How Do I Get Through to My Teen’s Brain?

Last week a friend sent me a funny picture.  It was a picture of an empty glass sitting on her kitchen counter.  Her comment on the photo read, “Asked my teen to get me a glass of lemonade.  Guess he got it half right.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle.  At least she was looking at the bright side.  After all, he did get the glass out.  🙂

The question I have to ask is, “How would you have handled that situation?”

  1.  Laughter and overlook it?
  2. Get upset for your teen not doing what he was asked and read him the riot act?
  3. Ground him for disobedience?
  4. Refuse to do what he asks you to do next time?

It reminded me of a “what do I do?” question that I got from another mom.  This mom was running late with errands and needed her teen to put pasta on for dinner.  

This mom called five minutes before she was to arrive home.  Her 16 year old daughter was still up in her room and hadn’t even made it downstairs by the time mom got home.

And so, how do we decide how to handle these situations when our teens fail to follow through?

One of the things I learned years ago is that it takes our brain time to switch gears.  Say you are in the middle of reading a good book and one of your kids says, “Mom, I need you to ______.”  Do you immediately jump and do whatever it is they need?

Probably not.

It takes our brain time to switch gears unless we are in a crisis situation.  Let’s face it, if our kid said that the grease in the skillet on the stove is on fire, we’d be in the kitchen in a heartbeat regardless of how exciting the novel.

The thing we need to know about our teen’s brain is that we need to “unhook” what they are currently working on in order for them to grasp the importance of what we need them to do in the moment.

Take the empty glass situation I mentioned earlier.  I’m not sure how she asked her son to get her lemonade; however, what if she had said something like, “Honey, I know that you are busy getting ready for soccer, but I need you to stop what you are doing a minute.  Would you please fix me a glass of lemonade because I’m really thirsty and my hands are full and I want to get you to soccer practice on time? Once you’ve gotten my lemonade, you can finish getting ready.” 

Notice the process. 

  1. Acknowledge that what they are doing is important.  (Validation.)
  2. Let them know you need them to stop what they are doing. (Unhooks their brain from their current focus.)
  3. Tell them what they need to do and why. (Gives them urgency.)
  4. Let them know that they can return to what they were doing once they’ve done what you asked. (This again validates the importance of what they are doing and let’s them know they can get back to it.)

When I spoke to the mom about the pasta, she was really frustrated.  The principles she could have applied would have been similar.

“Hi honey, I’m not sure what you are doing right now but I need you to stop whatever it is and do me a favor.  I’m running late with errands and need to get dinner on right away so we can go to the play tonight.  If you would go downstairs right now and put a pot of water on to boil that would help me a ton.  Could you do that for me?” 

Notice the mom ends with a question.  Remember mom isn’t home and has no idea what her daughter is doing.  This question allows the teen to push back and explain why it isn’t possible or why she might be delayed in carrying out the request.  It also gives her brain time to unhook from her current endeavor and acknowledge that she needs to change her focus.

Sometimes it’s the little things in our communication that make all the difference in the world in helping our teens follow through with our requests.  In today’s world our teens are constantly being bombarded with sounds and other technology gimmicks to get their attention.  Learning to communicate in ways that they can hear can unhook our teen’s focus and move them into action.

Proverbs 16:23

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want to learn more communication skills that will grow the relationships within your family?  Send me an email with your communication question and I’ll be sure to respond.  You can contact me at debbiehitchcock@gettingperspective.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Gift You Can Give Your 20-Something

Having had four teenagers under one roof at the same time, I know what it was like to literally feel as though every second was accounted for. I took my role as Mom seriously having given up a corporate job when my kids were little. For me, motherhood became a passion, a calling that I was going to strive to do to the best of my ability. I’ve packed lunches, driven to more sporting events than I care to admit, sat and talked until the wee hours of the morning with an upset teen, attempted to keep the house clean, tried to keep food on the table (that’s hard with three boys to feed!) and, well, you get the picture.

Then all of a sudden, the house got silent…deathly silent. The house stayed clean. There were only two sets of dishes. Laundry could be done in three loads once a week instead of being a full-time job.

I was lucky! I got an inkling of what goes on in those 20-something heads when they first started to leave the nest.

It all began with my oldest, right before he moved out of the house for that permanent transition.

“Mom, what are you going to do with all your time when we’re all gone? You’ve spent your life doing for us. What are you going to do for you?”

It was an innocent question that I thought was so endearing. He was worried about me? I gave him a laundry list of all the things that I needed to catch up on. You know, that list of things you wish you could get done but never have time for while you have kids in the house.

He called me one day about a month or so after moving out. We spent most of time talking about his new job, his apartment, his friends and all the other “new” in his life. After he caught me up on everything that was happening in his world, he asked me, “So, Mom, what did you do today?”

Even though I had accomplished quite a bit by my expectation: cleaned out the closet, paid the bills, fixed three meals and cleaned up the kitchen, had my quiet time, talked to a friend, picked up his brother from school…I could tell he wanted more. He was looking for something exciting in my life.

As I contemplated the conversation later, the light bulb went on! “Oh, I get it! He wants to be free to go live his life now!”

By the time my fourth was leaving for college, I was prepared for the conversation that took place.

“Mom, what are you going to do with all your time when I’m gone? It’s time for you to do something for you!”

I had a plan in place. “I’m going to work for a ministry, Michael. I’m going to do what God is calling me to do.” And I excitedly started sharing my anticipation of the days ahead when he left. His shoulders relaxed–and a smile came to his face–he seemed content.

It was okay to leave.

Now, on days when my kids call, I can share with them how I’ve spent my time. I share with excitement…because they are interested! They want to know that I’m passionately living my life!

What I’ve come to realize is that most kids need the freedom to “fly from the nest” knowing that we’ll have a life outside of theirs. While they are flapping their wings, they want us to soar too. If we are happy and busily engaged in our own lives (of course, still leaving room for them), doing something productive, we’ll still have lots to talk about even though we aren’t intimately involved in the daily activity of their lives.

One of the best gifts we can give our 20-somethings is the assurance that we will thrive even though we aren’t part of their daily lives.

Proverbs 31:28-29

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

“Let go…and let God,”


 

Is Your Home Filled With Laughter?

When our kids are little it is easy to laugh at the cute things they say and do.  Even during those early years of school we watch with excitement as they encounter new experiences and are filled with wonder.  And then as our kids become tweens and teens the climate in most homes changes.  Instead of laughter, life gets serious — sometimes too serious.

Maybe it’s our kids pushing our patience or their mouthiness that makes us as parents feel the need to control.  I think sometimes we realize that our kids are no longer those sweet, innocent children any more and we become fearful of the possibilities and reality of what could happen if they make the wrong choices.  We push them to strive for excellence in school or in sports because college is looming up ahead and we come to the realization that someone needs to pay for it.

Whatever the circumstance with your teens, take time to fill your home with laughter.

I was talking to a mom a few weeks ago and could feel the weight of heaviness resting on her shoulders.  She was giving me a list of all the things her teenage son wasn’t doing.  It was obvious that mom had certain expectations that her son was not fulfilling.  Blame was heavy as we talked.  She no longer found joy in this son, only condemnation.  Laughter was the furthest thing from her mind.

I’ll admit I’ve been in that place at times.  When our kids are doing things that cause us fear and anxiety it is easy to be so afraid that we can’t find any joy in any moment.  At times it seems they aren’t listening to anything we ask them to do.  That’s when it is time to take our thoughts captive.  It’s when we need to be able to think quickly on our feet in order to turn the difficult moment into a memorable opportunity filled with laughter.  It’s where we show our kids that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

So what can that look like?

  1. When there is conflict in the house, have a family code word.  In our house there is a code word that will bring laughter to any situation.  If we hear siblings arguing, either Dave or I will enter the room and quietly watch the verbal match.  When the right opportunity presents itself, we say the code word and immediately change the subject.  Inevitably, our kids will look at each other, then they’ll look at us, and laughter will fill the air.  Everyone in the family knows the code word and everyone has permission to use it.  It means unhook the bickering and laugh!
  2. Find the positive in every situation.  Even disaster can have a silver lining if we take time to look.  If your teen flunks a class, he’ll have opportunity to prove himself again and learn from the mistake.  If your daughter wrecks the car, she’ll most likely become a more careful driver.  If your teen is still breathing, that is the positive — find joy in that moment.
  3. Be mindful of the now.  Too many times we fearfully get wrapped up in what could happen in the future — won’t get into college, won’t get a scholarship, will end up doing something stupid like alcohol or drugs, or whatever is your greatest fear.  Work on the now and the future will take care of itself.  Find joy in the moment and love your teen right where he is.  Remind yourself that the future is in God’s hands.
  4. Find time to do fun things with your teens.  You know your kids better than anyone.  Try doing some of the things that they like to do with them.  Chances are you’ll bring laughter to the room as you try to lip sync or play one of their video games with them.  I’ll never forget being in the mall with my son as we both tried to do DDR (Dance, Dance Revolution for those who don’t know what that is :))  My son never laughed so hard as I drew a crowd in the mall as the worst player ever.  It’s a great memory for both of us.
  5. Take negative comments and situations and turn them into laughter moments.  My husband, Dave, is the expert at this in our home and I’m working hard on it.  When one of our now 20-somethings comes out with a sharp accusation or negative comment, Dave will take it and put a spin of laughter on it.  Just like Dare 15 in With All Due Respect, quick thinking with a dose of humor can turn a difficult moment into an opportunity to teach respect.

Proverbs 31:25 (NLT)

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Nehemiah 8:10b

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Dare you to not take life quite so seriously when your kids become tweens and teens.  Humor in the difficulties of life can bring opportunity to model respect and provide teaching opportunities much more than lectures and condemnation.  

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want a way to connect with other Moms?  Why not grab a copy of With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens and go through the book together.  Whether your kids are 9 or 29, you’ll find the questions will apply to your parenting.  You can also connect with us in the With All Due Respect eCourse on Facebook.  It’s free for a limited time.

Here’s what Shaunti Feldhahn, Social Researcher and Best Selling Author of For Women Only had to say:

“A spectacular tool for every mom who has heard the advice “be purposeful,” and wondered, “But what does that mean?  This ultra-practical guidebook shows each of us what it means.  Step by step, day by day, this amazing resource will walk each of us into being the godly moms we all deeply want to be, to have the impact on our kids we are all longing for.”

When Our Kids Come Home

Melanie lay across the university lawn excited yet tentative. She couldn’t wait until finals were over…one more to go and she would be finished with the semester. Yet she wasn’t ready to leave the university. She loved the comradery of being with the other kids not to mention the independence of doing what she wanted when she wanted. To go back home to be a “child” in her parents’ home for the summer was not something she was looking forward to. She knew they would be harping about her finding a job the minute she walked in the door. She had applied for a summer internship she thought would be so much fun and would surround her with people her own age, but unfortunately she didn’t get it. Most of her friends lived in other parts of the country so there wouldn’t be much social life for her summer.

She found herself becoming a bit agitated as she started packing her belongings. If only she had a more exciting summer planned!

Back at home, Jill, Melanie’s mom was apprehensive about the turn of events for their summer. She was disappointed that Melanie didn’t get the internship she had wanted. She would have been perfect for the youth camp position! Yet, Jill was looking forward to getting another summer with her daughter. “There won’t be too many summers like this left,” she thought to herself. “Before we know it, Melanie will be graduating and moving on with her life. I just hope we can find a sense of rhythm where we can enjoy each other.”

Then there was re-entry!

It took forever to unpack the van! “Why did she take so much to school,” was muttered more than once from Mark, Melanie’s dad. Then there was the mess that hadn’t been cleaned out of the refrigerator for an entire year and the mountains of laundry that engulfed the laundry room. The family room was swimming in boxes and plastic tubs filled with school supplies and miscellaneous dorm room paraphernalia. She could tell Mark was struggling to work through their new reality.

Melanie was mourning the loss of her friends at school while Mark was mourning the simpler life without stuff everywhere. It took days to get the house to some semblance of “normal”.

Melanie muttered her dissatisfaction with life on more than one occasion. “I wish I could have just stayed at school! I could have taken a couple of summer classes. Then life wouldn’t be so boring. There is no one to hang out with here.”

Jill held her tongue. Re-entry wasn’t easy on any of them. The simple life of just she and Mark had grown accustomed, eating when they chose, doing what they wanted whenever they decided, and working their schedules around just the two of them had come to an abrupt halt with Melanie home. Enjoying a cup of tea on the back patio while Melanie was still asleep gave Jill an opportunity to work through her emotions of the changes.

“Lord, help me realize your purpose in having Melanie home this summer. Help us to re-acclimate to having us all under the same roof.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.  A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.…

“That’s it. I need to recognize that this is a season. This is a time to build up our new relationship,” Jill breathed in praise as she sat quietly in His presence.

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

“Lord, that is my prayer. Whatever I speak to Melanie over the next several months, may it build her up. When she is crabby and lets her emotion fly out of her mouth at the frustration of her circumstances at home, may I remind her that it is only a season and encourage her to try to enjoy the moments we have as a family. May the words I speak to her bring a balm to her soul such that she will return to school in the fall knowing that her parents love her.”

Re-entry is a stressful time for everyone when the kids come home from college. It can become a mourning of freedom and independence for both the parents and the student. Realizing that this too shall pass and is but a season of life should help everyone. My prayer is that when the stress is high and feelings of frustration come into play, that you remember that your student will either leave your home in the fall anxious to get away from you or anxious to continue their life journey.

Dare you to provide a place of respite from the demands of college life rather than pressure cooker where your students can’t wait to leave.

“Let go…and let God,”


 

 

What Gift Will You Give Your Kids This Year?

As we contemplate the new year and what will be different, maybe we should think about our parenting and what legacy we are creating.  What gift do we want our kids to hold on to that can’t be wrapped in a box?  

Sitting in a doctor’s office, I was surprised to find out that we were actually being seen by the son of a doctor I had made acquaintance with several years prior.  Not wanting to be overtly obvious and wanting to give this man my full attention so that he could properly make a diagnosis, I chose not to bring up the connection too early in our conversation.

Having been to numerous doctors’ offices with my son over the past several years, it didn’t surprise me at all that this young doctor started interacting with us in a casual manner telling us that he had recently graduated from medical school and was finally following in his father’s footsteps.  Becoming a physician was his second career. What did surprise me though was that as the dialogue continued, it became obvious that he was the son who thought he had never quite measured up in his father’s eyes.

How sad.

Here was a man most likely in his early 40’s who had not only graduated from medical school and was now a physician, yet his identity was wrapped up in what Dad thought of him.  

I began wondering what lies had been spoken over him in his quest for manhood and approval.

As he made his diagnosis, it was almost as if he was asking if we agreed with him.  

As parents of tweens and teens, it is easy to get frustrated when our kids make mistakes or choose not to do something that we think is in their best interest. But during those times of interaction do we treat them with respect or do we tear them down to the point that their identity becomes mired into thinking of themselves as “failures”.

Like it or not, we are a mirror for our kid’s identity.  Our actions, reactions, words, body language, and facial expressions all send a message that says either “I respect you as a person” or “You don’t measure up”.

We are weaving the foundation for our kids in how they measure up when they face the outside world as well.

  1. Do we offer empathy when their world comes crashing down on them?
  2. Do we console their disappointments and give them hope for their tomorrow?
  3. Do we guide them in how to handle difficulties so they can be more confident?
  4. Do we point them to Jesus Christ as their source of identity?
  5. Do we release them to be who God created them to be rather than who we want them to be?

Colossians 3:21

Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Romans 15:5

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.

Dare you to take inventory of how you are responding to your teens and the impact you might be making on how they think of themselves.  Better yet, why not ask them how they think you view them.  If the response is not what you had hoped for, try apologizing for your parenting mistakes.  Polish the mirror so they see themselves as God sees them.

“Let go…and let God”,

090414_2327_Dare23TheR2.png

Quieting The Christmas Gift Expectations

We live in a give, give, and give some more culture–especially when it comes to our kids.   I’ll be the first to admit that I lavished gifts onto my kids.  After all, I wanted them to have all the things that I just knew would make them delighted.

And then there were all the activities.  As a mom I did what most of us do, I gave, gave, and gave some more — every opportunity that I thought would expand my kid’s horizons and let them explore their dreams to reach their potential.

But are our kids grateful?  Do they have an attitude of thankfulness?

Sometimes as parents I think our view of parenting is skewed.  We think that if we give more to our kids they will feel loved and will auto-magically (by the way that’s our family’s coined word) be thankful.  In reality, when we don’t teach our kids to understand gratitude, when they become older teens and young adults they sometimes have difficulty learning the harsh realities of life that everything will not magically come to them.

As I think about the holidays and have seen firsthand how expectations over gifts under the tree can throw our kids into depression, I wonder what we are doing to combat the issue in our families.

Have we placed so much emphasis on us giving and our kids receiving that we’ve forgotten how to teach our children to have an attitude of gratitude?  They can’t see the positives because they become so focused on what others have that they don’t.

Does giving too much create a negative pattern of thinking that makes kids feel they deserve everything they want?

I’m not sure we’ll ever fully understand how our kids think; however, researchers have found that the brain can actually be rewired as a result of actively choosing gratitude.  In fact, anxiety and depression are reduced as a result of being thankful.

Imagine that if instead of focusing on what we are giving this holiday season we helped our kids focus on the things for which they can be grateful.  What if we did the same?  Maybe we would all have a rewired brain that focuses on the good.

Here are some ways you might consider helping your kids move to a new way of thinking to change their attitude:

  1. Have each person in the family make a list of five things they are grateful for before they go to bed at night. By doing it at night we are helping our kids focus on the positives as they sleep.  (Hopefully they’ll wake up in a better mood).  Then share those things at the dinner table the next day.
  2. At least once a month have each person go around the table telling why they are thankful for each person at the dinner table.  Most likely it will bring lots of hugs.
  3. Identify a “cause” that your family can focus on during the next several months — cook for a homeless shelter, visit a rehab center bringing small homemade gifts, raise money to buy goats or chickens for an oversees orphanage, adopt a less fortunate family for Christmas, or babysit for a single mom are just a few ways to get the focus off our teens and help them see the difference in what is and what could be.
  4. Actively choose to spend less on presents during the Christmas season and create more opportunities to just be together.  Plan a holiday calendar of one-on-one time between each family member — mom and son date, mom and daughter date, dad and son date, dad and daughter date, as well as brother and sister dates.

Helping our kids discover that they have lots to be thankful for can help our kids become healthier adults with fewer expectations of what the world owes them.  The result will be a better attitude.

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is
received with thanksgiving, 
 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
 

Dare you to be intentional during the holiday season teaching your teens the true meaning of generosity and gratitude.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Looking for a way to get Dad more engaged?  Hoping that he will be intentional in connecting with his tweens and teens?  365+ Ways to Love Your Family:  Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is a short, easy to read book with practical suggestions that will help dads have impact with their kids.  Even if your husband isn’t one to pick up a book to read, this will spark his interest.  There are over 365 things he can do, in 5 minutes or less, that will let his kids know that they are loved.

Why not put it under the Christmas tree or use it as a stocking stuffer?  It’s a great little reminder to Dad at how important he is in your family.