Today I’m excited to have Dr Cam on today and she’s going to talk to us about the power struggles that we experience with our children, especially older children. So Cam, could you take a moment to introduce yourself?
Sure. I’m Dr Cam, Cameron Caswell and I am a developmental psychologist and family coach and I specialize in working with parents and their teenagers and helping them build stronger relationships. I have found that parenting teens is a whole new ball game and so we need a new set of tools and a new set of understanding so that we can interact with them and maintain those strong connections that we had when they were little.
Yeah. Great. And I feel like it’s really timely conversation to have too with everybody being stuck at home with their kids and trying to find a new normal right now. My kids are 12 and 14 pretty soon to be 13 and 14. So I know to the changes that seem to happen when they’re younger and as they get older in that fight for independence that they seem to have.
Dr. Cam (01:29):
Absolutely. And I think it’s a hard adjustment for parents to make. It kind of seems to happen overnight. All of a sudden they were cuddly and wanted to be around us and all of a sudden they’re hiding up in their rooms and rolling their eyes and annoyed by everything where they do and don’t want to spend any time with us. And it ends up we ended up getting in more power struggles, then good connections with each other. And I lot of it is just misunderstanding. I got into this area when I was teaching adolescent psychology. It was my favorite class to teach and I had a lot of students that were also parents and they kept coming up to me saying, Oh my gosh, this information is transforming my relationship with my own teen.
Dr. Cam (02:20):
And that’s when I had this epiphany that teens act out because they feel misunderstood and they feel misunderstood because they are misunderstood. And so now I’ve been trying to get this information to as many parents as I can so that they can learn and understand their teens and what’s going on.
So what can we do to make them feel understood?
Dr. Cam (02:42):
That is a great question. There’s several things we can do. The biggest one that I really help teach parents how to do is listening and we spend so much time in our schools, we learn to write, we learn to read, we learn to talk and we don’t learn to listen. And it’s probably one of the most important communication skills we can have. And I talked to a lot of teenagers and they feel like their parents just don’t listen to them anymore.
Dr. Cam (03:14):
We correct, we criticize, we lecture, we nag. We don’t actually have communication and conversation with them. So it’s learning to really sit down and turn our ears on and try to understand what they’re saying without the need to return something without needing to give them a solution or a fix or even a, Oh, it’s all going to be all right. It’s more just listening to what’s going on with them.
What do we do when I feel like, you know, I have one child who’s very strong willed and I have another one who’s, who seems to kind of go along with what I ask more often. But the one who has a strong will just wants to keep hammering his point. It feels like I try to stop and listen to what he is saying but he always says, you just need to listen to me.
And so I will listen. But then I’m like, okay, but I still disagree. You know, are we allowed to have that point where we’re like, I disagree and I still want you to do what I want you to do.
Dr. Cam (04:23):
Definitely have to hear them. You’re the mom obviously. What the middle ground is though is letting them argue their point. And one of the thing that’s really interesting is that kids who learn to argue successfully with their families and with their parents are actually more able to withstand peer pressure. They’re more confident as kids cause they’ll stand up for themselves. And a lot of parents want to just nix the arguing, you know, just listen to me, do what I’m saying. And we’re denying them the ability to develop this really necessary skill. There’s a difference between fighting and arguing. The biggest difference is the emotional piece of it.
Dr. Cam (05:05):
And so one thing that I help work with a lot of parents is staying calm. And this is the most important thing because our teens brain is still developing and they’re led by their emotions and the part of the brain, the front part of the brain, prefrontal cortex is still developing. And that’s what kind of controls it. That’s what pulls us back. That’s the rational part of the brain. They don’t have that fully developed yet. So if we go into this emotional, they’re only going to react emotionally. They don’t really have a choice. And so it becomes this power struggle, emotional battle. The only person in that dynamic that can pull it back is the parent. So learning to stay calm, if we need to put ourselves on timeout or take a break to bring ourselves down, that’s, we do that. So that we can talk rationally and then it’s listening to them repeating what you hear so they know you heard them.
Dr. Cam (06:05):
So if they’re like, you know, I don’t want to do this because of this reason, you’re going, okay, so you’re frustrated because you want to play your video game instead of helping out or doing your homework. I get that. Of course videos, games are so much more fun. Problem is you have to do your homework at some point. So what is the solution here? You know, and, and having them help be part of the solution and help them problem solve it. Because when it’s part their idea, they’re going to be more motivated to do it. And if we’re just helping them to do it, they’re going to be very, very resistant to doing what we tell them. Adults are very, we don’t like to be told what to do. They don’t either. So it’s understanding that and working with them.
So let’s say we went too far and we yelled and we yelled way too much.
Dr. Cam (06:55):
Yeah, we do.
What do we do to help repair and help rebuild trust with our child at that point?
Dr. Cam (07:04):
One thing parents are very afraid to do is apologize to their kids. And apologizing to our kids is such an enormous way to build a community, build communication and build that connection. It also actually earned their trust and respect more than if we just said, we’re right and we stick to that because we’re able to say, you know what, I’m a human. I’m, I make mistakes too. I really overreacted there. I want to teach you how to react and respond, you know, rationally and, and discuss things. And I didn’t do that. So let’s take, let’s restart. Let’s do an take two and try this again and I’m gonna listen this time and it would be great if you listened to and let’s try to figure this out together so it’s okay.
Dr. Cam (07:55):
We do it. We just do. And it takes a while to learn to not do it, cause that’s our reaction. But apologizing teaches, them, they are modeling. It’s okay to make a mistake, which it is, and it’s okay to apologize.
That’s a good point. The arguments I know I have probably with my child do come up during emotional times. So how do we minimize that and especially when something needs to happen right now, not later. We can’t say let’s talk about this later tonight. You know, like it’s a decision that needs to happen now. So how do you then take care of it?
Dr. Cam (08:32):
That is probably one of our, one of the hardest parts is we’re very focused on getting things done and we do, we’ve got very tight schedules. We’re on deadlines, we’re going to be late. So there’s a few things to think of.
Dr. Cam (08:45):
One is, is it more important to be on time or is it more important to take the time with my kid to form that connection and teach them? Chances are it’s probably okay to be a little late if that means taking time with your kid. The second thing is to say in the moment, I’m not going to be able to handle this very well right now I’m, I’m in just labeling your emotion. I’m really stressed because I know we need to be there on time. In order to get there on time, you need to get this done. I don’t know what to do. I know you’re upset too, so either don’t do it or take that time. Another thing is if they’re just pushing back and don’t want to do it, then you know, if it’s something like putting your coat on or getting something they need, then just leave without doing that and have them deal with the consequences of whatever it was that they weren’t going to do.
Dr. Cam (09:43):
Chances are if you’re calm and you’re not pushing them and getting them to get emotional and reactive, they’re going to be able to get what needs to be done. There’ll be rational about it, but if you’re emotional, they’re just going to get caught up in the emotion and nothing is going to get done. Yeah. It just start going to keep pushing back.
What advice do you have for us right now when everybody is stuck together in a house and a lot of emotions are going high and we can’t escape each other.
Dr. Cam (10:14):
Yeah. I will say part of me with what I do I’m excited that parents and teens have to spend time together because for running around so much, we don’t get that. I know that’s probably terrifying to a lot of parents and to a lot of teens they have to do this.
Dr. Cam (10:30):
So what I would love to just suggest is use this time to connect, to have fun. I know we’re a little frantic about making sure they’re learning enough and that they’re productive enough, but it’s okay to just take a step back and not be doing all the time. This is kind of a, a misnomer that our society has gotten into that we have to be, be productive and we have to prove ourselves to be worthy and we’re passing that message on to our kids that they have to do all this stuff to be valuable and it’s not true. It’s them. So spend time learning about them and listening to them and just having fun, not lecturing, not nagging, just being playing some games. It’s going to take if, depending on what your relationship is now, it may take some time to lower them down.
Dr. Cam (11:27):
They may be locked in their room, FaceTiming their friends right now and that’s, I know a lot of teens doing that. So it may just be kind of throwing out ideas like, Hey, we’re going to watch a movie. We’d love to have you, or I’m working on a puzzle if you want to join me. And if they come join you, don’t say anything, just let them do it with you and just kind of be there and kind of earn that so they know that they can interact with you without fear of being or getting into trouble, which is kind of the habit we start getting into just why they’re avoiding us. They don’t want to be lectured, so they’re hiding. So just spending time listening. One thing I love to do is, you know, I hear a lot of parents go, I’m going to teach my kid this and my kid this and I get this.
Dr. Cam (12:12):
Ask your teen to teach you something. If they love video games, say, Hey, can you teach me how to do the video game you love? They love doing models. Can you teach me? Oh my gosh, that just puts so much value and they love to feel like I can teach something and I can do something. It’s such a strong way to connect with them and you’re going to learn something cool too.
That’s a good idea. What do you feel about the amount of time that kids are spending right now on their internet?
Dr. Cam (12:43):
You know, normally we worry about that so incredibly much, but right now I feel like they also need time with their friends because they can’t see them face to face, but they’re also on their device all the time. So should we worry about that right now or not? So this is such a good question and it’s so difficult cause there’s this fine line.
Dr. Cam (13:05):
My belief is being online is that’s how they socialize. That’s, that’s the way they do it. It’s different from the way we did it. So we don’t understand it. We worry about it. We worry about the impact. It’s going to have just like, you know, our parents were worried about how much TV we watched. And so there’s always this new technology, my concern more is what they’re doing on it, not necessarily that they’re on it. So I think what to really look for is what apps are they using. Kind of who are they, who are they talking to and making sure that we’re really aware of how they’re spending their time and who they’re spending it with. One thing I, you know, I’ve talked to parents about to, cause a lot of parents feel like the best thing to do is restrict it.
Dr. Cam (13:56):
Problem is they’re going to always find ways around that. What we do need to do is help them learn how to make smart, smart decisions on it. And who to avoid, what information you don’t put on there. Just being smart. So that’s the thing I would really focus on. But enabling them to get on there. Like my daughter spending a lot of time, but she’s actually researching stuff or she’s watching Broadway, she’s all into Broadway, Broadway shows on YouTube. And she’s spending or FaceTiming her friends and talking with them. So she’s actually doing really productive, cool stuff. There’s online classes, all kinds of things you can do. So again, it’s what they’re doing, not being on it and itself.
That makes sense. Well is there anything else you would like to say?
I would just say again, try to take advantage of this time of having your kids at home without having to run around all over the place to really take time to learn who they are and to connect with who they are.
Dr. Cam (15:04):
Because I’ve mentored teens for years now and they are some of the most fascinating, just passionate people. So get a chance to just really listen to what they are doing and what’s on their mind and what they’re passionate about.
Great advice. Thank you so much. And where can listeners find you?
So if you go to Dr. Cam Consulting and it’s drcamconsulting.com is my website and I actually, if you do slash challenge. So www.drcamconsulting.com/challenge, I have a four day free challenge that we’ll walk you through. I’m listening, staying calm, and a few of these skills that you can now practice with your teen. It’s the calm, the chaos challenge. So some of these tips are there, so it might be a good time to try that.