Mama'hood {the I love knowing what you think & who you are jar}

Thursday, March 15, 2012

So every once in awhile we need to take inventory on ourselves and parenting certainly tops that list for me. I love being a mom, truly, truly. But there are those moments when I find myself slacking or struggling with something that I don't intend. (These moments are daily by the way and inevitable.) Lately these realizations center around my fourteen year old and our "arguing."

 We are, you know, in the teenage years where a lot of things tend to end up in an argument. In fact last night we ended up in an argument about aliens and I swear I don't even know exactly how it happened! But usually it's about getting things done and generally following through with such things. I find these moments where I am asking him to do something we all know needs to be done, but it's like just he can't do it once I ask - I can actually see the pain and torment on his face when faced with having to listen to me. 

So it often goes something like this:
me: don't forget to...(insert a really simple task)  
him: In a min (5, 10, 15+ minutes later or a week later for a big task like room cleaning) 
me: did you get that done?  
him: I will in just a min  
me: uh, it's way passed the minute I was waiting the first time. Go do it right now, okay. him: ok! Another several minutes go by  
me: ok, you need to go do "that" now.  
him: i knooooow  
me: ok, don't start with the "i know" stuff just go do it.  
him: i will in a minute. i'm going.
me: Uh, no more minutes. Look I don't want to ask you again as much as you don't want me to ask you again, so go get it done and this will be over. If you don't you are going to lose a privileged.  
him: gosh, okay, geez, it's only been 2 minutes since you asked the first time.  
me: Um, no, it's been an hour/days/weeks. Just go do it!!!  
him: No, you just asked me like 2 minutes ago......guuuuhhhhhh. 
 Then my head feels like it's going to pop off my head and roll away so I don't have to partake in this craziness anymore. Good bye head.

So this fun and new dynamic has been driving me bat sh*t crazy for a while now. I always think "he is arguing with me all the time!" And, well, he does, but upon further inspection . . . I have twin 3 year olds but for 10 years it was just him and I. We were two peas in a pod.  I miss how we used to agree about everything and how easy it was for us to "know" each other. Now it's pretty clear whatever I think, he's going to think opposite. Mentally I know he is a teenager and he must not think what his mother thinks, but in my heart I secretly wish there was an exception to this rule; and if there was one it for sure would apply to us ; ) Anyway realizing all this I came to see that I am not 100% listening to his new "opposite" self. Mainly because it freaks me out and tires me out. But that's also because I don't just let him tell me like he sees it without saying something like "when did you start thinking that/being interested in that, etc." And, yeah, that's probably annoying and just eggs him on. Ultimately I keep treating him like the same child or telling him he actually is that person and no teenager wants to be completely defined by their parent no matter how close they are.

And so I think because tasks are not emotional that's where he is trying to stand his ground. That's when the light-bulb went off - because the biggest lesson I have learned in parenting is that when you find yourself battling your children it usually means as a parent you need to change something. Their change is constant and necessary; it is quite literally involuntary but we get stuck trying to interact with them the same way we did 6 months ago or a year ago. Aw, I remember those days. But he wants something different. He wants to be seen as separate from me. And this doesn't mean all the time in every-way. So I figured the issue of the stand-offs around simple tasks we have been having was actually more that...

I still want to be like this...

But it's often a little more like this...

So in the end I decided he can't really help being a teenager - so I guess it's up to me to do something. I think we listen better to people that know us and show interest in us. Something I thought I was doing but then realized I wasn't doing a good enough job just showing interest in him and listening to him. So in an effort to be a more loving parent and keep getting to know my ever evolving teenager I came up with the "I love knowing what you think and who you are" jar.

Here's how it works:

In the jar(s) you place questions and take one out everyday. One jar can be for you child(ren) and one for the parent(s).  You write questions out that prompt some sort of dialog. You can set some limits on this if you want to or keep it totally open. Of course as a parent we should be thoughtful and sensitive as to keep communication open - not to shut it down. But if you make rules, like no judgements can be made, no arguing, no embarrassing questions, you can veto only one question a day and remove it from the jar and you must give as thoughtful and truthful answer as possible. I suggest placing some really simple questions mixed in with some more thoughtful ones. The whole idea is two fold. One it will provide accountably as parents to take the time to talk with your teens about things that go beyond "school" or what do you want for dinner, or reminding them to take out the recycling. The second is that it can perhaps get them thinking about who they are, what they are interested in, what they think outside of themselves and so on.

Here are some examples to ask your kids (again keeping a really wide variety):

What are you most proud of yourself about?
What do you like about yourself?
What is your favorite thing that we do as a family?
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
If you could play any instrument what would it be and why?
What is your favorite movie?
What is your favorite book?
What is something that makes you feel really good about yourself?
Is there anything you are afraid of right now?
What do you think about reality tv?
What do you think about war?
What is something you do that you feel is really healthy?
What is your favorite website?
What is something you like about (whoever) as a person?
What made you laugh today?
When was the last time you felt sad?
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
If you were an animal what would you be?

Anyway, you get the idea. A sort of 20 questions of sorts, but just one a day.

Let me mention the first few times we did this he couldn't answer even the most simple questions. So I didn't press it - I figured at 14 1/2 I would have thought that was a pretty dumb idea too. But after a few times he started warming up to it - now it's actually fun and it works pretty good. We still have stand offs but they aren't as long and that's a good start.


  1. Great idea. I have one teenager and one pre-teen. This would be fun to have better conversations. I have that same room cleaning conversation with my son all the time.

  2. Love your idea!! Wish I would have thought about it when my boys were young... however I can implemented with my daughter! Blessings!

  3. What a great idea. My boy is too young for this, but I may just use this with my nieces and nephews who are suffering the teenage years.

  4. I love this idea! My kids are really young, 4 and 2, but I don't think they're necessarily too young to do this. Even if you have to use really simple questions, starting at a young age will make it a "thing" for your family so that it's not something new when they hit the teenage years. And even if my two year old mostly just listens and watches, I'll bet he'll be trying to participate within months! I love it...thank you for such a great idea!


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