Friday, January 20, 2012

I Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.

As a parent of a struggling teen, ever go through your day mentally berating yourself with a continual loop replaying the “I Shoulda...Coulda…Woulda’s”? It can leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, mortified, embarrassed and shake your parental confidence to the core.

Every day though brings a fresh start. A new chance to ‘get it right’ or ‘make it right ‘… whatever that ‘it’ happens to be. In the world of parenting teenagers, it seems like there’s always something that can use a do-over.

Turn those negative thoughts into positive actions that can actually work in your child’s favor. You only get 20/20 hindsight one way and that is by learning from what has happened. So don’t waste time. Instead, evaluate how doing something different would work towards creating a better outcome.

For starters, stop ‘Shoulding’ all over yourself! If you’re dealing with a teen who’s struggling and sliding down a slippery slope that could potentially put their future at risk, you don’t have time for it! Going down that road will only make you less effective, less on target, and have you second guessing that internal compass parents need to be tuned into, in order to be the safety net their kids need.

Remember, information is your friend. Perhaps the biggest mistake parents make is clinging to denial. Ignoring what their parental gut tells them. Kids are manipulators by nature. Teens have mastered that skill. But don’t lay that all that off on them. Be very clear. Manipulation is a two-party system…the manipulator and the manipulatee. That’s why it’s critical to listen to your internal parental instinct and be willing to follow through.
Here are some ways to turn the ‘Shoulda...Coulda…Woulda ’s around into taking positive action for your child’s well-being:

• Spend time with your teen. Focus on them. Turn off your cell and give your full attention to hearing how their day went. Find out what they’re interested in or what’s worrying them. Show up on time for their sporting events or dance rehearsals. Do something weekly with them. It can be something as simple as getting an ice cream cone or tossing a ball around.

• Drug test your teen. Studies reveal that while only 18% of parents believed their teens have tried drugs, 53% of seniors admitted to having used drugs. Businesses use drug testing. It’s a reality of life. Checking to make sure that your children are making good decisions is just part of responsible parenting. If taking random drug tests gave your teen the resolve they needed to “just say no”, would it be worth it then?

• Turn down the volume. Do not get into yelling matches. You can’t get anything resolved if you’re yelling over one another. Pushing parent’s buttons is almost an art form for teens. It’s a great ploy to create a diversion to escape consequences they see coming their way. Staying calm will keep you in control of your emotions and safeguard you from saying things you wish you could take back.
• Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends. Take the opportunity to share information and compare concerns and agree to handle some problems in the same way. This alliance will help to safeguard each other’s kids. It helps when you can watch each other’s back.

• Trust your parental instincts. If something doesn’t seem right to you, don’t ignore it. Your teen may protest to structure and boundaries, but remind them you love them and that their protection is your prime concern and responsibility.

• There are many stresses that pull at your time and attention. Dealing with a difficult teen can stretch you to your limits. It can be tempting to ignore them or not follow through on their consequences in order to give yourself a break from the pressures. But your teen needs more of your time and attention, not less.
A teen’s defiant or difficult behavior signals life out of control and out of balance in your family system. Slow things down. Take inventory. Pay attention to the details and be willing to do what needs to be done for in the best interest of your teen and your family.