A Parenting Quiz
- When your teen walks in the door after school, do you ask these three questions? How much homework do you have? How did you do on your quiz? Did you talk to your teacher about...?
- Do you spend your weeknights walking in and out of your teen's room asking? When are you going to put this laundry away? Have you finished your homework? Did you take the trash out?
- Do you spend your post school hours telling your teen multiple times to: Get off facebook and do your homework! Stop texting and do your homework! Get off that video game and do your homework!
- At least one time per week, do you find something that your teen has done that you can compliment?
Obviously when parents come to me for coaching they are usually struggling with the first three questions. How can I get my teen to do what I want them to do? Why doesn't my teen listen to me? Why doesn't my teen tell me anything? I have found that there is a direct correlation to the non-listening, non-action taking of teens to the amount of positive feedback they are given by their parents, there isn't much given. Most parents are so worried that if they don't stay on top of everything their teen needs to do to be successful, then they will be at a disadvantage when it come to the important thing, like getting into college for instance. This approach to parenting can be extremely time consuming, exhausting and mostly unrewarding. Putting yourself in the role of CEO of your child's life, automatically puts you in that secluded corner office worrying about the success of your "company" and out of touch with your "employees".
I was watching a news story recently about the online company Zappos. The CEO of that company
did not have a corner office, in fact, he didn't have an office at all. He "lived" in the same cubicle as the rest of his staff, right in the middle of the action. The work-life atmosphere at Zappo's is designed to promote hard-work while providing their employees with food, fun and lots and lots of kudo's for jobs well done. They have found that it is the food, fun and kudos that make their employees want to work their asses off for the company. Nobody minds the long hours and the cubicles because they feel understood and appreciated.
I think this is a model that can translate well to parenting. You probably aren't having much fun anymore with your teen, as they stay as far away from you as possible, worried that every time they see you it means you are on them about something. Kind of like that worry you feel when you see the "boss coming." Uh oh, now what did I do wrong, you might think. Gotta turn this around. Try making your nightly rounds without questions or comments. Maybe bring up an unexpected treat or snack you know is a favorite of your teen's and saying: "Thought you might like this treat..love u" and walk out the door.
I talked with a parent recently who is all over her teen, worried that he just wasn't "working" hard enough. His attitude towards her was becoming toxic as a result. The good news was this kid was a really good kid. But she had forgotten that in her worry that he wasn't on top of everything academically that he should have been, ie missing homework assignments that were resulting in lowering of his grades, avoidance of college essay and application writing, that she was not paying attention to the good stuff he was doing. He was not drinking or taking drugs, though most of his friends were. He was managing a part-time job. He was saving money, not squandering it away like most of his friends. Lots of good stuff.
I sent her home to put a little "fun, food and kudos" back into their life together. At a dinner out at his favorite fast food restaurant, rather than asking a million questions and lecturing him about his "future", the mom told him how proud she was of the decisions he made in his life that must be hard, like not drinking when he was with his friends, like how seriously he took his sport, like how conscientious he was about his job even though it meant getting up wicked early on a Saturday morning. She told him she was going to back off with all his college stuff as she had confidence in his ability to follow though if this was something HE really wanted for himself. I think this boy thought he had died and gone to heaven. As soon as she understood and appreciated what good stuff he was doing, he then accepted responsibility for what he wasn't doing, and they had one of the most honest, and fulfilling conversations they had ever had.
This Zappo's CEO is on to something. If you want to get the most out of your relationship with your teen you have to keep it balanced. Stay on and interested in those things you know are important but never ever forget the fun, the food and the kudos!