A Recent Question
I recently asked everyone on my email list, “What are you struggling with when it comes to parenting your teen?”
I was inspired by the answers that I received.
Some of the responses were very short, and some were very long, but every struggle in one way was dealing with 2 things, a lack of connection and unmet expectations.
As I thought about this I started to realize just how huge this was. I realized that nearly everything I coach on is connected to a lack of connection and unmet expectations.
So, we’re going to tackle this here.
Connection Comes First
If you’ve been listening to me for any amount of time, you know how important I think connection is when it comes to parenting teen.
If this is your first podcast episode, welcome and thanks for checking me out, but you need to know that one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, you will do as a parent is to connect with your teen.
If you don’t connect with your teen, you will struggle raising them. You’ll struggle getting them to respect you or obey you, and your impact won’t be what you want.
So, let’s just highlight the importance of connection. It’s everything to your teen.
And, incase you didn’t know this, one of the most powerful secrets that I teach is that Your Teen Wants YOU To Connect with Them!
So, as we talk about connection, think about this from the belief or assumption that your teen does indeed want you to connect with them, and I’m going to show you how.
#1 Let Go of Expectations and Attachments
This might be one of the most controversial things that I teach.
I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me, “No, expectations are good. Teens need expectations.”
I get it, and yes expectations are fine. We all have them but, too many parents are attached to expectations for their teen, that aren’t realistic, aren’t in their power, and sometimes aren’t even inline with what the teen want’s for themselves.
This is dangerous, because if you are attached to your unmet expectations, you’re going to struggle connecting with your teen.
I recently coached a mom who had expectations that her son would graduate high school, and get good grades, and participate with the family, but her teen flat out refused to get good grades, do well in school, and he even refused to participate in certain family things. And, as long as this mom was attached to those expectations, she couldn’t connect with her son.
But, when she let go of her attachments to her expectations, she finally started connecting to her son.
I recently read a report that most people actually dislike their profession and that one of the strongest factors in them choosing was that it was expected from their parents.
This is not healthy.
As parents, it’s our job to let go of our expectations and let our teens live life according to their values, not ours.
Now, I can here what you’re thinking, “Yeah, but, what about getting certain grades, or waiting until marriage to have sex, or if they borrow my car to fill it up when their done . . . “
I hear you, and I get it. I have expectations for my teens too, but I try not to be attached to those expectations.
Let’s look at the car example.
If my teen borrows my car, I expect him to take care of it. I can have that expectation, but maybe my teen doesn’t take care of it. I can’t control this expectation. So, I shift my attention to what I can control, and I set a boundary for ME, not my teen. “If you don’t take care of my car, I’m not going to let you use it.”
I’m not attached to my desired outcome or the expectation. I’m committed to being the dad that I want to be and upholding my boundaries.
By letting go of your attachments, you’re able to connect with your teen where they are, as they are.
Even if your teen is failing classes, dropping out of school, or even having pre-marital sex, they need and want connection with you.
#2 Be Grateful for Your Teen As Is
This goes hand in hand with letting go of attachments, but it takes it one step further.
Once you’ve let go of your attachments, you can start connecting with your teen where they are, as they are. Now, be grateful for them.
Find things that you can appreciate about them.
Are they kind? Are they funny? Are they resourceful? Are they creative? Are they reliable?
Find things to appreciate about your teen and FULLY APPRECIATE YOUR TEEN!
I’m serious. This will completely change your connection to your teen. When you start being grateful for your teen, who they are, and what they bring to life, you will deepen your connection to them. You will deepen your love, respect, and admiration for them and this is HUGE.
One of the things we like to do in my home is compliment time.
I invite you to start a regular practice of EXPERIENCING gratitude for your teen and EXPRESSING gratitude TO your teen.
#3 Empower Your Teen
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a parent, when your teen’s not living up to your expectations is to disempower them.
As parent, there are lots of ways to disempower your teen when they don’t meet your expectations.
One of the biggest ways is to take away their power to choose, think for themselves, or experience autonomy.
When your teen doesn’t meet your expectations, you might be tempted to ground them, take away their power to choose or act for themselves, or to start controlling them and making them meet your expectations.
Don’t! I promise you, this will disempower your teen, and this will take away from your connection with your teen.
So, what can you do instead?
EMPOWER YOUR TEEN.
When your teen doesn’t meet your expectations, find ways to empower them.
Here’s an example, “Hey, I notice that you have no interest in getting your grades up or even graduating high school. What are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at?”
If your teen is having premarital sex, find ways to empower them. You might have a conversation about the possible consequences of sex. You might talk about ways to be safe. You might even help them provide protection for themselves. You can still set boundaries and, definitely control what you can control, but if you lock them in their room for the rest of their life, that’s only taking away their power.
Bottom line is, often our expectations as parents are meant to protect our teens and help them avoid pitfalls, obstacles, and struggles. Instead of overly protecting them and parenting from fear, trust your teen’s resilience and their power to not only deal with the consequences of their choices, but trust that they are learning exactly what they need.
BONUS Connect On Your Teen’s Values
This is something that I usually only teach in the membership, but it’s super important so I’m going to tell it to you here too.
Connect over your teen’s values rather than discounting over your conflicting values.
Everyone has values in common with everyone. We also all have values in conflict with everyone’s values. That’s part of being a human being.
BUT, if you want to improve your relationship with your teen, connect with your teen on things that they value.
If you want more connection with your teen, stop trying to force your values on your teen.
I promise you, this principle alone, all by its self has the power to completely change your relationship with your teen.
Want to Master the Inner Game of Parenting?
Step 1 – Go take the parent trap quiz!
It’s free, easy, and will take you less than 3 minutes.
Step 2 – Use your quiz results to focus your energy on growing in the area indicated by your quiz results.