STRATEGY: Teenage Selfishness
Let’s face it. Teenagers can be pieces of work…
It’s no secret, every school lunch room, every youth worker, every carer feels it.
But how can we banish it quickly?!
Replace No = EXPLAIN
Trigger words… They are all the rage these days.
And one of the ways to send a placid teenager into rage is “No!”
How can we replace “no”?
Why is that?
What else could you (do/use)?
What if I say yes?
Is that your best choice?
The most powerful way we can tackle their no is to take it to it’s logical conclusion. Break down what they have just said and what it actually means.
Let’s say this happens with some food, there are two types of chicken in the fridge, cooked at home and a bbq chicken. We tell our child to eat one of them, and not the other, but our children responds with “No.”
We rephrase their no and say something like… “are you really saying ‘oh, do I have to eat that chicken because you want to eat the other chicken?’…. What is it that you mean then?”
This puts them back in the spotlight, and shows that sometimes our motivations may just be our own selfishness.
Food = dopamine, selfishness
While we’re on food, why is it they want the bbq chicken, the take away, the fried foods, the sugar, the sweets, the feel…good…foods… Ahhhh . . .
A lot of the diets these children are on can be summed up in one word. ME.
Social media, entertainment, junk food, excitement, action, rushing to and fro, boredom, depression, mania. That seems to be the typical cycle over a few days. Why is that?
is turning us
Dopamine is the chemical that gives us energy and motivation to continue living. It pushes us forward, making us eat and repeat activities that ensure our survival. The issue is, our modern world has hijacked these types of systems, and used them to extract our money.
With something as simple as sugar a lot of us are essentially functioning drug addicts, needing their fix or releasing their wrath.
Our children learn to expect this fix everywhere.
Changing the family diet can actually improve a lot of these habits and reactions, by limiting our dopamine releases.
What can we do?
We did this by moving to whole foods. Steaks, chicken breast, veggies, low gi food, brown over white anything (rice, flour, etc).
White flour, breads, pasta, even potatoes create a sudden spike of sugar in our bloodstream, making us feel more hunger and store more fat. This sugar also excites our dopamine receptors, causing a rush of feel good chemicals in our minds.
If our children are experiencing this in an area we are telling them is good, in an area that it isn’t, like video games or social media for 10 hours a day, we are going to have problems down the line. There is a disconnect there that we are unaware of.
How do we change this?!
Eating chicken and veggies 2/3 of the time for just 3 weeks helped us to break the addictions, including screens! There was tiktok, socials, phone, computer, games, saying “i’m bored” every 2 seconds, demanding take away, and the disgusting and cruel ways she would try to get back at us (including physical)!
We worked on this with some personal responsibility.
Responsibility = Empathy.
If someone isn’t taking care of themselves, who will?
People that sit around complaining, feeling like the victim all the time are a drag.
Giving our children increasing responsibilities as they age will help with this, and turn down some of the attitude. It’s hard to be mad at someone, when you know you made the situation worse.
Missing the mark
Personal responsibility teaches children that sometimes our best efforts still leave us short.
Sometimes, we make it impossible to get everything done.
Learning this young teaches us empathy, deep empathy.
The more we experience, the more we can understand.
The more we understand, the more options we have.
Beginning with chores, on some level this imitates our work.
This tells me that we can deploy our empathy when we set these chores.
Imagining you are your boss setting your work day out, ask yourself:
What do they need to do for themselves in the mornings?
What do they need to do for themselves through the day?
What do they need to do for themselves in the afternoon?
What do they need to do for themselves before bed?
What is easy for them to do?
What do they need help with?
How can I structure their chores so that I can support them, at least being available?
From here talk with your child and set some boundaries and consequences to formalise the routine, then write or draw it up somewhere.
For more on routine check these articles out!
Children are Whirlwinds…Planning Out Your Child’s Chores & Routines
Children are Punishing… A Youth Worker’s Complete Parenting Strategy
How To Make Yourself An Authoritative Parent
When it comes to attitude, doing chores to a good standard (not just lazily out of duty) will teach our children to control themselves. They will be annoyed about the chores at times, but by expecting a good attitude from them while they do it, they will need to find their own “why” and their own internal motivations. This is character building, the opposite of the attitude we all experience!
Another opportunity that chores provide us, is exercising some grace.
By simply dropping our expectations and helping when things are difficult we are modelling this behaviour.
We are teaching our children that when things are too much for those around us, there are things we can do to help them out.
Over time, this will help to lessen the attitudes, as we have began tuning their awareness towards interpersonal dynamics. Our children are beginning to realise that they can influence other people’s emotions with their responses.
Tech – Influencers.
But, where do they get their ideas from, how can children know how to do these things?
No doubt, a part of this is pervasive. What’s worse is, it has been shown that we are likely to lie for others before ourselves! Mix this with toxic influences and you’ve got a recipe for a disastrous few years…
When we are sitting in front of the tv, watching what used to be called programming, we are learning how to do these things in our own lives. While watching things, we are actively taking on ways to operate in life and learning what success is (… from fiction…).
When our children are already on edge with their dopamine addictions, it’s no wonder that a lot of times this fight doesn’t seem worth it. Now, if the reasons to dive in and tackle the screen time issue so far aren’t enough… just remember that we copy the things we watch in real life…
The tiktoks, these dangerous actions, the adult scenes our children are enabled to watch.
The influences in the movies, the adult jokes in the ‘children’s’ movies, the filth and destruction on the internet.
People literally called influencers, carrying on like overgrown children to relate to them and extract your cash…
These are the people raising our children, and their dopamine addictions draw them to it, keep them coming back.
I’ll leave you with the words of MTV CEO and founding leader Robert Pittman
“You used to hear the word ‘demographics’ a lot, but now we’re beyond that,” Pittman said. “Now we have psychographics. At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds–we own them. We will reach 90 percent of them in any given household. You’d have to be a social outcast not to watch it. And about 10 or 20 percent of our audience is over 35”Robert Pittman
“Music tends to be a predictor of behavior, and of social values, rather than of entertainment. Music symbolized the culture.”Robert Pittman
So, what do we do?
Do we ignore this issue?
Do we stay uneducated?
Do we mess with it and risk the results?
Our children could respond a million ways to having their favourite drug cut off.
Each child will have different levels of dependence on these feelings, so going too far can give us an adverse reaction, meaning more stress and drama.
In a number of other articles I have suggested ways to combat these impulses.
Here is an article describing how cutting down dopamine worked for my daughter!
Take it slow,
Read the room,
and TAKE A STAND!