February 7, 2016
I’ve been experiencing some moral differences with my parents. I’ve always idolized my them, but recently, I’ve realized I simply can’t agree with some of their ideas.
On a recent trip we took public transportation and most of the people riding with us were African Americans. My mom kept whispering derogatory racist remarks to me and my sister. And just a few days ago, my mom argued that a person’s skin color and other aspects of appearance are a direct link to the quality of the person.
I love my parents, but it makes me confused when I disagree so vehemently with people I care about. Racism is a big issue and I hate to see my parents contribute to it.
How should I respond when they bring up or argue this topic again? Is debating with them a viable solution? – Confused
Talk to the hand.
I am very proud of you for recognizing racist remarks when you hear them and knowing it’s not ok to talk like that. Even if these remarks come from someone you love and idolize (like your parents) a racist comment is still a racist comment! You’re right. Racism is a big issue and you have chosen to be part of the solution, not the problem. I admire you for taking that role.
So how should you respond when parents try to argue their ignorant perspective? Great question! To discover the answer you first need to examine the answer to this question: “When it comes to other people’s attitudes, opinions, feelings, thoughts and behavior what power do I have?” You sound like an extremely intelligent individual so you probably don’t need me to tell you that you have no power over what others think or feel or do. Zero. But you do have 100% control over your own behavior.
Because you are uncomfortable with hate speech, you can simply hold up your hand and say to your parents, “Stop. I don’t want to hear this kind of talk.” You can do that with conviction, but without rudeness or anger. You have the right to respectfully set boundaries for their hate speech in your space. Will this change your parents’ attitudes about people who are different from themselves? Not likely, but at least they will know it is not OK with you to speak this way in front of you.
I’m so grateful to know there is a reasonable way to stop these conversations when they start without adding fuel to the fire. Thanks again! – Less Confused
Glad to help.
January 25, 2016
Yes it is the end of the world and don’t tell me it’s not!
If you’ve got a tween at home you’ve probably dealt with an emotional outburst once or twice. Depending on frequency and duration, you may have wondered, “This can’t be normal!” Read on…
My 11 year old daughter is VERY dramatic. Every situation seems like “the end of the world.” She yells, cries, and shuts down. Last night, she was having a meltdown and I grabbed her by the arm and firmly directed her to her room and she flopped on the ground as if I seriously pushed her! This is not the first time this has happened.
I am usually very good about keeping my cool, but in her moments of complete breakdown I lose my cool, too. She has a breakdown at least once a month. I need coping skills and I need coping skills to teach her. (Her meltdown was over having a very small mustache and said she would be teased. This is understandable, but I feel like I could have handled it better and she could have too.) Please help! –Melting Down Mama
Whatever’s going on with your daughter is going on with most tweens. Not sure if that’s a comforting fact, but it ought to be. Your daughter is normal and so are her meltdowns. On top of that, anything having to do with her personal appearance is likely to make her feel insecure and highly volatile. OMG!
Every day her hormones challenge her ability to manage her emotions responsibly because the part of her brain that helps her regulate moods is still “under construction” and will be for at least another ten years. Seriously.
I admire your recognizing you could have handled it better. You know it’s not ok to let out your frustration by grabbing your daughter’s arm or getting physical with her in any way. You need to figure out how to calm down (fast) when she’s in one of her moods otherwise you’ll make the situation worse and alienate your daughter. I know you don’t want to do either.
When it comes to dealing with emotional tweens I’m a fan of preventative medicine. Please have a look at this stress-busting technique developed by Dr. Herbert Benson, M.D. (associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School). It is a simple method for achieving a Relaxation Response (vs a Stress response). Read through the steps and try them. This really works and yes, it takes practice.
I hope this helps you and your daughter. And remember, no one stays a tween forever. No one stays the parents of one, either!
January 17, 2016
New teen novel, coming soon to a door near you
My daughter and son (both writers) strongly encouraged me to write a teen novel as part of NaNoWriMo. That can happen when you spend years telling your kids, “You can do it, sweetie!”
Never heard of National Novel Writing Month? It’s an official kick-in-the-pants to start that book you always said you wanted to write. The challenge: Write 50,000 (mostly cogent) words in thirty days. To reach 50K you’ve got to hit 1687 words per day. Was I up for it? Sure, why not?
Nov. 1, 2013 I began with an idea inspired by a true story of a teen suicide attributed to bullying. Thirty days and 30,000 words later I was so hooked on the story idea and the process of turning it into a novel, I had no choice but to continue working. Fiction writers say they keep at it to “find out what happens next in the story.” Absolutely true. Every time I sat down to work on the novel, my characters told me more about who they are, what they need, and why they do what they do. By listening closely and following the breadcrumbs the story unfolded and I was constantly amazed by what came through my fingers onto the keyboard. I have no idea where this stuff comes from, I’m just grateful to have a channel into it.
Now, twenty-six months later, my color coded system blankets my office door and my characters won’t quit yapping ’til I deliver their story to teens.
Which brings me to the present.
Nope, my water hasn’t broken and there are no contractions yet, but we’re in a new phase. The manuscript is “this close” to being ready to leave my laptop and get some professional input.
January 8, 2016
Hearing isn’t the same as listening
Parents of teens have one of the roughest jobs. The dynamic between you and your son/daughter is changing so quickly it can be challenging to stay focused on your job description. It was easier when the kids were younger and you could pick them up, if you needed to, and get them out of harm’s way. With teens, it’s not always clear what your job is or how to do it.
There’s no single golden rulebook for parenting (though I’ve written a good one and so have lots of other people in the know), but these 10 tips can help you stay centered. And that’s exactly where you need to be if you want to be an effective parent and role model for your adolescent kids.
- Remember that you are the parent — Your job is to protect your child and prepare him/her to become a fully functioning adult. Being a leader and a compassionate teacher is more important than being your teen’s friend.
- Remain calm — Nothing gets resolved when stress makes it impossible to think clearly. Can’t respond rationally? Then take a break until you can.
- Talk less and listen more — Just like the rest of us, teens want to be respected and heard. Be a “safe” and available person to talk to.
- It’s a balancing act — A key challenge in parenting teens is to remain emotionally connected while granting your kids more privacy and autonomy.
- They’re always watching – Want your teen to be trustworthy, responsible, and compassionate? Make sure you’re modeling those values in your own life.
- Make your expectations clear and be consistent with your follow-through— If kids know the consequences ahead of time and they’ve bought into the rules of the house, they’re more likely to make healthy choices.
- Catch your teen in the act of doing something right — Praise shows that you noticed their efforts. It also promotes a feeling of competency.
- Be real — Father/mother does NOT always know best. Admit your own confusion and mistakes. Apologize when appropriate. Show your kids that just like them, you too are also “a work in progress.”
- Regularly create time to enjoy being a family — Having regular meals together and relaxing, unplugged from digital technology, is a gift with long-lasting benefits.
- Lighten up! — Humor is a great de-stressor. Remember, no one stays a teen (or the parent of a teen) forever!
If you’ve got other tips for parenting tweens and teens, I’d love to hear from you.
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