With four teens under my roof at the same time, it was not uncommon to have adult “friends” who would tell me something that one of those teens had done that was wrong. I’ve had teachers, leaders, neighbors, and other moms say things like, “Well, if this was my kid I would want to know.”
For years it was hard knowing how to respond to the adult. “Thanks for letting me know”, was about all I could utter as I felt this wave of shame pass through me.
It was as if I was being judged as a parent. The feeling that I didn’t measure up and that now this adult knew it became my focus. I’ll admit I didn’t like the feeling. I kept second guessing what I was doing wrong in my parenting to deserve children who would do such things. My next thought was centered around the consequence this kid deserved so he would learn acceptable behavior.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got to child number three that I had my A-Ha! moment.
It wasn’t about me — the first thing I needed to do was learn to take my emotion out of it and understand what was behind the shame.
It wasn’t about making sure that my teen was perfect to the outside world — after all, none of us are perfect.
It was about an opportunity to connect in a positive way with my teen.
Just last week I was having a conversation with one of my sons and he reminded me of a time when I got it right. Now hear me out. If the incident had occurred three or four years earlier in his life, I would have most likely messed it up royally.
Having practiced on his older siblings and done the wrong thing too many times, I became more adept at soothing the situation rather than ignite my emotion in front of my teen. Doing it wrong helped me learn how to connect with my teen when prior to that I might have started down my list of lectures or consequences for his behavior.
One day my son and his girlfriend went for a walk through the neighborhood. During the walk he decided to kiss her. And, as fate would have it, the kiss happened right in front of a house of my friend who stood watching out her window.
And the next time I saw this neighbor, I heard all about it.
This time, something was different. I was different.
I didn’t feel the typical shame that would have come over me. I had learned to recognize that this wasn’t about me. It was about my son’s behavior in public. And it was an opportunity to connect with him.
Rather than give him the lecture of how kissing can lead to other things, the conversation went something like this.
“Hey, honey, do you have a minute to talk?”
After I got his agreement on the talk, I continued.
“First let me say you aren’t in trouble. I just heard something that I thought you might want to be aware of and thought we should talk about it. Do you remember that walk you took last week with ________? Don’t get upset, but someone in the neighborhood told me they saw you kissing her in front of their house. (Insert chuckle to ease his shame of being caught). Honey, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve kissed ________ . Most kids your age want to kiss their girlfriends. I can tell you really like her.”
“One of the things you need to think about is kissing in a public place. I know the neighborhood doesn’t feel public if you don’t see anyone around, but a lot of the neighbors know you. This time, someone happened to be looking out their front window. I don’t think you want to put _________ in a situation where her reputation might be judged or your motives misperceived.”
“Again, not a big deal. I just thought you would want to know so you can protect _______ in the future.”
He responded, “Thanks for letting me know and for not being upset.”
Whew. Totally different response than I expected.
Different response from you as a mom = Different reaction from your teens.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
“Let go…and Let God”,
How we think about parenting can make all the difference in our relationship with our teens. Whether you have a 9 year old or a 29 year old, your daily interactions have a huge impact on your relationship. Why not join other moms as we go through the book With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens on-line? We laugh and learn together as we share our own parenting stories. There you’ll find teaching video and we have discussion in a private Facebook forum. Seasoned moms are there to interact with you on a daily basis. To join our eCourse, click here. Or purchase the book here