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Category Archives: power struggles

When Good Kids Say Mean Things…How to Not Take it Personally

One of the things I frequently hear when working with parents is, “If I had talked to my parents the way my kid talks to me, I’d have been grounded for the rest of my life.” Sound familiar? Kids these days are gutsy and say things that most of us would never have dared to say to our parents.

Parents ask, “Why is that? Why do they talk like that? How do they get away with it?”  If we realize that any control we have over our child is an illusion, I think it is of more value to ask, “How can we do things differently and get better results?”

When the relationship is contentious, I always recommend that, emotionally, parents step back far enough to not get battered by the things their kids say to and about them. The trick is to find the balance so that you don’t step back so far that you lose connection. So how do you do that?

  • Take your sail out of their wind ~Allow them to blow themselves out while you avoid getting battered by their wind. Walk away. Let them know you will be back when things are calmer. Do NOT say, “When YOU are calm.” This just escalates their feelings. No good will come from that.
  • Do NOT engage with them if they are being mean or dis-respectful. YOU need to set the precedent. Re-engage as soon as the attitude changes. Do not hold a grudge. Focus on the behavior you want.
  • Do not take them places, do things for them, or buy them things when they are being/have been rude and disrespectful. It is important, when you talk to them about what you are not doing, you tell them in a way that is firm but kind. If you threaten them  or are mean when you state your limits and boundaries,  they just see you as being mean and they get mean back.
  • Underneath any misbehavior is an unmet need…usually that need is for connection and relationship. Consider spending one-on-one time with your teen.

By the time kids leave home, most parents I know have some regrets; some “I wish I woulda…when I had the chance.” In the moment, it is hard to know what things will stay with us as the years go by. Two common regrets are:

1.  “I always wish that I had spent more time with my kids when they were at home…now I have to travel to be with them.”  I’ve never met a parent who has said, “Gosh. I really regret that I spent so much time with my kids when they were younger.”

2. “I wish I would have learned not to take things personally.” Hurt feelings and big emotions really get in the way of communication and relationship.

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How to deal with “lying” and create a larger circle of support for your kids

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Lying is a common problem that comes up for parents. The thing that’s really soooo bad about lying is that it destroys trust. We lose the ability to trust what they tell us. It also undermines the “moral” character that we are trying to instill.

So why do our kids lie to us? Most commonly it is because they are afraid to tell the truth because they are afraid they will get in trouble (and they will get lectured or lose privilege) or that we will freak out…or both.

One of the things that I love about working with groups is that some parents have brilliant and inspired strategies. Before I share their stories, I want to challenge you to examine a few ideas about your relationship with your kids.

1. “Mistakes” and “bad decisions” are some of the greatest opportunities we have to learn.

2. When was the last time you got punished for making a mistake or a bad decision? What did you learn from being punished?

3. What does your child learn from punishment? (Frequently they learn to “get sneakier” or to “lie better”.)

4. Would it be more beneficial for them to learn to deal with the problem they have created?  (I am, in no way, suggesting that they shouldn’t have consequences.)

5. Do you really need to know EVERYTHING that your teenager does?

6. Do you need to be “the one” that your kid talks to OR can you encourage them to have a relationship with another adult ~ hopefully one who will be available to offer them guidance and support?

7. Do you want your child to tell you the truth so that you have information about the guidance and skills they need or so that you can “catch them” doing bad things?

Stories from the front lines:

This courageous woman is a “New mother”. Her first child is a 14 year old girl whom she is adopting. When she was first confronted with lying she told her daughter why she didn’t want her to lie and what she did want: “I want to trust you and believe you.” Then she offered her alternatives: “If you think I can’t handle the truth, tell me so. Say, “I can’t tell you because I think you’ll freak out.” OR “Can I tell you now but not talk about it until you calm down?” OR “I can’t talk to you about this so I talked to my auntie about it instead.” or even, “I can’t tell you the truth because I am afraid to.” After offering alternatives she requested, “Just…don’t lie to me.”

Another mom offered her daughter a six month “statute of limitations”. “If you did something more than six months ago and I didn’t catch you, you can talk to me about it now and not get into trouble for it.” When she did this, her daughter began sharing some of the things that she had done. Mom was able to keep her word and it opened the door to be able to offer her daughter guidance, information, problem solving skills, and support in making better choices in the future.

We WANT to hear the good stuff. We NEED to hear the hard stuff. If we want to trust our children to tell us the truth, they need to be able to trust that we can handle it in a positive way…or hook them up with someone who can.

Looking for more hints and tips on parenting teens? Check out “Upcoming Workshops”.