How to become a fun mom instead of a nagging mom

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Episode #170 – How to turn off “Task Master mode” and have fun with my 13 year old boy.

Question of the Day:

I’m pretty sure my kid is going to grow up and remember me as a nagging, grumpy task master. He’s barely 13 and our relationship is already on thin ice. On the rare ocassions when I can relax and be silly with him, his whole demeanor changes and we get along great. I know that my attitude effects him in (mostly) in a negative way.

I don’t think of myself as negative, I relax and have fun with friends or co-workers. It’s just when I see my son, I see a walking to-do list. He might be telling me about his day at school but in my head, I hear “Ok, he needs to email the teacher about this and I’ll need to buy poster board and glue sticks.” or I’ll see him laying on the couch and think, “he needs to wash his feet they are gross”, but then he does it and I immediately switch to, “and now he should clean his room and do his laundry.”

I don’t see him as a playmate or someone to have fun with (unless I’m on vacation). Maybe I don’t know how to have fun with a 13 year old boy? But he responds so well when I’m silly and playful, I think we could both enjoy these years more if I could learn how to become a fun mom instead of a nagging mom.

California Supermom

 

Parent Educator Answer: Use your left brain to connect to your right.

Your self awareness is this question is super impressive. You know you have a conditioned response to “mother” him instead of “play” when you see him. You see that he responds well when you are light and playful. You want him to remember you as a fun mom as well as a mom who gets things done so your motivation is there. It sounds like you just aren’t sure how to do it.

How do you look at a kid with incomplete tasks, dirty feet, a messy room and ignore it all and see him as someone to have fun with?

How does one switch their brain from productive Task Master momma to the “relax and play” brain channel?

You can use your left brain to connect to your right.

Play, creativity, and humor are right brain activities. Productive Task Master Momma is a left brain activity so I say we use that left brain in order to access the right.

  1. First is to recognize that this is probably how you have organized your life for the last decade or two. You wake up in the morning with a question in your mind, “What needs to get done?” and then you get to work accomplishing tasks. Once those tasks are complete, you relax and play. This might have worked for you in the past but no adolescent wants to be seen as a walking to-do list.
  2. Give your brain an update. Let it know that you are no longer responsible for his dressing, feeding, personal hygiene, and basic care. He does not represent chores for you to complete, he is a little human looking to share his experiences with you.
  3. Intersperse work with play. The reason you want him to finish all his tasks is so that you can relax and then find some fun. But instead of this work first, relax second habit, think about flowing between work and play in a more relaxed and playful way. Little kids do this naturally, work and play naturally flow with one to another. This is a more natural, less stressful way to live.

 

I had a client whose son was planning his birthday celebration. It started out small, just an outing with a couple of friends. But then he started adding on people, and activities. “First we go bowling, then we meet up with more friends at the mall and take them paint balling, then pizza and a sleepover, etc.” My client was getting stressed out by his enthusiastic planning but instead of getting serious with him, she got silly and joined in. “That sounds awesome, and then we’ll get the whole 7th grade to pile into rented party buses and drive to Disneyland!” Not only did he love her light hearted response, he got the message that he was going overboard with his planning and she didn’t have to be the negative task master.

 

The book, How to Talk so Teens Will Listen, authors Faber and Mazlish call this strategy “Giving them what they want in fantasy.” It helps kids feel understood, while not actually giving in to what they want.

Another strategy this book gives is to use role playing to keep things light. When he’s telling you about school and you are hearing a to-do list in your head, take out a yellow pad of paper and pretend you are his secretary. “Poster board and glue stick from the dollar store. Is there anything else I can do for you sir?”

When you see his dirty feet on the couch you can try on a foreign accent pretending to be a shocked and offended housekeeper or a butler for the British royal family who cannot believe the horror he is witnessing.

One of the nice changes puberty brings to adolescents is the ability to understand sarcasm. Not everyone gets it, so be sure not to offend, but see if this can be a fun way to add silliness to your parenting repertoire. “I know how hard it is for you to relax when your room is messy so I’ll keep this seat warm for you while you go tidy up. Someday you’ll be a chilled out lazy bum like your Momma.” Saying the opposite of reality will throw him off guard.

Try to break out of Task Master mode by Interspersing work with play:

  1. Use role playing
  2. Use sarcasm
  3. Make it a game
  4. Give them what they want in fantasy.

Plan and prepare for playfulness.

You don’t have to be in a light hearted mood, in order to create a light hearted mood.

Picking my kids up at school was not a joyful time. They were grumpy and exhausted and humor wasn’t on anyone’s minds. I would sit in car line and google a joke to tell them when they got into the car or find a silly video I thought they would enjoy. I used my serious left brain, to help all of us shift into a more relaxed, playful state.

 

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in the way of using your left brain to access a more playful state of mind? Our central nervous system.

If our task list triggers a fight or flight response, it’s going to be really hard to change that channel.

The Central Nervous System acts like a traffic signal. Red is the FREEZE response. Yellow is the FIGHT / FLIGHT response. Green is PLAY, RELAX, SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT. HUMOR. SILLINESS. LIGHT HEARTED.

When we get overwhelmed by too many tasks, or believe there are dire consequences for not getting through our to-do list, this inner Task Master isn’t going anywhere.

 

The Top 5 most popular mantras that keep mom’s central nervous systems out of the green, relaxed, play state are:

“If I take my eye off the ball, something important will slip through the cracks.”
“Taking time to rest and play means more work will pile up.”
“If I make light of this situation, my kid won’t understand how important it is.”
“A good mom wouldn’t allow this behavior.”
“If I don’t address this small problem now, bigger problems will arise later.”

 

It takes time, attention, and a skilled life coach to help you let go of these beliefs but the reward for your effort is a more relaxed and playful relationship with YOURSELF, as well as your kiddo.

 

Supermom Power Boost

 

Try this brainstorming activity to try and have more fun with your teenager.

Draw a 2 circle venn diagram (or 3 if you want to include another parent).

Write your name and your kids name in separate circles, then list things that seem fun to each of you. Fun is a feeling, not an activity, but there are certain activities that help encourage us to be present, connected, and playful.

Think of things that you love to do. Times when you said, “That was really fun”. Look for themes like….

Nature, Uncertainty, Risk, Intellectual Stimulation, Physical Activity, Teaching, Exploring, Creating, Collecting, Entertaining, Learning, Strategizing, Performing, Demonstrating Mastery, Playing Games.

Write down some activities you love to do in your circle. Write down things your teen enjoys in his circle, and see if there is any overlap. If you can’t find any, get less specific and more general. Let’s say he likes wrestling and you like yoga, an overlap could be “physical activity”. From there you might discover rock climbing as something new you’d both like to try.

 

Quote of the Day:

“We can control whether we merely endure our days or experience and enjoy them. We can control whether we arrive on our deathbeds feeling like we’ve wasted our time or end up satisfied with how we’ve spent our brief moment in the sun.” Catherine Price in The Power of Fun

 

 

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