Have you ever had the best of parenting intentions, only to get completely derailed by your teenager and their ability to push your buttons?
If so, you are not alone. Here’s what I’ve learned from my own struggles and wins as a parent and coach.
We All Have Triggers. What are Yours?
Most of us have a pretty good idea about what our triggers are as parents. When we’ve had a rough day at work, or we’re tired and hungry, or one of the kids tries pour an entire gallon of milk into a small cup, we might be more easily upset.
For me it’s being tired, especially when I’ve gotten up early to exercise or help coach my son’s basketball team. When I get to the evening I’m tired, and I get GRUMPY. I start snapping at the kids, nitpicking my teenager, and I’m just not the kind of dad that I want to be.
Some of my wife’s triggers are messes around the house and arriving somewhere late. I don’t mind showing up to church late and having everyone stare at me, I kind of like the attention, but my wife hate’s it!
So, ask yourself, “What are my triggers?”
Take some time to identify your triggers. If you’re anything like me, your going to have several. Sure, there’s the physiological triggers like hunger, fatigue, pain, and others. But, then there’s the psychological triggers like disliking your teenager’s actions, being embarrassed that your teen is the only one having a tantrum in public, or simply arguing with them over something.
Take some time over the next few days and really increase your awareness of your triggers. Identify them, but also explore them. Find out why they trigger you like they do.
One of my psychological triggers is when my son is a knucklehead in public. After exploring this one, I’ve come to understand that this triggers me because I am worried about what other people are thinking. When my teen acts up in public, my first thought is, “I’m a parenting/teen coach, my teen should be better.” I get embarrassed and assume that everyone watching is saying, “Did you see that? He’s not perfect and neither is his kid. I bet he’s a terrible parenting/teen coach.”
Take some time to really understand why your triggers are triggers. Understand what irrational thoughts make them worse and what emotions they spark. This will help you make a plan for how to handle your triggers.
Game Plans Can Change EVERYTHING!
I’ve coached football for a long time. I’ve been an assistant coach on both high school teams and little league teams. Last year was my first year as a head coach for my son’s little league team. I knew the importance of a game plan, but I had never been the guy that made the game plan and then implemented it. It was a struggle to effectively game plan; in fact, I’m hoping to improve in this area for next season.
Basically, to game plan you have to know a few things.
- What is your intended outcome?
- What are the likely obstacles?
- How do you want to prepare for and respond to the obstacles?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Game plans help put things in perspective. Obstacles become a normal and anticipated part of the game. They give you guidance and direction. Rather than always questioning what to do, a game plan helps you now know exactly what to do. Game plans help you build on your weaknesses and play to your strengths.
Create a Parenting Game Plan
Okay, let’s get back to our triggers and emotions.
You can change EVERYTHING about your triggers and emotions by creating a game plan. You will gain perspective and understand that these struggles are normal and anticipated. You’ll have the direction of knowing what to do next in your plan. You’ll know what your weaknesses are and start building on them, as well as intentionally playing to your strengths.
So, if you want to create a game plan, answer these questions:
- What is your intended outcome as a parent?
I want to be kind. I want to have a relationship where I can connect with and teach my teen.
- What are your likely obstacle, struggles, and triggers?
I know that I get grump when I’m tired. My teen might get in trouble at school.
- How do you want to prepare for and respond to these obstacles?
I want to prepare for being tired by getting in bed by 10:00, even if that means no night time TV. If my teen gets in trouble at school, I want to be kind. I want to listen and seek to understand him. I want to be kind and teach him a better way.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is my unconditional love for my teen. My weakness is my temper and my negative thoughts.
Your game plan can be whatever you need it to be. Have it be a basic outline or as detailed as you’d like.
Bottom line is, if you have a game plan, you will be more intentional in the way that you parent. It will help you build on your weaknesses and play to your strengths. It will help you be purposeful and intentional, and it will help you put things into perspective.