Are you aware of the parenting energy you are sending?
Energy is a tough thing to talk about because it is so hard to see, but the more I coach, teach and parent, the more I see how valuable it is to spend time thinking about.
Kids are especially sensitive to the energies people put out. It takes us a while to learn how to stop trusting our instincts and talk ourselves out of our gut emotions. Energy translates through body language, voice tone, face expressions, eye contact, etc. Take a look at these photos to see which one you think looks like the energy you parent from, and which you think would be most effective. I’m sure I’m do all of them, depending on the day. The last photo, I believe, shows the energy that works best for teens.
To me, the mom in this photo says “I know what’s best for you and I’m in charge” and “you are messing up”. It feels punitive and self-righteous, which is probably why we see the teen resisting. Moms often do know what’s best and are in charge, but it can be communicated with the energy of mutual respect. When a parent helps her teen find her own inner wisdom, everybody wins.
It could be said that this Mom is ignoring her teen, maybe even deliberately trying to act like she isn’t bothered by her. Is she trying to embarrass her? Is she trying to drown her out and ignore her? Either way, it feels inauthentic. Neither Mom or daughter feels seen, heard and felt. Teens can spot a fake a mile away and the energy repels them.
While this leaning in, attentive, encouraging energy works great for little ones, if we use it with our teens they feel smothered by it. Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are without us, but it’s hard when we are always there, giving them our thoughts, opinions and attention.
You can almost hear this Mom saying, “I’m worried about you, sweetheart.” “You need to be careful, there are scary things out there.” We want to give kids our worries so we feel better, but teens tend to be black & white thinkers. “When I’m with my Mom I feel bad, so I don’t want to be around her.” Look at the Moms delicate touch, her gentle posture and averted eye gaze, she is communicating the message, I am weak and vulnerable and so are you. Kids want to feel strong and capable, not worried and weak, so they resist, or worse, join in and start living from fear.
Here we see from the Moms dropped head and collapsed posture that her son is comforting her. While it’s great to have a son who shows empathy and affection, it’s not healthy for him to take on the role of adult. Kids can sense when we feel weak, desperate for a hug, or needy for more involved in their life. When our energy feels weak, needy or clingy, they rebel, HOPEFULLY! If not, they can set themselves up for a lifetime of psychological problems and ignoring their needs by taking on the role of adult. Teens are supposed to be self-centered. When we take care of our emotional needs in healthy ways, we teach them to do the same.
I always come back to this picture as the best example of the most effective energy for parenting teens. This Mama duck is facing forward, watching where she is going but attuned to her ducklings. She knows they are there and is showing them how to navigate their way through the world. She’s teaching them to avoid potential hazards while believing they are strong and capable. When one wanders off course, she returns to nudge the wanderer back on course. She never worries but if one is in danger, she will quack loudly and continuously until someone comes along to help. If the ducklings aren’t sure what to do, they just look to Mom who is always there with a calm and loving presence. (Can you tell I’ve had experience watching Mama ducks interact with their ducklings? They used to hatch near our swimming pool every spring.)
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Obviously these photos can be interpreted in a number of ways but thanks for indulging me in my interpretation as a way to talk about the energy of parenting. I did a similar exercise in high school drama class and it was fun to relive it! 🙂