Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Recently someone asked me about dealing with 15 year old behaviors. Brace yourself.
I have a teenager. I actually almost have two teenagers. Hard to believe. And true.
When my oldest daughter was born 15 years ago I held her in my arms. The world was full of possibility for her and I knew the coming years would bring excitement and joy and some confusion. I had no frame of reference for age 15. But I do now.
My daughter reads my blog so before I go on I want to say this to her: Kelsey, you made me a mother. I dreamt and hoped for you and you came. A fulfillment of my hearts desire. I haven't always made the best choices for you but I have always made the best choices I could at the time. As Maya Angelou says, when I knew better I did better. My heart aches with love for you. You are beautiful and smart. You are funny and kind. You are the best parts of me and your father. Also you're a bit of a slob, but that's ok, I love you just the same. Now please pick up your room.
Now, let me say this, having a teenager is not all that different from what I expected. My daughter has her fair share of drama and bad days. She gets frustrated with her hair and can't decide what shoes to wear (even though often times they are my shoes). She wants to know what purse to carry, what belt to wear, what to do about boys. She's still figuring it all out. When I get frustrated with her I try to remember that at her age I was a holy terror. I'm not making that up. Ask my mom. Moody. Dramatic. Emotionally labile. And I hated my mother (sorry mom). I'm pretty sure Kelsey loves me so I consider that a victory.
The one thing I knew I wanted for my daughter and I was that I wanted to be someone she could come to. Someone she could ask things of. Someone she could love that would love her without condition. I wanted her to always know that I was available for her, no matter the need. I didn't want to try to be her friend like my mother did because I knew the resentment that created. I hope when she has the distance to look back at being a teen she can say I've done those things.
Anyway, love can build a bridge as they say but love doesn't always get the clothes off the floor, even with all that love, teenagers still need boundaries and discipline.
How do you get a 15 year old to clean their room? Do the dishes? Help with the laundry?
I'm about to reveal something revolutionary.
A 15 year old is a lot like a baby.
Not in the drooling, breastfeeding, co-sleeping sense (though my 15 year old still hops in bed with me periodically, which I love) but more like this... when I smile at Ella, she smiles back. If I frown, she frowns. Cause and effect. Fifteen year olds are a lot like this. Happy and helpful makes happy and helpful. And this is where the Shamu discipline comes is (Shamu is a whale by the way, in case you live in a cave). Whale training is a lot like kid training. Read about whale training here. If you read that, they you're prepared to answer this, how are kids like whales? Well, everyone likes a reward. Everyone. I don't know one person that would say, "Oh you know what, I'd rather you didn't praise me for my good behavior. In fact, just ignore my good behavior and while you're at it why don't you yell at me when I get a C in geometry." No one doesn't like a pat on the back. The best thing about a good pat on the back? You want to get another pat on the back. It's very simple. And very effective.
Practical example anyone? Kelsey wanted to give the baby a bath. She didn't know how so I told her and showed her and helped her learn and then I gave her the reigns and of course she didn't do it perfect. She made some mistakes. Nothing dangerous or detrimental, but not perfect. I ignored them and said, "Wow, thanks a lot for giving the baby a bath Kelsey. I really appreciated getting the dishes done without wearing the baby (I do it but it gets messy)."
Guess what? The next night she wanted to bathe the baby again. And I got to do dishes again (maybe some day I'll use that time for something like a quick jog). I haven't perfected this art because sometimes I get frustrated and "GIVE ME YOUR CELL PHONE RIGHT NOW" is effective too. But I'm a work in progress. I'm working on making sure my kids have positive praise for the good things they do and hopefully nothing at all for the bad things (unless someone if getting hit by someone else, that I can't ignore).
I think you get what I'm saying here. Shamu likes fishy treats. Kids like praise. Done.