This is the year I’m writing the No Wimpy Parenting book, and so I’m going to write more regular blogs again. Promise!
If you have been a fan of No Wimpy Parenting for a while, you know we are usually all about “Take back your power!” “Start a Revolution” or “You have the authority!” The Rocky theme song is what I like to walk out to at workshops for crying out loud!
BUT, that doesn’t mean that effective parenting only relies on strong(er) willpower, a take charge attitude, and a no nonsense mentality. In order to not only have your kids respect you, but to also have an actual healthy and close relationship, you have to invest in the softer side of parenting. Even with teens. Even with (gasp) MIDDLE SCHOOLERS!!
How do we develop the warm and fuzzy part of our relationship with our child and teen without becoming “Wimpy?” The simple answer: it’s all about time and intention. Yes we have all heard it preached that quality time is important. But some clichés are there for a reason…they work! Many of us are parenting at the speed of light: We wake up with a jolt in the morning and try to remember what day it is, who has to be where, when…then the day is a blur of our work and racing kids around to school, sports, lessons, etc. (For a visual of this, please see the hilarious scene in Bad Moms where the poor mom is multi-tasking driving and eating spaghetti at the same time and hilarity ensues). When we come home, it’s making dinner, prodding kids to do homework and chores, reminding kids to shower, and then collapsing in a heap when the kids are finally in bed. It’s a challenge to find time to breathe or take care of yourself, let alone to carve out that “quality time” everyone talks about.
However! I encourage you to dogmatically insist on getting that time with your kids or teens every day, or at least most days. It doesn’t have to be going to a Pottery painting studio (although those are fun) or grabbing a Frappuccino at Starbucks (although kids and teens do love that too). I’m talking about finding 15 minutes to truly connect with your offspring. What can that look like? Here are a few pointers:
- When you’re stuck in the car, instead of having your child with a face in a device and you sneaking peeks at your phone at the stoplights, consider turning to your kid’s favorite radio station and then asking what was the best part of their day, what was the craziest thing that happened, or what are most of their friends stressing out about these days (a sneaky way to learn about how they are feeling, but less direct). Child development experts know that kids and teens are much more likely to chat with you if you are both staring ahead, versus making them sit across from you and having that painful eye contact. Speaking of which…
- Ask (make) your child take a quick walk with you around the block. This is another way to get that “side by side” time that is effective for connecting with tweens and teens. Even though my kids may grumble if I insist on this, it’s amazing how quickly they loosen up when we’re walking in the sunshine, birds are chirping, and I am an eager audience to hear all about their lives.
- Challenge your kid or teen to a friendly game of UNO (or other card game), or ping pong, or Hangman in the down time after dinner (before they run off to their rooms again).
- Make bedtime snuggles a nightly ritual that is sacred. Yes, even your snarly teen has a drastic increase in snuggly-ness and sweetness if you get them on their backs, tucked in with covers, and you push your way into the bed to lay beside them for a bit. I’m amazed at how even after a rough day, my 13 year old will ask for me to lay with her while she is reading, if I’ve started rubbing her arm or chatting about her day. If you have an older teen who really doesn’t want you in their bed, you can always wander into their room at bedtime, and engage in chit chat as they are winding down for the night. But remember….
- Kids need physical affection like they need water, food, and shelter! So don’t give up on them during those awkward tween or teen years, when they seem as bristly as a porcupine. There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist,“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” What a challenge for us parents! That means we need to start the day off by grabbing our kid for a hug as they stumble into the kitchen for breakfast, and sneak in another as they go out the door, and another as they come home from school, and another at bedtime. But that’s only 4! Remember other creative ways to give that affection are kissing the top of their heads as they do homework, putting an arm around them if they are struggling with an assignment, squeezing a hand as they walk with you, or even giving a high-five wins some physical affection points.
- Remember the power of POSITIVE words. As parents, we can often find ourselves only barking out criticism for what they did poorly or not at all, or complaining about their behavior or attitudes. I often share with my parent coaching clients the analogy of a “Nice boss” versus “Mean boss.” If you have a boss who only criticizes you, tells you you’re not doing it right, and is negative with you, how motivated are you to do excellent work or to spend time with that boss?? Not very much right? But, if you have a boss who praises your strengths, encourages you, and tells you how much he or she appreciates having you on the team, aren’t you highly motivated to work hard and to spend time with that boss? Kids and teens are like that. They need to hear our words of encouragement, what we love about them, and how we appreciate their efforts. Try to say at least a few positive statements to your kids every day.
Okay, so instead of the Rocky Theme song, imagine a lilting soothing melody…one of those with the sounds of ocean waves in the background. And then get yourself in a soothing, loving frame of mind and go find that kid or teen of yours and find a way to connect, touch, or encourage!
Want a personal No Wimpy Parenting coaching session with Dr. Wynns? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule!