Let Us Resist Our Own Resistance. (This article is not for babies.)
A major theme I see as a teen and parent coach is that parents tend to resist what is actually happening, how things actually are, what human beings are really like sometimes.
Parents often stay in the space of appalled, frustrated, incredulous, annoyed, disappointed-- which are all natural reactions for sure, BUT if we don’t move past our human reactions when reality does not match our expectations, we do not get to the good part where we solve problems, stretch ourselves, learn and grow.
By the way, I love irony...like when I was at my kids’ end of year award ceremony and the kid who got the attendance award-- like she did not miss ONE single day of Kindergarten through 8th grade --was called to the stage to accept...and….crickets...turning heads...craning necks...where is she? She was absent.
The type of irony I don’t like is when parents, who literally care more about their kid than literally anyone else on the planet and are literally the one their kids needs and wants the most to help them are sidelined and reduced to anger and blame instead of really listening past their feelings and shock to deal effectively with the issue that IS HAPPENING.
It’s happening. Depression, anxiety, sex, sexting, failing, forgetting, smoking, vaping, drugs, sneaking out, being messy, smelling bad, ditching chores, cheating, feeling sorry for themselves, whining, complaining, half-assing, yelling, arguing, lying, avoiding, face in phone, video games 24/7…IT IS HAPPENING. If you can’t check off like four of those, it’s worse because they are probably doing it, but you’re not aware!
I’m not a cynic and I am not implying that you are blind or bad at your job. What I am saying is when and if it comes to your attention that there is an “issue,” I am inviting you to look into this with me now like you never ever have before. You can trash everything you read here when you’re done and throw your phone at the wall (haha), but for now, pretend like it could really work. With me?
So you identify an issue. What do you do or say next?
Oh my GOD! Not again! Why don’t they learn? How can they not UNDERSTAND this by now? Why are they so lazy, rude, irresponsible? Why must they torture me? I cannot BELIEVE they don’t KNOW better! They DO know better! How many times do I have to tell them? They sure can motivate when it’s something THEY want! How can they be so foolish, naive, unaware, careless, stubborn? Why don’t they do what I say? I’m right about this. Why do they have to learn the hard way?
That’s it! You made your choice by not obeying and respecting me. No XBOX, phone, screen time, friends, car, trip, allowance. I’m taking it away until you realize you need to listen to me and do what I say when I say it. No more trust. No more games. No more patience. No more benefit of the doubt. No more freedom. No more fun. No more ice cream. No more smiling. No more mercy.
(Likely there’s a small, temporary improvement, but then what?)
You’re out of ideas. Do you feel beaten? Are you beating yourself up? Do you feel judged by your parents, spouse, friends (if you tell them the truth about how it is)? Do you judge yourself? Do you feel tired? Do you think you should just give up? Do you feel like escaping? Do you drink a little more, a little earlier? Do you check out? Do you feel better? Do you feel hopeless? Do you feel distant and lonely? Do you feel stuck and like this is just the sentence you have to serve? Or do you just hang onto HOPE that things will somehow magically change? Are you in denial? Are you scared?
I have a new idea and I know how to teach it to you so stay put.
Once you’ve tried that cycle 100+ times, you’ve maybe started saying stuff like:
That’s how teenagers are.
They’re just like their...whoever you resent.
They will have to learn the hard way.
I’ve done all I can.
I’ll win this power struggle. I won’t cave. They’ll have to.
You know who or what is to blame? I do! It’s...whatever you want to blame.
When I was a kid…and everyone rolls their eyes (even you probably because you know that is irrelevant).
Ok. The new plan and this is only a start because if it was so easy to just read it and change everything, you probably would have by now.
See, you just have a blindspot. You are missing a very important part of the puzzle by resisting, blaming, shaming, judging, comparing, assessing, cursing and throwing up your hands as you just barely charge back up enough for the next cycle.
Below you will find some potentially life-changing questions to ask yourself and here’s a hint, if you blow them off and say:
Oh nooo, of course not.
My mother does it though and my spouse too.
That’s stupid and irrevelant!
I’m good. I’ve already tried that…
It is NOT my fault! It couldn’t be.
...then sorry because you’ve wasted your time today by reading this.
I’ll need you to just totally put aside your current (possibly not as effective as you’d like it to be) strategy for a few minutes and LOOK HARD at yourself.
You are the ONE who can transform this circumstance. I believe that with ALL OF MY HEART and BRAIN. I’ve seen it over and over and over and over again- in my life (I have 5 teens) and in my clients’ lives.
It’s time to get real and humble and curious:
Does my teenager consider me a safe person to talk to?
If not, why not?
Do I get angry, even if it’s inside of me and I don’t have a “temper”?
Do I yell?
Do I blame? Roll my eyes? Judge? Become sarcastic and rude?
Do I FREAK OUT over a lot of small things? Do I resort to insults?
Do I try to control multiple factors in the home?
Do I listen well?
Do I think I have to know how to handle everything?
Do I make threats?
Do I have to be right even when I’m wrong?
Do I make assumptions? Look hard on this one because it will occur to you like “truth.”
Answering these questions is step one. And don’t ask your kid if these are true. It’s a self-reflection. They will just say what you want to hear as usual or blow you off as usual.
If your kid does not see you as a safe person to talk to, whether or not you think that would be a crazy and unfair point of view for them to have, they will NOT talk to you.
This means you will not find out WHY they are doing/not doing these things that make you worry, fume or cry.
This means you will never get to the root of the issue or even understand what IS the real issue versus the symptoms, excuses and scapegoats.
I had a meeting with a client last year. She had shut down completely. No communication with her mom at all for almost a year and a half. Avoidance was the name of the game. The parent viewed it as her “wanting privacy,” “needing space,” and “normal teenage stuff/hormones.”
I got to talk with her for an hour. Within 15 minutes, I knew why. It was specific- the thing that happened. The mom would maybe NEVER have known the reason the girl no longer viewed her mother as safe unless I had intervened (by coaching the teenager to have this conversation-- and how to do it-- with her mom with the objective of letting her back in so they could begin to rebulid). The mom could have never apologized, explained her motivation, gotten to see the impact of her behavior. Yes-the mom’s behavior.
So. Resisting and all of its gnarly side-effects are getting you nowhere.
Can you stomach the fact that YOU need to do the changing and looking in the mirror first?
I know how to do this. I know how to get you there and believe it or not, it’s FUN AF. This part may not make sense to you, but I know how I roll, so just trust me! :)
It will feel like someone finally turned on the lights and you’ll get to show up as a source of comfort and influence in your teenager’s life for the first time in a long time, or maybe ever.
(Keep in mind that I love you so much...as a human, as a fellow parent, as someone who is trying. And one last thing: you’re allowed to need help.)