by Sue Kranz
Like many parents I’ve worked with, when things were at their worst at home, I was anything but a helpful role model to my teens. For some reason, I thought what I said and did to them was more important than how I lived and what I was modelling.
Then I attended a workshop where I was challenged to consider the kind of example I was setting for my teens and children, and when this was likely to inspire them or discourage them.
Was I cheerful, calm, and confident? Did I enjoy my life? Did I create the home I wanted – flowers, music, aesthetics? Did I have friends? Did I entertain at home and go out? Did I have hobbies I enjoyed?
Or was my life a never-ending circus of drama and upset? Was I constantly chasing my tail, trying to play catch-up? Was I stressed, anxious, worried, angry, frustrated, or raging? Was my own life out of control? Was I more focused on sorting my teens out than I was in living my life?
In that moment, I knew my life was the latter – and that something had to change. In the not-too-distant past, I had thrown a heavy rocking chair across the living room, breaking it into pieces, and had thrown a cast iron frying pan through my kitchen wall. I was out of control. So was it really any surprise that my teens were following suit? I was anything but a poster child for the benefits and joys of becoming a responsible adult!
Then my 16-year-old said, “We don’t hear a word you say – but we see everything you do.” That was a very humbling moment. So what exactly were they seeing? It was time to talk less and do more. It was time to figure out what kind of person and parent I wanted to be and what I wanted to model for my family, and start working on that.
The first change was in how I problem solved. I stopped trying to change what everyone else was doing and focused instead on what I could control. When my teens came to me complaining that one of their sisters was coming in their room and stealing their socks, I stopped lecturing and nagging and threatening and instead started buying lock sets for everyone’s room. “Here’s your key. Here’s my key. Yes, I get one, too, because it’s my house. Now it’s up to you to keep your room locked and to look after your key.” Wow. That was easy.
Now how to manage the ongoing mess? In theory, if I’d had one or two children, I could have just put their things in their rooms, but it was more challenging with six of them. I was unwilling to take the time to figure out what belonged to whom, so instead I put a large cardboard box at the bottom of the basement stairs. Then at the end of every day when I tidied up, anything left lying around went into the box. If they wanted it, they knew where to find it.
I started playing my music on the radio. What a relief that was! I brought in lilacs in the spring. Lovely! I had friends over. I went out. I got a life. And I became mindful of what I was doing and what I was modelling.
Need some inspiration? “The Seven Traits of a Role Model” by Cayenne Consulting may be a great place to start!
Want to know more about Choice Theory? Email me nd I’ll send you PDFs of the booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and the handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries. And as always, I welcome your questions.