Parenting: Talk To Your Kids (cont.)

Event_Moderator {question presented} How do I stay involved in my teenager's life when all she wants to do is hang out with her friends and fight about curfew?

Kaela_Austin Look back into your relationship with your teenage daughter. Go back to what the two of you liked to do together that was special between the two of you. I'll give you an example, in my life with my daughter, we loved going to the movies. So, even when she was an adolescent and wanted to go to the movies with her adolescent friends, there were certain movies I knew she still loved and would only see with me. They weren't cool enough to see them with her teenage friends, so I knew she would see them with me. So you have to look back at your relationship and see what was there and subtly expand on that, do more of that if you can. As an example, if when she was a little girl she liked playing card games, go to a game store, come up with a great card game, see if she'll buy into that. If not, try another way. And, do stop fighting about the curfew. Here is the way you stop fighting. You sit down with her and say, "I respect that you are a young adolescent now and that you have your own ideas about how you would like to be treated and respected by me. I would like to hear what you think would be appropriate in terms of curfew for you during the week and during the weekend. I want to hear from you. In the same vein, I would like it if you would like to hear from me what my response is to that. The intention of this communication is for us to come to some kind of an agreement that we can both live with. And I mean that, so that we can both live with it. Then, let's live with it for a couple of weeks or a month, come back together and talk about how it was working for you and how it was working for me. If we like it, WE, if WE like it, we'll keep it in." And this is what you say to your daughter. "If WE don't like it, we need to modify it to come up with something that is mutually satisfying." And then you say to her, do you like talking like this? What do YOU think? I want to hear what YOU have to say. And listen. One of the ways she'll know you're listening is if you say, ah huh, ah huh, I see, I'd like to hear more about that.

Al_Pavy_WebMD {question presented} I can see that my daughter is having problems at school but she gets extremely defensive when I approach her. How can I find out what's going on?

Kaela_Austin Now you've given me a tough one. I like being handed a difficult question because it puts me in the shoes of the person who is asking the question. You've asked a difficult question, but you've asked a question that a lot of parents are struggling with. So, I'm going to answer this question sort of rambling in a way to try to figure out what MY thoughts and feelings are on it, and let's see if I can help you get some place with this. You want to respect your child's independence. You want to honor your child's privacy. You know that your child is going through some difficulty. And, yet, you feel helpless in a way about what to do about it. She clearly doesn't want your help, but you're scared for her. Hmmmmmm. Here's what comes to me. I am a great believer in telling the truth about how YOU feel. You, the parent. If you feel frightened for her and scared for yourself, if you feel concerned about her and nervous about communicating, you can either write to her a letter so she can read it in the confidence and privacy of her own time or room, or you can communicate with her directly as I am doing with you, by sharing your feelings, by saying something that sounds something like this. When I see my daughter not happy with what is going on in school, I feel frightened because the lines of communication are down and it makes me feel sad. That is a technique known as an "I message". An "I message" is a responsible way of describing behavior you see, your feelings about the behavior and the effects it has on you. First you describe the behavior and then you identify the feeling and then you offer a consequence for yourself and her. I hope that assists you and other parents.

Event_Moderator {question presented} What do you think about the common parent philosophy of, "What my teenager isn't telling me, I don't want to know?"

Kaela_Austin Here's the answer LOUD and CLEAR! Pick up the December 20, 1999 issue of Time Magazine which says, EXCLUSIVE: THE COLUMBINE TAPES. Turn to page 49 under the headline of "The Parents" and let me quote from it right now......one of the children's parents say, "they try to recall every interaction they had with the son. They now realize THEY NEVER KNEW...."

Event_Moderator {question presented} What common misperceptions do parents have about their children?

Kaela_Austin Children talk in coded messages. The myth is that you think you understand your children because you treat your children as you wish you had been treated. But they are not you. We send our children to the schools and ballet classes and drum lessons because we weren't given them. So, the only way you can possibly understand your children really is by REALLY walking in their moccasins. Really looking in their faces and really listening to what they're talking about. Listening to the music, the poets, the minstrels of days gone by. They're saying what's going on. Let me repeat. The basic misperception parents have about their children is that you are not your children. Your children are a little bit of the mother and a little bit of the father. They are not you. Their behaviors may be somewhat like yours, but they are not you. They are individuated spirits put on this Earth with your help. And your job is to assist them in being individuals and not carbon copies of yourselves.

Event_Moderator {question presented} What common misperceptions do children have about their parents?

Kaela_Austin Well, I think that children think that their parents are godlike at a certain age. And then they begin to realize, and maybe this is not a misperception actually, maybe this is the truth, that their parents are just regular human beings. That parents are people too. Here is one of the problems that happens in adolescence. This is one of the big problems that happens in the parent-child relationship that leads into difficulty with the adolescents. Children only realize that parents are human beings once they enter the age of 10, 11 or 12 years of age. Here is what happens, and please dear users, don't take this lightly. Listen to the whole thing. When parents of small children teach children about lying, children learn that very black and very white. I'll give you an example. If you say to your five year old, I'll pick you up at three and grandma picks the child up at three, the child feels lied to. The child feels lied to because YOU didn't pick them up at three. The children do not see colors. They only see "I will pick you up" and I did not pick you up. When you say to a child, I'm on the telephone, I'll be off in a second, and you're not off in a second, you're off in 25 minutes, they feel lied to. When you tell a child "I'll be right there" and you're not right there in a timely manner, they feel lied to. Now, all of that goes into a small child and they don't know how to perceive that or what to do with it UNTIL ADOLESCENCE. One of the reasons parents have problems with their children in adolescence is because they have been lying to them all of their lives. And, suddenly, when a youngster becomes aware of what's going on, they remember all the lies and all the mistrusts and all the things that parents said they were going to do and didn't and adolescents get angry. And then they say, you can't tell me anything. I'm not going to listen to you. Don't tell me what to think or feel. Where did you go? Out. What did you do? Nothing. That is why parents get that behavior. What parents need to do to dispel this is to come clean, tell the truth, say, "oh my god, I did that, stop doing it right here and now." If you say to your child "I'll be with you in five minutes," in five minutes you hang up the phone or say goodbye to your friend, you walk into the room and point to your watch and say, I told you I'd be here in five minutes and here it is.