Episode #123 "No matter how much I give, they still want more."
Question of the Day:
“I’ve given my 3 daughters everything. I think I’ve been a good mom and they tell me so. I know I’m very lucky that my 3 adolescent daughters love me so much and still want to be with me, but… sometimes I wish they were more independent. I hear moms complain about their daughter’s hanging out in the room too much, or always going out with friends, and I kind of wish my girls were more like that. It seems that no matter how much of my love, companionship, attention or support I give them, they still want more. They are 12, 15, and 17 and they still want me to cook for them, watch TV with them, go shopping with them, do their hair, or just hang out with them. When can I expect them to want more independence? I’d really like to have some free time to do the things I want to do.”
Parent Educator Answer:
Looking at the social and emotional milestones we expect to see in girls, it would be normal to expect a push towards independence at the ages your girls are. Between the ages of 10-14, girls tend to create (or crave) more emotionally intimate relationships with their peers. You might see the advent of a tight knit group or clique, or a “best friend” situation emerge.
Some cultures have a very significant right of passage to help a child shift their identity from child to adult. In the absence of a ceremony, it takes on a more gradual process. The tight friend or group helps the child feel more comfortable being away from mom and dad. It’s a way to practice independence without being thrust out on your own.
Even though it is developmentally appropriate to see this shift, social distancing through a wrench into a lot of normal developmental expectations for teens.
If your daughters have made it through ages 15 - 17 and still consider you their best friend, it’s time for you to encourage independence in them.
It might seem like a wonderful thing to have girls who want you with them all the time, but if you aren’t seeing them take on new challenges, making new friends or striving towards independence, you may have to act like a momma bird, nudge them out of the nest and show them they are capable of using their wings.
If you have a toddler who just wanted to be carried around all the time, and wasn’t interested in learning to walk, you would find a way to balance your child’s desire with what you know is good for them. You would put them down, and give big smiles and praise when they cruised on furniture. You would celebrate their developmental milestones by taking pictures and sharing their successes with other family members. When they got tired, you would put them in the stroller. After a day of developing their skill, you would hold them and put them to bed. As a mom, our job is to love, nurture, and provide, while also encouraging them to grow into independent adults.
If your teens aren’t actively seeking independence, it’s time for Momma to encourage it, praise it, celebrate it and hold them accountable. The love, care and nurture can come AFTER your teens can demonstrate they are taking on new adult challenges, trying something new and uncomfortable, going outside their comfort zone, spending time cultivating friendships, or any striving towards independence.
We want to make sure we are always growing and learning, not avoiding challenges out of fear.
Some examples of developmentally appropriate independent activities for 12-17 year olds are:
Cooking for themselves and the family.
Cleaning up their room, bathroom and kitchen.
Babysitting, pet sitting and house sitting for other families.
Riding public transportation (by themselves).
Applying for jobs.
Making appointments for themselves.
Hosting/coordinating parties and gatherings for friends.
Traveling without mom and dad.
Walking to the store to buy groceries.
Talking to teachers about school work.
When you’ve created a cozy little nest, it makes sense that your kids wouldn’t want to leave it. But like all moms in the animal kingdom, our job is to teach our kids how to survive in the wild. If we don’t create some constructive adversity, our kids may never get to see how capable they truly are.
We need to encourage our kids to seek out challenges that are difficult, embarrassing, awkward, and uncomfortable. They can’t be confident until they’ve developed competence and they don’t get competent without making some uncomfortable mistakes first.
If your girls ARE taking on new challenges, growing and adulting, they just want mom by their side, then we move to the life coaching answer.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from encouraging our teens to be more independent?
A belief that it’s our job to make them comfortable and a belief that it’s not ok to prioritize our needs over theirs.
You can hear it in the question.
Missy says, “I want them to not need me so much.” “They want me to be with them”
You know what you want, which is great, but who is currently GETTING what they want?
Why? Why do they get what they want instead of you?
Because there is some kind of belief that says,
“It’s my job to make them happy.” or
“I’m supposed to ignore what I want and give them what they want.” or
“Their desires are more important than mine.”
Because they want you, you are somehow required by law to obey them?
What would happen if you did what YOU wanted? Let’s imagine that your whole day is crafted exactly the way YOU want it. No more prioritizing other people’s desires above your own. You just get to arrange your day the way that works best for you.
What would your mornings look like?
If you could do what you wanted, how would you spend your afternoon and evening?
What would you do on the weekend if it was totally up to you?
Can you see that flipping this dynamic would make your girls uncomfortable?
That’s exactly what we want! To nudge them out of the nest using natural constructive adversity!
When they are hungry, and no one is cooking for them, they might try cooking. They might burn something, break a dish or explode something in the microwave, perfect! That’s what the road to independence looks like!
When they get lonely or bored, they might reach out to a friend. They might be brave and invite them to do something fun: go bowling or roller skating or just meet at a coffee shop and flirt with the barista. Wonderful! Taking emotional risks is the best way to prevent social anxiety. Celebrate your daughter’s bravery, we need more teenagers willing to take the social lead!
Our job is not to make our kids comfortable, our job is to encourage them to live in the “growth zone”. In between the comfort zone and the discomfort zone, is the GROWTH ZONE. When we live in the growth zone, life feels exciting. We build resilience by taking risks, falling on our face, and trying again the next day. We learn, we fail, we grow, we try again. This is living.
It’s time to let go of the old beliefs that were true when they were babies “It’s my job to make them comfortable” and update the brain to raising adolescents by adopting the belief, “It’s my job to make them UNCOMFORTABLE.”
Remember, children learn by imitation so if YOU are struggling to go outside YOUR comfort zone, take on new challenges and make mistakes, starting with yourself is the first order of business.
Make a new friend, go on an adventure, hire a life coach, and then brag to your girls about how proud you are of yourself. Soon, the whole family can grow together and celebrate each other's growth.
Supermom Kryptonite - When being around your child drains all your energy.
This is a hard thing to describe but important to recognize. All kids drain their mom’s energy to some degree but some children have the ability to drain it in a unique way. The best way I’ve found to describe it is like the kid’s battery is running low and they plug into their MOM as their outlet. They use mom's energy to power themselves up.
Most of us, when we are running low on energy, will power up with sleep, rest, zoning out, solitude, food, or just relaxing in the sunshine with a good book. It’s normal for young kids to feel calmed and comforted by their mom’s presence. This is different. Some kids will power up their energy by TAKING it from their mom.
The moms I’ve coached who are stuck in this predicament have a hard time getting help for it because it’s hard to describe. I’m always so glad they found my podcast and have come in for life coaching because this is a no-win situation.
Kids need to learn to fill up their own tank and moms need as much energy as they can get. If you know anyone who seems to lose themselves around their kids, turns into a “zombie mommy” after spending a short time with their child, or feels fully alive away from kids, but flatlines when around them, please send them this podcast and encourage them to schedule a free discovery call.
Sometimes this energy draining phenomenon looks like a child LOVING on mom: touching, demanding eye contact, pulling, clinging, wanting to be physically and emotionally intertwined. A "velcro child".
Other times it looks like a child “throwing emotions at mom”. For example, a child stubs her toe, looks over at her mom with a glare, and says “MOM!” with blame in her tone of voice as though its mom’s fault she stubbed her toe.
Some children want to be alone with their negative emotions, others want to wail and throw tantrums. Others blame their siblings or the stupid furniture that got in their way and made them trip. Energy draining children will come sit right in front of mom, look her in the eye with a “What are you going to do about it?” expression.
It’s as though these draining kids have the subconscious belief that mom is the cause of unwanted emotions, and the cure for positive ones. It is unhealthy for both parties so please seek help if this resonates with you.
Supermom Powerboost - Relinquish your authority
If you are used to being in charge, making decisions, coordinating, planning and executing, it is really nice to relinquish your responsibility once in a while. When you LIKE doing these things, and you are good at them, it’s easy to find yourself taking this role in every area of your life.
If you are a high powered Supermom with a lot of people relying on you, get a boost of energy by surrendering your authority to someone super capable.
Last week I traveled with my brother and it has been so nice to relinquish control over the trip planning and coordination. He is highly capable, but he’s also been to Paris many times before and has more command of the language. It made sense to let him figure out the transportation and accommodations while I just went along for the ride.
Even though it was somewhat uncomfortable because my comfort zone is to be the one in charge, it was so relaxing (kind of like being a kid!). Not only did I get a break from my routine and a change of scenery, but I got a break from the role I usually play and I thoroughly enjoyed not being in charge for a little while.
It’s the same feeling I had around my yoga teacher. I could take my worn out, stressed out body, plop it on a mat in her yoga studio, and trust her to bring me back to a calm, energized state. I just did what she told me to do, no thinking required, and she was deliciously reliable.
When you are used to being in charge, and you like it done a certain way, it can be hard to let go of control. Keep looking until you can find someone competent, someone who gets you, and is a bigger expert than you are. This is what I offer in my Time for The Talk class. For one month, you do not need to be the expert in puberty and sex education. You get a break from being in charge and just sit alongside your kiddo in a relaxed, interactive learning environment.
I found a similarly relaxing experience at family camp. I’m there, but I’m not in charge. Competent people are arranging the activities, doing the driving, the cooking, and the dishes. It was HEAVEN.
If you are the captain of your family ship, find a way to sit in other people’s ships once in a while and let other people take the lead. It is so worthwhile and I promise, the opportunities exist out there. You deserve a break, Supermom.
Quote of the Day
“It is not what you have done for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” Ann Landers