Are Teenagers Like Brussels Sprouts? (Episode 206)
Are you a Brussels sprout lover? I know, for me, I was a super picky eater when I was younger and wouldn't even think about trying one. And really...boiled Brussels sprouts of the 80s? Yuck!! Yet...the Brussels craze of our generation has made this veggie cool and amazing! So how, exactly, do teenagers come into play here? Do you like Brussels Sprouts? Do you like teenagers? Do you have a preconceived stereotype of both?
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Just like Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a healthy and hearty food that is definitely a great one to add to your diet. Yet many people never even give it a chance just because of the stigma around them. And one bad experience with nasty boiled Brussels and you have further confirmation they are veggies to be avoided.
Yet a roasted Brussels sprout completely shifts the taste, especially when you put some of that amazing balsamic glaze on it (anything with Balsamic is amazing!). Brussels in salad, sautéd, grilled...there are so many variations, and you'll likely find some version that will surprise...and maybe delight you.
Similar to the teens I've met. Yep, we all know at least one "angsty teen" who solidifies the stereotype of a teenager and further confirms that the teenager years should be oh so difficult.
Yet...do we essentially throw the baby out with the bath and just throw a blanket stereotype on our teens just like we might not give Brussels sprouts a chance? Maybe you've experienced that teen you want to avoid, sure. Have you taken the time to actually talk with any other teens? Get to know some who may not be so mad and angsty?
I know I personally have been checked on this. I had my own judgements - and even insecurities - about teens. I was afraid they would all think I was "just some stupid adult" and they wouldn't be interested in anything I had to say.
And then I got the opportunity to speak to 200+ high schoolers enrolled in a program through Vanderbilt University, and I essentially shared this message with them. And I was amazed with the response I got, the insights shared, and these incredible humans I got an opportunity to speak with.
Are your teenagers rising to your expectations?
We hear it all the time -
I have a 14-year-old.
Oh, teenagers! I hope you can survive it!
I have 3 daughters.
Just wait until they are teens - you are going to have your hands full!
I bet you are just dreading the teenage years!
Well, guess what. We love having three daughters, and we all actually really enjoy each other...even in the teens and tweens, thank you very much.
How much do we set the precedent of expecting doom, a hard time, and more?
Why do we continue to write a story we don't want to step into?
My first Lesson
Yes, this was my first lesson in parenting girls and teens, as I honestly had hesitations about both! I had gotten so stuck on the stereotype of what those meant, that I was paving the way for that to be the path we went down!
Years ago, I stumbled upon a blog post that really checked me with my assumptions on teenagers. We have got to stop putting negative labels on teens. Unfortunately the site is no longer up beyond this article I found on Medium, but the gist of the blog post was essentially laying out how our children can be conditioned to pull away merely by our expectation that this is what they are "supposed" to do!
I started really paying attention to how I was defining my children. Am I boxing them in to a category they then feel they need to live up to? Have I boxed my child into the "introvert" role so much that she's missed opportunities she doesn't even attempt because I've not given her the chance? Am I creating a teen who hates to be around her parents because we're enforcing that exact thought - that surely she wouldn't want to be around parents?
Use Caution When Labeling
So much of the foundation of my business is in understanding our default reactions and behavioral tendencies. However, I never want to get so stuck on a label that I miss the person behind it.
There are many, many labels we can put on people. Some are more descriptive, like them being an introvert or dramatic. And others can be a specific diagnosis, like ADHD or Dyslexia. I'm not discounting that there are legitimate issues that require outside support and therapy.
However. We have found that, in our rush to "fix" everything and pave the way, we can oftentimes be so proactive in "fixing" our children that they aren't able to really explore the tools that work, and can get trapped in their diagnosis being an excuse or justification to sit in.
In our household, we had people concerned about the angle of my daughter's foot when she was younger and if would affect her walking (it didn't). We had a severe stutterer where therapy was recommended. And, of course we get all the concerns about braces, and yet have seen some gnarly teeth in horrible positioning move right into place with this powerful thing called time.
Yes, I want to be proactive in my children's health and wellness. I definitely want to offer the support they need. And, there have been many times I have pulled resources for all kinds of labels to try as a tool to help our daughters thrive, no specific diagnosis required.
I will often look up tips for children with ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and more, just to try as a new way to learn or different method to see if it's helpful. All three of our girls wrote in mirror images and struggled, and here I was a bookworm and avid reader since 4. What came beautifully easy to me has been more of a challenge.
So we open every door. We uncover any resource, tip, strategy and more that may help, and as their own motivation grows, so does their toolkit on things they can try to better understand it.
Yes, there are times therapy and medication is needed and very important for helping someone. All we encourage is, before going to that extreme, take a close look at what things you may be able to shift within. Our daughter's stuttering was in direct correlation with the speed and stress in our home. When we started slowing our roll and adjusting our own behavior, the "issue" went away!
Be careful that therapy or a pill or any external support isn't just to justify continuing with a lifestyle that isn't set up for your child to thrive anyway.
Don't let your mind take advantage of the label opportunity to just sit in it as an excuse. We can be so fearful of missing our one "golden opportunity" to fix an issue that we don't give our children a chance to grow into who they really are. We can be so fixated on falling in love with their potential that we miss what they are right now, and how they are naturally bent.
My Second Lesson
I asked Clara what she thought about being a teenager, and who she wanted to be around. I know she has always gravitated toward adults, so I recognize every personality style is different and Clara is unique in what drives her, which will be different than my other daughters.
Yet the biggest thing from her is that she just really likes us. Yes, she likes us.
Do your children truly enjoy being around you? Do you truly enjoy being around them?
If you want to have a good relationship with your teenager, pay attention to that simple factor of likability.
Our teens are going through all kinds of changes. They are navigating new levels of independence, new levels of emotions, and all kinds of body shifts.
Don't discount the importance of them knowing they aren't in it alone. They DO need you as an adult sounding board as they navigate this - and often it's a parent unintentionally pulling away more than it's actually a child wanting that!
Getting To Know You...
Think long and hard about how you are really perceiving your children. Are you defining them for their flaws (he's so hyperactive)? Are you defining them about what they aren't proud of (she's very impulsive)? Are you boxing them into a label and not giving them the opportunity to let them present who they want to be?
We hang out with people we enjoy and care about. We have to care enough about the other person to want to get to know them. We want to look for common ground and authenticity - to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
I want nothing less than that as a parent. We've worked damn hard to have a family we truly enjoy. And that means getting very intentional about things like this -
- Ensure you have time to get to know one another - no screens included.
- Play together - collaborative play, games, things that require talking and engaging.
- Communicate the small things - that means for everyone.
- Be proactive when you see tensions/energy rising - don't wait for it to mount up.
- Know the triggers - knowing the behavioral defaults of your family members help so much in being proactive and moving from communication to connection.
Get to know the people you care about. Be willing to show up and listen. Go back to basics. We ask our 5-year-olds all about their favorites...but the pink princess dresses and unicorns may have been a fleeting phase. What is your child into right now?
Play 21 questions with your child. Let them ask YOU as well. Don't assume you know your child - open the conversation to find out directly from them what they are passionate about.
You walking them through their journey to adulthood is way more important than trying to hold on to what they were as a child. We can compartmentalize our children in a certain age bracket and miss out on who they are becoming as we're so set on who they were. This is a beautiful moment, right now, to look at your child with fresh eyes - if you were to meet them today for the first time, and you wanted to find out more about your "new roommate", what would you ask them?
What makes us unique can't be orchestrated from the outside - it's the beautiful spark within. The only way we can see that in others is to look for it and notice it. It's in our desire to understand one another that we truly can celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
Dig Deeper with These Posts and Episodes:
- Stop Putting Negative Labels on Teenagers
- My Child Stutters...and She's Still Fabulous
- Real Connection In A Connected World - Navigating Screens as a Family (Episode 205)
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)
- Parenting Decisions (Episode 204)
- Connecting, Screen-time, Challenges and Overwhelm (Episode 72)
- True Parent Struggles: Screentime (Episode 90)
- True Parent Struggles: Attitude, Listening and Life Skills (Episode 96)
- True Parent Struggles: How To Treat Others (Episode 93)
- To All Teens Everywhere
- How to talk to your kids about the Birds and the Bees: Part 1 (Episode 182)