Girls vs. Parents
Several of you requested an episode on clashing with parents. Today’s guest offers valuable insight on how both girls and their parents can strengthen their relationship.
I am so excited to welcome our special guest, teen and tween parenting author, Brooke Romney. Thank you for joining us!
BROOKE: Thank you. I’m so excited to be with you. You do such great work here.
Oh, it, it means so much to have you here. And before we dive in, I would love to have you briefly share about you, what you do, and what you’re known for.
BROOKE: I am an author, I have written four books, two of those are really focused on teens, “52 Modern Manners for Teens.” I love empowering parents to be able to be the people their teenagers need, but to also enjoy that time of life with them. And so I have an amazing Instagram community at @BrookeRomneyWrites that is open-minded, supportive, really incredible to each other. And I’ve learned so much and it’s one of the great joys that I have in my life in running that community on Instagram. And I also have, I have four boys, they are really close together,I have a daughter-in-law, I have two grand babies; so I kind of have like someone in every stage right now, and I just love each one of them.
I think that’s really neat. Like not only are you creating and cultivating and sharing, a lot of empowering insight with your Instagram community, helping both teens and parents there, you have so much life experience and can offer those perspectives and also glean from others’ perspectives in that community. So I think that’s fantastic. Many girls have requested an episode on clashing with parents. I know you have great insight to offer as someone who’s in this space empowering both teens, tweens, and parents. So to start out, is it typical for tweens and teens–girls in particular–to clash with their parents?
BROOKE: Yeah, so there is a lot of research behind this. There is a thing that happens in the teen years called differentiation, and we’ve all been through it, that is a need to differentiate yourself from your parents and from the people around you. And so you are really looking to figure out how you can be an individual. So anytime I’m talking to parents or to teens, I think it’s important to know that this is a normal thing that everyone goes through. But I also believe that while we can differentiate, we can also still have a connected relationship and not have so many battles if we can figure out how to do it right. But absolutely. The idea of pulling away and finding your own uniqueness and, and charting your own course is something that happens to every teen, even the parents of the girls who are asking those questions, they’ve all been through that too.
Why it’s Hard to Get Along
I think that that’s something really reassuring for both teens, tweens, parents, for all of them to know that, it’s nothing wrong with you, this is just kind of how things go, and we can work with that. So why is it sometimes so hard for parents and kids to get along?
BROOKE: There’s so many reasons for this, but let’s just start out with a couple. The first one is that we’re all human and we have good days, we have bad days. We have outside sources that are causing frustration. If someone catches me on a day where something went really poorly at work, I’m probably not gonna be my best parent self just naturally, I’m gonna have to really work for that. If we catch our teens on a day that their friends decided to go to lunch and not invite them, they’re gonna be a little testier. We just have outside sources that are complicating life, so it’s not always just about the relationship. I think the more we understand, teens understand their parents are still people and they’re going to have some hard things in their life. And then parents understanding that being a teen can also be really stressful, that comes with a lot of highs and lows. That can get us to a place where we can begin our relationships with a little bit more grace and a willingness to assume positive intent. So that’s one thing, that’s why it can be difficult in one way.
The other reason is because a lot of times parents want something different than their teen wants for them. And anytime you have two people that desire something different, there is going to be friction. Maybe the child thinks they should be able to stay out later and the parent thinks that they should be home at a certain time. Disagreeing means there’s going to be friction. And I think the more often we understand that when we disagree with people, there’s a rub there.
But we can work through that and we can have conversations that can get us through that and we can do it in healthy ways that bring connection instead of disconnection, even if we end up still being a little further apart on the ultimate decision with each other.
Share What’s Going On
Oh, I really appreciate you pointing that out. I like to consider that people are like icebergs. And there’s only so much that we can see that’s like above the surface and there’s so much else that’s going on below.
BROOKE: If we live in a family that loves each other, and I’m guessing anyone who’s listening to this podcast is, is working from a family that wants to love each other. And so I think it’s really important for us to realize that it’s actually better for us to bring some of those things to the table than to just be mysterious and angry, whether you’re an adult or whether you’re a teen. So if you come home and you’ve had a horrible day (and let’s just go back to your friends went to lunch without you and so you ended up being alone) and your mom’s like on your case about something that doesn’t feel important at all. I think the best thing you could do is say, “Mom, I had a really hard day and felt really left out. I need a minute. I need a minute. And I might be ready to tell you soon.” But just by doing that, a mom loves her daughter, she’s concerned, she cares. And so if she’s coming at you and she’s walking to the door with her phone up on your school website that tells her all the missing assignments you have, it’s not the best time. But she’s not going to know that unless you let her know that some hard things happened that day.
I’m going to also put some responsibility on parents, where if you are going through something that is difficult, you can say something like, “I’ve had a really long day at work and I know I’m not going to be the best person to discuss this with right now. Can we pause? Can we talk about it this weekend? Can we talk about it in the morning when I’m not as exhausted?” I think that that can lead to much healthier relationships and much more enjoyable ones too. But the idea that everyone in our family should know exactly how we’re feeling, and what’s going on with us without ever sharing that is not a very realistic idea to hold.
Communication can be a great starter to working towards solving problems because it helps open a door. Even if it doesn’t and in a resolution that makes everybody happy, at least the door is open, at least there is some connection or reaching both ways, taking a step to communicate that this is where I’m at. But I also love the point where you said can we talk later or can I have some time so that I am more available for you, so that I have more space to hold with you, so that I can offer you the me that you deserve. I really love that point.
If Girls Want a Better Relationship
What can girls say or do to help their parents know that they want a better relationship, even if it takes work, even if that doesn’t fix things, but just letting them know they want things to work better?
BROOKE: Well, the first thing that I would say to teen girls is–I have a large community online. I have a lot of friends in these stages and I have not met one parent who is not interested in having a relationship with their teenager. I’ve never met one that doesn’t want that relationship too. So if you’re a teen girl that’s listening, I want you to start from the place that ‘my parent really wants a relationship with me, too.’ Every parent has different strengths and weaknesses, different emotional IQ, different comfort with being a parent of a teen. But one thing I think is a hundred percent true is they would really like a relationship with you two. And so I would like for you to start from that place in believing that, even if some of their actions don’t seem to show it. I would chalk that up to the fact that they don’t know how, not that they don’t want it. And so if you are a teen and you want a better relationship with your parents, some parents just don’t know how to do that well with a teenager. And if it’s important to you as a teen, I would say to take responsibility for teaching your parents what that looks like for you. What does it look like for you to have a good relationship with your parents? And if you’re brave, you can have that conversation, use car time, when you’re in the car with your parent let them know. But I find that most teenagers aren’t super comfortable approaching that topic with their parents through words. I would highly suggest that you send them a text or write them a note to just get the ball rolling, just a short text to your mom or to your dad. Have it say something like, I feel sad about the fact that we seem to fight a lot, or that we don’t communicate, or that we don’t have a great relationship right now, and I wish we had a better one. Can we talk sometime about how we could do that? I think your parents would be thrilled that the door is open for that.
I can only imagine how I would feel if one of my kids sent me that or left me a sticky for that. I think you’re absolutely right. A lot of parents may not know how to approach their kids. They may feel like all we do is fight, all of our interactions are negative, and I don’t wanna start another one. Or my kid probably doesn’t want to talk with me, or they ice me out, or shut the door all the time. And so a lot of parents just don’t know how to even start to step on that bridge.
Parents Need To Communicate Too
I think there’s a lot of change that can happen if both parents and teens could just see that you both have the same goal. You just have different ideas of how to get there.
BROOKE: Well and I will reverse that. If it were a parent that we’re asking, I would say the same thing: every teenager I know, even if their parents drive them crazy, they want a relationship with their parents, they want to feel loved, they want to feel supported. If you as a parent are struggling with your relationship with your teen, do the exact same thing. Sit down and say, “I’m sad about the way our relationship is going, and I love you and I want to have fun together. I want to be the type of parent that you want to spend time with. What am I doing wrong and how can I change it? I need you to help me understand because what I’m doing isn’t working.” It goes back to the communication, we have to be willing to be open when we’re approached and say, “You know what? This isn’t working, but maybe this would, let’s try this.” Coming together with an open mind.
Going along with that, I think a lot of times we get stuck in these ruts of who we’ve always been. If we’ve been moody, if we’ve been grumpy, if we’ve been like, “I can’t stand my parents,” then that’s who we have to stay as. Or if we’ve been the parent who slams the door or says, “You’re so ridiculous!” that’s just the relationship we have. One of the mantras I believe in so much is that it’s never too early and it’s never too late to start to have the relationships that you want to have. And it takes some change, and it’s a little uncomfortable, and it takes some honesty, but the end result is so worth it. And as I’m painting this picture, I also don’t want to give the false hope that we say this one thing or we do this, and it’s just like, “Yes, I want this relationship!” and the butterflies come. That’s not necessarily what this is going to look like, but like you said, it’s going to open the door to maybe this could look different in a way that’s really good for both of us.
I really appreciate you reversing that because it is going to take work on both ends. Bridges are built from both sides, right? So thank you so much for sharing that.
Share How You Feel, Be Curious
So some girls have told me that they feel that their parents are too strict, too overprotective, they place really high expectations on them. I wondered if you had any ideas of how girls can communicate how they feel so their parents are more likely to listen to them and hear them.
BROOKE: I love the idea of them coming to them with the feeling, and then also get digging a little deeper. So let’s say your parents expect you to take AP classes and get A’s, and that’s too much for you. Coming to them and saying, “I know that you want me to be successful. I know that this is coming from a good place. But I’m feeling really overwhelmed, and like I can’t keep up, and it’s really a struggle for me. Can you believe me when I say I still want to be successful, I still want to work hard, I just can’t do quite this much right now.” I think a lot of people, teens and adults, will come at something in such a defensive way that it puts the other person on defense and like they just have to justify and they have to push back. But when you come with openness, then I think it really helps. Another way that you could do this is you could say something like, “Can you tell me why you think it’s so important that I take AP classes right now? Maybe I’m not understanding, but I don’t feel like I’m capable of doing those.” And then they could tell you, and maybe it allows you to think about it a little bit, “Well the AP classes are so inexpensive and college is very expensive, and we just think it’s a really good financial decision for you to be able to do those AP classes. And then maybe you, a teenage girl could say, “Well maybe that is a good idea, maybe that does work for me, maybe I do wanna save. I have to pay for my own college, so maybe I do wanna save the $1,500 and take ’em in high school.” Maybe that opens a discussion.
If it’s something else, let’s say their expectations are with a sport. Let’s say someone’s not getting the playing time that the parent thinks they should, and they want the daughter to go and train every single day, put in the time, put in the effort. Maybe the daughter could go to the parents and say, I know you love volleyball and I love it too, but the pressure I’m feeling with it is making me love it less and less. Is it okay if I do my best while I’m there, but also see a lot of fun with the sport? Your pressure on me is making me enjoy the sport less. I think sometimes parents just need to know what’s happening because of the pressure.
We also live in a society where a lot of teenagers are choosing not to put effort into anything. They’re spending most of their time on a phone or on an Xbox or something like that. Being open to the fact that parents are there to help encourage good behavior and a path that is forward focused. I have to explain a lot of times that there’s parents for a reason until you’re 18, because sometimes the decisions that we make as a 15-year-old aren’t always going to be best for us. So we have parents that can kind of step in and help redirect us, and that can be a point of friction and frustration. Do you mind if I share a quick story?
I would love your stories!
BROOKE: One of my children has some anxiety, and because of that anxiety, he does not like to do new things; they feel very scary for him. However, with all of the work that we’ve done, the only way to get past anxiety is to push past it and to do new things anyway. So every time I ask him if he wants to do something new, his answer is an automatic No. Well, living a life where your answer is an automatic No to every new thing is not a successful way to live, and it will be very crushing as you get older because the more you move on in life, the more new things you’ll have. And if you choose never to do new things, then you’re stuck where you’ve always been. So I signed him up for something new, and he said, “why did you sign me up for that? I don’t wanna do it.” And I said, “I understand, but you don’t want to do new things. So I sign you up for them so you can have a chance to see if you like the new thing.” And he was frustrated, but I said, “The problem is that your brain right now wants to protect you; it doesn’t want you to go outside your comfort zone, it wants you to be safe because that’s how your brain feels best. And this is why you have a parent, so that you can push past that and so that you can be prepared for a successful adult life.” So he went and he did the new thing and he actually loved it and wanted to continue doing the new thing.Sometimes I think that it’s very frustrating to teenagers when a parent might force something or tell them that’s something they have to do, when most of the time, not all the time, but most of the time the parent really does have the best interest of the teenager in mind. Now if it happens all the time, or if you feel like they’re taking away all of your autonomy or all of your choices, that’s a different story. My son makes tons of choices on his own, and I make a few of them for him. But if you feel like it’s happening all the time, that’s a different story. But here and there, when a parent says, “Hey, I know you don’t really feel like doing that service project, but it’s important that you show up since you committed to go.” That’s not a parent being a bad parent or trying to control a child. That’s a parent enforcing good behavior that will help you be successful in the future. So, really important to kind of figure out the nuance between those two things.
What Works For You
Oh, I appreciate looking at it from so many different perspectives.You know your parents, you know your kids well enough that you’ve got to cater it to that child. I’ve learned very, very quickly all my children are very different, and what works for one does not work for another. But I think that using I-statements so that that keeps it a more open conversation, and also offering curiosity and understanding to each other, that’s a very generous and loving thing to do and will help foster more communication. So I love the story. Thank you for sharing that.
BROOKE: I love also that you shared that every child is different. As teenagers keep that in mind with their parents, maybe the way they’re doing it worked really well with the older sibling, and a teenager might have to say, ”This isn’t working well for me.” Because it’s all the parent has known, or maybe it’s the way that their parents parented them and maybe they haven’t thought about any other ideas. So the more collaboration there is in a family, I think the better for all the people. If your parents were raised in a very strict home with very high expectations, and it worked very well for them and they really liked that, that’s probably the way they’re going to parent. If your parents grew up in a home where it was kind of a free for all and it was just a lot of fun and, and they loved that, they might do the same thing even if you need a little bit more direction, and a little more support, and a little more help. So really letting your parents know, in a loving way, in an I-way, what you need, most parents are willing to help figure it out. They won’t always do exactly what you would like them to do, but they really usually are willing to work on it.
Like you said, you haven’t yet met a parent or a teen who doesn’t want a better relationship with their family, with their parents, with their kids.
Define Yourself By What’s On The Inside
It could be any topic, but what is the most important thing that you want girls listening to know?
BROKE: I would love the girls listening to start defining themselves by what is on the inside. I think we have such a tendency, whether we’re teenagers or adults, to define ourselves, to let others define us, to let our achievements define us. The more quickly we can transition to letting our character define us, the happier we can be when our situations are less than ideal. As an example, if you feel defined by being popular, we know that popularity can be gone in an instant because it’s up to the people around us. Instead of defining yourself as popular, I would work on defining yourself as being a great friend. Because even if no one in your entire school thinks you’re cool, you can still define yourself as being a great friend. You can still be a great friend.
Another example, instead of defining yourself as a great athlete, or as a star of a team, then you say that you are an amazing teammate, or you have a relentless work ethic. It doesn’t matter if you make the team or if you are the high scorer or if you have a college scholarship offer. That means you control that, you control that you’re a great teammate, you control that you have a relentless work ethic.
Instead of defining yourself as someone who’s smart, because we all know that you can get crushed by the college offer that says No, or by bombing your ACT, or whatever if you thought you were smart and all those things don’t happen. But you can always be someone who loves to learn regardless of what the test scores are, regardless of whether you go to college; you can be someone that absolutely loves to learn.
For teenagers who are listening, the better we get at defining ourselves by the things that no one can take away, and as parents the better we can get at praising the things that no one can take away, I think the better we feel about who we are all the time. We won’t be like blown away by wins and by what’s popular and what’s cool and what someone said about me. We can feel really secure about who we are.
Golden wisdom. Redefining and reframing our self-concept and not making it dependent on what other people think about us or how they see us, but who we truly are–I think that girls will really appreciate hearing that and we’ll be strengthened by that.
Brooke’s Books + Resources
Okay. Before we wrap up, I want to let everyone know about these wonderful titles by Brooke Romney. We have 52 Modern Manners for Today’s Teens Volume One and Two, and her most recent work, the 52 Modern Manners for Kids.
BROOKE: One of the reasons why I wrote them was I wanted teens to get the chance to develop an internal character instead of being defined. And these manners, it says manners, but it’s really learning how to be aware, confident, and kind when it comes to the way you exist in the world and in your relationships. It was so important to me that teenagers could develop these skills. One of the things I’ve learned is we have a growth mindset about all these things, but sometimes we don’t have a growth mindset about social skills or about relationship skills. If you don’t feel like you’re good at them, whether you’re a parent or a teenager, you can work on it, you can get better at it through practice, through understanding, you can get better at relationships. And as we’ve been talking about that today, that’s something that I really wanted to emphasize. It’s not just what you were born with, it’s not what you know, it’s not what your parents taught you; it’s are you willing to get better at relationships because the people in your life matter.
These books, these are fantastic resources. I literally have them throughout my house: one is downstairs, one’s upstairs, one’s in my youngest’s room. They are great conversation starters. Here, I’m gonna open one of them. You’ve got a topic and theme, and then diving deeper into it, and then, and then it stands up–like you can leave it on a table, on the counter, in your kid’s bathroom, and it’s just a wonderful, great reminder tor teens, but also for me too. I’m like, “Oh, that is something that I did not develop so great when I was younger!” It is character building and strengthening, and I think these are an incredible resource for families. So I appreciate so much that you have created this and you are helping families like grow together and grow like with each other.
BROOKE: Thank you so much. I’m glad you guys love him.
Also, you have a website that has other resources for parents. Can you share that website URL?
BROOKE: Yeah, it’s just BrookeRomney.com, and you can go search parenting topics, or if you put my name into Google with a topic that you’re interested in, usually you can find something on the website about that too.
Fantastic, Brooke. It has meant so much to me that you could come and share your knowledge with me, with the girls listening, even with the parents who also listen. Thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast!
BROOKE: Thank you! It was so much fun! I just absolutely adore teen girls, so you guys are amazing. Keep progressing, keep doing what you’re doing.