As a divorced mom of four, now adult, children, I look back on my life and wonder if I was the best example for them when they were growing up. It’s Kirbie today to help you not have the same worries I do – I’m here to help you set a good example for your teens. Teenagers are a quirky bunch. They have more coming at them than I did when I was a kid, when the biggest technological advances were cable TV and no party lines on the phone. Today, kids have life coming at them from all angles – social media, smart phones, peers and school. While all I had to worry about in middle school was appearance and friendships, kids today have the added worries of a shooter showing up at their school, being bullied and fitting into a high technology world not all parents can afford. There are a few things you can do to be that good example.
Get Your Own Confidence in Check
Most people know whether or not they feel confident, especially by adulthood. If you feel you are lacking confidence, buy Comfortable in Your Own Shoes
and/or To Date a Man, You Must Understand Yourself
. Either of these books will set you on the pathway to confidence. Together, they are like a confidence one-two punch. Kids get their cues from their parents. If you are not confident, you are not displaying the behaviors your children need to see – you are not modeling confidence. If you won’t do this for yourself, at least do it for your kids.
Give Praise, not Criticism
The next time you hear yourself talking to your child, or when your child is close enough to hear you, listen to what you are saying. If you are talking to
your child, this is even more important. Do you say things like “How did you do so poorly on this test? I told you to study more. You never listen to me.” or do you hear yourself saying, “I know this test was a challenge for you. Maybe this weekend, we can look at it together so you can get the hang of it.” In one instance, you are merely berating the child for poor performance. Your child could have studied so hard for that test, but just not have had an understanding of the material. By berating them, you are only confirming what they think – “I’m not good at this” or “I’m not good enough for my parents.” What you want your child to think is “My parents support me.”
Positive vs. Negative Speak
Another way in which your behavior can negatively impact your child is by speaking negatively to yourself (out loud) or showing behaviors which show your lack of confidence. Listen to your own self-talk. Life has beaten you up, and we are all guilty of negative self-talk. When you read Comfortable in Your Own Shoes
, you will learn more about affirmations, but I can sum it up for you now. It’s common to say things to yourself like ‘I’m not good enough [to get that job] [to get a great guy] [to get a college education] [you fill in the blank].” This sets you up for failure, and if you’re saying it out loud, it teaches your children the same skill.
Set the Rules – and the Consequences
I hear this one all too often – single parents don’t feel as if it is somehow fair to impose rules and consequences on their kids – they feel guilty for any marital break and think their child’s life is difficult enough without having too many rules to follow. Drop the guilt and step up. Your kids want
rules. They are looking to you to help them avoid negative situations. Where there is a void, something else will fill in. Where there is an absence of rules and consequences, negative influences of peers will fill in. If your child knows that skipping class will result in being grounded from his technology for two weeks, he’ll be a heck of a lot less tempted to give it a whirl. If there are no rules, no consequences, he thinks you don’t care, and won’t care if he skips. This self-monitoring builds self-esteem.
Chores, Expectations and More Consequences
Give your child chores and set expectations. It’s important for kids to learn to succeed, and there is no better way to try something than to try it at home, in a safe environment away from peers. As kids get older, their chores become more complex and their confidence grows. When you set expectations, you are giving them boundaries. For example, if you work late on Tuesdays, you may ask your teenager to get dinner started for you. Don’t just issue an order, explain why you have set this expectation and what the consequence is for not meeting it. Kids will be much more willing to comply if they understand your reasoning. If they just feel taken advantage of, forget it.
I read a great tip when I was researching this article – I wish I had done this with my kids – my oldest in particular. This mom created a “Mom Journal”, which was a journal she and each of her kids (individually) shared. The child was able to write anything in the journal, which the mom would read from time to time, providing helpful comments where needed. It is considered a safe zone of sorts. The child can write about anything without consequence and the mom’s only job is to WRITE a response. I love the idea of having this additional method of communicating with your kids. Difficult topics which they may be hesitant to speak about openly can be addressed in the journal. This wouldn’t absolve you of openly communicating in other ways, but it certainly would provide an outlet for more challenging conversations. Let your child know you are willing to listen. They don’t always want you to provide a solution – in fact, you shouldn’t always provide a solution. You should help them find their way to a solution. Your job is merely to listen and be supportive. Your child is looking to you as an example, but it can be difficult to remember how your actions impact others if you are in a highly emotional state or lacking your own confidence. It’s easy to forget how our actions impact others. You have a chance to make a positive impact on your kids, and it’s never too late to start!