You’ve just had a few good days or weeks with your teen and you’re enjoying the ease and calm in your relationship and your house. Regardless of how you got here (the moon cycle, magical fairy dust, unicorn farts, whatever!) you’re invested in keeping the peace as long as possible.
The last thing you want to do is upset the apple cart so you become ‘easy breezy mom/dad’ with covert enthusiasm. You know, the generally agreeable, cheery mom who slaps on a smile because forced and fake kindness is better than most alternatives? She doesn’t need to yell or nag because she can wrap almost any communication in a sweet tone, so the desperation or passive aggressive comments slip past you.
This was NOT Puff the Magic Dragon!
If you were raised by easy breezy mom/dad, you had it modeled for you by the best. It was an unspoken reward for your good behaviour that felt safe and loving in an odd way, or a confusing follow up to an angry screaming match.
If you’re like me, you remember easy breezy had an equal and very opposite side – a fire breathing dragon with blinding anger or rage, and it was terrifying. The dragon showed up with little notice and may have physically or verbally punished you even if you didn’t understand why and was never talked about again.
You lose trust and respect either way.
Your intention to keep the peace and create a positive environment is honorable, not to mention what you’re willing to sacrifice to create it. I see you and your deep love for family, and I respect that.
The upside is you get to be the mom you’d like to be in a relationship you wish you had with your teen. The downside is, it’s not sustainable or real so the dragon shows up, you feel like crap and are angry at your teen for being the jerk who upset your easy breezy mode!
For your teenager, conflict becomes spontaneous, frightening and anxiety provoking. There’s no warning or effective communication and because your two modes are so opposing, your teen doesn’t trust or respect either one.
Conflict is necessary for change. Even the good changes you want.
The first time I heard this I was stunned. Either my relationship coaching program facilitator was on crack because she certainly didn’t grow in my house, or she had just spoken words that would fundamentally change my future and become a catalyst for healing from trauma. It was the latter and I’m so grateful for that moment.
Think of your favourite movie. The main character encountered at least one conflict and had to change in some way for the ending to work out. This is your movie, and avoiding conflict is prolonging the change you want and need for yourself and your relationship with your teen.
Conflict is a normal and healthy part of all relationships that doesn’t need to be feared or used to control others. Here’s 4 tips to lower the negative impact of conflict and build your confidence to be in it.
1. Uncover your conflict story – What did you believe about conflict growing up? Take time to find your answer so you see how that story is showing up now with your teen (and likely your spouse/partner).
2. Say what you mean – Give timely and specific feedback when things go well and when they don’t so your teen knows where you’re at and trusts you. This means giving yourself permission to speak up rather than investing in people pleasing so they like you.
i.e. “Thank you for putting your dishes in the dishwasher this morning. I feel respected when you clean up after yourself”
or “I feel disrespected when I see your dishes on the table in the afternoon. I asked you to put them in the dishwasher this morning before school. You’re old enough and capable so please put them away before going to your room.”
3. Build a runway – Let your teen know when your frustration is escalating so you don’t need the dragon to do your dirty work. You and your teen may need to renegotiate tasks or come up with more concrete cues and natural consequences. This is an opportunity to learn emotional expression, vulnerability and courage through self-advocacy and model those for your teen.
i.e. “I’m feeling frustrated about seeing your dishes on the table after asking you a few days in a row to put them in the dishwasher before school. I know creating new habits takes time and I’m my patience is low right now. Help me to understand what’s going on.”
4. Find your middle ground – Supporting yourself to have and stay in hard conversations is something most of us weren’t taught, let alone finding a healthy middle ground between ‘easy breezy’ and ‘fire breathing dragon’. What’s a new conflict story you can hold in your mind that supports you to feel safe AND authentically stay engaged to build connection?
If conflict feels like scary, complicated and hard, you’re not alone. Developing tools for healthy conflict is one of the 8 modules in The Empowered Parent Mastermind beginning today. It’s time to move past the yelling, emotional blow ups and walking on eggshells to create a connected relationship with your teen built on trust and respect.
Change your conflict story today by clicking below get your spot in The Empowered Parent Mastermind. I believe in you ?