Mariah Sage, founder of The Parenting Hotline, helps parents raise empowered kids, improve family dynamics, and ENJOY the parenting process even more along the way. Her work uses a combination of intuition, systems, and clear applicable skills that create noticeable shifts in family life & dynamics.
With a background in psychology and nearly a decade working in the childcare industry, Mariah went out to develop a body of work to help families live with more harmony. Her work specializes in helping parents identify and align on their unique family values and culture – so they can consciously raise their kids in a way that fits their lifestyle and values. And on setting up sustainable systems that get the whole family working together as team.
We’re Talking about THIS again?!
Do you ever feel like you’re having the SAME conversations, arguments, or breakdowns with your teen over and over again?
Whether it’s an argument about getting homework done, staying out past curfew, negotiations about allowance or phone time, or pushing the boundaries in another way – these repeated conversations can get exhausting.
And when you try and deal with these breakdowns by giving out a consequence like grounding your teen or tween, or taking their phone or car away – they get extremely upset and worked up. Sometimes it can feel like it’s just fueling the fire, rather than helping them learn to change their behavior.
Bringing Consciousness and Calm to the Breakdown
In order to shift the dynamic around breakdowns that keep coming up, you have to bring a sense of consciousness and awareness to the topic. And you need to empower your child to get involved in helping you find a solution.
Kids in general (but particularly teenage kids) want to feel a sense of ownership and control in their own lives. It’s hard to be bossed around all the time and have other people make so many decisions about your life! Especially when you’re just starting to figure out your preferences and identity.
In fact, teens are literally wired to desire a feeling of autonomy. And when they feel it’s being threatened (by parents or other authority figures setting up rules they find unfair or useless), they naturally rebel. Having their growing autonomy threatened causes teens to feel less able and trustworthy, and makes them feel more childlike. And these emotions lead to more pushback.
But of course, teenagers still need parents, caregivers, and supporters to guide them and provide structure and rules. So how can you do this without getting stuck in power struggles with your child or playing out the same arguments and breakdowns over and over again?
You have to create CLEAR agreements you’re both on board with. And you have to help your teen see the situation from both sides. Try following these steps to deal with your next chronic breakdown or argument…
4 Steps to Healing a Chronic Breakdown
1. Describe the situation from a neutral standpoint.
When you address the breakdown, use neutral language to describe what’s been going on. Furthermore, stay out of blame.. Pretend you’re a narrator describing what you’ve noticed. After you describe the situation, end with an open-ended question aimed at getting more information from your teen about what’s happening for them.
For example, “I’ve noticed that for the last few weeks when I ask you about your homework, you raise your voice with me. This topic has been leading to a lot of arguing between us. Can you tell me what’s been going on?”
2. Listen more than you talk.
Depending on your teen’s personality, it may take a little coaxing – but it’s important you stay neutral and focus on getting them talking. If they respond with something like, “Well you’re always nagging me about homework, and I can handle it myself.” avoid getting defensive and opt for a response like, “So you feel like I’m always nagging you. Has something changed about your homework or the way I’m handling it lately?”
Continue asking open-ended questions and try to really understand your child’s perspective before you express your experience in the situation. Additionally, if you don’t know what to ask, try simply mirroring their language by saying something like, “So you feel like you can handle your homework on your own at this point?”
It’s important to stay curious here! You may discover something you didn’t know about the situation and what’s behind the behavior.
3. Share your perspective of the issue.
Once your teen has had the chance to fully explain their experience in the situation, it’s your turn to share. First, ask for permission to share. You can say, “So I understand that you’ve been irritated with me asking about homework because you feel like I’ve been really on you about grades since that last C. Are you open to hearing what’s been going on for me?”
Once you have your teen’s buy-in to listen, you can share something like, “I’ve felt worried over the last few months because you’ve been telling very little about school. You can handle some things on your own, and I think that’s great. But when you don’t communicate with me and then you get a bad grade, I start to worry and want to help you. I’d like to find a solution that will make us both happy here.”
4. Decide on a solution + a consequence.
Once you’ve shared your experience, it’s time to ask your teen for their ideas on a solution. Again, you want to let them share before you suggest anything. You can say something like, “Since you want to be able to manage your own homework, and I want to be more involved in what’s going on with your school process, I wonder if there’s a solution that could work for both of us. Do you have any ideas?”
Next, the two of you can brainstorm together to find a solution which allows you to be in communication while still giving the teen the autonomy and control they’re looking for in the situation. For instance, maybe you schedule a weekly check-in about graces and assignments but don’t ask about schoolwork daily.
Once you decide on a solution, consider a fair consequence for what will happen if they don’t follow through on the agreement. Then next time you have to enforce it, they’ll be less upset since they helped come up with the consequence with you.
Long-Term Healing and Connection
Dealing with chronic breakdowns and arguments with your teenager or tween can be extremely draining on your energy, as well as your relationship with one another. When you shift to a dynamic of solving these breakdowns together, it takes the pressure off of you and allows your child to feel more empowered and engaged in their own lives and decisions. This is the foundation for a peaceful and mutually respectful relationship with your teen.
During the teenage years, your relationship with your child needs to change and transform quickly – as your teen is changing and developing. If you want support to set up systems which will help you stay connected with your teen, while getting along better in the day-to-day, feel free to reach out to me directly. And for more tools and resources on creating a harmonious family life, check out my private Facebook community.