So what do your think your teen would say about you as a parent. Would they say you are tough but fair? Would they say you are a pushover? Would they say you never listen, or judge them too harshly? Or would they say you are always supportive and understanding? There is never a time like the present to find out. Having a teen in the house is like having a really good therapist. Someone who will be brutally honest. Because teens have all these new analytical skills thanks to their growing brain, they have to put these new skills into practice. They literally see you and think about you in ways they have never thought about you before, and if they are asked and feel that there would be no repercussions for truth telling, they will will totally tell you the truth. Because one thing that is missing from this teen brain is an edit button. If they think it and they are asked, they will say it. That is why I really love talking to teens, no bullshit unless they are trying to bullshit you.
I started thinking about this recently because I got a letter from a parent whose relationship with their teen was completely down the toilet. The parent had written a letter to her teen since communication had literally hit the brick wall. There was none. The daughte, when asked why and how things had gotten so bad, told the parents in great detail, honestly and I think with great candor and openness. I think she felt she had nothing to lose since things were just so bad, and figured they couldn't get any worse if she just put it all out there.
Here were a couple of things that really stood out for me:
"You hold things against me even if you said you wouldn't"
" I cannot come to you for advice."
"I don't tell you anything cause I will feel instantly judged."
"You never say you are proud"
"You always tell me that if I look bad, it makes you look bad, you only care how it looks to other people."
Do any of these resonate? Often times teens get caught in a bind, they need help with a situation maybe around friends, or boyfriends or girlfriends, or drugs or alcohol or sex, and worry that if they told you "everything" you might either be so shocked that you would get angry or express disappointment. Or maybe by being honest, you might crack down on them if they told you about situations you absolutely have no tolerance for.
Asking for honesty from your teens means you have to be ready to listen and problem solve not judge. I remember a couple I worked with whose daughter was literally lying about everything,where she was, what she was doing, who she was doing it with, etc. She even lied when she didn't need to. I asked the parents to say to her: "Honey, obviously we are doing something wrong, if you feel you need to lie to us about everything. Please tell us, we really want to work this out, we miss you, and love you." The daughter started to cry and said: " I lie, because you always said no, even to things that seemed silly, so I just decided that since there was never room for negotiation I would just lie and do what I wanted. But I really wasn't doing anything wrong. "
And honestly that was the truth. This girl was a good kid, but the parents did not like that she had a boyfriend. They didn't like her friends, and made a judgement about them without really even getting to know him or the friends. They feared everything and everyone would be a "bad influence." The truth was this kid was very goal oriented, and the parents forgot to trust who this girl was at her core. I am happy to say, the relationship did turn around, when the parents accepted that their daughter "was growing up" and pulling away from them. But pulling away doesn't have to mean cutting off!
So how about as this new school year starts, you ask your kids to give you some feedback. Just listen. Don't get defensive, or angry. Could they be right? Might you need to change? We ask our kids to listen to our "feedback" your label 'Judgement" their label. You know they might even say some good stuff too!!!