GUEST BLOG WRITTEN BY: Teresa from For the Love of Teenagers
When my daughters were around middle school I began to notice they were not as thoughtful as they had been when they were little. Instead, they seemed to be pretty snappy and selfish. To be quite honest, I don’t even think they liked themselves!
Often I thought about the patterns I had seen from my clients I had in my chair as a hairstylist for the past twenty-three years. Many of my clients were with me for over a decade so I had the privilege of seeing how parenting turned out. I got to hear all sides of the same story giving me all sorts of angels from which to look at a problem. It was kind of like earning a doctorate in the observation of stupid human decisions to which I was most assuredly not immune! Nonetheless, I tried to learn and adjust.
Also because I am also a real estate investor, I began to ask myself this question as a parent when my girls would pose a behavior, “Will that behavior make them an asset or a liability now and later?” Then I would ask myself, “Am I an asset or a liability in this instance and therefore contributing to their behaviors?” I really does start with us. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MESSAGES WE SEND. PERIOD.
You might feel a little stumped when you think of your own behavior just like I was, so here are some examples of liability behaviors I’ve seen.
Am I cranky and disrespectful? Am I a yeller? Do I threaten? Do I intimidate? Am I abusive?
Do I make excuses for myself and/or others?
Do I micromanage?
Do I encourage or tear down?
Do I gossip about others? Do I bring the drama? Do I tolerate drama?
Am I pretty lazy?
Do I talk a big game, but then fail to follow through?
Do you shame the person instead of the behavior?
Examples of asset behaviors:
Do I do the right thing all the time just because it’s right?
Do I apologize when I’m wrong?
Do I make sure they KNOW I love them and care how they are doing?
Do I make what is important to them important to me?
Am I reliable and consistent?
Do I have good boundaries?
Am I a go-getter?
Do I embrace hard things with dignity?
Am I good with my money, my stuff, my job, etc?
Are my priorities in order? Hint: People and relationships come first.
Do you deal with the behavior separate from the person? Shame vs. guilt. Shame is destructive and guilt is necessary to correct and adjust.
Am I kind and compassionate, truthful and loyal?
You get the idea. I’ve said for years, “Life is caught, not taught.” Our kids don’t miss a thing! They don’t miss when we make eye contact and really mean it when we ask, “How are you doing today?” They don’t miss it when we talk at them instead of with them as we bark their to-do list at them or question them about their last seemingly dumb decision.
Before I get into what you can do to help your kids be assets rather than liabilities it’s important for you to understand some truths about them:
They have an insanely well-tuned hypocrite meter. If you are saying one thing and doing another you have most certainly lost some respect in their eyes.
Kids will do far more for a person they respect than you could ever imagine. Treat them in an honoring way. (Asset) They will in turn treat themselves that way and others too.
They hate living with unfriendly parents. (Liabilities) Who blames them, but often parents are incredibly cranky with their kids. Being their actual friend comes when they are an adult, but in the meantime ask yourself, “Would I want to live with me?” Then adjust.
Kids think, “My parents don’t get it, they don’t want to get it and they’re not ever going to get it.” Share some funny stories about yourself when you were young. (Asset) They love anything incriminating! But here’s the caution: Share your dirty laundry, but not your dirty underwear. For example: Nothing sexual in nature.
Kids REALLY hate it when parents treat them like a kid but expect them to act like an adult. (Liability) Think about it. If you want to raise a responsible, independent, critical thinker what is required for that to happen? A lot of natural consequences, compassion for them when they mess up, never fixing the problem for them and surely don’t make the mistake of micromanaging!
When you ask them why they did the latest dumb thing…they really don’t know. Their brain is under major construction that feels like warp speed, so often they have no idea what they are doing or why they are doing it. Yes, that is scary as heck. I tell you this so you can not be so mad next time making you a liability because you are modeling how to handle confusing things.
What if we haven’t done such a great job being respectful to our kids and now we have some ticked off liabilities in our house? What if, on the other side of the spectrum, we have been far too lenient and we have some similar liability type behaviors we don’t like? What if we’ve been a huge liability by being a hypocrite or a crazed micromanager and now we have irresponsible, lazy kids? Well, there are a few things you can do.
Sit down with them and apologize. Apologize? Yep. In a very heartfelt way apologize for whatever it is you have done that has not been a benefit to your relationship with them. Tell them how sorry you are without making excuses. Apologize for being a liability by not making better decisions that would have helped them grow up to be a wonderful adult.
Explain you want to do things differently and if it helps, use the asset and liability terminology. Gently go through the things you see in them that are not benefiting them. I said gently. In a loving way, talk with them about where this behavior is going to get them if they don’t make some adjustments. Then tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing each time you “make it difficult” for them to continue being a liability without being condescending and then help them see what it looks like to be an asset. Here are some examples of liability type behaviors:
Fighting with their siblings. Would they treat a friend that way and expect to keep them? No. Hitting is a big one. Hitting someone as an adult gets you an assault charge and often wins you a trip to jail, so do we hit people? Heck no, so don’t tolerate it in your home or presense.
Too much screen time. Can they do that as a working adult and keep a job? No. (Not to mention there are now treatment facilities for this addiction.)
Back talking/disrespectful arguing, cussing, or telling you how thing are going to be. Can they do this to a boss and keep their job? No. Can they do this to a friend, significant other and expect to keep them? No.
Time management. It’s very arrogant to not respect another’s time and it send the message that people don’t matter, only you do. Again, is being late going to keep a job? No. Is it going to keep you on a team? No. Is it going to aggravate the friends and family in your life? Yes!
Being codependent or as the saying goes, “Setting yourself on fire just to keep everyone else warm.” Yeah…no.
Now talk to them about asset type behaviors and here are some examples:
Incredible respect and professionalism especially with difficult people. This takes a lot of practice, but don’t give up. Don’t allow drama, whining or excuses. We treat people well because of who we are, not because someone deserves it.
Cleaning up after themselves and when it looks like it needs to be done. Teach them to be a giver not a taker.
Taking care of themselves in all ways. Eating healthy, working out, dressing nice and modestly, picking healthy friends, setting good boundaries, etc. Don’t let self-destructive behaviors go unchecked.
Taking care of all the things they are capable of. It builds major confidence which is you guessed it…a huge asset!
Taking on big goals, failing, struggling to get back up, and trying again with no fear or failing again. Not failing means you’re not trying!
Ask them how they feel about it. Ask them if there are some things you missed. Ask them if there are some things they see in you that you could correct. Don’t argue or get defensive. Just listen and thank them for telling you. Ask clarifying questions if you need to, but make sure to do it in a way that is healthy, not manipulative.
How we do one thing is how we do everything. Strive to be an asset in everything you do and require that of your kids with the mantra of, “You are better than that! You can do this. I see more in you than you see in yourself, so until you see it I will keep pushing you to be better. Then you can take over and take yourself further than I ever could! I do this because I love you more than you could know.”
Learn more about Teresa on her website For the Love of Teenagers