Found this on the website of a motivational speaker whose talk I attended last week. It really struck a chord with me probably because I'm not living through it at the moment.
I have one adolescent male who never seems to be quiet but now that I reflect on it a bit more, he's not actually that different. He's just more of a politician .. you know, says an awful lot of words that never seem to answer the original question and more words that aren't related at all. I'm thinking it would be easier (sometimes anyway) to have one that spoke in monosyllabic utterances! Mind you, with a mother as verbose as I am, he didn't really stand much chance, did he?
The motivational speaker, Graham Hyman, gave a talk called "Living with your teenager". The title alone was enough to rope me in and then hearing that he was funny as well sealed the deal. I picked up Elle (mother of two teenage boys) and Betty (mother to a 20yo son and 16yo daughter) and headed into the dark and dismal night, not really knowing what to expect.
We all had a ball and came away from it with some useful information and strategies for fostering healthy relationships and self-esteem whilst not killing them. It was very comforting to realise that we're not doing anywhere near as bad a job of parenting as we all thought we were and were actually using a lot of these techniques already.
The brief overview (at the risk of breaching copyright .. um-ah!) is basically:
- Talk to your kids .. all the time; not just when you want them to do something. Make time to talk about stuff that interests them; make time to just be in the same room; gossip with them (as in ask about other people and do it nicely .. no negatives) listen when they do talk (even if you consider it dribble!). Being around to talk to about the silly stuff will allow and encourage them to talk about the more serious stuff should the need arise. One I try to practice but sometimes the 'dribble' just gets to be too much!
- Pick your battles, otherwise you'll be battling all the time. Something we are repeatedly told as parents and one which is so much easier to say than do! I try to use the 'Rule of Fives' .. will it matter in five minutes? Five hours? Five weeks? Five months? Five years? If the answer is yes to weeks, months or years, then you need to deal with it and deal with it now. Otherwise, bite another hole in your tongue!
- Break the no-talk rule before it breaks your family. Be prepared to discuss anything and everything and then make sure you do so! Kids, teens especially, are going to push limits and boundaries so making or taking the opportunity to discuss sex, drugs and alcohol is important. Listen to their point-of-view without just declaring they're wrong/stupid/etc. but stand strong on your own moral principles. I try with this one but it is hard! Trying to let your teenage son know he can talk to you about anything including bodily changes, feelings or other sexual-type stuff can result in nothing but a very clammed-up and embarrassed teen and an equally embarrassed mother. Apparently, that's what Dad is for!
- Don't handicap teenagers by making life too easy for them. Let them accept the consequences, be they logical or natural, of their actions. So many parents these days step into the breach every time little Johnny hits a bump in the road (usually of little Johnny's own making) that he never has to accept responsibility for anything. Not much chance of that happening here. I will admit that I am a lot more lenient on the boys in certain areas that annoy my darling husband, but it comes back to the whole 'pick your battles' thing. Overall, I think I'm picking the right battles.
- Catch your teenager in the act of doing something good. It helps to reinforce the good behaviours whilst letting the teen know they're good for something after all (contrary to their own slightly warped beliefs at that age!) The only problem with this is that every time I praise Alex for good behaviour, he seems to take it as a challenge to then behave as badly as possible! Breathe in 2, 3, 4, 5 .. breathe out 2, 3, 4, 5 ....
- Remember - the Lone Ranger never had kids and neither do most superheroes. Being a parent is a tough job and parenting a teen (or two, or three) is tougher. Accept that sometimes, you'll need help and don't be afraid to ask for it. This is another tough one for me to do. I don't like to ask for help but luckily I have a very good support network who can usually see when I am struggling and reach out to lend a hand. Thanks people .. love yous all!
- Something is always better than nothing. Parenting your teen will test you but don't expect too much too early .. growing up takes time! Be patient, keep your sense of humour, be forgiving, communicate unconditional love and learn to trust. That last one keeps saying to me: learn to let go. Being the OCD control freak I
sometimesam, that's the hardest for me to do. My babies are growing up too fast and whilst I know that they will eventually escape from meleave home, I'm nowhere near ready for that to happen, hence the hanging on with both hands.
So that's it in a not-so-small nutshell. Obviously it's not the be-all and end-all of parenting a teenager, but it made sense to me and the delivery of these ideas was done very well. We all had a good laugh, (at ourselves, others and the whole situation/process) and came away feeling re-energised to tackle the next worthwhile battle.
If you ever get the chance to go see this guy give a talk, go! It's well worth it, if only for the laughs!!