When you are dealing with an unruly teenager the most important feeling that you need to get under control is your guilt. If we stop putting our guilt onto our teenagers they would be far more responsible. We pour our emotions all over our children and we drown them in them. It doesn’t matter what they do, it is not what we would do so we get anxious, we worry, we fret and we feel sick in the stomach because they are making choices that we have no experience of. When something goes wrong we feel guilty and we feel furious, usually both at the same time.
Kids need the opportunity to make their own choices but they need a foundation of teaching from their parents that shows them HOW to make good decisions.
We have not taught our children these skills probably because we were not taught them. We do not know how to take philosophy and turn it into action and decision making skills and yet we expect this of our children. When our children fail miserably at making reasonable decisions we then blame ourselves for not teaching them or not being harder on them.
It is not about being hard and soft. It is about being responsive to their needs, but not necessarily their wants.
In days gone by there used to be Christmas and Easter and Birthdays. These were the major events in which children were given a gift, and often it was just that, A gift. Easter was the time for chocolate and Christmas and Birthday’s were the day of treat foods. Three days out of the year. These days any day that ends in Y is a reason to give a gift. These days our gift giving is dictated by the catalogues and the sales. I got my son or daughter this because they were 20% off. We are the kids in the candy store and we model this to our children.
Every time we treat ourselves to food or anything of financial value we feel that we need to share with our children or it is not fair.
We do not have treat food days; we have cake for breakfast and soft drink instead of water. We feel ashamed if our children do not fit in with the latest clothes and gadgets. We literally smother our children with material things and our own desires.
Kids respond by playing the game. You give me things and then when I ask for what I want you get angry because it is not up to me to pick and choose what you give me.
Kids are confused. Everything feels like a power play for them. Love is expressed through material goods (a clear message that we have given them) yet when we ask for stuff, parents resent giving it (so they don’t love me), what they don’t understand is that the rules are confusing because parents don’t know what they are doing or why.
We are manipulated by the media. When we were younger we discovered the happy meal and it made us ‘happy’ we want to share this with our children but they don’t feel ‘happy’ with the same meal they want more, and then more, and then more.
In a desperate attempt to get the same happy feeling we had as kids, we keep throwing happy meals at them thinking they just don’t understand it. One day they will. The trouble with Christmas every day is that the meaning gets lost.
When everyday is a party, kids get tired.
As parents, we want to be in control but we are trying to be in control of all of the wrong things.
Kids need to work hard for their rewards in order to appreciate them. They need to value the time that they get to play with their toys and they need to have their gadgets as an equal measure of healthy behaviour. For example ½ hour of homework = ½ hour of a gadget.
Children are not our equals. They are our children. They do not have the reasoning abilities that adults allegedly have and they should not have the responsibilities that adults have. They are not ready for it. They should not carry all of your stress and your expectations.
You need to be clear on your philosophy of parenting. You need to be clear about what your family stands for and what is important and valued in your family. When you know what you want for your family YOU can set the tone and the environment for learning and experience.
When you know that it is your family philosophy to be responsive but not a concierge, then you do not feel guilty getting your children to put their own rubbish in the bin and tidy up after themselves. You know that it is important to listen when your children speak and respond to them when they are hurt or upset. You are clear that you respect your child but that there are rules that everyone in the family has to live by.
Make sure that you have some rules that are different for parents and for children to show them that there are privileges that come with being a parent. We want our children to want to grow up and to want to embrace the responsibilities and the privileges of being an adult.
Write a list now of the 5 things that are most important for your family.
What rules help your family to achieve these aims?
What actions can you take to move your family towards these aims?
What responsibilities do the children in your family have? Why do they have these responsibilities?
What privileges do the children in your family have? Why do they have these privileges?
What responsibilities do the adults in your family have? Why do they have these responsibilities?
What privileges do the adults in your family have? Why do they have these privileges?
What days are important in your family during an average year? How do you celebrate them? How much do your traditions cost you? Would your traditions still be enjoyable if they did not cost you as much?
We often have the idea that we need to spend money in order to have something be enjoyable and that we need to spend an equal amount on each child in order to make it fair. This is parent guilt and again it is affecting your children’s experience of life.
Value is not always measured in monetary terms, by consistently buying equal value and constantly tipping the scales and upping the ante to make things even, we are telling our children repeatedly that it is.
We are letting our guilt raise our children and we are letting our guilt make us poor and sad and angry and miserable. Does this make our children want to be in our company? Do you like being manipulated by guilt? If not, then don’t use this to control your children.
Have clear expectations. Family time is important in our family. We enjoy spending time together. We have positive relationships with each other. We respect each other. We care about each other.
These are your philosophies so what responsibilities come with this?
Parents need to take time to listen and speak with their children. They need to pay attention to what family activities the family enjoys together. They do not need to do more of these activities as more is not always better, but be aware of what works in your family. Parent’s responsibility is to pay attention and have a higher level of insight into what their children need and enjoy.
It is a parent’s responsibility to manage their own emotions and to set reasonable limits on themselves and their children.
Parents have the privilege of setting their own bedtime, deciding what the family will eat and they are allowed to drive and drink alcohol responsibly. They are allowed to watch what they want to watch on TV and play on their gadgets but these things should be done after children are in bed or consciously limited when children are around. Kids want to mimic you. They want to do what you do or it’s not fair.
Rules and reasons need to be explained and you need to set rules and reasons for yourself. Adults have different privileges but they also have higher level responsibilities and we need to be mindful not to be hypocrites.
If you limit your child to 20 minutes on their gadgets and then spend 5 hours on them yourself you are not setting a very good example. You may limit yourself to 2 hours because you are an adult but be clear with your child when your limit is up. Say something like ‘whoa I’ve been on this for an hour it is time to take a break, my eyes are getting really tired.’ You can use these teaching moments to subtly explain how a behaviour effects you. You might say to your partner in front of the kids. ‘No wonder I didn’t sleep very well last night. I stayed up and watched a scary show and it gave me nightmares, I think it’s early to bed for me tonight…’
By role modelling your thought processes occasionally out loud, (in a non annoying way) our children have the opportunity to see that you do actually have a thought process for the things that you do.
The best piece of advice for parents of unruly children is get your own emotional issues sorted first. You cannot seek to change others if you yourself do not have adequate support for your own emotional issues, even if these issues are simply that your child or children are driving you mad.
As you read through these suggestions regarding philosophies and reasons it may cause you to realise that you don’t actually have them. In days gone by our parents would have acted according to the etiquette of the day. We are doing the same but, today there does not seem to be a clear etiquette as we deal with technologies and life circumstances that seemed to be rare in generations gone by.
The best thing to do is to have confidence. If you are reading and acting on ANYTHING that you have read here then you are doing really well. It is important to not get overwhelmed with everything that is before you. Take your time. Complete and implement one activity or strategy at a time and let it slowly change your life for the better.
Sometimes it is best not to let anyone in your household know what you are reading or what you are trying to do as their internal saboteur will get involved with yours and you may end up achieving less than you initially expected.
Make changes slowly and others in your household will wonder what has changed. This is where their curiosity may get the better of them and they may ask you. It is ok to share freely about what you are reading and doing if you are asked but otherwise just go about your business and let them go about theirs.
You may feel angry initially as you think about all of the things that have not been going to plan and you may feel frustrated that others in the household are not helping. This is ok. Change yourself first. Become strong yourself first. Begin to manage people differently and get through the initial reactions of others then keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As you begin to take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual home a sense of peace and accomplishment will eventually take hold and you will be freed up to discover and act upon your higher hearts calling.
As you take this journey you will be supported every step of the way by the universe who always supports someone with a clear intention and the action to back it up.