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“My 13 year old daughter is driving me crazy. She lays around all day like a 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.”
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
Changing Identity (gender, sexual identity, socio-political identity, etc.)
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 lazy, 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 teenager, 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 minds 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.
“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.
“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 this is a TEMPORARY phase in your teens 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.