Mph. Agh. Ouchie. Eeeeow!
Huh. Tragic. There’s no stuffin’ ‘em back in now, is there!? You are stuck on the parenting conveyor belt for the . . . rest . . . of . . . your . . . life.
(Speaking of conveyor belts, have you ever seen Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene? The best Lucy episode ever. I watch it about once a month and never fail to belly laugh.)
I love parenting. I love my kids. I love my life. It’s all good. However, my oldest kids have transitioned to this tween period, and I’ve had some new challenges thrown at me that I guess I just didn’t anticipate, partly because I figured homeschooling would buffer us and partly because I try to keep in-tune with my kids. Guess that’ll show me, won’t it!?
My last post was on the science of the truly changing adolescent brain. Simply amazing! However, dealing with that anger-prone brain lacking frontal control can be simply exhausting! So I’ve been working on some questions, with the help of friends and family (and you), to help me through this time. Take a gander…
Do you need to unwire your buttons?
Something your kid did or said got you mad, sad, angry, guilty, resentful, or hurt? Then your buttons have been pushed! A friend of mine received wonderful button advice when raising her now grown son:
“When my first-born son turned 12, a friend of mine told me, “You are no longer entitled to have any buttons. Remove them all from your psyche. If you have any buttons HE WILL FIND THEM. You are then to say, ‘Oh, why thank you, son, for pointing out that I have a button there, I will remove it forthwith!’”
What are some commonly wired buttons?
- The Guilt Button
- The Disrespectful Kid Button
- The This Parent is Being Taken for Granted Button
- The Character Attack Button (Often pushed when you’re called controlling or a liar–or worse, a controlling liar!)
- The I’m Being Lied to Button
- The Messy Button
- The My Kid is Lazy Button
- The Gimme’ Button (Usually pushed when a string of “needed,” unrelated things comes out their mouths in the course of less than 5 minutes)
- The I Hate Running Late Button
- The Trying to Be Fair Button (Usually pushed when one kid gets something “special” and the others think they never do)
- My Kid’s Become a Brat Button
Got any of those buttons? Got any others? In the heat of the moment, I’ve been trying to pause and internally give a name to the button my tweens are pushing, making a visual image of me unwiring that button (Sometimes I visualize the button on my head, sometimes on my heart, and sometimes in my stomach, whatever, weird, I know.), so it can’t be a source of angst for me anymore. Then, I am better at ignoring what needs to be ignored, calmly (more calmly, anyhow) addressing what I can address at the time, or running upstairs as fast as I can so I don’t say meaner, nastier things than my kids.
Bottom Line: JAM your buttons so they don’t have anything to push.
Does your child need alone time with you?
One daughter kept asking for some alone time with me. I was like, “Yeah. Yeah. We’ll get that.” Honestly, I was thinking, “Uh. It’s a family of six, one being a toddler. You don’t get alone time with me. Doesn’t homeschooling count?” But I made some time to go out with her and each other older child alone.
Every family is different, but I think one of my big problems was the time consumed by a toddler. Split parenting (That’s the term for parenting kids in different stages of life, I guess.) does not seem to be my forte. Guess it doesn’t matter what the reason, I learned that kids need a bit of alone time with me. So I’ve made a point to go out for coffee with one, go shopping with another, leave the others at home while I drive just the one to a practice, and so on.
Other moms have shared with me that alone time can be as simple as a trip to the grocery store with just one riding shot-gun, working at a boring, tedious chore side-by-side, or lying beside them late at night right before bed (when you’re really exhausted and simply want to sleep). I can vouch they seem to talk more right before bed when I need toothpicks for my eyes.
Do you take it as about you? (It’s not about you ,even if they try to make it about you.)
It’s easy to take this challenging time as a reflection of your parenting and allow yourself to have a pity party wondering what YOU did wrong. How could YOUR child treat YOU so badly? What did YOU do? How did YOU ruin YOUR child for life? How did YOU create such a villain?
I know my kids are loved, provided for, safe, nurtured, rarely yelled at, rarely criticized, have some laundry and dishes to do, have appropriate boundaries, still have a few wants (as in they don’t have everything), and so on and so forth. I know my kids aren’t bullied at school or being picked on by a teacher. And yet, my kids are still turning inside-out on me, often accusing me of their suffering! One’s a melancholy and the other is a viper. (Unless the guidance counselor–that’s me–has dealt with two crying tweens, it’s not a complete day.)
So I’ve decided this time isn’t about me being a bad mom as much as it is about my kids learning to get away from a good mom. The best way for life to separate me and my kids is to make me unlikable to them—and them unlikable to me! (It’s working! Ha! “Go away! Come back with the grandkids.”)
Yet, I’ll nurse them (and me) along in their confusion and anger, proving to them that love is unconditional—but it can still get its feelings hurt! Nancy Rue, a writer of tween self-help books, writes that the numerous tweens she has interviewed want two things from their parents (even when they seem to push parents away): daily hugs and some time alone with them.
Hey. That sounds like it’s all about them!
Are you fostering independence?
What if they get smashed crossing that busy street? What if they browse bad internet sites? What if they get molested at a sleepover? What if they don’t choose their class college schedule right, costing you another thousand bucks or more? What if they major in art and live with you forever?
There’s no right answer, but if your kid is telling you she feels controlled and overprotected, it might be time to listen and start some negotiations. Each day of a child’s life should bring her closer in some way to independence from your home.
I’ve noticed they thrive better when I get them out of the house to a friend’s house or hanging out with another adult, helping them with a job or learning a skill from them.
To be continued . . . Next up will be exploring: Even good kids need help, letting go of our attachments for our children, and doorways without doors.
I follow your posts for digestion reasons, but being a father of 5 born from ’78 to ’99, I’ve seen a bit of parenting. Much of your parenting angst is not related to who you are, or who your kids are. Much, if not most, of our feelings about parenting are in reaction to societal norms and demands. Our children are programmed to take advantage. They will use whatever is at their disposal to get what they want. And being tweens, they are very selfish. They would be selfish if they were born in 4000 BP, or 2005 CE. But they have different tools now. They have “child-centered” values that have saturated our world.
I do not want to sound too cynical. I love all my kids. Two are still teens and it gets harder every day as I age and their world takes over. Who “I am” is no longer acceptable. My sarcasm, my grit, my experiences, are all worth nothing. I walked to school by myself in Detroit when I was 5. I rode my bike to the store and disappeared for hours at a time when I was 7. I had other kids sit on my chest and spit in my face when I was 11. None of these activities are even allowed in the current world. As parents we look for ways to increase our children’s independence, but we try to do it in a society that labels any real attempts at independence as not caring, negligent, selfish.
Because of their programming, these children believe the same thing, which makes it true. If we don’t cave to their needs, we are held in contempt. We are labelled differently than parents 50 years ago would have been labelled. My parents were educated, middle class liberals. They were not neglectful. My friends all wish they had parents like mine. I could fix a car before I had a license.
The answer to all of your questions is both yes and no. But you already know that. Homeschooling or not, you and your children are in a new world where kids rule. The best tactics are to let them fail, let them deal with consequences, pick them up and dust them off, give them love. Tuck them in at night, and leave them notes. But don’t cave.
Thank you for that very experienced parenting insight and advice. I’m working on a butyrate sequel. 🙂 Thanks for staying tuned while I think out loud on parenting.
Child-centered. When do you think it changed? Why did it change? Where does it come from? In some ways it seems child-centered, yet in other ways, as I watch some parents, it seems parent self-centered. Maybe it’s parents who carry their same child-centered (still them) ideas into their parenting? Or maybe it’s just “normal” parenting superimposed on a child-centered world? And what does it serve us to have a child-centered culture? Did it change as our nation’s prosperity grew? Did it change as mothers entered the work force? Or did it change because there was money to be made off of kids and their parents by pushing things a certain way and the culture grew from that?
My mother (and dad), who raised four, born in or between the years of ’75 and ’85 says similar to you. She describes huge changes between raising me (the oldest) and raising my youngest sibling, despite the fact she went to the same school in the same community. One of my youngest sister’s friends were hanging out once at out home and told my mom to, “Get real,” whem Mom had asked them not to do something in her house.
Do you still live in Detroit? What would you think of being a child in Detroit now? Same? Different?
Truly, it feels the world has changed much more quickly with technology and media. But family is still the pillar people stand on time and time again. So, I’ll keep my cave standing strong, warm with love.
Have a great week! And warmest wishes for your family!
This is excellent advice!
Hi, Jackie! Thank you, Jackie! Lots of love to you, Jackie!
Oh my. So many things I want to say with this post! Yes, buttons-they are pushed and yes, I try to get rid of them too!! I actually have one very verbal, door slamming, dramatic teen (who can also be the nicest and neatest kid to be around) and one very introverted, “I am not going to tell you anything and make you guess what is wrong,” tween (who also can be amazingly sweet and creative and fun).
I read this amazing book called Moon Mother Moon Daughter and then did a girls only class based off of it in February. (https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Mother-Daughter-Terri-Allison-ebook/dp/B008CM4Z7M?ie=UTF8&btkr=1&ref_=dp-kindle-redirect) The book is very granola-crunchy and wonderful. And yes-in that class I learned (as I was the only adult in there with 14 girls ages 10-14) that they want alone time with their parents and without their parents. I also think that it is very important for the this age to have a person to speak with-like a parent of a friend, a grandparent, a good friend. It is amazing how nice they are when they come back from visiting this person. LOL!
I am loving this series-as I do all of what you write. I can’t wait to hear what you have next! 🙂
And just think, you get to this all again in 9 years!! Maybe you will be more prepared?! 😉
That’s cool about the girl-only based class you did off of Moon Mother Moon Daughter! Did you do teach it? I clicked over and saw it got good reviews. Sounds like it’s spot-on for people!
My first two are only 20 months apart, and as I mentioned, one is stormy and the other tearful (kind of like yours, as you describe). What’s weird is that their tween temperaments kind of match their baby temperaments. I’d love to see a “study” on that. But, they’re really, really (really, really, factorial… Okay. They’re my kids. Of course I’d think this…) good kids (or else I’d probably ought not write these posts till they’re old but by then, I’d have lost the raw frustration 🙂 ).
I totally second the point you make about how when they spend time with someone else, they are so chipper when they come back. Sometimes, even when they’re sassy, I arrange something like this. Just to give us space! Has worked so far pretty well like a charm.
My third is 7 and my last is almost two now. So I’ll be in the game. Hopefully not till I die. 🙂
Thank you so much for the boosting words. I appreciate those. Enjoy the trees your way, and I’ll appreciate our clear, open sunset views.
This post really made me reflect and look to the future. I remember the day I turned 16, I got a job, eventually a car and that was the moment that parenting was really lost on me. I was still getting educated, thank you public high school, and I still lived in my parents home, but my life was truly mine. At 16 I was about as gone as a child can get. Then I really took a look at this from the mom perspective and I felt my heart speed up a bit. Some day, that will be my children. I must say, I did not disrespect my parents. I did what was asked of me. On the other hand, my parents asked very little of me, I was trusted to make good decisions. On the other, other hand, it’s not the same world. Statistically speaking girls are in far more likely to experience sexual aggression than they were when I was a kid. I have no answers, but you definitely got me thinking.
That is such a vivid way to put it: “…that was the moment that parenting was really lost on me…At 16 I was about as gone as a child can get.”
Your words drive home the point that parenting needs to happen up front and remind me of what they say about good coaches. They will often say that good coaches don’t have to yell during games (much) because the coaching that needs done was done in practice. I guess, I feel like as parents, we’d better get our “coaching” in while it still counts.
The statistics on sexual abuse are very disturbing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discussed this with my daughters; I get the, “I know, I know, Mom,” now!
If you come back to see this comment, I’d love to know more about your line, “…my parents asked very little of me…I was trusted to make good decisions.” My parents had very few rules for me and trusted me to make good decisions as well, which I usually did. Dad just made it clear that drugs and alcohol were stupid and if I ended up in jail, he wasn’t coming to get me. I could save my phone call. 🙂 I find it interesting to compare my parents’ rather “loose” parenting (but I knew the absolutes) to other’s more rigid parenting. Good and bad come from both camps, I know. Sometimes I think it’s just chance, but I’d like to know what it is that may go above just chance. Does that make sense?
Thanks for commenting!
So much going on in your comment section these days!
Okay, I remember another tidbit (from a different friend than the button one) that dovetails nicely here. This one was my Lebanese neighbour, raising 2 girls on her own. In some ways she was very old school, in others not. Anyway, whenever I would complain about one of my kids irking me in some way (in those days mostly the 7 yr old) she would say “It’s his JOB!” and laugh. In her traditional Middle Eastern understanding of parenting, 7 yr olds are supposed to be irksome. Teenagers are supposed to roll their eyes. Toddlers cling. Any and all stages were accepted as normal. If one of her daughters yelled “I hate you!” she just looked her in the eye calmly and said “Well I love you.” (Now there was a woman who had mastered her buttons, eh?).
I whole heartedly agree with Phil above, about how child centred society has become. One thing that means is there’s (I think) un-natural pressure on kids now; they’re under scrutiny all the d time. We take them too seriously, pry into their poor confused little psyches. It’s all with the best of intentions of course .. but it often doesn’t allow them to work things out on their own.
Which leads me to something that might seem a bit controversial to today’s parents, but I believe that while we have to remove most of our buttons, at the same time we *have* to be allowed to f up on occasion. No one will be scarred for life, if, say, Mom slams a door in frustration once in a while.
Oh, and one more thing, I’m sorry, but I disagree with your dad. You *absolutely* bail your kid out of jail. You even hire a lawyer if, God forbid, it becomes necessary. Then he/she gets a job and pays back every penny. Once. If it happens again, they’re on their own.
Hello! And thanks for sharing your thoughts, especially as I know you have raised your own! I know people think I’m crazy, as I always pick their brains if they have older kids, asking them what their philosophies are and how they handled this or that. (I do that to people who have been married a long time too!) But I believe in sharing experiences. I never learned anything when the person I was with kept their mouth shut…
I love what your Lebanese friend said. It sparked a connection in my mind with the Montessori school of thought, that certain things were “jobs” for kids; that’s how they learned. Then, it also led me back to my more scientific adolescent brain post, which made me realize the brain is remodeling. It is undergoing change. So some things can’t really be “changed” per se, and so it is expected that they are prone to emotionality, anger, reckless independence, etc. Their “job.” The way your friend handled it is so fascinating because it points out that it is what it is, and yet it doesn’t sound like she “ignored” it and brushed it under the rug with her responses.
On child-driven (child-centered) society. Is it really more child-driven? Or does it just seem that way because materials are cheaper, things like gas, cars, clothes, toys, etc? Or maybe it really is more child-driven–and does that stem from the “top down?” From companies wanting to generate money off of four people and not just two parents? So dance costumes, cars, phones—well, you can make more money marketing to kids AND parents. So it’s really money/material driven. OR is is it really driven by the parents? Have parents’ brains really changed that much over the years? Or do we just have access to more stuff to use in our parenting? Do all parents pry into confused psyches? Or only some (like me 🙂 )? And since so many people are walking around with anxiety, depression, horrible marriages, and substance abuse, could a little more pro-active parenting help that? I don’t know! I just love to think and ask questions! It’s my trademark.
On letting parents mess up. Yes. I agree. I always cringe when I see that “no-yell challenge” floating around Facebook. I am exceptionally verbal. I never once even thought about doing that challenge. But when I start harboring resentment and anger (guilt, sadness, etc.) that doesn’t leave my heart, then I know that my parenting (or marriage) is NOT heading in the right direction!!!! That’s when I know I’m really starting “to mess up,” not when I mess up in a moment. If, however, the “mess up” is a true indication of the interior of my heart and mind, then I’d better go figure out how to make myself right. I guess that’s how I view it for me.
And lastly, ah. My dad. He is a character, loves to bluster. WOULD Dad have bailed me out of jail? He’s a good man. He would have done what was right for me, I have no doubt. He also knew my personality very well. He know that threatening me usually kept me in line. He knew that yelling at me at ballgames always made me play better and harder. Yet, he knew if he yelled at another daughter, she’d cry. Or the other one, and she’d shut him out. So maybe it was his ability to know which of my buttons to push which made him effective. Dunno!
Anyhow, fun stuff to pontificate. Well, it’s Tuesday! Have a good week!
I am so glad that you are going through this for me, in a totally kind way truly… I love being able to learn from your experience. Thanks for teaching me too Terri. 🙂
Jenny, You are ever so welcome. I miss your posts. I hope business is good and good busy. May God place His hand on Z in such a way that she always uniquely feels His presence. And my children too.
All is well here! A bit COLD. Long sleeves and pants and fleece yesterday. Gr. Today sun and maybe shorts. I dream of beaches.
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