Parents, Teens and Attitudes: A recipe for success
“Nothing has the power to change your life like a word that rings forever in your heart.”
She screamed as we rushed to catch the tram. She wanted to walk her way. She wanted to skip along the parking stops between the cars. I wanted to cut across the walking lane and get on the tram. Do you remember how far it is across the parking lot at the BIG amusement park?
It was her first trip when she wasn’t the one in the stroller. Walking was too much to for her today, especially walking when, where and how I wanted her to walk. Then the drama became a crisis. She let her legs go limp and tried to resist my forward momentum. I was moving too fast, I couldn’t let go of the stroller with her brothers in it; so she fell. OUCH! Bare knees on asphalt, hot, August in Texas asphalt.
It has been more than fifteen years since that moment, but the scenario remains the same. When a teen decides to run the day with an attitude, just to prove they are in charge. At those moments, your teen is a toddler again.
Here are some things to remember when attitude takes over.
1. Attitude always has warning signs
Regardless our age, we can feel an attitude coming on. When the barista at the coffee shop hands us the wrong cup, with the wrong drink in it!! For heaven’s sake, it doesn’t even have our name right on the outside!!! What are they thinking? When emotions are high, tempers are short, things aren’t going our way, we tend to “speak from the heart” for better or worse. Our teens are no different. But we need to be paying close attention to hear what they are saying, and what they are “feeling” but not saying.
2. Attitude is a natural response
Attitude = thoughts + feelings. When a thought comes to mind and we experience an emotional rise or feeling, before we even think about it – thats an attitude. When we forget that, we can evoke an attitude in someone by bringing up an event, an argument, a relationship, an expectation that has harsh memories and emotions attached to it. “Did you clean your room?” seems like an innocent and responsible “parent like” question. However, if the “clean up your room” request sounded more like a demand or command, or interfered with a joyous event, the response will likely be expressed in frustration and annoyance – think sigh, eye roll, yell… “YES I DID.” and under there breath – “and missed all my friends at the mall, no thanks to you.”
3. Attitude is more contagious than the common cold
Parents have tough days. All to often we bring home our frustrations, or anger, or hurts and dole them out like halloween candy on our family. We dispense with love and grace and mercy and instead, issue frustrated dictates, hurtful ultimatums, angry “NO’s!” and then wonder why our teens have an attitude. Sadly, it works the other way just as well. We forget that teens can have tough days too. Emotions ride roller coasters of hormones all day. Friends have a bad day and then dump on your teens. Maybe a bad home-life follows their best friend to school every day. They find themselves empathizing, comparing, commiserating and soon, one bad home-life has taken root as seeds of frustration in several young minds. When that happens, we need to be wise, gentle, and directing parents who recognize the language of pain filled attitudes and graciously defuse it.
4. Attitude is revealed first in words
“From the depths of a man’s heart he speaks.” This phrase is thousands of years old, but still holds true. What one says in reaction, before the “brain mouth filter” can kick in, before conscious thought is considered, that is the truth closest to the heart of the speaker. When a teen reacts to a moment and then later apologizes (I know this is very rare) they are generally only recanting to avoid consequences. What they said in reaction is truly how they feel. That may be good or bad. But it is that initial reaction we need to be aware of as parents and those are the issues we need to coach first.
Remember, attitude is natural, it is contagious, but it is also a choice. You cannot choose what happens to you in life, you can and must choose how you respond to the circumstances. Speak words from your heart, don’t try to be deceptive, but rather work on the feelings you choose to assign to an event or fact. In so doing, you will choose your attitude. When you have chosen an excellent attitude, share it, it’s contagious!
J Loren Norris is a parent of four, a Certified Leadership Coach and Conference Speaker. Visit www.ExcellentLifeLeadership.com to learn more or to get your own audio CD set of “The 7 Powerful Attitudes of Excellent Life” or “Attitude Engineering 101.”