I’m excited to share some relationship ideas via the I Am Mom summit starting today.  (If you haven’t registered, get on over HERE to get yourself situated…).  I think my video will be up during the 1:00 hour today, Mountain Standard time…maybe near the end of the hour.  My parents will present at 10:00 MST so be sure to tune in then.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy to record that thing!  I’m so technologically challenged it was tricky to figure out how to record myself, and stuff like that is SO far out of my comfort zone.  I think it’s weird how it was so awkward even to have Claire take a headshot for me let alone record myself talking.  We live in a generation where everyone (well, maybe the younger generation) is so comfortable being in front of a camera (selfies, vlogs, etc.) and I am just not.

But that recording is DONE, and I really am excited to share the ideas I have recorded there.  And guess what?  I even figured out how to share some pictures throughout the video along with my stories.  Maybe I’m missing my calling in the tech industry.  Ha!  I let it all hang out and just went for it. There’s too much to share to be so shy about recording your dang self, so just bear with me on that one.

You know how when you prepare stuff like that you learn and think about so many things along the way? I’m so grateful for that opportunity to really think about relationships.  Because there’s no end to workin on those things you know?

There are a few things I wish I could go back and splice in to what I am sharing in that summit, so I’m adding them here.  I’d love any input people have.  One thing I wished during that recording was that I had all of you blog readers there having a discussion with me, because I consider many of you good friends…you could have all added so much!  There are so many great ideas out there that you have shared over the years.  I love discussions about this stuff.  So please speak up in the comment section if you have things to add, things you didn’t agree with, things I didn’t touch on that should be brought up.  Because as we all know, relationships matter!  And twenty minutes on a little video obviously can’t cover everything.

We can learn SO MUCH from each other.

Ok, so the things I wish I could add to my segment:

1) When I talk about how we need to respect our kids, I would have loved to add how important it is to apologize once in a while.  We all make mistakes.  When they realize we’re human too, and we recognize our own mistakes and can talk about them, they’re going to be much more apt to come to us with theirs.

2)  After the part where I give three ways to nurture connection, I talk about disconnecting and I kind of skim over it.  I was running out of time.  And although it seems counterintuitive, I think it’s so important to disconnect with in teenagers to some degree…and also pre-teens as they morph into those confusing teens.  I talk about disconnecting from fighting our kids’ battles (which is so tough to do! We want them to succeed so much that sometimes we don’t let them fail).  They need to fight their own battles to develop their own strength so we’ve got to back off.

I love the story of the ecosystem (Biosphere) that scientists created in the 80s and 90s (I think it was to help research how it would be to create sustainable life in space, but I’m not altogether positive about that).  It was a perfect environment with healthy vegetation and rich soil. But the trees couldn’t seem to mature they way they had hoped.  After some research, they realized the problem was that they didn’t have wind.  Trees need wind to help firm up their roots and to make them stronger.  (I wrote a little about a poem that goes along with that thought back HERE.)

Love that analogy to raising kids…that “wind” or all the trials that come their way is essential to help them to forge their own ways and build their own foundations.  So we have to disconnect from fighting for them.

3)  We also have to disconnect emotionally in some ways.  When one of my teenage girls come in with a drama story about what’s going on with her friends I need to disconnect my knee-jerk reactions to the craziness they’re spilling out.  It’s so easy to jump in and take sides or offer advice or gawk at something that we just can’t believe.  But we need to back off and let them know we have confidence that they can figure it out.

One of my girls has been coming home so sad because of friends lately.  I internalize that sadness, because I am her mother.  I carry it heavily around with me.  When, in reality, that daughter of mine just needed a little space and time and within an hour is JUST FINE.  But there I am still wringing my hands in worry.  I need to disconnect myself from that.  They can handle this if we’re not so quick to try to carry them.  I love what a speaker mentioned one time:  our kids have lots of “happiness boxes” and THEY need to carry them, not us.  If we are carrying their happiness they won’t learn to carry it themselves.  They’ll think others are in charge of their happiness when really, the only person who can really make them happy is THEM.  Yes, we can be a support, but we have to realize we can’t fix everything, nor should we try.

One of my other daughters tends to get so sullen and dark at times.  Oh boy do I ever want to just get in there and fix that girl…”what is wrong??”  “How can I help??”  But guess what I’ve realized?  SHE’S A TEENAGER!  And sometimes teenagers are sullen.  Sure she needs love and maybe I should do the good ol’ “talents on fingertip” thing with her to make her glow a little brighter sometimes, but hopefully she’ll learn that that sullenness doesn’t help anyone and she’ll grow out of it.

4) We have to disconnect from making decisions for them.  Oh boy.  The teenage years are one time when I wish I could just take that free-agency away just for a little.  Boy to I ever wish I could make some of their decisions for them!  But that is the whole point of learning to build their own foundation: it is made on their own decisions.  Yes, some will be awful ones.  And some will be grand.  And we just have to roll with the punches.

And we have to start early.

I keep thinking of a little story from church a couple weeks ago.  It was Fast Sunday (in our religion we fast for two meals the first Sunday of the month…more about that HERE).  Lucy came up to me in the hallway at church and asked if she could please take a drink from the drinking fountain.  She had a cold sore and she was sure that drink would make that cold sore better.

I looked her in the eyes, held her chin in my hands and told her that was up to her.  If she thought it would help, then go for it.  She was old enough to make that decision herself.  And instead of skipping off and deciding to drink, her whole face clouded up.  “I can’t make that decision mom!” she wailed.  Oh boy.  We have some work to do in letting our kids make their own decisions!  I promised that I wouldn’t be mad either way (maybe that’s what she was nervous about, and I need to do better and not connecting my emotion with their decisions…that’s a huge deal too) and I prodded her to just make that choice.  So she took a drink.  And guess what?  She did feel better.  And all was well.  And I don’t know if that little thing is going to lead to her casting her whole fasting to the wind or make her want to do it more, but at this point it needs to be her decision come what may.  She’s old enough.  And she’s not even a teenager yet!  Ha!

I love what my friend told me one time about raising teenagers: we just sometimes have to be spectators watching the waves.  We don’t have to dive in and correct.  Our job, when kids morph into the teenage years (at least the older ones) is just to love them to pieces and disconnect the emotions that so naturally come with what they do.  Oh, you decided to turn your hair pink?  If you like it, I like it.  You lost your retainers?  Dang, here’s the phone number for the orthodontist to figure that out.  Those friends you’re hanging out with are making you feel intimidated and self-conscious?  What do you think could fix that?  Turning things over to them and being their best cheerleaders is so important for teenagers.

And also so dang hard for parents.

Grace and Claire, although best of friends, came home in a huge huffy fight the other night.  Teenage girls are crazy.  Maybe I should have included that in my summit talk…

But I just watched those waves.  And guess what?  Within a half an hour they were best friends again.  The storm blew over.  What do you know?!?

Ok, that’s all for today…although I could go on and on.  This isn’t even touching the thoughts about what to do when teenagers are so far away emotionally that you can hardly reach them despite your very most valiant efforts, or when they’re alternately so close that their emotions and worries and anxiety are taking over your life and you know both of you really need help.  I’ve talked to moms in both those situations lately and I want to send some serious love to moms who are in the trenches with so many tough, dark struggles so unique and varying.

But no matter where you are in your parenting, toddlers or teenagers or adults, hopefully the I Am Mom summit will embolden you to go forward with new ideas and courage to help you know that you’re not alone in this challenging, amazing, sometimes painfully harrowing yet beautifully rewarding thing we call motherhood. 

Sending lots of love out today!

Go hug those awesome teenagers!

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  1. I love how well you explain emotions and actions. Parenting is tough stuff! I love that part of loving them in their choices and letting them own up and invest in themselves by being soley invested in the decisions they make.

  2. This is great. Since my kids were just little, I always made it a point to apologize to them when I felt I didn't handle something in the best way. I feel it has helped them to see I respect them. It has taught them it's okay to make mistakes and apologize and try to be better. I love the part about letting your kids carry their own happiness. So important. I also love the part about watching the waves. I'm watching a lot of waves and as much as I love the ocean and watching waves, this has been dang hard. But I remind myself that it was through experience that I gained my own knowledge, strength, and testimony. We really do need the winds. Mothers like to protect and it's easy to want to take away the challenges our kids face, but I know that's how they grow. Thanks for your example and great insight, Shawni.

  3. Thanks so much for all your ideas. I am in the tween stage with my oldest and I am already struggling. She is very emotional and I struggle to not be sucked into the emotion of it. Disconnecting is hard. But again, thank you for your advice. I will really take it on. If you ever do get a chance to write a post about being in the trenches of teenage hood, especially the emotion side of it, I know it would help me and others so much.
    Thank you for your example and light xo

    1. I feel like I'm so in the middle of those emotions right now with so many of my girls..once I figure it out I'll share. Ha! The trouble is that each one is so different. The best thing that is working for me right now is letting them know I trust them with the decisions they're making (I really do, they have proven that they are smart enough to make some pretty good decisions) and build them up any way I can. I do feel like it's so important to build on things other than their appearances. It drives me so crazy how that is all instagram is based around, but that's a post for another day! Sending love and good luck vibes to watch those waves of emotion in your neck of the woods!

  4. Oh darn I completely forgot about Mom Summit today. Luckily I can go back and watch. In fact I should watch yours right this minute because every single thing you said in this post is on my mind now. I will have two college kids this fall and I am having such a hard time transitioning from overbearing boss to cheerleader- heck I'd like to even just be more of a coach but I'm stuck in the I'll just do it for you role. To help me I have decided to cut three statements from my vocabulary this year. 1. Why didn't you…? 2.You should have….? and 3.What were you thinking…? All three of those are so counter productive for my kids. Instead I will start using 1. What could you have done differently or what can you do different next time? 2. Boy that's tough. How did that make you feel when…..? and 3.I have confidence that you can figure out what/how/when to do…. I'm so glad I am not alone in this process. XO

    1. Love these simple changes to vocabulary! Handing over the reins to let them figure things out. I've found that my kids really do care what I think (who would have thought, after all those years I figured they were ignoring me!) so I'm trying to be extra careful with my vocabulary too as I back away from carrying their happiness and quit inserting my opinions. Not easy and I'm glad I'm not alone either!

  5. Such a good essay on parenting!

    A very wise older parent told me early on that if I were to be a "perfect parent" (which doesn't exist), then I would meet all of my child's needs and they would never have any motivation to grow up. That helped me ease up on myself.

    This whole teenage process – my son is the same age as Max – is "cutting the emotional umbilical cord". They are trying out new things and also experimenting with rebellion i.e., pink hair. I had to decide which battles I wanted to fight and which were causing no one any harm. Tattoos – not while you are underage. Pink hair – go for it.

    I also had to realize that this is my son's life and not mine…to think about when I'm reacting based on my ego versus his living a life that is based on his decisions. The biggie was when he said he didn't want to go to college. I was able to say, "let me think about it." Later I went back calmly and could really listen to his reasons. I did tell him he needed to learn a skill that would support him and possibly a family so he went to trade school and is very happy in his life right now.

    Drama takes SO MUCH ENERGY….and as I get older, I view my energy as my most precious resource. Do I want to go "spend my energy coins" on whatever the situation is? Sometimes I do and sometimes I realize that it is better for me to stay out. Also the more I jump into the drama situations, the more I am sending my child the message that I don't trust him to resolve it on his own. I am making him co-dependent and undermining the skills I want him to learn. This is HARD as I want to protect my "baby."

    Final thought of these many thoughts!! Responding rather than reacting. Knee-jerk reactions don't allow our brains any time to think. We are usually basing our reaction entirely on emotion or historical situations. If I can just pause long enough to take a deep breath and try to get some perspective, I can respond. And ha, ha, ha – I am still learning to do this! What I want is to keep the lines of communication open and for my son to view me as a trustworthy person in whom to confide. This means being calm and not reactionary.

    This parenting gig is SO CHALLENGING but I have grown so much as a person.

    Love and hugs for a great topic

    1. Love every thought, especially how much energy drama takes 🙂 And I so agree that if we can take some time before reacting to a situation it is so beneficial. Thank you so much for your wise input!

  6. I Loved all that you said during the I Am Mom Summit! You are such a deliberate mother and person and I learned so much from you! My oldest is 10 so we're nearing these teenage years and I could use all the advice and tips to ease into this new stage. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! You are gifted with words and did a wonderful job!

    Also – I hate talking into the camera as well! I don't know how vloggers and others do it 😉

  7. I loved, loved, loved your video on the I am Mom Summit! It was exactly what my mother heart needed to hear. I have been trying to connect with my teenage sons better and you had some wonderful tips and advice. I am your newest fan! Thank you so much for your insight and experience. You did an outstanding job!

  8. I LOVED your video today and shared it on my Instagram today. I feel like I am your biggest fan here in Toronto Ontario Canada, and I loved seeing your parents speak here in November and I had your mom sign your Mother's book of Secrets, which has been a staple for me. Last Tuesday we had the sister missionaries over and I almost fell off my chair when Sister Price said she was friends with your Grace!!! Thanks for all your good influence and amazing content. It's got me through these last 10 years of motherhood!

  9. In my parenting life, #4 and #1 are so, so related. I need to let them make their own choices, because they need to experience making the wrong choices while they're still at home and they aren't on their own with the consequences. One of the most impactful things I ever read about parenting was one seemingly simple sentence, but it has stuck with me ever since: "The most important job we have as parents is to teach our children to fail well." But can there be anything harder than standing by and LETTING our children fail?!

    Which circles back to #1 – showing them how to fail gracefully. Because heaven knows I am so far from perfect, and it's important to let my kids see that! I think we fear that our kids won't respect us as much, because we want them to think that we're perfect…but in reality, they need to see our humanity and realize that they love and respect us with all of our flaws. That's what helps them feel safe in accepting their own flawed selves – and being able to accept their own flaws is so, so important for teenagers, especially today, when they feel so much pressure to be "Instaperfect" (as my girls call it!).

    1. I agree. And that is an awesome parenting quote you shared. It is so tough to let them fail, but if we LET them "fail well" and learn from it, it can make such a huge positive impact on them!

  10. My oldest just turned 13 and he is starting to be so up and down with his emotions. I really enjoyed your talk and your extra insights. I've had to apologize a couple times recently, and it's so hard, but I am still learning how to be a parent, even after 13 years. I think he needs to know that I'm still working on improving when I ask him to do things better.

    1. Good luck with that Richelle! It's tough business but I do love that we can "start over" and that they can know we're human too. We all need some second chances once in a while!

  11. Thank you for sharing both your parenting ideas and struggles! It makes us all feel like we aren’t alone in these trenches. There is a podcast that I came across recently that has helped more than any other thing I’ve ever tried so I thought I’d share.

    It’s called “Light The Fight.” It’s a podcast done by Heidi Swapp who lost her teenage son to suicide and a family therapist, David Kaslowski.

    It is hands down the best tool I have ever come across for parenting. The first 4 episodes are especially important but if you listen to those you’ll be hooked and will definitely want to hear more!

    This podcast is good for any parent wanting a deeper connection with their child but especially good for those dealing with harder struggles such as depression.

    You will laugh, you will cry but more importantly, you will come away with amazing tools that work!

    1. Thank you for the tip, I will have to check into that! Heidi Swapp is a long-lost friend so I'm extra interested in that one!

  12. Hey so is it too late to be able to watch or listen to the I am Mom Summit? I didn't know about it, but this seems to be exactly what I need right now to help me with mothering.

    1. Awe I'm so glad! You can't listen to the whole thing on demand any more (I don't think) but if you follow I Am Mom summit on Instagram I think they are going to repost talks one by one occasionally. I hope because I missed a couple I really wanted to hear as well!

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