brain down, you can take a logical look at the belief that is triggering this fight or flight response. “My children will get skin cancer and die.” Is that true? Maybe. If they are fair-skinned. If it runs in the family and your kid spends lots of time outdoors without protection. But, they probably won’t get skin cancer this year, or in the next 20 years.

Maybe they’ll just get the minor little squamous cells and use cream to remove them. Maybe they’ll get a melanoma and have it scooped out. Will they die of skin cancer? Possibly, but not likely. They can visit doctors and have screenings. They can also change their minds and start wearing sunscreen at any point in the future. Maybe they’ll start tomorrow or next year? In the grand scheme of their life, will a sunburn or two cause tremendous harm? Probably not. 

 

You want to walk through all the other scenarios with your logical brain. Find someone you know who has been through treatment and ask yourself, “Does his skin cancer diagnosis mean he had a terrible mother?” 

 

Then ask yourself, “How can I still be a good mom, even if my child doesn’t wear sunscreen?” 

By offering my kids choices?

Letting him experience natural consequences and the pain that comes with a sun burn?

By letting go so that sunscreen can be his idea and not mine?

 

When we have love for ourselves, it makes it easier to have it for our kids. But it all starts with letting go of fear. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Right-Fighting

Are you always trying to “win” an argument? Do you get overly emotional when people don’t agree with you? Do you insist on having the last word? 

Everyone likes to be right, especially when you know you ARE! 

Is wearing sunscreen at the beach the right thing to do? Of course! You have the wisdom to share and taking care of one’s health is the right thing to do. 

But when raising kids, sometimes we need to enjoy our own validation, inside our own heads. Our kids want to be right sometimes, too. And they may fight you for it. But fighting to be right puts you at odds with your child. Instead of feeling connected, you feel adversarial. 

Let go of the rope, whenever you feel your child tugging on the other end of it. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or be happy?” or “Would I rather be right or have peace in my home?” 

 

Supermom Powerboost – Humor vs Power Struggle

When you catch yourself in anxiety brain, fighting to be right, or parenting out of fear, try to add a little humor.

Did you catch yourself chasing your son around with a sunscreen bottle? Turn yourself into a zombie and start repeating, “I want to eat pale skin.” Does your child take off her hat as soon as you put it on? Try putting it on her foot, or her stuffed animal, or the dog instead.

Slipping in the humor disarms a building power struggle. You may be surprised at how willing your child is to comply when you are acting as a Disney Princess or Darth Vader instead of mom. 

Quote of the Day:

“Once we release our fears as a parent, we can walk WITH our children as fellow students and travelers. That is the ultimate purpose of parenting.” Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Attention seeking behavior

This Week’s Question: Attention Seeking Behavior

Hello Torie,

I recently found your podcast; thank you for providing such great information. I want to pick your brain about parenting a child who shows more attention seeking behavior than her siblings.

My middle child (a 9 year old) is constantly pointing out how life is unfair for her and how everyone else has it better. I try my best to be as “fair” as possible to each child. I also point out how even though it seems like everyone has it better than her, she actually has a lot to be grateful for as well (which I know doesn’t go over too well).  My other two kids are pretty laid back and compliant, so, in comparison, she seems more needy!

When she was younger, this would manifest as a lot of crying spells/meltdowns over seemingly insignificant things, which I know is normal, but her behavior was so unlike my other two.  She also tends to be the instigator when it comes to any sibling fights.
She will still say things like, “You don’t love me,” or “You don’t care about me,” and I tell her firmly that’s not the case (obviously!!). One common situation is that my youngest is very attached to me and will reach for my hand when we’re walking, so naturally, I oblige. But then my 9 year old will complain that I’m holding her sister’s hand instead of hers.
In the past, I’ve given her more attention and tried to make her feel special, but once I take away this attention, she melts down and seems to demand even more. She responds well to time together and one-on-one attention, but even then, it has to be on her terms (I have tried to initiate on my own, and she will be indifferent at times).
How do I balance the attention she needs versus the attention that she wants?
-Grace

attention seeking behavior

 

Parent Educator Answer:

This is a great question to talk about defining and accepting your child’s TEMPERAMENT.  Temperament refers to the different aspects of a personality.
Grace is calling this “attention seeking behavior” but sometimes when she gives her attention, it doesn’t work. What I’m hearing in this behavior is a temperament that is sensitive, dramatic, persistent, and intense.
The great thing about kids is that often they tell you exactly what they are thinking. Grace’s daughter genuinely believes that life is unfair. She thinks, at times, she isn’t loved or cared for as much as her siblings. She truly believes she is getting the short end of the stick.
There is nothing her mom can do about what her daughter chooses to believe. We cannot make people think differently (clearly she’s tried already to convince that she is loved and treated fairly).
There is no amount of attention mom can give her to make her think differently. She could spend 48 hours straight one on one time, come home, hold little sister’s hand, and she’d be right back to thinking, she doesn’t get enough love. So trying to get her to think differently, through words or actions, isn’t going to change her.
When a child is intense and dramatic, we tend to see them as powerful. They seem so strong and capable, we get annoyed that they don’t act differently. We tend to match their intense energy, yelling, and putting in the time out. This is why I’d like to add the word “sensitive” to describe Grace’s daughter’s temperament.
She’s been having meltdowns since she was little. She struggles to feel safe and loved. Her brain easily goes to a fear response. Nobody acts their best when scared. We don’t know why she was made this way, it’s no one’s fault, the world needs all kinds of people.
Thinking about having a sensitive child helps us slow down, quiet our voice, lower our posture, speak softly and kindly. When her emotions overwhelm her, her brain goes into fight or flight. Our goal as parents to help her shift out of fear so she can access the logical, calmer parts of her brain. She cannot get there on her own.
We don’t have to agree with what she is saying to calmly validate what she is feeling. “I understand you feel like nobody loves you. You feel jealous of the attention I’m giving your sister. It’s hard for you to believe that you get as much as your siblings.”
Think about if you truly believed you weren’t loved by your mom. How would you feel?  It would be so scary to be a 9-year-old kid thinking your mom doesn’t love you or she cares more about your siblings than you. Even though we know it’s not true, she thinks, at that moment, that it is. She’s terrified. So she screams, yells, and fights for love and attention.
If you were to come to her, get down on her level, touch her, use a calm voice, repeat what you hear her saying, it would calm her down. It would also make it hard for her to believe you don’t love her when you are clearly making her feel seen, heard, and felt.
We cannot make our kids think differently but we can help them feel seen, heard, and felt. In a nutshell, that’s all we really want.

Life Coaching Answer:

I remember talking with my parenting coach and having this huge a-ha. I was embarrassed because I was supposed to be this “parenting expert” and yet I was pulling my hair out with trying to understand my strong-willed four-year-old. But I sucked it up and hired a coach and I’m so glad I did! The lightbulb went on when I realized, “It’s her TEMPERAMENT”.
Arguing with her temperament was like arguing with God. This is how she was wired, who am I to think she should be different than she is? From that day on, once I accepted her rebellious, strong-willed, non-people-pleasing personality, life got so much easier!
What gets in our way when we see a difficult personality trait in our kids, is the belief that we can change them. This will exhaust and frustrate us. It’s not our job to change their personality, but to work with it and appreciate them FOR their personalities.
I think Grace is doing this. She sees the value in her daughter’s strong will, but she’s arguing thinking she “shouldn’t act this way” or “If I was a more attentive mom she wouldn’t behave this way.” This will just anger her and make her tired.
Trying to control something we have no control over will drive us crazy. Personality is something we cannot control. A good question to ask yourself is: “How can I be a great mom to a kid who is sensitive, intense, and scared?
Imagine there is another kid like yours out there in the world. Let’s say she’s having a meltdown at a park. She is saying, “You don’t love me” to her mom. You are watching this scene and thinking, “Wow, that mom is a really great mom.”
You are totally impressed at how she is handling her daughter’s meltdown. Imagine what she is doing? What is she saying? What energy or emotion is she rooted in?
The reason our children’s personalities bug us is because of how WE FEEL AND ACT when they annoy us. We don’t like that our kids can turn us into yelling, out of control, crazy people!
If we got to be the PARENT we wanted to be, their behavior wouldn’t bother us. We try to control their behavior so that we can act like a good parent. This doesn’t work so well. Putting the focus on OUR feelings and behavior works much better. You get to decide how YOU feel and behave, regardless of how your child acts.
Focusing on controlling the one thing you have control over will feel much more empowering.

Supermom Kryptonite – Therapy

I believe one of the reasons we live in a culture of perfectionistic parenting is because of therapy. You’ve got a whole generation of women who went to therapists and learned all the things our parents did wrong.
A common goal of therapy is to take you back to childhood situations where you didn’t receive what you needed and give you the compassion and empathy that you needed at that time. It works. It feels healing and healthy.
But the side effect of it is an entire generation of women who have learned that there is a right way and wrong way to parent. We learn that doing the wrong thing can have devastating consequences and cause pain to our children.
If we are to be good parents, we need to always say and do the right things and prevent our kids from experiencing negative emotion. Therapists don’t say this, it’s just a side effect of the therapy model.
Children are going to experience negative emotion. Parents are going to yell, mess up and say the wrong thing. There is no way that any parent can do everything right. The reason I like life coaching so much, is you learn how much control you actually have.
No parent, spouse, or child has the power to make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. It gives you permission to be imperfect, but still strive to do your best. Accepting the things you have no control over, like your child’s temperament, helps you relax and enjoy things as they are.

Therapist vs Life Coach

There is a time and a place for therapy so since I just bagged on it, let me tell you where I see the value.
Therapy was based on the premise that a client is mentally and emotionally unwell, and it’s a therapist’s job to bring them up to a state of wellness.
Life Coaching works with the assumption that a client is already mentally and emotionally healthy and stable, they just want to feel better, change something up, go after a goal, settle into a new identity, etc.
People hire life coaches to help them with parenting, career, relationships, creative pursuits, athletic pursuits, entrepreneurial pursuits, etc.

Supermom Powerboost – Therapy

A client is better served by a therapist when they have experienced trauma and they’ve never spoken about it. Whether this trauma was during childhood or adulthood, it’s so helpful to tell your story to a compassionate witness. To revisit this traumatic story, once or twice, talk to someone without judgement.
A therapist helps you identify the emotions you felt and interpret the trauma in a way that is empowering. It can be hard to move forward in life without this, so it really can serve an important and helpful role.
Once you have told the story of your trauma to a compassionate witness and processed the emotions of the event, repeating that story again can actually keep you stuck in the past. Life coaching is more present and future-focused.
I don’t care so much about what happened in your past, but about how those events might be impacting your future and getting in the way of creating a life you want.
If you feel like it’s time to “open this can of worms” and finally speak out loud about something that has haunted you for a long time, find a therapist in your area. You won’t get a boost of energy right away, but over time, cleaning up the past will help you feel more energized about your future.
If you don’t have a trauma that needs verbalizing and you just want to feel better, try life coaching.  If you’ve already been to therapy and you want your life to continue to get better and more aligned with your higher self, go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me
Quote of the Day is the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer. I always thought this was a perfect fit for parenting.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”