Live with intent, take time, have patience and gain a new perspective. See how having a relationship with your teen can change both of your lives. Say goodbye to status-quo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Classic!

5 Things I Taught My Daughter

Everyone is going to think I have a "thing" with the number 5 and I've only been blogging for less than a year! I swear I don't, it just has worked out that way.

I've had the discussion with other parents before about the important things personally to me that I've taught my daughter. Meaning, what have I wanted to instill in her and then see her come to blossom with in her life?

It also was brought up when I was at conferences and one of her Teachers asked me, "What did you do with her to make her such a great girl?"

Here's what I've come up with:

1. No complaining.
At a very young age, I would be really specific about not letting her complain (it must be a natural tendency because it seemed like she did it on her own LOL), for instance if it was a rainy day, I would say to her right away, "Just because it's raining doesn't mean it's not a good day. A rainy day is JUST has good as a sunny day."
It might seem like an odd thing to teach her, but it seemed like a great way to introduce her to not complaining; I figured if I started with something so basic like the weather, it would prepare her for more serious things in life that she would most definitely be complaining about. The weather was something basic I could start her with. And it worked, this girl rarely complains to this day! Trust me, we all need to vent and let me tell you, she has her moments!

2. No negative words.
I'm talking not even 'Idiot'. Not even 'Shut Up'! And 'Stupid'.
I mean to me, those words are just as negative as a swear word. They don't sound positive at all, and my goal is to bring her up as positive as possible, in a world that is so negative. I want her bringing good in the world. Being GOOD to people. And I think if everyone would admit it, they'd agree that those words do not sound positive and the people that are hearing those words being said to them? I can guarantee don't feel good about it. What is the point of these words?

3. Being a friend to all.
There is so much "outcast" stuff going on in schools and such that I thought this one was crucial to teach her. It also goes along with kindness. I want her to befriend and be kind to the disabled, different ethnicity's, and certain category groups (which is a pet peeve of mine by the way), such as 'nerds' 'jocks' 'emu' all of em'. I brought her up to tear down that wall of division, and told her no matter who she is good friends with or who she hangs around, that she needed to make an effort to be a friend to all her classmates.

4. Manners.
Being polite, in my opinion is one of the easiest things to teach a child. It has to come at an early age, as most of these 5 things do, but it is something that can be taught with consistence and persistence. Things as simple as "Please and Thank you", "You're Welcome", and asking. Asking is important because it shows healthy boundaries between the child and the parent. It shows that the child can't just do whatever, whenever.
It's so cool because manners sort of ends up turning into respect later in their life. I see now with my daughter being a Sophomore, that she is very respectful to her teachers and other adults.

5. Compassion.
Bringing our kids up to understand Empathy and Compassion is HUGE. Helping them see that everyone has a story, and that everyone suffers in their own way helps our kids to be more understanding when they otherwise might not be. It gives them a bigger picture into real life issues--a world bigger than their own. And it can soften their hearts.
Teaching her this and us living by example, can give our kids a new way to how they might think about others.
It also helps them realize that they need compassion too. And I think if we realize that we want and need compassion, then it's a little easier to give it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Relationship Means Relating

1. The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.
2. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other.

This is what the actual definition of RELATIONSHIP means. If you look at the beginning of the word you see RELATE. I think parenting teens can be a lot simpler than we make it, so I wanted to blog about something that appears pretty basic and simple, but it's actually super challenging.
I'm not arguing that it can be very tough, especially with the hormone changes are kids are going through, but if we keep the focus on RELATIONSHIP I think it can make things a lot smoother.

Looking further into the knowledge of what relationship MEANS also helps.
For me, knowing the exact definitions of words has always helped me act on the words better. It's easier for me to know what to DO when I know what the word means exactly. Maybe that's the kind of learner I am, but I'm confident others could benefit from it too.

For example, most of us know what the word 'Relationship' means technically. But how are we handling the knowledge of the definition? I mean if I KNOW an apple has fiber and is good for my health with all its other benefits, am I just going to "sit" on that knowledge? Maybe. But I'd be much wiser to actually DO something about that knowledge.

I want to use the definition I have for relationship to my advantage and to help with my parenting. This means I have to be ACTIVE in responding to what I know the word MEANS. It might sound so elementary, but I'm telling you, it has helped me so much.

Just yesterday my daughter and I had a little argument when we were coming home from a family Easter gathering. She sighed out loud about a little disagreement my husband and I were having. I found it rude, and I took it VERY personal. I felt like over all I annoyed her, but in reality, she was annoyed at the back and forth between my husband and I. Which is valid, I totally understand that. But I couldn't shake the feelings that arose in me when she let out that sigh.

The three of us pulled in the driveway and we had plans to take the dogs for a walk. If I would have continued on based off of what I felt like doing, I wouldn't have said another word.
It's so common for people to think "Let's drop it", because they don't think they can resolve it or they don't "feel" like it because it takes work. But I have a different suggestion.
Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone and revisit the issue later, that I can swallow, but leaving it alone and not reconciling it, I think is destructive to the soul and unhealthy.

So as we went on our walk, I continued with my daughter trying to find resolve. My Husband was very uncomfortable and wanted it to end like yesterday!
He kept asking us to drop it because he didn't want to ruin our walk. I understood his frustration, but I couldn't not be reconciled with my daughter, and I want her to learn that it's work to work through conflict and it takes effort, and it's inconvenient, and it's trying-but see, my point is that our relationship wouldn't be REAL if we didn't get to the bottom of what we were arguing about, (And there is a "bottom" to everything).
We'd go on with our day and a day would turn into a week and a week would turn into a month. By being persistent and asking her questions, and allowing her to ask me questions, it sort of pushed both of us to finding resolve. Not only do I need to relate to her, but she needs to relate to me! With a little time and a lot of effort, we WERE able to get to the bottom of it!

If we keep in relationship by relating to one another, we keep things authentic and we keep things real. But if we don't? We are just piling on unresolved issues and hurts. I'd rather be uncomfortable for let's say 15 or so minutes, and get to the bottom of things (the heart of the issue), than pretend or "think" I'm better off forgetting about it and at the surface things seem OK, but at the core, the issue is STILL there.

Maybe think about what relationship really MEANS; it's definition is its definition, you can't argue that. So then I encourage you, if you aren't already, to keep striving toward that. Get to the root issues of your conflict and misunderstandings.

It was painful to go through it yesterday with my daughter, but within the half hour, it was resolved and we BOTH were on the same page and we BOTH understood each other, and we BOTH were reconciled. THAT is worth the 30 minutes of frustration, anger, and discomfort any day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 Things to Never Say to Your Child- REVISED!

I had such great feedback on this blog post, that I thought I would enhance the last article with some new additions, and further thoughts. Remember please that my articles are not intended to lead anyone to think that any one of us are “perfect” parents. That it’s a learning process for all of us, and just like we were children once, we know that our children will fall short, and as adults, we fall short too. My postings are intended to inspire, give fresh perspectives and offer ideas that one might not be implementing.

1. BECAUSE I SAID SO! I start with the question: How does this build relationship? One of my main focuses for writing is that I believe in building relationship with our children. Not just our friends, or spouses, but also our kids! I think the key to any relationship is being REAL, and being authentic. Being relational in a sense like, “How can you relate to this? Or “How can I relate to my child? And, “How does my child relate to me?” If we say to our kid “Because I said so!” I think we are building a controlling atmosphere.
So when we say, “Because I said so!” are we saying that because we are adults, so that means we are older than them, so no matter what, without reason or explanation we just shut them out, and use that line?
I am not saying our children need a 15 minute long reason why, or even a 5 minute explanation. I am just offering maybe showing our kids a little respect by giving them a legitimate reason, and if we aren’t, then maybe we need to ask ourselves if we even know why we are saying NO to something. By giving them a basic answer, it builds relationship because you are creating communication. By encouraging communication this gives our kids a sense of individuality, safety, and we are teaching them along the way how to be relational in life.
Let's be mature enough as parents and walk through issues with our kids. Let’s take the TIME to invest in small explanations as to why we came to make the decision for them that we did. We'll be earning trust and they won’t feel so inferior. Because a lot of times I think that is what can happen. Parents think that because they are older, more mature, and the parent, that the kid is inferior to them. We don’t want our teens to feel like they aren’t human. Meaning a lot of times the humanness of parent/child relationships gets lost because there are so many control issues going on. I think a lot of teens feel that their parents aren’t “Human” because they don’t take the time to relate with them. Maybe it’s been years since you were a teen, but I think most of us can look back and at least put ourselves in their shoes and realize that we’ve been there too. And that’s a really good place to start.

2. ACT YOUR AGE! or You're 5 years old, so act like it)! Don't you think if they could act their age, they would? They are clueless on how they ought to be acting, so it's our job to not just TELL them, but to show them, and to be a role model that inspires them. They will learn from us and by what we have to offer them to help them through life.
I know how tempting it can be, especially if we are in the bad habit of comparing our kids to other kids), to say to your kid, “You should know better to be acting like that. Act your age.” But hear me when I say this, that is extremely degrading. Anything less than positive,(except when you are punishing or disciplining, it might not seem positive), is belittling them. The number one issue that children of all ages deals with due to parenting is SHAME. It’s a deep rooted issue across the board. And it seeps like crazy into adulthood. When your child hears, “Act your age” they HEAR this: You are so bad, naughty, and I’m embarrassed of you. Shame on you for not knowing better. Shape up. Other kids are better than you. They HEAR: I am not accepted, I am shunned, I am not good enough.
It instantly shuts their spirit down, and unseen trauma is going on inside of them, but it is trauma that you will see later as they grow. If your child is misbehaving, or they do something out of the ordinary by being really naughty, maybe figure out the best way to discipline them, instead of using words that hurt. I do not for one second believe the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is the biggest lie in our society. Words stick. Words matter.

3. SHAME ON YOU! Again, creating shame for a child is devastating. It will block safety and trust. They have got to know that no matter WHAT they do that you love them and are there for them. They need a space where they can be open with us, and share. Shaming is condemning, and it's extremely unhealthy on so many levels. And like I said earlier, it STAYS with them. If our kids do something so unexpected, or awful, or “disgusting”, we have got to take a few deep breaths, or even 10 minutes to WAIT before we act. Because if we don’t, we will REact, instead of REspond.
I had an experience just a couple of weeks ago with my daughter. She’s 16 and she’s an amazing kid. Overall, I haven’t had too many devastating issues, other than “typical” arguments if that’s what you want to call them. Just things like hormone changes etc…nothing “out of the ordinary”.
There was an incident that I was alerted on a couple weeks ago, that my daughter was involved in, (I won’t give a lot of details, because those don’t really matter), and I followed up with my daughter to find out if it was true or not. And she opened up (I truly believe because I built the foundation and safety for her to feel she could do so), and was honest with me and said, YES. She took responsibility, and fessed up to it. Instantly I was “disgusted” and in shock. I couldn’t even look at her at first. I could feel my breathing getting heavier, and I was purposely not looking at her. Then I though to myself, “Gina, you write a blog, you’re not perfect, but you write a blog on teen parenting, what are you going to do now? Are you going to live up to your words and advice?”
So I took several minutes before I spoke, and my husband sort of filled the air space with just whatever. Finally, I forced myself to look her in the eyes, because I did not want to screw this up! And I said these exact words: “Honey, thank you so very much for being honest with me first of all. I know that you could have lied and you chose to be truthful and I appreciate it. I know that must have been difficult and scary. Secondly, I want you to know how very disappointed I am. I’m really disappointed that you made the decision that you did. And it’s not OK what you did. Do you realize this? Can I ask why?
And right now I don’t know exactly what I’ll do about responsibility on your part as far as “punishment”, but there will be one. And lastly, I want you to know how very much I love you. I’ve been there. I was 16 once and I remember making dumb choices, I understand what it’s like to be under pressure with a bunch of people, I get it. And I want you to know that no matter what you do or have done, I still love you so much, just the same. And I’m so very proud of you for being honest. I love you honey.”
And that was that until a couple days later and I “forced” her into a week of solitude; no friends, no phone.
So that is my story with direct relation to this very sensitive issue.

4. SHUT UP. Like I mentioned earlier, words matter. And anything less than positive, is going to affect our kids. Hey, as adults it would affect us if someone told us to Shut Up! At least I would be hurt! It’s so disrespectful and quite honestly, I think it’s a selfish thing to say.
There are a million different words in our English vocabulary that we can use to get this point across. Nough' said.

5.YOU KNOW BETTER! I get how this one might seem confusing, because a lot of times they might know better; BUT how will this build relationship? We know that they are going to do things that they know they shouldn't. But they don't really know the reason NOT TO DO IT—not completely anyway.
Like we know why it's not good for them, but they don't. So instead of saying the obvious, why not take it as an opportunity to ask them why they did it, and share with them why it wasn't the best choice for them to do it. Again, it's all about being relational, relating to them and with them.
By choosing this way of handling it, we won’t shut them down, and they won’t shut us out. They will see that we are approachable, and that no matter what they do we will love them, and accept them. I think we forget as parents that we are human too. We can apologize and seek forgiveness when we fall short as parents. I have been in the situation where my daughter has shown me GRACE, MERCY AND FORGIVENESS. Just because I’m the adult and I’m the parent, doesn’t mean I don’t and won’t mess up.
And the way for our kids to “know better” is to teach and show them. Not by TELLING them they ought to KNOW BETTER. And again, sometimes they know darn well what they are doing and they do “know better”, but by talking this way with them is condescending, it doesn’t build anything up, which is our goal with them.

This has been a great experience to write this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read, and for sharing it with others. I think might next article could be, TOP FIVE THINGS TO SAY TO YOUR CHILD!