The Healthy Family Connections Podcast:
Turn Self-doubt & Burnout into Empowered Parenting
Episode 019 · Duration: 00:16:43
End Self-Doubt and Burnout and Become an Empowered Parent
Is self-doubt and burnout making it exhausting to set limits with your teenager? For those experiencing parental burnout, get your free Control Battle Assessment to see where your relationship with your teenager stands and what you can do about it right now.
Today we’re addressing a question from a mother about how to handle her son who wants his independence, while neglecting his responsibilities. It’s a question that comes from Tracy of Victoria, Australia.
I have a 16 year-old who wants to be treated as an independent capable young adult and make decisions about his own life, yet at times he seems incapable of self care or getting himself to school, let alone bigger decisions. How do I find that balance?
Excellent question, and a common dilemma for parents! My kid wants the respect of young adulthood, while not managing the responsibilities that go along with it. In answering Tracy’s question, I want to help our readers understand the issues of parental self-doubt and burnout, as well as the steps to overcoming that condition and becoming an empowered parent.
As I ponder Tracy’s question, I ask myself, why is Tracy asking this question? If her son isn’t managing his responsibilities such as getting himself to school, clearly he hasn’t earned the privileges that would allow him to do what he wants, when he wants. It’s as if Tracy is doubting herself and her own judgment. By asking the question, it’s clear that you know that he has his priorities wrong. It sounds like she may be second guessing herself and maybe there’s a discussion in her head that goes something like, “I don’t think he’s earned the right to be able to go out and do what he wants, but maybe I’m too strict? After all, don’t teenagers need independence, and aren’t they all a little irresponsible? He sure hates it when I say ‘no’ and I don’t want to have to deal with the fight. Why doesn’t he realize that part of being an adult is being responsible?” I’m sure I don’t have it exactly right, but I’ll bet that some of it’s at least close.Why doesn’t he realize that part of being an adult is being responsible? Click To Tweet
So here’s what I’m thinking about: If Tracy has to second-guess her every decision, and doesn’t believe she can effectively set a limit with her teenager when she needs to, parenting is going to be exhausting and she’ll burn out. There will be an ongoing control battle and that can cause burnout. I’ve talked about this before: burnout is no joke. Depression, exhaustion, and overall reduced physical and mental health is the result and we don’t want that for any parent!
To combat burnout, you need for you to be an empowered parent! And what pray tell is an empowered parent? An empowered parent is:
A parent who has a clear model to operate from that they are confident in and they work from that model. And that’s all they do. Then it’s up to their child or teenager to figure out the formula and make it work for them. That way the parent isn’t making themselves crazy trying to get their child or teenager to behave, they don’t do all the work, hence they don’t burn out.
To combat burnout, you need for you to be an empowered parent! Click To Tweet
Let me offer up a model, and then we can look at those elements that often sabotage a parent’s efforts at implementing a model.
Parents set out the standards and then it’s up to the kid to meet the standards to earn the privileges. By linking those things together we teach our kids that responsibilities and independence go together. By addressing the standards, the kids learn the skills necessary to become successful young adults.
Going back to Tracy and the issues she is having with her son, there isn’t one set of standards that all parents agree on. Hers are just fine, she should just be sure to be clear about them. They may not be what other parents want or think, but our limits and values are the gift and the burden our kids get from us.
Let me give an example: Just because one parent, or let’s say 10 parents, let their kids go to a party that is unsupervised, doesn’t mean you have to allow that, too. That depends on your values and your judgment, and that’s good enough.
Two critical skills kids need to exhibit are a good attitude towards their parents including a respectful tone of voice and cooperation with limits and expectations, and a determined good effort towards their responsibilities—ownership of their responsibilities. Obviously, a certain amount of whining and complaining are common, but with those two essential skills in place, kids will travel through their adolescence with accountability to their parents, learning, growing, and as they do, earning increased privileges and developing independence. Along their adolescent journey, they internalize the values that promote the behaviors of respect and responsibility and hold themselves to a high standard, and this moves them towards post high school success.
By laying out clear expectations and staying positive, as well as making it clear that you believe in your kid and are happy for them to earn privileges, in addition to taking the time to enjoy your teenager, things generally go pretty well. Smoothly, rarely, but pretty well is great. Learning involves mistakes and failures, so there will be ups and downs, but by having a clear model and staying positive, parents and kids generally do pretty darn well.
Now that Tracy has a basic good model to operate from, what elements will undermine an empowered parental position and invite self-doubt, a control battle, and burnout?
A common one is when there is a mismatch in temperaments between a child / teenager and their parent. For instance, let’s say you have a strong confident temperament and you’re used to making a decision and moving forward, yet your teenager is shy and sensitive and takes a while to be comfortable with a decision, particularly if they sense there could be some uncomfortable issues they’ll have to overcome. Without understanding this natural difference, a parent could become frustrated and see their child or teenager as weak or, worse, uncooperative. A situation like this can and often does turn into a control battle and leaves a parent feeling helpless.
The opposite situation, and this one might be more similar to Tracy’s, where a parent is sensitive and tends not to be assertive in many situations, and they have a teenager who is clear, a strong arguer and pushes limits. This parent often becomes overwhelmed and then they struggle with their teenager to be cooperative and be responsible. That’s exhausting and will lead to burnout.
When parents get into these control battles, often started by a temperamental difference, it uses up all their resources, they’re never confident in themselves or their teenager and the result is a disempowered and burned out parent as well as an under-functioning teenager.
Here’s what you can do to reclaim your role as an empowered parent:
1. Accept both your and your teenager’s temperaments as simply part of who you both are. That will help you not take their behavior as intentionally uncooperative. It will help you not take it personally.Accept both your and your teenager’s temperaments as simply part of who you both are. Click To Tweet
2. Identify the skill or behavior you will need to adopt to manage your teenager’s temperament better.
For instance, for the “confident go-to action parent” slowing down, showing patience, listening, be reassuring and willing to adjust plans to make things more comfortable for your kid will be important.
For the shy, less assertive parent, since you won’t out-argue your teenager, show patience, and yet, be persistent. Offer active listening, which is always a good way to avoid arguing, bring clarity, consistency, positivity and follow through. Kids who are inclined to test limits won’t believe you mean something until you take action and they pay the price.
In addition to a temperamental difference between parents and teens, there are two other elements that will create or support self-doubt:
1. A parent not getting their emotional needs met. Your kid isn’t going to say, Wow, Mom, that was a terrific limit you set with me, I know I was challenging and angry, but you hung in there and did the right thing. That needs to come from another source. Perhaps your partner, your brother, sister, aunt, friend or even a parenting group if there is such a thing where you live. We all need support and validation as well as fresh ideas.
2. Self-care, we all need alone time, exercise, a chance to do our favorite activity. If we don’t take time for ourselves, we absolutely will burn out. Do NOT be shy to ask a family member or a friend to spend some time with your teenager or come over to the house and keep an eye on things while you take a day, a half-day or a few hours for yourself. We all like to be helpful to others and know we can make a difference. Not only will you be doing yourself a favor, your friends and family will gain pleasure knowing they’re needed and will enjoy having a direct relationship with your teen. Your teen will benefit from being able to relate to another adult one-on-one without their parent around. Kids often do much better with adults other than their parents, and the break, even for a few hours, will do you both good.
So folks, If you are feeling like Tracy, and find that your kids are not meeting your standards for them, and your standards are appropriate for their age and abilities, and you find yourself struggling to get them to change their behavior, it’s time to pay attention to your self-doubt and burn out:
- Make sure you have a solid parenting model to operate from; being positive while requiring a good attitude and strong engagement of their responsibilities are essential elements in a workable model.
- Make sure that you’re aware of any temperamental differences that may be adding stress to the parent / teen relationship. Once you are aware of you and your teenager’s temperament, make sure you have the skill set to support them and set limits with them.
- Make sure you are getting your personal needs met. None of us can function to our potential without emotional support and functional support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it and we all like to give it.
Thanks to Tracy for her stimulating question, and please do send me yours too!
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