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“How the hell am I supposed to believe a word that comes out of his mouth?!” Her frustration was clear…she was beyond angry with her teenage son because his lying was out of control. She was looking to me to help her understand (a) why he was lying all the time and (b) what she was supposed to do to correct the problem. This was not only hurting their relationship, but his lies were beginning to wreak havoc on her marriage because she and her husband did not see eye to eye on what to do about the issue.
The first step was to have Mom ask herself why her son might be lying. I told her in order to do that, she’d have to set aside feeling betrayed for a moment and honestly get curious about what she thought he had to gain by lying to her about everything from where he was going to why the money in his bank account was disappearing.
One obvious reason…he may be lying to escape the consequences of his actions, right? Another possible reason for his lies could be, in his eyes, her son doesn’t feel there is any room in the relationship for him to make mistakes. Maybe his lies started out small and harmless enough, but have now [over time] developed into a situation that he knows causes constant anger, lectures, distrust…maybe he feels there is no going back, or it would be too hard to turn things around at this point.
Either way, I understood Mom’s frustration but needed her to take a step back emotionally to look at the situation from her son’s perspective.
I run into a lot of parents who believe their teens are doing things to them when in actuality, their kids have made an unwise choice that has consequences they didn’t see coming, and rather than being honest and admitting the mistake (and possibly listening to some intense scrutiny and dealing with the consequences) just continue down the path because they don’t see a way out.
Believe it or not, telling the truth all of a sudden (when asked over and over again) doesn’t seem like a viable option.
If you want your son or daughter to be truthful you’ve got to be open to the fact that they’re going to make some mistakes during this often confusing time in their lives. And when they do, you’re responsible for creating an atmosphere that allows them to feel like they can come clean and not be shamed.
When you look back at your own teen years and you messed up, what happened? Were your mistakes and bad choices met with anger and criticism? Were you made to feel like garbage…or, did your parent(s) talk with you about the consequences of the choice you made and help you look at where you (if you were able to go back) could do things differently?
You know… so you could actually learn from the choices you’d made.
Because if your parents made you feel like crap for your behavior or choices during your teen years, my guess is you don’t know how to respond to your son or daughter any differently. You might even feel justified in responding the same way your parents did.
Ouch, that hurt.
But, ask yourself, if you were doing what your kid is doing at this moment what would be helpful to you?
I’m not saying there shouldn’t ever be consequences for kid’s actions, I’m just saying don’t take everything your teen does as a personal assault against you and your ability to parent.
This is a time when they are trying things on…everything from personality traits to hairstyles.
Another area you’ve gotta get clear on as a parent (and as a couple, if it applies) is what your expectations are. And, just like when they were toddlers, you have to consistently (in word and action) talk about and model these things with your kids.
For example…lying. In this family, we don’t lie. There is nothing you could do or say that would cause you to lose my love, therefore, lying is not an option. We don’t lie to you (make sure you are telling 100% truth here because kids will wave the bullshit flag with their words and/or behavior if you aren’t on the up and up) and we expect the same from you. There is nothing you could ever tell me that would be worse for our relationship than my finding out you lied to me. We can work through anything as long as you tell the truth.
Mom and Dad…you’ve got to live this out and be the example of truth and unconditional love. And if you mess up, own it. Your teen has to believe you are truly on their side and have a deep desire to set them up for success in life.
No anger, just clarity, and living by example.
Your teenager needs you in their life…be there to guide them, not rule over them and take everything they say and do during this decade so personally like it’s a direct reflection on you.
If you need help contact me.
Dear Disappointed/Overwhelmed/ Angry/Frustrated Parent of a Teenager,
Would you like to know the secret(s) to enjoying your kids through their adolescence? Would you like to get along with your son or daughter while they go from puberty to independence?
Because they sure need you right now.
I am going to give you the answer to this because I have been living it out for the past decade and I see and work with so many parents who are stressed out, anxious, and at their wits end…I want to share with you how I truly enjoy guiding kids through adolescence in the hopes it will inspire you to work toward the same end.
First and foremost, there are a few things you will need to do differently. By that I mean you’ll need to do them in a different way than your parents did while raising you. Because you see, the way our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents parented does not work well with kids today.
To evolve your parenting into what will give you the healthiest, happiest outcome, you will need to release some baggage that isn’t serving you or your child and, at this point (whether you want to believe it or not) is the main reason you are white knuckling it through this decade+ of your child’s development.
Looking back at your childhood is a KEY step to shifting any challenges you face with your teenager right now.
In addition to recognizing the need to parent differently during the teen years, here are a few of the other things I do to really enjoy my kids (who, at this point, are middle school/high school/college/young adult career/and 30-something married):
- STOP LISTENING to the messages our culture tells parents, directly and subliminally, about what our kids “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing/accomplishing/checking off in order for them to become “successful” adults. Most of it is b.s. We [parents] get as many messages and pressure tactics from the media, school, neighbors (the ones we’re trying to keep up with), and well-intentioned family members as our kids do! The anxiety this stirs up inside of parents that their kid isn’t “measuring up” is hurting family life because the parent/child relationship is being built upon our kids having to perform for love and acceptance. Sure, we say we love them unconditionally, but they know (because they can feel it inside of themselves) that if they don’t come through in whatever way we’ve decided is so important they won’t be good enough. This is where the feeling of unworthiness is born. Our kids are working at living out our agenda for them, trying to meet our expectations, instead of doing what they came into the world to work through…to evolve into the very best version of themselves. Which, quite frankly, may look nothing like you think it should look.
- START LISTENING to your child, it’s amazing how much brutal honesty comes from their mouths and their behavior. This isn’t about whipping them into shape…my God, if your child is misbehaving in your eyes (anger issues, anxiety, stressed out, drinking/drugging, screwing around at age 13/14/15) this is a CALL FOR HELP, not a slap in your face. Don’t waste time trying to track their every text and movement…start thinking about, and talking with them about, what’s going on for them and what is behind their choice to self-medicate or find love and affection in ways that will limit their potential. You’ve got to do this in a way that let’s them know you are on their side and not coming from trying to control or power over them. And please, if you are struggling to gain ground, seek professional help!
- DISAPPOINTMENT DOES NOT BELONG ANYWHERE IN PARENTING. I’ve thought about this for a long time and I truly believe being disappointed in your son or daughter for any reason, whether you say it directly to them or they can just feel it coming through your energy, is one of the worst things a parent can do because it shames the child and pulls them away from their highest intentions. There is NOTHING the kids I birthed could ever say or do that would cause me to feel disappointed. They are NOT here to please me. I called them into the world and their only “job” is to experience life while reflecting back to me the opportunity to evolve myself in that process.
- BE VULNERABLE. Let your kids know when you’ve messed up, they need to know you’re human. Go ahead and share that the topic you want to discuss with them makes you feel uncomfortable. The more honest you can be with them the more honest they will feel they can be with you.
- LAUGH A LITTLE! A sense of humor will go far with teens. Instead of lecturing them to death (and it falling on deaf ears) be willing to make a point in a playful way:
- YOU, YOU, YOU…sometimes it’s all about you. I can’t stress this enough. When I started to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually my relationship with my kids grew stronger. CHOOSE to do this without any guilt. I know it’s cliche, but think about the cabin pressure mask on a plane story…you literally cannot give others what you don’t have. For me this practice includes running several times a week, daily meditation, feeding my mind with positive books/t.v. programming/podcasts. One of my current favorite podcasts is called What Were You Thinking?! It’s a FANTASTIC look at adolescents and why they make the choices they do.
- NOT YOU, NOT YOU, NOT YOU…distance yourself from taking what your teen says too seriously. Parents often take their kids angry words too much to heart. If you are going to have a mutually respectful relationship it’s gotta start with you. Building (or keeping) a connected relationship with your teenager is more important than their behavior being exactly what you need it to be.
And finally, my last bit of sharing because this is truly what I do with our kids: Detach from the outcome. Work on building a connection with them so they feel like they can come to you and you would never judge them. There are some very diverse beliefs about politics, religion, and lifestyle choices among our group of seven…I embrace every single one of them.
If I can help or support you on your parenting journey in any way, please reach out.
Founder, Real Life Parent Guide
“F#*% YOU!” She bellowed from the other side of the rack in the Juniors section at Target. Brief pause before, “Goddamn it Mom, you ALWAYS ruin things for me, I can’t stand you!”
I looked at Mia with wide eyes and mouthed, “Did we just hear what I think we just heard?!”
In my mind I was thinking, what in gods name could this kid be so angry about that she’s compelled to drop the f-bomb and yell at her mom (loudly, in public, I might add) with such intensity?
Yet I know this kind conversation goes on between moms and their kids all the time. Many a mother has shared with me their experience of feeling angry, resentful, and sometimes overwhelmed by her child’s disrespectful words and actions.
And I wonder…what allows kids today to go where we never would have dared? To actually say such horrible things to their mothers that likely only lived in our deepest, darkest thoughts.
We’ve obviously contributed to this in some way…
Much as we might like them to, our kids don’t look at authority the same way we did. There is an increasing lack of respect for life in general due, in part, because kids have access to much more information than we did, which has had an influence on how they are responding to life.
Moms tend to experience disrespectful behavior more often from their kids than dads do because moms are [generally] the more nurturing parent, the softer place to fall. Moms usually forgive easier than dads do, they consistently share a wider range of emotions, their voices aren’t as harsh nor their looks as menacing.
When I was growing up, my Mom would often have to ask me repeatedly (kindly at first, then with increasing volume and attitude) to do basic stuff like load the dishwasher or make my bed. On the other hand, if my Dad even looked at me the wrong way and I’d be in tears. My response was based on the fact that on some level I knew my Mom (exasperated or not) would love and accept me no matter what…my Dad, well, he had a more conditional vibe. I felt I had to perform to his satisfaction in order to gain his love and approval. My Dad was someone to be cautious around.
I think kids just “know” what they can get away with and what they can’t with their parents.
Which begs the question: Why do moms allow themselves to be disrespected by their kids?
Parents who place an emphasis on getting specific behavior from their kids will be on the receiving end of their child’s disrespect more often than those who emphasize connection in their relationship.
If you are driven by your child’s behavior being the compass for your success as a parent your child will sense it and will push you away because what they really crave (yes, even during their teenage years) is a connection with you that doesn’t rest completely on who you need them to be.
Ask yourself: What is more important to me…the way my child behaves, or the connection I have with my child?
If you cultivate a relationship where your child’s behavior is the priority and is a direct reflection of your ability to parent, when your kid acts up or talks back to you in a way that hurts your feelings, then you will be fueling a connection that will incite arguments, power struggles, and confrontation. Especially during adolescence when our kids naturally begin to pull away from us.
What worked when your child was young no longer holds water during their emerging independence.
because the way our parents raised us isn’t working with this generation.
Have you noticed?
Everything else in the world is changing and evolving, why should parenting be any different?
Mom, when your kid drops the f-bomb or slams the door, when she take three hours to do one simple household task you go crazy because you feel unheard and disrespected, right?
And kids aren’t allowed to do that to their parents, right?
I promise you, when you shift from defining the relationship with your son or daughter from their behavior being acceptable to you to building a connection with them you will have less struggle.
Write out a to-do list, tell them they’ve got the weekend to get it done, if it’s not done set the consequence ahead of time so they know what will come, then close your mouth.
You want your teenager to be invested in your relationship, so you can continue to impart some wisdom on them as they make bigger life decisions. If your child feels controlled by you, or that they have to perform to your expectation to receive your love and acceptance that’s where the rebellion comes in.
All behavior (yours, mine, our kids) is an attempt to satisfy one of six basic human needs: acceptance, affection, appreciation, attention, autonomy, and connection. We are built and wired to connect with one another.
Every time you engage with your son/daughter from a place where their behavior is more important than the connection in your relationship, you create disconnection.
The next time you begin to feel the tension rise with your son or daughter take a moment to figure out what’s going on below the surface for you. On the surface you may feel frustrated, angry, even disappointed…but there’s always something else going on below the surface (often motivated by your fear or anxiety) that threatens the connection you have with your child.
The older your child gets the less control you have and the more you will be needed to support and encourage them in whatever decisions they are making for themselves. You shift from being their teacher into being their guide who will allow them to have as many choices as possible (even if they might fail) so they can learn what works for them and what doesn’t.
You got this Mom!