Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Follow-up: What Kind Of Pretty

A parent who reads my blog shared yesterday's blog with a friend who had some very strong feelings about the type of advice I offer and in particular yesterday's blog. I really value feedback from my readers even when it's not easy to read. That is how I grow. Here is what she wrote:

"She totally seems like she's a pushover mom. Everything I've heard from her is just "accept, and walk away".  I get the underlying psyche of teen girls, and that it's important to identify what they are feeling. But I don't think she offers any constructive advice. Maybe the kid throwing $200 jeans around the room and blaming the mom for making her buy them, should've been driven to a homeless shelter to see how important "being pretty" means there.
Unfortunately, I think this generation of parents are raising entitled little diva's that need a reality check."

First let me address, the "accept and walk away" technique. When you have a teen who is in the middle of an emotional breakdown, and whose emotional epicenter of the brain, the amygdala is in high activation, the only thing you can do is walk away. Recent research on the teen brain has shown that while the adult brain is regularly activated in the frontal cortex region, the thinking brain, the teen brain is more regularly activated in the amygdala, the feeling center of the brain. This means that their emotions are often biologically "out of control." Trying to reason, lecture, or talk sanely to a teen during an explosion can do enormous damage to a relationship. Literally, teens cannot be responsible for what is coming out of their mouths. Think of an exorcism.

So yes, in those moments, a calm comment and walking away, is the healthiest solution. I have heard of too many of these out of control moments when terrible, horrible, very bad things are said, and done, that might have lasting consequences. Walking away, does not mean taking no action. It just means not right then. In the example above, a consequence might be the next time you take your daughter shopping, or she asks for an expensive article of clothing, you can say: "I don't feel comfortable spending money on things you want just because your friend has it, or you think will make you look prettier", or 'I don't feel comfortable spending money on things I know you might lose interest in or not take care of", or, 'I don't feel comfortable spending money on things that you can get for much less money. It feels excessive for something that shouldn't really matter that much. At least that's how I feel. Feel free to spend your own money if it feels that important to you. I need to follow through on what's important to me."

Teens do not response to lectures, unless they have come to you for your wisdom. My belief is that you get the biggest bang for your buck when you show through your actions what you believe to be true and of value. Adolescence is a stage of self-centeredness,(which they do outgrow!!!!) and trying to drum into their heads with words will most likely get a response of lalalalalalala. Your teens will learn from you. From the life you lead, from the example you set. When my daughter was in high school and college, she was surrounded by kids with a lot more money than we had, and who seemed to always have the latest and best of whatever. And even if we had the money, that would not have been how we would have chosen to spend it.  Her college boyfriend's family showered her with many expensive gifts, that she of course loved at the time,(who wouldn't) and that scared the crap out of me, worried that somewhere along the line the values we had modeled had been lost. I never lectured her about these kinds of values, but as family we lived them. And as she moved into young adulthood, so returned the values she was raised with, at least the ones that resonated with who she was becoming, and what felt right to her.

As a parent, you should always be true to who you are. Driving to a homeless shelter after an outbreak of entitlement to me teaches no lesson. Regular volunteering as a family at a homeless shelter, or participating yourself in regular community service and sharing those experiences with your kids is much more powerful. Telling them they should appreciate what they have when so many have so much less won't carry much weight. Showing them will.

I agree with this parent that children are being raised with a sense of entitlement. Too much stuff, too soon. Too many phones, to many computers, video games, expensive clothes, etc with no expectations.  Remember you can always say no. You can understand their disappointment, or how badly they are feeling about themselves,  and then walk away...

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