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- Pendulum swings, parents enable, help too much, reminders, nagging, then I won’t help at all response-ability
- Seek balance with pre-convo then heart to heart about pendulum and ask THEM so there is buy-in and so you are prepared next time. The goal is to HEAR each other (secure convo). Write it down and post it so you remember.
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Hey, what is up parents and teachers? I am going to talk to parents today about the parental pendulum. I’ll tell you what I mean by that. What I’ve noticed over many years of doing this is that there is oftentimes a parental pendulum that will swing, and I’m going to describe to you exactly how that works. I’m going to tell you my take on what you want to do about it and how the pendulum works.
Oh, by the way, my name is Seth. I’m an executive function coach out of Colorado and I help struggling students navigate this thing called school so they can have a great life because when your kids struggle with executive function, they can’t get done the important things that need to be done. They limit their choices, possibilities, opportunities in life quite literally. This is no joke. I do this because I want my kids to have an awesome future and great life. If they can figure out how to execute massive problems. If they can’t figure out how to organize and manage time, or follow through the commitments, prioritize things properly, etcetera.
So what happens with the parental pendulum is that the pendulum swings and often times the pendulum swings one direction were a parent will be enabling. I do not mean that in a positive way. I mean the negative form of enabling, they’re doing too much. They’re helping too much and they’re micromanaging too much. They’re on top of everything. The parent is the executive function for that kid. They’re giving reminders, they’re nagging, they’re bugging. And what happens is is that pendulum is going, it’s going, it’s going, it’s going, higher and higher and gaining all this momentum. The parent gets very frustrated one day. There will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The parent gets so frustrated over that straw. That they will say: “Fine, you be an adult, you do it that. Yeah, I’m not going to bug you about anything. You’ve got this, you suffer the consequences.” They let go completely. And I understand that frustration when you’re at your wit’s end, you’ve been doing so much. I have to appreciate it has been noticed and nothing has changed. It hasn’t actually helped, but you’ve expended all this energy. You know, it’s like you go into somewhere and you pay a bunch of money to keep paying, paying, paying, like going to a vending machine and keep putting money, money, money. And the thing doesn’t come out and you just you would never keep putting money in there. But you keep investing, and investing, and investing, and hoping something is going to change. Your kids going to receive your help and they’re going to appreciate it. You’ll hope they’re going to take it and they’re going to learn from it, and they’re going to feel supported and they’re going to have tools so that they can better navigate next time. Blah blah. It doesn’t happen. You’re so frustrated.
What happens is the pendulum swings the other way. You do all that and then everything falls apart for them big-time. They get missing or late work, they miss the bus, everything falls apart. They don’t get to school on time. Blah blah blah. What’s your inclination? “I want to go in there and rescue. I want to fix this. I want to talk to them. I want to help them just see, you know, it will be so much easier if you just did this.” Why am I telling you all this? What I’m suggesting to you is that you seek more balance so the pendulum doesn’t swing as far to either side, but you have self-compassion. You know that you’re probably going to keep doing this, but you want to do it less frequently. And when you do, when you want to swing less intensely, and less frequently, so that you can have more balance.
What are a couple of tips? One is what I call a pre-conversation. This is a conversation where you tell your kid that a conversation is coming. This isn’t even the conversation, it’s a conversation about the conversation. Why would you do that? The reason you do pre-conversation is so that your child knows that’s not coming out of the left field and your child has some understanding of what’s coming down the pike. You’re going to make the conversation concrete by telling them what it’s going to be about and what the constraints are. So you’re going to say, “Hey, we need to talk. We’ll talk Wednesday night at 7 for about a half-hour. As long as your forthcoming with me we’ll be done talking by then.” You can say what it’s about. You don’t get deep at this time, but they may want you to give them enough information so that they’re clear on what’s coming. “Hey, I want you to think about what you want to talk to me about and I’m going to really listen and I’m going to be there for you and I want you to try to hear me, but we’re going to have a good talk about some things. I’m doing too much for you and it’s not okay. It doesn’t feel good to me and it probably doesn’t feel good to you.” You better follow through with that and be there at that time you say, “Alright, we’re going to talk in 5 minutes. See you in a minute. Sit down and turn off the phones, close the technology.” All that stuff to give each other attention and you say, “Hey, we’re going to have this heart to heart.” And ask them how they feel, ask them what would help them, ask them what they need. Why is it supportive to ask them? If it’s off-putting, ask them if it’s suffocating now. I know so many parents are thinking right now, ‘Yeah, but if I ask them they’re just going to tell me to back off, and then they’re not going to do anything and everything is going to fall apart. Okay, I understand that concern you are probably right. You know the script, you know the pattern. How are you going to break it?
Now you’re having the real heart-to-heart conversation. Oh, and I also want you to ask during this heart-to-heart the next time this happens and things start falling apart, or you’re forgetting things. Like, “Have you missed the bus? So you’re not doing your homework or you get zeros? How do you want me to help?” You need buy-in from them. How should I support you? They’ll say, “Don’t worry. I got it.” No, that’s not going to work. Respond, “How should I support you? Give me something concrete. What do you want me to do?” Open that dialogue and see what is the best way for you to be supportive and see what they say? Then write that down because they’re going to forget they said that. When that happens, it’s on the fridge. And but you are going to feel more positive as a parent when that happens. You’re going to have the evidence in writing on the fridge or in the drawer and you’re going to be able to say, “Look, the last time we talked you told me here’s what you wanted me to do for you. So that’s what we’re doing.”
You’re expending all this energy, it’s causing a rift in the relationship and is not fixing things. So the goal of this conversation isn’t the end-all-be-all answer. It may sound counter-intuitive. So I’m going to reiterate this. Have a heart-to-heart, you’re going to look for solutions, but the goal isn’t those solutions. They may not even work, or they may take a long time to work. If you’re a very rigid person and you’re looking for solutions and resolution, the goal isn’t the solution, the goal of that heart-to-heart conversation is hearing each other. The goal is connection. The goal of building a relationship even though your kid may not feel it doesn’t matter? Your child’s feelings might hurt. Maybe they didn’t get what they want. But they were at least legitimately heard you hurt them. You really try to understand them and you took the time to really understand. “Hey, how do you want me to be supporting you?” And you agreed or didn’t agree to whatever things you guys came up with. But your goal is not so much about those things that you came up with. It’s about just hearing each others experiences. It’s investing into your relationship. Sometimes it’s challenging trying to really hear each other. Melody Beaty says in this quote: “We cannot simultaneously set the boundary and take care of another person’s feelings.”
So in this pendulum, parents, you need to set your boundaries. You need healthy, good, reasonable boundaries where the kids’ boundaries are and push them. They want to know that they’re there although they will never tell you that. So their job is to push the boundaries and find out what they are, why they exist (to learn them to become a good adult to become an adult with a good life who has good boundaries themselves). They want them, and it’s really hard for parents to be like, “Here are my boundaries for you to make a decision.” You may have to change them. Sometimes that’s okay, this stuff is messy. But again, I love this quote: “We can’t simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another person’s feelings.” They may not like the boundary. They don’t have to like the boundary. Once we’re doing what’s in the best long-term interest is progress. When the pendulum swings really far oftentimes, we’re not doing what’s in the best long-term interest, or, we’re in urgent mode trying to put out fires. So anyhow, that’s all I got. My name is Seth, and executive function coach in Boulder, Colorado. I help struggling students navigate this thing called education so they can have great lives. If you haven’t subscribed to my site, I send out a Sunday update with new content every week for helping parents, teachers, and kids. If you like this you can leave a comment below the video on YouTube and give the video a thumbs up. How does the pendulum show up in your life?