Parenting a teenager is really tough. It's probably the hardest job any of us will ever have. There are a lot of reasons for that. Some of the reasons are simple. It’s not like when you decide to have a baby they hand over like a book with full instructions on how to be the best parent to your particular child. There’s no instruction. There’s no handbook. They don't even have classes in parental training. When you have to drive a car you have to take a test. You have to prove that you can drive that car that you know all of the laws and the regulations and that you can be the best driver possible. But when you leave the hospital, they just kind of say “goodbye good luck” I remember leaving the hospital with my firstborn and my husband and I kind of got into the elevator to go downstairs and we kind of looked at each other and said “oh my God! I can't believe they're letting us leave with this baby”. We had no idea what we were doing really so it's was learn as you go, which makes parenting especially difficult.
Reactions come from the part of our brain that is not necessarily reasonable and rational. It's all this Limbic System; it's not coming from the pre-frontal cortex. This is where all of our executive functioning is, this is where we are reasonable and rational. When we are reacting to things in a way based on our foundational knowledge. It's usually a reaction that is not well thought out and sometimes can actually be pretty inappropriate. Everyone knows kind of what they want to do or what they should do. The hard part is actually figuring out how to do it. It's kind of, like when you're in a group or you're at work or somewhere and then all of a sudden somebody says alright dance and you're like I don't know what you mean. I guess I could dance, but are you talking about, like hip hop or are you talking about slow dancing? I don't know what you're talking about. It’s like that when we talk about parenting. People say “oh, you just parent. Just be in charge of that little person's life.” And you day to yourself “well, I kind of know what I'm doing but not really.” So the number one thing, as a parent is to connect, cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself, especially if you're parenting experience as a child had a lot of opportunities for improvement because that's what you're going off of as your parenting your own children, your own experience.
Big Voice: What Is It When To Use It
So If we want things to change, when we want things to change, a big part of it is being mindful and you need to think about what you want to do and what is the best. If you are creating choices for yourself then you can really see the several different avenues that you have when you‘re presented with a situation. When we're presented with a situation and we're not thinking about the choices we go right to the one that's coming from the back of the brain that is usually not the best one. If you are deciding or let’s say you're in a situation where your child is doing something dangerous.
Your child runs out in the middle of the street, even if it's not a busy street, but they just like run out in the middle of the street they're not like looking both ways. They are not checking for cars, they just walk out there. You have to decide if that's something that is really bad or is it something that's kind of bad. Where does this action go in the spectrum of bad actions? From there you can decide how you're going to react to it. When we are going from just being reactionary no matter where it is on the spectrum were coming at. It hard and we're coming at it big and it when that happens, your kids are not going to listen. I actually have to remind my own husband of this.
So my number one tip for today is deciding when to use your big voice. The big voice is the one that you use when you're kids are running into the street without looking and you're “Oh my God that's super dangerous. You could die!” That seems like an appropriate time to use the big voice “what are you doing. Oh my gosh, you scared me. What are you doing? Never do that again because you could have died!” That's a pretty major thing. Now, if your kid is forgetting to brush their teeth. I'm not sure if that is a situation where you would want to go for the big voice. Of course you're going to be disappointed and you're going to want to bring it to their attention, but do you want to use that big voice? I don't know. You have to decide. For me that's not a big voice thing, but again, it depends on how what you decide as a parent what is really important and what is kind of not important and you need to decide and choose because if you're going to pick everything and react the same way it's kind of like bringing down the hammer. If you're going to bring down the hammer every single time then eventually it will get no reaction and be ignored. If you bring down the hammer too much it’s just wasting energy.
But Don’t Overuse The Big Voice
So choose what you want to bring the hammer down on and be as mindful as you can. This means being present and taking each situation as it comes, evaluate it and then decided that time “is this bring down the hammer moment or is this more of a stern conversation?” Kids listen when you mean business. What is it mean to mean business? Sometimes people think that means you have to be loud. Not really. When you mean business, it means your stern. It means your firm. It means that you look at your child in the eye and say “I'm really disappointed. I found this or I noticed this and that's not okay so what are we going to do about this and you let them squirm and you let them give you a bunch of excuses and you listen and you still say It's just not okay, what are we going to do about it and they're going to give you more excuses. Still you tell them that’s just not okay so what are we going to do about it until you're teenager comes up with a solution. Let's say they got a bad grade. They could say “I could study more.” You reply back “I think that would be a great idea so what does that mean to study more?”
Do you see how we're asking them? We're moving them toward an answer that we want, but we're not giving it to them. We're going to cover this more in next week’s post.
Kids will listen when you have to engage their brain to think about solving the problem they're not going to listen If you're just talking at them. So if you use the big voice, that's just talking at them. Using the big voice is to get their attention. But then after getting their attention, you continue with the big voice you’re wasting your time and energy they’ll become numb to it and tune you out. Remember that parenting is hard. It takes a lot of practice and although I'm saying decide when you want to use your big voice, and this sounds kind of easy; but I know from my personal experience that it's actually not that easy. Especially when we're upset because our brain wants to go back to its lower reactionary part; it wants to just react in the way that we've always done before which is probably not the best way. So try your best nervous system to calm your brain and your body so that you can access the smarter part of your brain and decide how you want to parent in that situation by using the big voice or by
using a firm voice.