Eps 422: Making sense of our teens behavior

Episode 422

Join me for this solo episode where I reflect on how our teens behavior is the response to how they are experiencing belonging and significance, as well as the ways OUR reaction to their brain development matters.

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Takeaways from the show

  • Human behavior and its connection to belonging and significance
  • How we intersect with teen brain development
  • How building authenticity and transparency in relationships with kids generates influence, significance, and personal power
  • The importance of empowering teens with autonomy and responsibility
  • Why prioritizing quality conversations and normalizing self-reflection is a crucial aspect of parenting

Joyful Courage is the deep breath I take when I want to come unglued on a person I love. Joyful Courage is taking a walk instead of scrolling social media. Joyful Courage is choosing to go to bed instead of watching one more episode….. Joyful Courage is consciously and intentionally paying attention to how I am showing up for myself and others.

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Casey O'Roarty 00:04
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people. And when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already, I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent leader at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic, so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around, snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together, we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:25
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast, it is a Thursday. Which means this is a solo show. This is a show just for you, just you and me hanging out. And I gotta tell you, I was gone. Last week in Colorado visiting my sister. She's got a six year old and a two year old and hanging out with other members of my family, which was amazing and super fun. And I'm really glad to have older kids, man, those toddler days, and even those like first grader days, they're intense. And there's a lot of output, a lot of needs. And while the teen years are no picnic, man, I got to remember what it was like to have a toddler all the time, needing things and wanting things and getting into things. It was a lovely trip. And I'm really glad that I got to go and be with my family. And I mentioned somewhere maybe it was a newsletter, maybe it was a podcast, I had a birthday recently, and I have a big trip coming up. And then I have another big thing happening over New Years. And I just kind of came to the realisation that I need to work on strengthening my body, I spend a lot of time sitting, looking at the computer recording, typing, zooming, right, I do all these things and didn't really realise how sedentary I had become. And then when I did my big trip, in the fall of 2022, I did a lot of movement and walking and my hips started hurting.

Casey O'Roarty 03:15
And I just was like I don't want to have a body that a little bit of extra walking or dancing is going to completely wipe me out. And so I've started to go to the gym and work with a trainer and watch what I eat. And I'm really stoked because I went on this trip to San Diego and I went to the gym while I was on this trip. And I just feel like that deserves some acknowledgement because I'm not a gym girl. I'm not an over doer, as far as the exercise goes, but I've really kicked it up a notch. And guess what my body is appreciating it. So anyone out there, because we're all mid lifers pretty much if you're listening to this podcast, I'm making an assumption that you're probably pretty midlife. And maybe you've been really good about your self care in the context of physical health and diet and exercise and all that stuff and go yo, and then there's everybody else who you know, you might be thinking, Yeah, I should probably do that. And I am here to tell you do it. It feels so good. It feels so good to feel strong and accomplished. And to follow through on this and to do something for ourselves. Anyways, that has nothing to do with what I'm going to talk about today on the podcast. I just wanted to give myself a big pat on the back and any of you out there that are also in this, you know, working on something new whether maybe you've recently decided to be sober or you're making changes in how you're using screens or like me, you're moving your body or you've taken up meditation, whatever it is that you have said, Yes, I'm going to start this. And you've committed to it high five, high five. No, go us. Go us. But what I am going to talk about today, the topic for today is a phrase that I've mentioned a bunch over the last few months. And it's because I love it and it's so fits in with the iceberg metaphor and belief behind behaviour that we like to talk about and positive discipline. And this phrase is that behaviour makes sense. So, just as a reminder, for those of you that are new, what we stand on here in joyful courage land is that human behaviour is movement towards a sense of belonging and significance. This comes from the work of Alfred Adler, and Rudolph strikers. This is what J Nelson, who is the author of all of the positive discipline books is the foundation for her work, belonging and significance. We long for connection, right? We want to be in relationship with others. This is what human beings are wired for. And, and we're looking for a sense of significance of mattering of purpose of personal responsibility, right? This is true, from the early years, all the way through the lifespan. belonging and significance is always what humans are seeking out. And, and because we're human, we can sometimes misinterpret belonging and significance both do we, you know, in the question of, do I matter do I belong, or also, we misinterpret the pathways to belonging and significance. And one of the activities that we do with parents, I haven't done this one in a while, but I really appreciate it it is, we draw a picture of a flower, right, and the flower, and then there's a big sun, and the sun represents belonging and significance. And when a plant a flower has healthy amounts of belonging and significance when they are in an environment that offers them what they need, you know, they grow big and tall, right? They grow pink and tall. So imagine like a sunflower, right, the sun flower always grows towards the sun. Now, imagine that there is a cloud that gets in the way, something that blocks the sun for that flower. And some of the things that can block a sense of belonging and significance. What are they bullying from parents or other kids, discouragement, bad grades, right? Hard feedback, critical feedback, judgement, these are all things that can get in the way of belonging and significance. And then what happens is that plants, right, if we're sticking with the plant metaphor, if the cloud is in the way, or if they're like, you know, if there's an overhang, and they can't, you know, quite or a fence line, or something that's getting in the way of the sun, they're going to grow kind of wonky on their way to make sure that they are capturing what they need, which is that sunlight, just like our kids, right, they are going to grow and take pathways towards belonging and significance, that actually look like mischief, or misbehaviour, right? When we talk about beliefs behind the behaviour, and a child doesn't feel like they are connected to their adult, they might start to believe that I only count or belong here when I am getting your undivided attention, or I'm the centre of attention. So they're taking a side road to belonging and significance or I only count and belong in this household when I'm in control or proving you can't boss me right there, the plant that's kind of taking that turn, trying to get to that place of belonging and significance, but it is a mistaken idea about belonging and significance, that is motivating behaviour. And so we see the behaviour that, you know, it looks like discouragement, and looks like misbehaviour, mischief making it's real, right, which is why it's so important to go under the surface which is why behaviour makes sense when you have a misguided idea or a misbelief about how you belong and if you matter, your behaviour is going to reflect that. Right? So there's the belonging and significance piece. And then during the teen years, there's the brain development He's and you guys have heard me talk about brain development, right? I love using Dan Siegel's acronym essence, I just talked about this in the free webinar I did a couple weeks ago, the essence of adolescence, emotional spark, social engagement, novelty seeking, and creative exploration. These are all things that are happening in the brain, during adolescence. And then finally, something I loved for my interview with Dr. Lederman, from, you know, over the summer, is our kids thrive, when the environment is rich in safety, trust and appreciation. Right. So this is kind of this is the foundation that we stand on here at the joyful courage podcast Sproutsocial. This is, you know, science backed. And it's important to keep in mind because our goal should always be trying to understand what our kids behaviour is telling us what's happening under the surface, what is the problem that the behaviour is a solution to? Right behaviour makes sense. Now, it's important to keep in mind, our messages that we send to our teens, both spoken and unspoken, are always being interpreted by them, right. So as we talk to them, and share with them and offer our opinions and let them know what we think our messages are always moving through a filter, right? And our teens are interpreting all the things we're saying and not saying, right.

Casey O'Roarty 11:45
And we are a part of the dynamic that exists between ourselves and our teens. You hear me talk about this a lot. And while I'm not here to judge anyone, or to tell you that anything is your fault, I do think it's very important for you and for me to remember that we are always contributing to the dynamic that we're in with our teens. Right? So let's kind of break this down in the context of that teen brain development, right? So emotional spark, that's the first part of the essence acronym emotional spark. Yes, they feel big, they feel big things positives and negatives. And what they're feeling is very real for them. So we get to respect what it is that our teens are going through, even when it feels like not that big of a deal. Okay, yes, they are drawn to their friends right now. And they really just want to be with their friends, and they want to stay connected to you. So be willing to let go and allow your relationship with your teen to evolve, right? It's going to be different, it's going to look different. You're not going to be the first person that they go to, or maybe you will, yes, they are wired for novelty seeking, pushing the limits, seeking out new experiences. And that may look like risk taking and send you into fear, stay out of judgement, and in curiosity to help them build their reflection and critical thinking skills. Yes, creative exploration, yes, they are questioning the status quo, and working to make sense of the world that they are coming of age in and they want to be able to talk to you about it, keep an open mind, listen, and value their process of developing their own thoughts and opinions. Because the goal is not to create a carbon copy of you, the goal is not to create a human who's just like you with all the same thoughts as you have. Right? The goal, the long term goal is to support our kids and growing into sovereign humans, right with their own ability to look at the world and make sense of the world and contribute an impact to the world. And all of this is about creating connection and a healthy sense of belonging with our teens. Absolutely. It isn't enough. You know, to tell them, we love them no matter what, what really sends that message is how we respond to them as they stumble their way through the season of adolescence. So behaviour makes sense, right? That's the thread of this podcast that I want to keep coming back to. So what I just went through, right behaviour making sense so when they feel big things and we blow them off, right It makes sense that they might not want to come to us. I love Dr. Becky's work and message about our kids being good inside. If you haven't heard of her, she has books and podcasts and she's big deal. Google her Dr. Becky parenting, when we remember that our teens are good inside, which to me means they just want to belong and have purpose. I think it allows us to soften and relate in a different way. And if behaviour makes sense, and our teens are withdrawn and unwilling to let us in, this is a place for curiosity. Right? So again, am I sending the message that I respect what they're going through? Or am I minimising their experiences, or even fearful to hold the hard stuff? So when they're having those big, emotional sparks? What's the message we're sending? Am I giving space for our relationship to evolve? Or am I taking it personally, when they seek me out less? And want to be with their friends? Am I clinging to an ideal of how I thought our relationship should be? Right? And then with the novelty seeking? Have I been meeting their mistakes with judgement and criticism, future tripping and trying to control them? Is that how we've been intersecting with the novelty seeking? And then finally, does my team feel listened to and valued? Or am I quick to cut them off, roll my eyes and dismiss the way they are seeing and expressing themselves in the world? I think these are really good questions to ask. When we have a kiddo who, you know, is in the big push back, or, you know, really rejecting relationship with us and really not wanting to engage with the family or have conversations, I think these questions are key for us, the parent to begin to understand and make sense of our teens behaviour, right, we all want to control the situation. And the only thing we truly have control over is our own behaviour. And even that gets interpreted by the other person. So all the more reason to be thoughtful, and intentional. And most important, I think, real and authentic with our teens, right? Their behaviour makes sense. They're not just lazy. They don't just not care. There are things happening under the surface. And it's important for us, and it's our responsibility to be in a curious, open mindset. And to be willing to dig deep, and figure out what's going on with our teens. And really all of our relationships could use this right? Authenticity, transparency. And for some of us, if we aren't willing to take a hard look at our own stuff, and own up to who and how we've been in relationship with our kids. Up until this point, there is only so far that relationship can go. Right. When we can build that sense of belonging and connection inside of the relationship that we have with our kiddo. This is where things can get good. And this is where influence is generated. And I've mentioned this a few times over the last few weeks influence isn't the same thing as control. Having influence doesn't mean that our kids do what we want, and don't make any stupid mistakes. Having influence simply means you get a seat at the table, you get to contribute your thoughts, your opinions, and be taken into consideration as your teen navigates their life. Belonging an influence also makes it more likely that there is a sense of significance being generated. Right and remember, purpose, responsibility, the knowing that they're part of a bigger system, and that what they do and how they contribute matters. This is where real significance exists. Right? And with significance, right with significance comes personal power, right? Autonomy, a sense of control over one's life, cause and effect. People who feel empowered and encouraged tend to show up really well in the world, people who feel disempowered and discouraged, tend to blame others and disengage to protect themselves. Even the blaming others can make sense. You know, I recently was having a conversation with my son about basketball. And you know, for a long time he was super diehard basketball guy and he wanted to play in college and he had you know, grand plans And then we moved and the basketball programme here, where we live is not great. It's not great. And he's now a senior, and he's played on this team for four years. And it's been pretty brutal. And at this point, it's the idea. And what I'm trying to encourage him with is personal best. Because his team, you know, there's only so much skill on the team, there's only so much skill in the coaching staff. And, you know, I want him to be able to look back and say, I worked really hard. And I played my personal best. Yeah, you know, my team wasn't great. We didn't win the championship. But I feel like I worked really hard to contribute to the team. And as I think about that, I also think about the fact that he is navigating, being on not a great team. And I wonder, even as I'm speaking into this, I wonder if, you know, not working very hard, is also protecting him from feelings of disappointment when they don't win, right feelings of disappointment when they get creamed, because there are some teams in their league that are like, the best teams in the state, which is unfortunate. So again, him being pissed at his teammates, or his coach, like, that's a lot easier than saying, well, I could have played better, I could have worked out harder, I could have shown up more determined and practice, because then he has to have some ownership over that. So it makes sense, because it's uncomfortable that our kids go into blaming others. Yeah. And again, when we can really work to create an environment of contribution of growth mindset of really celebrating the process and talking through process and, you know, reflecting on outcomes and holding space for each other. And being curious, this is where we create an environment where personal power autonomy control over one's life cause and effect where this can really happen. Right. And so my questions to you are? Where does your teen have power and control over their lives? Right? And just for yourself, like, take some notes? Where do you see them having power and control over their lives? And then go to them? And ask them? Where do you feel like you have power and control of your lives? And then compare those two lists, right? And see what comes up? How might your teens behaviour be related to their need and desire for power and autonomy, which is very developmentally appropriate? I mean, they're launching, they're heading down the runway to launch. We want them to experience power and autonomy before they leave the nest. Right. Another question is, is there in your home in your relationship? Is there space for natural causes and effects to be experienced? Right, natural consequences? Does your kid get to experience natural consequences without you piggybacking on like, yeah, see, look what happened? Look what happened? And now you got to do the thing, right? Or is it like, Wow, man, that's a bummer. Let me know how I can support you how our natural consequences held in your home. belonging and significance really work side by side, right, both feeding into each other, when we are intentional about creating an encouraging environment?

Casey O'Roarty 23:38
And of course, like, what about expectations? And this is a place where people get confused, and it's messy even for me, of course, we get to have expectations, we get to create boundaries and limits. And the less this feels top down, the better. Do you know what I mean? By top down, like, I'm the adult, I make the rules deal with it. That's top down. teens want to be able to contribute to the conversation and the expectations that are being held for them. Right, and the limits that affect them remember, control over one's life. You know, we want to nurture that experience for them. So we get to include them in these discussions about expectations and limits and boundaries. And it's not like a negotiation. It's not negotiating until we're worn down and our kids get what they want. We get to offer and counteroffer we get to create freedom within structure and our kids get to recognise the relationship between freedom and responsibility. Right. This may be a place of contention, in fact, I bet it is because they are going to want a lot more freedom than you're comfortable with, and you are going to hold responsibility much tighter than they are. Right? They're saying freedom, freedom, freedom, you're over here saying responsibility, responsibility, responsibility. And when you can come together, when that belonging and significance is intact, this process will be more easy going, right? And I'm going to keep it real here. Well, I want you to keep it real here, because keeping it real and authentic, and these conversations, and emotionally honest, when you feel that desire to control the situation, come up, speak it, ah, I'm noticing that I have a lot of fear about this. And I really want to tighten things down. And then you get to take a look at what you're trying to control. And if it's actually yours, right, I've had that conversation so much with my kids, or they'll ask me about something. And I'll be really upfront and say, you know, my initial instinct is no, because all the terrible things that could go wrong are flying through my mind. So help me feel like you have a plan, and you're responsible enough to do what it is that you're asking to do. Right? And what is it that you ultimately want? For me, as I consider this last year of having my youngest at home, I want him to have lots of practice of making his own decisions, I want there to be space for him to consider what is right for him. And I gotta tell you, you know, from the outside looking in, this may look really permissive, right. But what you can't see from the outside looking in, is the quality of the conversations we're having about how he's navigating his life and responsibilities, the normalcy that exists in our home when we talk about screens and school, and, you know, health and well being, and showing up well, for his sports teams like these are just conversations that we have. And, you know, as I've mentioned before, this is where my kids feel like I'm strict, because I want to talk about all the things. And that's going to be so much more useful for him as he makes his way out into the world. Right, of course, expectations matter. And this isn't how it's going to look and didn't look like this when my kids were 13. Right when they were early teenagers, I had those long term goals, long term parenting goals in mind. But I also knew that a 13 year old and their ability to navigate their technology is a lot different than a 17, nearly 18 year old, you know, navigating his relationship with technology. My goal for him is to recognise he has a relationship with technology and to be his own critical thinker around that relationship. At 13, I might say those words, but it's going to be a much smaller, tighter container that I'm going to hold access to, you know, screens and social media at 13. Then now, you know, my kids close to launching. And ultimately, we want our kids to be able to hold expectations of themselves. I think I want them to set goals. I want them to assess how they're doing. Right. I want to normalise that this is what we do. As humans. This is how we grow. This is how we get what we want. Right holding expectations of ourselves. And then taking a look, how am I doing? Am I getting there? My tracking it for me I track everything. I mean, my planner is full of, you know, steps and workout routines and tracking the food that I'm eating and just paying attention and celebrating that I'm following through on the things that matter to me, right, we want our kids to be able to consider, you know, like, I'm going to set a goal. I'm going to decrease my screen time. I'm going to work on this paper over the next two weeks instead of the night before. What can that look like? I want to plan that and our kids. You know, some kids are better at this than others. Absolutely. And we get to create scaffolding when we need to create scaffolding. I was talking to my son about basketball and I was saying you know, it will be more fun for you this season because my kid is a bodybuilder guy like he's loves his big muscles. And he doesn't want to condition he doesn't want to run because he'll lose weight. He doesn't want to lose weight, doesn't want to lose his muscles. And he said to him today, you know, if you run or even light cardio, you're gonna have more fun during games, you're gonna have more stamina and endurance during your basketball games. That's gonna be a better time for you on the court. And he was like, I know, but it's hard enough for me to keep weight on now. If I start doing cardio today, and so I said to him, let's work together to do some meal planning to make sure that there's plenty of high calorie food of the food that you need for energy and growth in the fridge. That's easy for you to grab and go. Alright. And I also talked to him about lunch because I don't know about you parents of high schoolers, but you never want. He's like, I hate making lunch. I hate making my own lunch. And so I said, Well, what if we do it together? What if it's something that every night, the two of us together, make a lunch for you, and really pack it full of what feels good? What's going to energise you for the rest of the day? What's going to fill you with calories? I said, rather than me doing it for you, or you feeling like you don't want to do it, because it's all on your shoulders. Let's do it together. And as I think about next year, and the years to come, I want him to have good experiences about feeding himself. And so I get to co create that with him. Right? And I said, you know, on Sundays, we can do some meal planning, that would be great for me, too. And so, yeah, I mean, that's the dance. Right? That's the dance. We get to be in collaboration and co creation with our kiddos in that last little example, to connect with and I get to connect with him around food and health and well being and he gets to feel a sense of purpose and responsibility over feeding himself and feeling good in his body. And that's it, right? That's it behaviour makes sense. He doesn't make his own lunch because he hates doing it. Right, it feels overwhelming. He says, I'm sure your kids say this to do they say this, our house is just full of ingredients. Meaning, we don't do a lot of quick and easy stuff. Things need to be prepared over here. But we also could do a better job of meal planning and meal prepping and make it easier for everyone to eat healthier over here and eat a way that our body needs us to eat. Anyway, side note on that. This is a dance, right? And you get to keep coming back to the basics with your kiddos behaviour makes sense. Right? Behaviour makes sense. behaviour is a solution to a problem we don't know about belonging and significance matters. belonging and significance are at the heart of what our kiddos are going through. We just get to be really creative and curious to discover what's getting in the way for them to feel that sense of belonging and significance. And then finally, expectations and limits and boundaries. Those support everyone, those support everyone. I love this conversation. It is so useful both for me and my own parenting, right because I'm doing it over here. I'm sharing my examples with you. But also, when I think about and work with other parents, right, keeping in mind, okay, if behaviour makes sense. Let's discover what might be going on for your kiddo. And listen, the podcast isn't the only place for deep diving into all of this.

Casey O'Roarty 33:08
I do courses, I do workshops. I am a coach. If you are curious to learn more if you're listening to this and you're like, Okay, I gotta put this into practice. I got a deep dive into this. I gotta figure this out more. Go to be sproutsocial.com/teens and find out what I have going on that you can get in on. There's also the membership, right? I've got you. I've got you and I so appreciate you every week tuning in and listening to what it is that I have to say. I will see you next week. Have a beautiful week

Casey O'Roarty 33:53
thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at BS for audible.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace

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