Why Your Teen Seems Out of Control

Your teen can be irrational, and leave you wondering, “What were they thinking?”

You feel frustrated, because their choices show no rationale, and their attitudes come out of nowhere. The truth is, they don’t know how to explain their moods or implusive behavior either.

The brain is our command center for all behavior, so let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with your teen’s brain.

We all have a concious mind (upper brain) and a subconcious mind (lower brain).

Step one in a teenage brain’s development is the lower brain, which houses all of the big emotional reactions.

This is why so many parents see a drastic change in their child’s temperment in the preteen/early teen years. The brain goes through many major changes in the adolescent years, but the first is in that lower part of the brain.

The part of the brain that builds logic, reasoning and communication skills develops later. With this in mind, it makes total sense that your teen doesn’t know how to self-regulate, especially when they don’t know about the changes happening in their brain. They simply feel the big emotions and don’t understand why.

So, this does not mean that they “get away” with all of their behavior, but it can help you have some compassion for the unpredictability you see.

Even with the lower brain growing rapidly, the upper brain is remarkable and can learn to manage the thoughts and emotions of the lower brain with some intentional practice. I wish I had learned that skill as a teen!

This is what coaching is all about, and why I do what I do. There is no need for your teen to feel there is something wrong with them when they have big emotions. They can learn to use their upper brain, so the lower brain doesn’t take over.

The Watcher

Becoming “the watcher” of your mind is necessary in gaining self-awareness. It means you are able to separate yourself from your thoughts and simply observe without being a part of the story you’re telling yourself.

It is especially helpful for busy moms feeling overwhelmed. When you’re feeling stressed and your mind is running crazy fast, it’s easy to feel out of control. Stepping outside of that chaos as “the watcher” can bring it all back in perspective in a matter of seconds.

This is a skill, and therefore takes practice. It can be awkward and strange at first, and that is part of the process.

Here are three components I found helpful when watching my own thoughts.

Compassion

It is important that you see your thoughts through a non-judgemental lense. Remember you are not your thoughts – you are simply watching them. There is nothing wrong with having “negative” thoughts. It only means that you’re human.

Don’t tell yourself what you should or shouldn’t be thinking. We all have the good and the bad, that’s part of life. So when you are observing your thoughts, just be curious about it all.

Journaling

Writing everything down on paper is a good way to slow it down and see everything, especially when you’re overwhelmed. If journaling feels awkward to you (like it did for me at first), I recommend setting a timer for 3-10 minutes, gradually adding more minutes over time, and requiring yourself to write that entire time. No matter what it is, get everything that comes in your head on the paper.

Afterwards, you my want to look through the thoughts to pick out what are indisputable facts versus the ideas you have about the facts. That is where you can see what you are creating. It doesn’t mean you need to change anything about the way you think, but it can help you gain perspective on your circumstances.

Question Everything

When we are in our own head, it is so easy to believe the stories we tell ourselves. It feels like we can’t help the way we feel, believe or think. As you practice listening to your thoughts, don’t assume any of it to be true.

Ask yourself why you believe what you do; how someone else might see it differently and why; what if you’re wrong; why are you choosing to think what you’re thinking.

Again, it doesn’t mean you have to change anything about what you think, but using this skill of “the watcher” means you are objectively seeing what your mind does. Our human brains run through about 60,000 thoughts a day whether or not we monitor them. Think of all the power we are giving up if we don’t use those thoughts intentionally.

Losing Control

It is so easy to see how life is out of our control.

Our brains quickly see all the things that we can’t change. It is way easier than seeing the things we can change, because that requires work.

When we blame other people or the circumstances of our lives, there is nothing we can do. As upsetting as that can be, it also takes all of the responsibility off of us. This is a relief to our brain, because it is always looking to conserve energy. It’s our default setting.

So when you feel like you’re losing control over your children or some other area in your life, look for what you can control.

When it comes to other people (even our children), you’re right – we can’t control them. Teens lie, don’t get the grades we want, make the wrong friends, make dangerous choices, don’t clean up after themselves, and the list goes on.

Our thoughts, emotions, and actions are what we can control.

I didn’t always believe that. I thought there was no way to change the resentment I felt towards my mom, because it was HER actions that caused them. I thought I can’t help but feel frustrated and yell when my students don’t listen to me.

The reality is nothing can cause me to feel something other than the thoughts I have about it.

Which gives me back my control, and you can reclaim control too.

Then we can make decisions about moving forward from a much more intentional place, creating the relationships and results we want.

I now coach teens and parents. Use the link below to meet with me and see what coaching can do for your family!

What does your child believe?

Beliefs are an interesting thing. Most of us think it’s just the way we see the world, as if it’s out of our control.

A belief is simply a thought we’ve been thinking repeatedly for a long time.

With intention, we can choose our thoughts.

This makes all the difference.

Because our beliefs are our most practiced thougths, they happen automatically. We usually don’t even notice it.

This can be a great thing if it’s a belief that serves us.

However, many times our beliefs are holding us back.

I was working with a teenage client who believed he was a lazy person.

He had evidence to support why he believed that (what others said, what he did), but he also had evidence to support that he was not lazy.

This is where he got to choose.

Believing he was lazy, he felt unmotivated, disempowered, and inadequate. Of course, from that place, he didn’t produce the actions he wanted to or feel confident in his abilities.

We discussed how differently his feelings and actions would be if he chose to think he was hard-working, rather than lazy.

Notice what you believe about yourself and what your children believe themselves. Challenge those beliefs, especially when they don’t serve you.

You can believe anything about yourself. Why not make it amazing? How would you act differently if you believed amazing things about yourself?

Let me help your teen build empowering beliefs about themself. The first step is a free 30-minute parent consultation to discuss your child’s needs.

Story vs. Fact

What do you believe to be true about your life? About yourself? About your loved ones? About your job? About your home?

We have tons of thoughts about every area of our lives.

Someone else can look at the same circumstances and have totally different thoughts. Even about the things you are sure to be true.

Our brains very quickly interpret the circumstances in our lives into stories with positive or negative connotations. It’s not something we need to stop doing, because we couldn’t even if we wanted to. It’s part of being human.

But awareness of our thoughts leads to any change we want to create.

Think of an area of your life you wish was different. Write down everything you think about it. All the thoughts – the good, the bad, and the things you don’t want to admit to yourself (we all have them).

Now, look back and circle only the things that EVERYONE in the world could agree with as fact.

Everything else is your story.

You don’t need to change it, but be aware that you are creating it with your thoughts. You are not powerless to it. Most of what we tell ourselves is simply a story created from our thoughts and beliefs. Some of it may serve us, some of it may not.

Realizing we create our reality with our thoughts, expands our possibilities exponentially.

This is why I coach teens. Equip your teen with the power of their thoughts to create the story they want while they have so much time ahead of them.

Feeling Confident

In what areas in your life do you feel confident?

In what areas in your life do you lack confidence?

Confidence is a topic that comes up a lot when coaching teens, but it is usually a struggle for adults as well.

Like all feelings, confidence comes from the thoughts you have. When you feel confident about something, it is not the actual task or skill that makes you confident, it’s your thoughts about it.

For example, if you are walking and trip, you do not feel less confident in your ability to walk. Yet, we give so much power to our failures in other areas.

We assume if we mess up, we have no right to be confident. Ask yourself why you’re not confident. We all have different answers. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “I’m not good at this.” “I’ve never done it before.” “People will think I’m a failure.”

These are the thoughts that lead us to lack the feeling of confidence.

What if you changed those thoughts? Notice that they don’t serve you, and choose to think something different. “I’m figuring this out.” “I’m learning to be good at this.” “I will find out how to do this.” “People can be wrong about me.”

Your children can see what confidence looks like from your example.

Coaching can help them create it for themselves.

Technology Control

Have you been frightened by what you’ve found on your child’s device?

You’re not alone.

Most parents struggle to find the appropriate boundaries around their child’s phone or tablet.

Ultimately, only you know what is best for your family, but I will share my suggestions based on research and stories I’ve heard over the years.

First, use real potential consequences to discuss the dangers of social media. When you hear a story on the news, share it with your teen in an open discussion. Show them the lasting effects of misusing social media. This has a greater impact than simply lecturing or advice giving.

Second, present any device as a privilege. As Lisa Damour suggests in her book Untangled, it is wise to tell your child up front that you will occasionally look at your child’s device without warning. This could mean physically having the phone to look through or using an app that allows you to access the contents of their device from yours.

Explain to them that it is not out of a lack of trust, but as a form of protection. They can use this as an excuse to anyone sending them inappropriate messages or requestions. Often kids themselves are scared of the situations they get themselves into and wish they had an out as easy as, “My crazy mom checks my phone all the time so I can’t send you a picture.” As time goes on, you can check the phone less frequently depending on your trust and comfort level.

This strategy also eliminates the idea of “spying.” Many parents get worried, decide to look at their child’s phone without them knowing, and then feel that they’ve violated their child’s privacy. Of course you will look through the phone if you are concerned about safety, so set the standard right away. It is always a possibility you could see what’s on there.

If your teen has gotten into drama through their device or social media, I can help them sort through it and start fresh. Sign up for a 30 minute parent consultation to discuss your child’s needs.

Motivation

Knowing why we do what we do is what keeps us going when it’s not easy.

When motivating your teen (or yourself), it’s helpful to know the two different types of motivation.

Intrinsic motivation comes internally from a desire for satisfaction and accomplishment.

Extrinsic motivation is the result of any pending outside reward or consequence.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic serve there purpose and have a place.

Extrinsic motivation can be very useful for trivial tasks that are of little interest. Intrinsic motivation builds self-worth and the perserverance to overcome obstacles.

Together, the two forms are most powerful, although it’s harder to instill intrinsic motivation. Encourage your child’s internall drive with purposeful conversation and modeling the behavior yourself.

Ask your teen about why they might want a particular grade or accomplishment. Continue to ask why until you get to the heart of their reason. Help them identify what they’ve learned after a challenge or success. Discuss how they’d like to grow in the future, what they are curious about and what they enjoy.

Demonstrate your desire to complete challenges out of curiosity and an eagerness to learn. Show them when you’ve been challenged, that you still enjoyed the process and what you’ve gained from it.

Setting goals and building motivation is a huge facet of my coaching program. If you’d like to help your teen look to the future, sign up to meet with me today!

7 Tips to Better Communicate with Your Teen

Within the title of parent, comes many jobs. You are there to comfort, discipline, provide, guide, set an example and more. So, the conversations if you have with your teen will have different objectives. When you are trying to strenghten your connection, here are seven tips for better communication:

  1. Validate feelings. Simply acknowledge how they feel, without trying to change it.
  2. Be curious. This means listen and ask questions without an agenda or judgement. If the goal is to streghten your communication, some conversations are not the time to insert your advice or lecturing.
  3. Set the tone. Be intentional about your mood and the mood of your house. Teens are very intuitive. If they sense that you are always watching them or trying to catch them, they will not want to connect with you.
  4. Be present. Your teen is often distracted, so when you are with them, it is important that you catch the moments when they are willing and able to talk. It can be helpful to have a no-phone rule at meal time or in the car.
  5. Accept their opinions. The teenage brain is trying to learn and manage a lot. Allow them space to work through shifting beliefs, even when you don’t agree. Let them know that you grateful they’re sharing with you.
  6. Use others’ examples. If your teen is telling you about a friend making poor choices, it is tempting to say, “Well I hope you’d never do that!” Instead, try using that story as an opportunity to get to know what your teen is thinking. Ask, “What do you think of that?” “Why do you think they did that?”
  7. Plan activities. Getting your body in motion can make conversation easier. See a movie and get dinner after, so you can discuss the movie. Go for a walk, volunteer, go bowling, rock climbing, shopping, take a cooking class or any other activity that allows you to talk in between the action.

Even when you have great communication, it is often helpful to have another adult for your teen confide in. Coaching can provide that outlet plus life-changing, confidence-building tools they will carry with them for life.

Learn more with a free one-on-one parent consultation.

Where does Anger Come From?

Why are you mad?

Typically, when we are asked that, we respond with what someone else did. Similarily, when you ask your child why they are mad, they will almost always answer with what someone else has done or said.

We’ve been trained to believe people make us angry from a very young age.

The reality is our feelings come after we have a thought about something. So, we get to take responsibility for our anger.

This is great news.

We are not at the mercy of other people’s choices. Your spouse, your ex, your in-laws, your boss, or your teen cannot make you angry unless you give them that authority over you.

Showing your child that you have control over your emotions can be a powerful example from which they can learn.

Next time you feel angry, ask yourself who are you giving control over to?

I often catch myself giving control to people who I don’t believe derserve it. I’m the only one I want deciding how I will feel and act.

If you worry that your teen is not in control of their emotions, coaching will help them understand how to grab the reins.