There are holes in my walls, we’ve already removed the doors, and a few windows are cracked. They are destroying not just me and each other but the physical house we live in as well.
So, last week, I left feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. This week, I feel that there is hope. I’m optimistic that I can do this.
I know now that I am not alone. That my teenager is not this huge failure, this monster that is all wrong. He is normal and we’ll get through this insane period of his life.
We’re doing amazing things. Learning together. Sharing the real stuff. No filters. Just real, raw parenting pain and mutual fumbling for answers. This week, we touched on another gorgeous list of deeply vital foundations for parents of teenagers. Here are the top issues broken down:
Before We Dive In, Know
I teach “onion-style”. I don’t want to cover the material and check it off the list and say, “we’re done”. I want to touch upon new concepts, let the mind touch them, let them marinate for a week, and then come back and go deeper, give the next layer (without the resistance that comes when you bring something new, too much, too fast, too much, too much, stop.). I want the material to slowly seep in. To not be raped by the new stuff, but massaged, softly, and once we can agree and fully stand at peace at the new ground, then, I can push one layer (hence the onion) deeper, get that inch more into this new truth, and slowly, gently, create a new magical way at looking at my previous world.
And so, we always start with a gorgeous review of what we already agree on, and then add to that.
You can follow the entire teen parenting series:
So we talked about not being alone again. It’s not just me. I have done nothing wrong. And all was going really nicely, until a mom says something powerful. Something to the tune of:
“But what if I have done something wrong? What if I’ve done many somethings wrong? I’m absolving myself of any responsibility here? I’m supposed to hum a happy tune and skip on forward?”
Gorgeous. Thank you.
I love teaching human beings! Always, what I think is so picture-perfect. My fool-proof formula for success someone always has to come along and rattle and push and ruin, and she did so with perfect eloquence, which brought all of us to that next blessed level.
There is a huge difference between guilt and responsibility. Huge. When I am guilty, first-off, energetically, I have no energy to do anything. I’m whipped. I’m face-drowning-in-the-mud beat and unable to collect myself, connect to my Higher Self and be a parenting leader. Guilt leaves me neutralized and powerless. Second off, like in the cycle of abuse where I’ll beat you up and then feel guilty, say sorry, and am now free to do it again, the cycle of guilt is sinister. Guilt, in addition to being a nice little ‘punishment’ that I inflict upon myself, which later gives me permission to again ‘commit the crime’ does nothing beneficial neither for me nor for my relationship with my child.
And I feel that if it’s not beneficial, don’t adopt it. (And this one though addictive and seductive and calling us in to feel like “caring parents”, not only is not beneficial but poisonously detrimental).
Responsibility, on the other hand, leaves us head high and looking forward. There is not a parent in the world that has not made mistakes. All of us, if we then (which could be two years ago or last night), if then we had the tools, the patience, the know-how, the energy to do it better; we would have. But we did not. And so, however awful it all came out, we did that best that we could summon at that very moment.
Beating myself up will get me nowhere but saying, “That was not acceptable. I want something else” is the start of a better future. From this step forward, I’m here, I’m learning, I’m seeking new information, I am taking responsibility to do something differently. from. here. from. now. looking. forward.
Responsibility is our new guilt.
2- Illusionary World
Yes it is one. We really do think Facebook profiles and all the other snapshots of social media life is real life and it. is. not. Neither are the movies, the music videos, the commercials, the models and rock stars. Neither are our own thoughts that everyone else’s life seems to be working. What’s wrong with me?
And so we went into that again and how it’s a real unfair deal for our teenage children to have to live under that much pressure to be something they simply cannot be. And how (**** here comes the new stuff****) even though I all want is to do is murder this monster for shitting emotionally all over me and being obnoxious and unappreciative and not helping and only complaining about me and every thing and every person in this household I MUST FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE TO SAY TO MY CHILD. EVERY DAY.
He has and he has to reject the parent he was once able to embrace, but in pushing us away, he has also lost his main source of security and reassurance that he is ok and that he is going to be ok. And though he treats us like he’s disgusted with us and though he acts like you don’t know anything and he’s not listening, he desperately needs to know from you that he is loved, that he is ok, that you see in him something beautiful.
Now, it is very, very, almost impossibly hard to hug thorns. I know. I know. God, I know. When you want to kick her out and when you don’t think you get through this next minute of her insanity; the very last thing you can imagine doing is finding kindness, being loving, showing affection, praising.
My daughter is a hysterical monster. Shrieking and destroying everything and everyone around her. She’s a bum at home. Does nothing. She’s rude and disgusting. At school, she does nothing. Skips classes, doesn’t study, hangs out with all the wrong kids. I can’t think of a single thing to praise.
I hear you. I really do. The entire group is laughing- the kind that comes with a pain that is way too close to home. We get you.
And yet (this blends in with what we’ll learn below about “The Baby Self”) your child will hear and will dearly hold on even the tiniest tidbit of praise from you. He needs it. And so, if you can’t find something yourself, “Son, I really like how those socks sit on you,” then ask someone outside of the house (like a teacher or counselor at school) who may have some insight into wondrous things about your child that you know nothing about.
Though you have twenty really nasty, frustrated, pent-up things you desire to yell at your child all at once and all in the arena of “look at your life! look at yourself! do something!”- your job as his parent is to say something kind and positive every day.
3- Emotional Throw Up
So, all the hard stuff comes down at home. The masks come off, we’ve removed our shoes, our bra, and can now stop holding in our stomachs. When your teenager’s reality says I-am-a-real-person-who-just-wants-to-breathe-at-home, that usually translates to us saying I-am-a-real-person-and-I-can’t-breathe-when-my-teen-gets-home. So here’s what we want to do about it. [****the new stuff****]
Create distance. Give him a room with a door that closed. Find him something to do outside of the house that is excels in. Our teens must have a productive place to let out all of their anger-at-being and if it’s not a youth group, sports, some after school activity, something positive; it will likely be ugly all over you at home.
Our kids need to taste success at something. Something. Something. Our job as parents is to guide them/push them somewhere in that general direction.
And if my kid’s an introvert and really needs down-time, quietly, alone at home?
Great. Buy him art supplies and let him YouTube videos and learn how to paint. Let him veg in front of technology for hours, but not if that becomes the end-all of who and what he is. (We’ll obviously have to discuss technology another day and the limits that should be there, even with teens.)
That teenage energy, that growing fire needs to be released. Your child must have some sort of athletic release to grow healthy. Your child must have some creative release so that all that hormonal bushfire will light up into something, anything, but infernos of hell at home.
Give him space. Leave him alone. Don’t (especially with boys) nag them into confrontation. Give. Them. Space. And. Create. Spaces. For. Release. In and outside of the home.
4. Rejecting the Parents
Yes, they must, and most of them actually do go through this ugly stage of rejecting all that you are so that they can find out who they are. It’s part of the teenage mandate to find me. First step is to push you, the closest bond they’ve had up until now, far, far away. This is to make space to find me. The lines, the identities have been so intermeshed until now, that now, now, now I have to figure out where and what and how I am, and considering that I know how flawed and incomplete that is, I just have to find flaws in the adults I worshiped until now. And then, only then, can I start to see that I will also make it in this big, bad, intimidating world ahead of me.
The new and imperative part here is that your child can and will find adults to get guidance from. They still desperately want that (but just not from you), and so, we want to encourage and trust them to find the right adults. Counselors or teachers at school, youth group leaders, sports coaches, mothers and fathers of friends…. There are great adults out there. Be sure your kids has contact with at least a handful of them. You push for the contact, that your child is out there, that someone sees him, and the rest, just trust. They will find the adult support that they need if they are pushed in the right direction for it.
The Baby Self
This baby stage is the meat of most of our turbulent issues at home with our kids. I’ve broken it into four parts.
a- Our teens (as well as us of course) wish to stay the baby. Love me, cuddle with me, take care of my every need, hold me, tell me I’m so perfect and beautiful and that everything will always be ok. That is one part of the baby and your child still remembers that in the not-so-far-away past. Mommy and Daddy used to make everything ok and I want that to stay forever. That’s part one of baby.
b- Part two of baby is the stronger adolescent voice that supremely rejects any traces of babyhood and baby-attachment desires. So while he’s wanting to be your baby, there is the megaphone in his head screaming with disgust at the very notion. This becomes center stage to an endless struggle between “I’m just a kid. Help me” and “I’m not a child. I am independent and don’t need you” and the two rage on incessantly.
That’s why one second you’re getting screamed at and attacked and the next, while you’re still licking your wounds, your teens comes up cheerfully to share with you the lyrics of her new favorite song. This leads us to part three of the baby.
c- The same teen who is now demanding more freedom and rights because she is no longer a child, will behave like a total infantile to the point that you truly feel like you must be hallucinating. Your ‘mature teen’ one minute will be talking about world peace and give these deep, thoughtful solutions for mankind’s darkest ignorance and the next will be screaming because someone drank from her cup of water.
The baby self emerges out of nowhere and your teen is suddenly throwing a teenage version of a full fledged temper tantrum.
It is insane. One mom with three kids already out of the house concluded that teenage-hood is a mental illness that passes in a few years. The baby has absolutely no awareness of itself. It can lie, cheat, steal, beg, manipulate, cry, scream, and throw tantrums and sees absolutely none of the insanity of it. The teenage baby self has to survive and does so, sporadically and violently, with zero self awareness.
d- The baby in the house is totally different than the mature, with-it teen outside of the house, and that can be confusing for us. We often feel this sense of hopelessness and failure because we’re no longer facing a small, mold-able child who we can optimistically see a long potential change-process ahead of him. No, this teenager-almost-adult is pretty much the finished product in terms of our contribution and what we see at home is a scary final product.
The baby self, with no consciousness and no need for any masks, is a home monster who only we see in this glaring light. The outside teen is more with-it, responsible, witty, energetic, and focused. This, the one we rarely see, is the truest reflection of who our child will become and it this outer child who reflects the amazing job we’ve done in raising our child to this stage in his life.
To find information (so that you can praise – like we discussed above) ask the adults who do see your child for any positive feedback that you can use at home to encourage your child’s awesomeness.
In addition, it is the baby self that does not want to do chores she’s been doing for the last forever quite drama-free. Because the outside teen has to put out so much energy functioning and impressing and making it out there, once he get’s home the baby self wants to sit and do nothing. I don’t want to do the tiniest chore, I don’t want to talk about my school work. I want you to leave me totally alone. And now.
[This does not mean you need to accept this as gospel and no longer demand things. You should, but we’ll talk about the how to that… later].
We’ve got so much to learn, so much to learn, so much to learn. It’s an honor when one father says at the end of the session, “I want to be patient and listen more to my daughter” and another mother says, “I want to find the beautiful things in him that I can’t see now so that I can give a kind word.”
This is not an easy process but we’ve got these brave, amazing kids facing a tough reality; and we, the parents, can rise to the occasion too. The parents want solutions now to how do I get him to come home before 3 am and how do I respond when she bullies me. I want to answer yesterday and yet, as hard as this is, I tell them that after months and years of this really hard stuff, another two weeks won’t kill us, right?
We’re learning some really imperative foundations about how to understand and relate to my teen, and then, we will learn how to interact and discipline. I promise. I promise. Hold on.
So Many Geniuses, So Little Time
I’ve read dozens of parenting books and continue reading new ones with great passion and joy, always finding new gems to use and to share with others. This group, and the posts about parenting teens so far are coming 100% from Dr. Anthony Wolf’s Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? He’s genius. Glorious reading and so highly recommended. Thank you Dr. Wolf for being the Bible behind this group for me. Thank you.
You can follow the entire teen parenting series:
and for the powerful photography used in this post, I thank the artistic geniuses that produce this work and grant others permission to use it. In order of appearance:
Wanna join our discussion? I’m smiling for you already have, even if you don’t comment hear. I’m getting lovely feedback from emails and Facebook messages saying, “Gabi, I’m reading and it helps” or “Now what?” so I hear you, any way you reach out to me, and also if you don’t, I hear you.
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Gabi is a certified trauma therapist, family communications expert, energy healer, and life coach with a Masters in Psychology. She shares her personal life stories and insights to inspire others to share their honest, neurotic selves and do all that is necessary to Clean Your Soul. She believes that all of us are on our journey from pain to the light, and by staying inspired and aware, we can all reach our fullest, cleanest, most beautiful free selves. Gabi takes a very limited number of one-on-one clients for transformational parenting, family, healthy life, and trauma therapy. You may reach Gabi directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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