Tag Archives: adolescents

Questioning Your Parenting: Part 2

196px-Jamini_Roy_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectAbout eight years ago I stood in a funeral line for the son of one of the best people I know, Mac, whose young college-aged son had just killed himself. Mac and I worked together in the local hospital, and he was a wonderful, wise mentor for me as a young, new physician. I’ve never known anyone calmer, more patient, or more accepting than Mac. Unpretentious. Giving. Compassionate. Steady.

I’d just popped out a beautiful, feisty, little baby girl not too long before. The irony was not lost on me as I stood in that long, snaking, horrible line. Not on Mac either, I guess. When I finally made the front of the funeral viewing line, Mac looked in me (yes, in me, if that’s possible), with his face in jagged zig-zags, held together simply by sheer human spirit and said: “They don’t tell you about this part when you’re making babies, do they, Terri?”

No, Mac. No, they don’t.

So let’s carry on with my questions. Remember, I’m writing this as a mom who likes to think (probably over-think, as my kids tell me, “Enough already, Mom!”), not as a physician or healthcare provider. Don’t use anything on my site as authoritative knowledge or for treatment. I know you won’t. Onward.

Are you heeding warning signs that counseling or medical intervention is needed, such as suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, or anger that is physically manifested?

I know that teens are often unhappy and restless for no good reason at all! But sometimes there are signs of something deeper, and we can’t just expect frightening adolescent behaviors or words to go away on their own. The earlier we intervene, the easier it is to change faulty mindsets, perceptions, and reactions.  There is NO shame in getting professional help, even if you’ve got one of those “good kids” or everyone thinks you’re the “perfect family.” When a child talks about suicide, get help. When a child acts out sexually, get help. When kids are doing drugs, get help.

Conversely, maybe it’s the adult in the situation who needs help. The things that I’ve seen or heard tweens, teens, and twenty-eens do or say blows my small mind. They can be enraging! If you find yourself losing your temper physically, get help. Even if you find yourself being verbally abusive in response to them, that’s no good. Strong people get help.

Despite the chuckling of seasoned parents, some kids don’t make it. Some parents can’t handle it. Get help when you need it.

Are you asking the hard questions?

One thing I learned early in med school is that you can’t be afraid to ask patients the hard questions. How much alcohol do you drink? Do you use crack, meth, or other drugs? Do you have sex? With who? Do you ever think of death? Hard questions that must be asked to take care of patients best. (I once saw 75-year-old woman using meth. Surprise!)

You THINK you know the answers your kids would give to hard questions, but you MUST ask. Start young. Start early. (But it’s never too late.)

Yes, it’s uncomfortable. It gets easier.

Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a girlfriend? Is there someone you like? Are you feeling sad inside? Have you ever been asked to take drugs? Do you even know what drugs are? Do you think you’ll start your period soon? Are you scared about your body? Are you scared about your feelings? Do you know God loves you? Are you scared God doesn’t exist?

Ask the hard questions.

Are you listening?

Kids talk all the time. I can still hear mine talking even when they’re not talking!

Talk, talk. Listen. Chatter, chatter. Listen. Whine, whine. Listen. Blah, blah, blah. Listen. Problem, problem! Listen.

Problem, REAL problem, Mom!? I’ve got this daughter. I’m listening. I’ve been listening the whole time. 

Listen even when it hurts your head. You’ll be surprised at how a listening environment will bring your children to you at the tough times. You don’t listen in the easy times, you won’t be trusted with the tough times.

Are you yourself seeking support and encouragement?

If you open up to the right people, you’ll be amazed at the powerful insight that those who have walked this path before you have gained. Even when it comes to heavy stuff like pre-marital sex and suicidal thoughts, these parents may surprise you with what their kids told them or did when they were growing up. They’re a treasure chest of support.

Are you letting go of your attachments?

I have an image of how I want my daughters to be, whether that’s how they are or not–or even can be. It’s based on what I think is important, what I think is important to survive and excel in this world, and ideas I’ve picked up from my church background.  I’m attached to certain ideas for them. How they dress. How they talk. How nice and kind they are. How their education is. What activities they’re in. Who their friends are. How organized they are. If they go to college. What they go to college for. And so on. These are MY attachments overlaid on my children.

Not too long ago I was thinking about what kind of dad Gandhi had been, as he clearly endeavored for peace and was considered a “good” person. Reading about his relationship with his children made me stop and think about how I impose my attachments on my children.

In my brief reading, I saw Gandhi struggled significantly with his first son, who ended up with a very sad, tumultuous life. Gandhi imposed his acquired “enlightenment” standards on his family, which was not necessarily wrong, as he had exceptionally good reasons. But sometimes things just don’t fit, and by holding fast to his pretty severe principles, Gandhi alienated his son.

I believe children can tell when it’s YOUR attachment coming through, not necessarily what is best for them.


I’m about done, I think. I had a few more questions I explored but have run out of room to elaborate on:

  • Are you creating consistent boundaries and sticking to them?
  • Are you working on rooting out negative self-talk in the house?
  • Are you being creative in your parenting?
  • Are you providing spiritual guidance?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the “I Hate You” post, the more scientific “Adolescent Brain” post, and the two “Question” posts. I’ll be back to food and bacteria next, I believe.

But I’ll leave you with just a few more questions, because, remember what Mac said: “They don’t tell you about this part when your’e making babies, do they?”

In what ways can I make myself more approachable? In what areas are my kids interested in that I could show a little more interest? In which areas could I look for more information to try to understand them better?


Photo credit: PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38370457

Questioning Your Parenting. Part 1.


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.