Ashley: Joining me today is a licensed clinical social worker, TV personality, and author Darby Fox Darby’s book is Rethinking Your Teenager, Shifting from Control and Conflict to Structure, Nurture to Raise Accountable Young Adults. I just must say, as a mom of a teenager, I really appreciate any tools that can be helpful during this season. I love that you talk about the neuroscience involved because I think a lot of times teens get an unnecessary bad rep. I just feel like a lot of times parents unnecessarily, and I’ve been guilty of this, to take things so personally or allow situations to hurt their feelings when they’re not really necessarily trying to be a certain way.
Darby: It’s so funny you say that Ashley, because tonight I’m actually giving a lecture at a high school a little later, and two things I talk about is the neuroscience and how we have to understand what’s happening so that we can parent better. I have an entire slide that is it’s not personal. I think it’s so hard because as parents, it’s an emotional job, like we’re vested in it and when we get a little triggered emotionally, then it does feel personal. I think one of the best things you can do as a parent and also, give to your adolescents, your children is that message it’s not personal. It’s not necessarily personal. I think that really helps to kind of ground us a little.
A: I know for me personally, I almost have to remember like when I was that age and I was behaving in a certain way, it wasn’t necessarily because I felt a certain way towards my parents. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful. So I know for me, just trying to remember that, what was my intention when I was younger versus what’s her intention now. It does sort of help take that pin out of it.
RETHINKING YOUR TEENAGER
A: Can you tell us a little bit about your book ?
D: So what I did with the book was, or I tried to do, is I wanted to give parents a little bit more of a manual for parenting. I kind of took it off a little bit in style from the very successful book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, because I think they did a good job there of kind of categorizing what are the different stages and what might be the different things to expect? So what I did was took top myths of what we always hear about teenagers. They’re always so rude or they don’t want to be with anybody but their friends, they just are lazy, they sleep a lot. I took those myths and I tried to help people look at them differently based on the neuroscience, like what’s happening in the brain and then psychological perspective, what kind of tasks are these adolescents trying to do at this stage, and then how might we be able to parent differently so that we stay aligned still in a structural role as a parent, not a best friend, but how do we go from there and give suggestions and help?
A: It can be so hard, especially as they reach this phase of life on when to be the parent and when to be the best friend. It kind of always feels like you’re walking a tight rope, although mine is just freshly 15 so I feel like I’m still more in the parenting spectrum, then struggling to be in best friends, but it can be a really hard balancing act.
D: It’s a very hard balancing act, but I think one thing I’d like to remind parents, and I certainly needed to remind myself of this at several times raising 4 , they’re now young adults, but is that it’s okay to say no. We know in our gut, we know intellectually the right answer is no, you shouldn’t stay at the party later or I really don’t think you should do that. But we want them to like us in essence. So we’re afraid to say no. I think that that’s one thing parents have done a much better job generationally since I was an adolescent about being engaged and concerned, empathetic with their adolescents. Yet I think we went a little too far in taking that to mean we can’t ever disappoint set limits or say no. I think that that’s imperative that we combine those two. It’s okay to say I love you and the answer’s no. Often people kind of confused I love you with yes. They’re not on the same continuum.
NOT BEING AFRAID TO SAY NO
A: That definitely makes sense. I think sometimes it’s that fear of no is it going to lead to an argument? Is it going to escalate? What are some of the tools that parents can shift their mindset so that they’re not afraid to make some of those parenting choices?
D: I love to say all of this obviously starts earlier on before we get into more difficult, more if you will, loaded situations adolescents but I want the parents to think about what you’re doing here is you need to have a relationship that you can direct and guide but not necessarily control. If we can shift to that kind of mindset, then we can think about it’s okay for me to give you my guidance or my input. I can still love you unconditionally. We do not have to agree. That’s another great lesson to teach and remind ourselves is it’s okay one to not always agree with everyone we love. That’s a really important thing. The next piece is yes is not necessarily, or no is not transactional. In other words, I can tell you no and not be mad. I don’t have to be withdrawing or acting out in any way to say no you can’t do that. I think that’s very hard for parents to do but really critical.
A: I think that it does end up becoming you almost bargain with yourself. No it’s not this but let me give you duh duh da to da and all of those other things weren’t even on the table. So it’s like then you kind of take this one conversation and turn it into like a mountain conversation.
D: Right. We have to remember once we start throwing all these things on the mountain then it becomes emotional and when anybody’s triggered emotionally we don’t have the best results because we’re just not acting and reacting with our strongest intellect. Once were triggered emotionally then it becomes hard to have a balanced attitude and that’s when things get really contentious or arguments begin.
A: I feel like it’s also important, like you said our children aren’t our mini me’s. It’s not that we gave birth to a smaller version of ourselves. They’re not going to think the same. They’re not going to feel the same about things. So it is really understanding and again, as a parent, I’m sure that you’ve had to go through this really learning like oh I have to get to know this person. I have to learn about what their boundaries are. I have to learn about their feelings on things and not necessarily try to change their mind or have that power struggle. It really is just like okay that’s what you feel about this and this is what I feel about this.
D: I think that’s really good to keep in mind, especially from a young age. I still love you, even though I’m not going to allow you to have three donuts or all of that. You see with very young kids they do say, well that means you don’t love me. It’s like no actually I love you to death, but there are certain things we’re not allowed to do or that aren’t good for us. So I think it’s really important that that is one thing we start early on so when we get into the teenage years and you say no you’re not going out on Wednesday night because you have an exam tomorrow. It isn’t about some kind of odd agenda. It’s really just you’re not going to do well on the exam if I let you go out.
A: Yeah, because I think kids they don’t, as much as they feel like they have all the answers their brain really isn’t developed enough to necessarily see the bigger picture. So it’s also reminding them like this is why it’s this and in a couple of years you might understand. How can parents understand developmentally like brain wise or the neuroscience of how maybe logical, you can have that conversation with your kids or what that would potentially look like?
BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF TEENAGERS
D: So there’s a couple of important factors there Ashley. One we want to remember we do know now we didn’t used to but now that we can see much better into brains and measure and analyze through MRIs, pet scans and all of that, we do know the brain is not fully developed until close to age 25. Obviously it varies a little bit by each person, their personal growth and all the different environmental factors, but the brain actually develops from the back to the front and the front of our brain if you will. In the forehead is our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our higher level cognitive abilities. That’s our thinking, our executive functions, planning, dreaming, initiating. All of that takes part in the front of our brain. If we think of it from that simple piece, the brain developed from the back to the front, it gives us a notion that it’s not quite ready yet. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. The other piece that’s critical is humans. We, especially as we grow, learn and our knowledge is built on experiences. We are experiential. So that means there’s two things that are really significant in how we’ll make a decision. It’s have we experienced it, quite often with teenagers, like you just mentioned they haven’t experienced it yet, so they don’t really get it. When they are excited or something’s new and they want to do it, their peers are doing it they are getting neurotransmitters that are the adrenaline, the piece of novelty seeking that is being hit on at a rate of more five to one over Gabba neuro-transmitter, which says stop think about it so frequently when your teen says to you, I didn’t even think about it. We kind of look at them, like I told you or whatever, they actually didn’t think about it because they were hardwired to go to the novelty, seeking the risk, taking the fun stuff, and they didn’t really get that piece that said stop and think about this. So if parents know that information, which I don’t think we do nearly enough.
A: No, we don’t.
D: Right? Then what do we do? We can’t change that, but we can parent differently. We preview activities meaning okay if you’re going to this situation and someone is drinking and it makes you uncomfortable, this is what you can do or this is how we handle it. If you show up late and you don’t make curfew then tomorrow, I love you to death, but you won’t be driving the car or whatever those pieces may be. Once we can kind of play it out, then they can analyze it and think it. Adolescents are very bright and their brains are growing quickly and developing so they can handle the content. It isn’t that it’s too much for them. It’s that they genuinely haven’t experienced or don’t think about it as a first priority.
A: I think is a really great tool. I think too many times we just want to be like no you can’t do it and shut that down. I don’t know about you, but like no has historically never works for any teenager.
D: No means okay I’m going to try and get around it. I think and again, that isn’t just cause they really don’t like you, sometimes it is, but a lot of it is their brain is being wired to seek new stuff. That is because if you will, they’re getting ready to be adults and be on their own. So they’re going to have to handle situations. So their brain is hardwired to go to that step so I think it’s really important that we understand that. And as you said, I think it’s better to say, okay if this happens then this or there’s this, and then that could be the consequence and kind of throw it back at them and you choose I mean, if you don’t get home on time, it’s not the end of the world, but then you’re going to lose this privilege, It’s really important to use the language as well, your choosing this, which keeps some of the conflict out of it because the next morning you chose it. Actions have consequences. Every action has a reaction or a consequence, and that’s really important. So we’re teaching those messages, but we aren’t making it personal.
A: I think that that is really great advice because I think too many times parents are like why do they make me spam call them 40 times because they didn’t answer my call or why do they lie about going to that party. I think it’s just remembering your youth. I know for parents, we always sort of use that phrase where the days are long, but the years are short. Their brains the years are very, very long and the days are very, very short because they just can’t fit enough excitement into them. You had touched on your book, a teenage language that parents could help decode. Can you explain a little bit what that would be like?
DECODING TEENAGE LANGUAGE
D: Well, I think often I hear this pretty much every day that I tried to have a conversation with them. They got in the car after school and I said, how’s your day? There was no response or they don’t say anything at dinner, they just want to pick up their phone. So I think it’s really important that we’re aware. Think about that question. How often do you want someone to just say, how was your day? It’s kind of a throwaway most days, five out of seven you’re like, okay I just don’t even want to describe it. I got up, I showered, I went to work, I got some lunch, I went to the grocery store, not really a great conversation starter adolescents are thinking, what are they trying to ask? They’re wired to think about themselves because they’re developing. So they’re like, okay, what are they really getting at? Do they know something? So they’re guarded and then they’re just like, okay, really how was school? Like what am I going to say? So I think we need to do a better job. The other piece at dinner sometimes my youngest son was the last one at home and he would get home from sports and he would have time for dinner and then he would go study. So we had a very narrow window of when we would sit there and interact. If I just sat there and pestered him with questions he would’ve just said stop enough and probably gone to his room sooner, but we would do something. We would talk about a sporting event or something that had happened. He loved Chopped. We would turn on Chopped and we would eat dinner and we’d kind of engage and guess who might win and what was awful. We were interacting and I know it sounds a little silly, but it took away the pressure and then other things could come into the conversation. Like I’m so exhausted I’ve got to go study for a test. Then we can talk about the test, but he wasn’t going to bring up that stuff just in the car when he’s done with a long day and I’m like, how was your day? It’s just not authentic. So I think that that’s the code parents have to kind of know where is my adolescent, what’s important to them and what are the signs. It doesn’t always have to be words or a conversation.
A: I think it is just finding that common ground with your kids and then just letting the little trinkets of information come out. At this age where I find for my daughter that its like I have to be less judgmental and create a space where it’s like I know you’re going to mess up and these are the timeframes where it’s more safe to mess up and maybe make dumb decisions and be that kind of safe space for them. If you do stay open, they are more likely to, hopefully I think I would say I get maybe 75% of this story.
D: And remember that you didn’t usually give the whole story and parents will say well they lied to me. Technically, but they probably omitted more. I would choose to use the word omit in essence, we kind of want them to do that. Like that’s kind of a time that they’re figuring out what to do. Yes there are some awful consequences. I’m not implying that, but by in large, we do want them to screw up or have a failure where we can pick up the pieces and be there for them when it’s not going to be so catastrophic. I think that we need to do a better job of that. Like you said, knowing you’re not going to do this perfectly and then having a little bit of tolerance for okay wasn’t perfect but pretty good. I’m going to let you go on with that. It does open a conversation and you’re like okay you know what I’m proud you made a decision not to get in that car when kids were drinking and driving, but I really had wished you hadn’t had anything to drink either. And then you reiterate, I love you and you move on. Lots of parents stay stuck on the negative and for adolescents that’s a disaster.
A: It just creates that wall between that’s really hard once that wall is up I think to try to break through again and to create that space where okay well I reacted bad this time, I’ll try not to react that like bad next time. But I think a lot of times the kids being so stuck on themselves where like yeah, but you reacted bad this time so I’m not going to try next time.
D: We want them to tell you that stuff. Often they will respond to kind of get that relationship piece started on the tricky areas. I think it’s important that we do often hear of, there was this party that this weekend or someone did something like that. Ask your kids about it. You’re like, does that ever happen? Do you guys do that or is there someone in your group that seems to be struggling with this? Sometimes they’ll be more open, sometimes they won’t, but what it does is it gives them the notion that you’re actually kind of in tune with their world . Again, the less they have to have those walls up. The more you can have a relationship where they will rely on you.
TEENAGERS NEED HOBBIES
A: What are some other win-win situations that parents can set up for themselves?
D: I think it’s really important for parents to allow, especially in adolescents enough downtime for their adolescent. That the adolescent has to find something to do in terms of a passion or a hobby that they actually like instead of a parent saying, you have to do this for your resume, or you have to do this to get into a good college. I love to see parents say, well what do you love? Summer’s coming and give them the bottom line. You need to work a little, you need to get ready for this or that, you’re going away at a certain time and then the rest is up to you. What are you going to do with it? You aren’t just going to sit on X-Box. So I think it’s important that we give them a little structure then we’d let them develop the other pieces. That’s when they actually find something that they’re pretty passionate about. So that’s a win-win because then they can carry that into times like what we just went through with the pandemic. Kids that had a passion that had the ability to be flexible and adjust yes, they lost things, they missed certain opportunities, but they were fine. They were able to navigate the course. The ones that really struggled were the ones that were on a very tight, linear path that was pre-programmed. When all that structure was taken away, suddenly they were lost and the parents were lost and we saw lots of friction in those relationships and are still seeing that.
A: It is really hard because I think for the parents that are like, we’re going to do this activity, we’re going to sit on this path and maybe the parents that put too much of their own self-esteem or wellbeing onto their kids, by the time they’re grown ups, they really don’t have the tools that they need to be able to make any choices.
A: That it is really unfortunate. Do you think helicopter parenting, do you think that that was sort of an overcorrection of the last generation and that’s why we’re going through it now? Or why do you think that there is such a rise in that style of parenting ?
D: That’s a great question. I do think it came from and you’re a lot younger than I am, but I think it came from a generation where my parents didn’t really know about that stuff. They had great values and we had structure. We didn’t get a tutor for a test or for sport, or we didn’t have all these activities lined up all the time. I think that parents felt as you grow up and become a parent, you’re like, okay, I’m going to be for my child, I’m going to nurture but that quickly got taken over by I’m going to do all this and they’re going to get to a certain place. That is an overcorrection that actually isn’t how you get anywhere.
A: Yeah, for sure. I think just the rise in technology. I know if I ask my daughter to phone somebody, she almost wants to throw a fit. She was like, I don’t understand why we can’t text them exactly or having to go into a store and talk to people face to face. She gets the worst anxiety about it, because it’s just not how they’re used to conversating with people.
D: Yeah. I love that because I really am a stickler for old school. My kids would say in part it’s because I’m horrible with technology and that’s fair, but the other piece is you need to have all those skills again. Look what happened all these things went to online and that’s all we really had. People really struggled. You need to be able to ask for the steak to be returned and cooked again. You need to go to the library and get a library card in a book. All those things are hugely anxiety provoking for adolescents now and around age 30 kids don’t know how to address a label on a package or exactly where you send it. Do people just pick it up? It’s like no actually you have to go and put it in a box and you have to pay for the postage. So those things are really critical because those are the core values that we need to build up. We built them up from a little age up through adolescence and it’s a lot of it is manners you learn very on. We all teach our kids say please and thank you. That starts to build when someone says oh you’re welcome or you’re so polite. Kids are like oh that was great. Mrs. so-and-so responded so well, you get a lot of accolades and that builds self-esteem. So we go from that and then we have to also teach self-regulation and those all come from live one-on-one interaction like oh they weren’t so nice. What do I do? I still have to go or what do I do with this? And that we really have to push them to do, they do prefer to do it on the phone to shoot a text or look something up, but that lack of one-on-one time is not very helpful. It always keeps them a little anxious. I think that that is a lot of what we’re seeing now.
A: I would say anxious and so socially awkward, like just even having to go in somewhere. I’m like, it’s almost like funny in a not funny way, just watching. I know my daughter specifically interacts sometimes because it’s like how did we get here?
D: Right. It’s like do I really have to do that or people saying why are you calling me? It’s like, I mean, I just had a quick thing to tell you, it was easier to pick up the phone. So I think that’s really important because again, if we raise them on the technology and the social media so everything’s at a distance, they never build the ability to judge or trust people. They don’t really know how to bond in live terms whether that be with someone at the grocery store or good friends, a boy they might like, a girl they might like. You don’t really know how to do that in real terms. That’s when they lose their confidence. As adolescents, they are so wired to think about themselves. If they lose confidence, they feel it’s them, they’re inadequate. We are seeing a huge almost generational shift in kids that feel in that. I think that’s where it comes from.
A: Which is so hard too, because it’s like how do you even necessarily fix that?
D: I think it’s tricky. Like you said, with the jobs too you know, 20, 23, those first jobs up into age 30, where all of a sudden there’s a great deal of disappointment all of a sudden it’s like is this all there is. I worked so hard to get here and now, you know, I get two weeks of vacation if I’m lucky and I really don’t love this. I think all those pieces go into, we need to do a better job early, on making them interact in live ways, all the way across the spectrum, and then telling them everything’s not great, everything isn’t for an end process. We raised our kids in a very linear fashion. When anything like a pandemic comes or an illness in the family, anything that takes you off course a little, there’s nowhere to go. If you’ve only been focused on a linear path, we need to do a better job of giving kids the idea that life’s actually a pretty crooked path. It can go all over the place. What our job is, is to set you up to be able to adjust, not put you on one path that just gets you to an end point. And that starts early.
A: That is so important because. I was born in the eighties, grew up in the nineties and it was this idea of you finish college and then you meet Mr. or Mrs. Right and that you have kids and you hit all these milestones. And then it’s like smooth sailing. Which is not at all how it ends up being. My daughter will laugh at me because I’ll joke that my excitement for the week is that we finished all of the laundry and she was like being an adult is so boring. I’m like yeah if you do it right, it does get to this place where boring kind of is the goal.
D: Exactly. And it’s like, okay, I feel pretty good about having folded all this laundry and it’s in nice piles and we’re good. We’re organized. Actually it’s okay to be like that, but I don’t think we raised our kids to think that was okay. So then there’s a lot of, is that all there is or tedious. I don’t want to do that. I’m not doing that. That creates a lot of struggle because most of our daily life is fine. It’s not bad, but it’s not exciting. It’s not okay I want to do this and I think that we don’t have that tolerance.
A: Sure. I can definitely see that. I know my daughter will slip into that well then nothing matters. If it’s going to get to the point where it’s boring, then nothing matters. And it’s like, okay but it still does. So it’s also having that struggle of like meeting them at their level of what’s going to be exciting or what makes it worth it versus like our knowledge of knowing it will be worth it, but just not in the way that you think it will be
GUIDENCE VS CONTROL
A: What is another way that we can help parents shift their mindset into being that guidance for their kids without having to be that controlling helicopter parents?
D: So I think one of the things I love to talk about is, as you already mentioned a little bit, if we approach our adolescents as they get there. When your kids are young, it’s easy to be controlling. Quite often you have to be like you got to get your clothes on, we got to get in the car, eat your breakfast but as they get older, we should be thinking about sort of a safety net that keeps expanding. The nets there but we keep getting a bigger, wider mouth if you will, and parents need to think about, I don’t want to control them because what are they going to do when they’re on their own? They won’t know how to respond and right now it’s our job to let them figure out how to have relationships, how to find happiness, how to delay gratification, give them that first bad job don’t go get them a job, let them get a job and let them struggle with it. Things like that the really are what allow our kids to build happiness, being successful. It’s something we didn’t really anticipate we would love or would want to do and then finding that we hit a certain level of either success or we’ve made friends. That kind of piece is really where the satisfaction comes from. Parents need to back off the control to allow their kids to do that. Otherwise when they become young adults with jobs, there’s an incredible amount of depression and anxiety because they don’t know how to do it. Their parents aren’t there anymore.
A: Well and hopefully their parents aren’t there anymore.
D: I think that’s really important. The helicopter parents have gotten too used to saying I’ll call the teacher, I’ll talk to the coach, I will do this, I will make sure all of your cleats and your uniforms are in your bag. That is a huge disservice to any kid. I think that teaching self-advocacy at an early age is critical in helping people to learn how to become happy. And again we want to go back to the little things. I have a friend whose son lives very near his school maybe five minutes if you go slowly. As a high schooler, he kept showing up late and he would get detention for his advisory. She told me she was going to call the principal and say listen my son is getting in trouble for showing up late and I said to her don’t do that. Your son is in high school. He can drive, he can walk. He’s going on after this to play a division one sport in a prestigious college. If he cannot find a way in 11th grade to get himself to school on time, he’s in serious trouble. So you should just tell him to find a way to get himself to school on time. I think that’s a very little thing, but those things add up and again, kids find tremendous satisfaction in knowing they don’t need someone to tell them what to do.
A: Well, then they want the freedom to make their own decisions. So it’s like we really just have to get out of their way so that they can. If it is negative then all we can do is hope that we’ve sort of created that relationship with them, that when it’s negative, they’re going to trust us to kind of help them, maybe nudge them versus full on move them to a different direction.
D: Yeah. I think that’s important. It’s always to ask, and this is one of the hardest parts about parenting is when they’ve made a poor choice or something, hasn’t really gone their way to say, okay what do you think we could do in the future? Again, that piece of previewing is critical for getting them to believe in themselves and having the courage to do things on their own.
A: I think putting the ownership on them a little bit, because I know teenagers just in general, that accountability piece seems to not be fully there partially because their brains aren’t developed enough to have that sort of foresight but letting them know that the choice really is theirs positive or negative.
D: Right? And that’s about the consequences. Okay you want this freedom and I might give it to you but realize the consequences are yours either direction and I’m not going to just leave you high and dry, but think about it cause some things I can’t undo.
FRACTURED FAMILY WITH DARBY FOX
A: Now you have the fractured family with Darby Fox. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
D: So right now it’s not currently in production, but what we were working on are working on is families that would come forth that are saying our systems broken. We are in a pattern and it always escalates into a fight. I yell at my wife, she yells back at me, whatever it is, the kids hate us. It’s just chaos and we need some help here. The idea behind that is often instead of, we don’t really have access to be able to every week have a nice, neat family session in an office. Sometimes it’s much easier to go to the home, witnessed the different pieces of the dynamic, and then try to put everything back in balance. A family is a system. So it’s really important to see what are the pieces of this system. They always go out of whack and why I really like this is because often adolescents are the targeted one. They’re the ones that are rude or dismissive. They don’t know how to respond to anybody else or they don’t care about everybody else in essence but then when you can see the whole problem or the whole system in the family home. You’re like, wait a second I see something very different. If I can pick up on something that each person needs to do differently without blaming, if we’re going at the system approach, then it’s crazy how quickly you can make some pretty significant shifts in that system.
A: Well, and how life-changing really, because I feel like you can’t go to the problem for the solution. A lot of times we can’t really fix what we can’t see. So I think reaching out to somebody to help with that and to make those changes, like what a massive impact that would have.
D: I mean we see it, they’re very successful and hopefully we get there. The restaurant shows or a long time ago, there was a nanny show and that’s where they could step back and be like, wait a sec, this is chaos. Let’s just shift because again, in the family system, people are very protective and emotional because they care. They love each other. So that elevates the emotion. Once we elevate emotion, we don’t necessarily act from our best spot and that where someone from the outside can say wait let’s try this. It’s a good system to sometimes circumvent some real struggles.
A: Teenagers do get the bad rap that it’s always them. And sometimes it really is the parents kind of creating this environment of having them be angsty towards us or having them react to a certain thing that I think it can be an accountability problem all the way around, or again generational trauma will play into that role that you don’t necessarily even see that you are potentially being the toxic one.
D: I think that is important because if someone else can ask us to be reflective and pull back a little and look at okay what’s my role in here? How was I treated? Am I maybe bringing that forward into this situation? And then you can realize okay yeah maybe actually I don’t want to do that or do you have a suggestion of where else I can go with this. I think that is really part of the magic of working with families or adolescents is being able to help them with that. Last week I saw a group of teenagers and at the end we went through a bunch of different things and I said okay and now what about your parents? They all looked at me. What about my parents? And they just went off in all kinds of different directions. I was able to suggest to them different ways to talk to your parents. It’s crazy what they said oh my gosh, they listened. That was amazing because they just kind of think I can’t say anything or there’s nothing I can do, but it does help if we teach people how to communicate.
A: It definitely does. I think the important thing to realize is that we don’t all communicate the same, so it can be like we feel like we’re saying something to our teenagers and it’s like somehow it gets jumbled and they hear something completely different. Or the same thing if our teenagers are trying to talk to us and we don’t necessarily hear it, or it’ll be something that we perceive as like teenage gossip that we don’t necessarily care about and actually trying to hear really what they’re trying to communicate with us. I think it can just be wild, how hard it can be to hear each other sometimes.
D: Yes. I do often have teenagers say my mom or my dad really they just try and tell me what to do. I don’t need them to tell me what to do. Especially when it comes to peer groups, they kind of want to manage that on their own, but they certainly want to have a place to go to vent. All they’re really looking for is validation that what they feel is okay. I think it’s really important that if we’re going to build up the relationship with our adolescents, it’s important that we start to acknowledge that piece. Like yes it’s okay to feel, as you mentioned, frustrated by that teacher. She’s not a great teacher. He’s not a great teacher, but what can you do about it? And when again, we can pull back on that personal piece, then they’re like, okay yeah. All right. But if we just keep pushing down their throat, I don’t care what the teacher’s like you have to perform in such a way we’re going to get shut off quickly.
A: Well, and rightly so, because even as a grownup, if somebody was talking to me in that way of a pretty much, just like suck it up, then I would be nevermind. I’ll avoid you or I won’t deal with you. So I think it’s just remembering, like from that human to human level, that we can’t make them feel or think a certain way. So it’s like we really do have to try to be open to understanding where they’re coming from. I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be a teenager in this day and age, or be a teenager all over again. It was really hard.
D: I saw some teenagers at something the other day. I can’t remember. Maybe just on the street corner as I went through town or whatever. I thought, man, I would not want to do that again. The different stages of development and some are fast, some are slow, they just all that. And I thought, wow it is hard. One thing that I think is so important to remember is adolescence are really great people like they’re creative and they’re changing. And by in large, 98% of them do not want to disappoint. They don’t want to do the wrong thing or make people think ill of them. They just don’t know always how to do it right. They do love adult mentors, whether it’s a mom or a coach or mom’s friend that they think they could speak to. They look to mentors for guidance and those are the people in their life that really make a difference. I think it’s important to encourage our adolescents, to have those relationships and go ahead and say, I’m not always the best when you mentioned these things because it triggers this in me or my dad didn’t really do that. So you might need to look to a different source and when we can show that piece of vulnerability, that we don’t have all the answers, but we understand their struggle they’ll be on your side. You will have a lifetime relationship with them because you’re safe.
A: I think that’s such a valuable advice and I couldn’t agree with it more. I love the idea of saying this person would be great for this. Go talk to that person, or create a safe environment and relationships with multiple different grownups so that they know that they can go talk to anybody in their life for a variety of different reasons.
D: I think that that is one of the best ways and it is missing, I think through the helicopter age and now with social media and technology, that is one thing we’ve lost is the sense of community, neighborhoods and mentors. That’s essential for helping raise anybody right, but particularly adolescents, because they do learn again for watching. If they don’t have any exposure to anybody else to watch that they’re simply not going to know how to do it. They’re going to be scared to risk. They have to be able to look at other people and say okay all right, I get it. He might not be great at this, but look at what he can do. All right. I’m going to try.
A: I feel like a lot of parents and I’m sure myself included. We just need to get out of the way and just let them see.
D: Yeah. I think one thing they love is for parents to say, what can I do? How can I help. I don’t call your teacher. I don’t call your coaches or your music professor, but what could I do? How could I be here for you? And more times than not, they don’t really need a whole lot from you. They just need to know you’re there if they were to need you. And again, that’s really important. Like you said, just get out of their way and let them know you’re there. Should things go wrong or they need something.
A: I love that. Well, thank you so much, Darby, for meeting with me today and having this episode. If people are looking for you online where can they find you?
D: So online it’s firstname.lastname@example.org is the website and that kind of connects to all the social media. Instagram is @DarbyFoxOfficial. The book again, Rethinking Your Teenager, I think is useful. Parents don’t have to read it cover to cover. They can pick it up as they’re like okay we’re really struggling here. What can we do here? Like my kid has all this down, but I really struggle with the social anxiety or whatever that piece may be and hopefully it’s a useful guide.
A: It is one of those things that for say under tween to birth is really where it’s like heavy and you feel like you have all these resources, but as soon as like probably 10 and up as a parent, it just really feels like why isn’t there more? Like, what do we do now? So I think that this book is going to just be invaluable to parents to have as a resource.
D: And I always love feedback. Like I disagree with you here, or could you add more on this? All those social media channels have plenty of opportunity for that. And I welcome that feedback.
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