Life Lesson From Grumpy Teenagers and a Family Vacation

parenting podcast Sep 10, 2019

I just got back from a week away with my family.  We went to Acadia National Park in Maine which was truly spectacular and breathtaking!  And we drove there. From New Jersey. All 5 of us. My two teenage boys, 17 and 15, and my tween daughter who is 11. 

Now, I would generally describe all of our family vacations as 80/20--80% awesome and 20% awful. That’s how all of them go. Every. Single. Time.

I know this and remind myself before we go on vacation. But even though I know it intellectually, it doesn’t make it any easier when the 20% awfulness is in full swing.

But here’s what I am doing differently--I am breaking the habit of listening to my Inner Critic's mind chatter that says the same thing over and over, every time the Kleinman family dynamics show up. Because here’s what my mind chatter sounds like:

What’s wrong with them?

Why can’t they be more respectful to each other? Or to me?

How do I fix this?

How do I make them stop?

How do I get them to behave the way I want them to? 

What am I doing wrong?

Where am I not being a good enough mom?

And then I get angry, start to lecture them, and then I convince myself that my job is to get them to change and be different. (Rinse and Repeat--over and over and over.) 

This is a conditioned, automatic pattern of thinking for me. Welcome to my Inner Critic's thoughts that are responsible for all of my suffering! The thoughts of worry and what if and the thoughts of when will this be different. The thoughts of why can’t I change this or fix that. 

It’s been my Inner Critic’s theme song for my whole life--Looking to the outside world to match my perfect, ideal picture of the way life is supposed to be. And when it’s not, trying to figure out how to fix and change myself, someone else, or some circumstance in order to feel the way I want to feel. 

(And not to mention the fact that it causes me to get into battles with my kids, gets me twisted inside and, most importantly, has me missing out on how truly extraordinary and blessed my life really is because I’m listening to my inner critic tell me that there’s something wrong, broken or not right.)

That is my default setting.  It was going on way before I even had kids. So before my Inner Critic had kids to focus on, it focused on my business. Or my husband. Or my father. Or my body. It has spewed the same thoughts over and over for forever.

Most people don’t even recognize that they are having the same thoughts over and over and over. Most people continue to try to fix their internal suffering by trying to fix and change their external circumstances. That is putting the cart before the horse.

So on this family trip, I was very focused on mastering my mind around my kids and on deliberately directing my mind to take my kids' behavior less personally. Now of course it’s personal because this is MY family and these are MY kids. But this dynamic in my family is not about ME! If I listen to my Inner Critic blame my kids for my anger and frustration, I am stuck in my anger and frustration! 

I have to be responsible for my own thinking which creates my feelings.  My Inner Critic loves to blame my kids for my anger Aand loves to make me the victim. But then I just get to be the victim of my own Inner Critic mind and that just sucks!

It does not allow me to have a life in which I am feeling joy, calm and peace. It actually leads me to have a life in which no matter what my life looks like because it’s just not good enough.

And I am very familiar with this! Unknowingly, for a long time, this is how I lived a lot of my life. Now that I am breaking the habit of listening to my Inner Critic mind and being very intentional with managing my mind, I am starting to see major changes in my relationship with my kids. 

For years, when I was trying to fix and change them, so they often felt criticized and blamed. And I pulled all of the tricks. Guilt, punishment, anger, lecturing. Nothing changed until I took responsibility for the thoughts in my mind.

I am not suggesting that as a parent, you don’t discipline your kids.  Because of course, that is something we have to do as parents. But my way of being towards my kids, even if I am seeing behaviors that aren’t acceptable, is going to have a lot to do with how my relationship with them goes.

So this trip, I began my day every morning having a clear vision of a relationship with them which was connected and loving. We were in Maine so our days started early. And particularly for my teenage boys, they were not thrilled with waking up in the morning so every morning, they were extra cranky!

And my Inner Critic wanted so badly to say something to try to stop their crankiness. (HA! Which adds to the crankiness!) See, my Inner Critic is a fixer! She wants to fix everyone! Because her logic is that if I can fix them, I can feel the way that I want to feel. And when I can’t fix them, I feel out of control which makes me angry and frustrated with them and then has me try to control them more. You see the vicious cycle here?

So when I began my day visualizing the relationship that I want to have with them, it made me practice letting go of trying to change the things I can’t change. See, the truth is that it is up to my kids to figure out who they are going to be in their lives. I can point out the costs of their grumpiness in their lives but I can’t fix it for them. I can even give consequences. But that won’t fix it either.

It is my job to love them. Period. The only thing a parent can have control over is loving their kids even if they are not acting the way we want them to. When I get sucked into thinking it’s my job to fix and change them so that they match my expectations, this is when I get really angry at them. And then I am completely disconnected from my vision of having a loving and connected relationship with them because my Inner Critic is only focusing on what is wrong.

If I can choose love no matter what, I have to be separated from the thoughts of my Inner Critic. I have to continue to focus on what is going right with them. I have to remember who they really are in their soul. I have to stop being so right about how wrong they are. I have to stop waiting for them to change so that I can be happy.

Because my Inner Critic loves to be right...and make them wrong.  She has led me down that rabbit hole time and time again. Because when they are acting like self-centered teenagers, and I am listening to my Inner Critic try to fix that behavior, I feel like I’m going mad!

So this vacation for me was serious practice ground! It was serious boot camp, my friends! I had to practice over and over watching my Inner Critic mind try to whip me up and surrender the thinking that was going to take me down that rabbit hole. The more I practiced letting go and focusing on what I want instead of what I don’t want, the more I could create feelings of love and connection on purpose. 

When I focused on my vision, my way of being towards them shifted into love and connection. I even found myself joking with them about their bad behavior instead of getting angry about it! And here’s the best part--My thoughts caused me to shift my feelings inside regardless of what the circumstances looked like on the outside.

By managing my thoughts, I changed my feelings even when the circumstances didn’t match what I wanted! And here’s the thing guys….this is the key to life. Managing your mind changes everything. Period.

When you practice thinking on purpose by focusing your mind on what you want, you live in a different future. Your mind starts to come up with solutions to create that future. When you don’t manage your mind, your mind focuses on what is wrong or what you want to fix, change and control, which leads to frustration, anger, anxiety, and sadness. These feelings then cause you to act in ways that keep your life stuck in exactly the same patterns that have existed for forever.

Because even if the circumstances do change, your Inner Critic mind will just find the next thing to fix, change and control. This is why so many people lose weight and then gain it right back or are stuck in the same problems in their relationship or keep finding jobs that continue to be less than satisfying. 

When you’re not managing your mind, you are actually designing a future that looks exactly like your past. And this applies to anything that we say we want in life--feeling good about ourselves, having happy relationships, healthy bodies, successful careers. Anything!

Visualize the future that you want to create as though it is already occurring now. Picture yourself as though you already have exactly what you want. Like it’s already a done deal. And then visit that image every single day. This is how you rewire your mind to start coming up with solutions to make it happen.

You begin to act differently. Your actions start to be in alignment with the life you are designing. And because your actions are what creates your life, your life begins to change. Practicing this consistently over time, you will literally rewire a new mind and create a different life.   

So the bottom line is that the vacation was still 80/20.  That part didn’t change. But what did change was that I actually had an amazing vacation.  I felt connected and loving to my kids. And I wasn’t frustrated and angry. I let the circumstances be what they are. And I chose love and joy no matter what.

I am passionate about helping people to learn exactly how to manage your mind because managing your mind transforms the life you are living. When more and more people can learn to manage their minds, we will be living in a different world!

In order to truly change your life, you need to be willing to think differently from how you feel.

That's why I collected some of my favorite resources and trainings to create an owner's manual for your mind. Want access? Tell us where to send your log-in details! 

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