I truly love this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This is so very, very true. Our emotions will always carry more weight and stick with us more than words alone. When someone says something important to us, it becomes important because of how we feel when we hear it – not because of the words alone. The emotional response we have to something is what pulls us to it or makes us want to push it away.
This is important to think about in all of the relationships in our lives – how we make others feel when they are around us will draw them towards us or make them want to push us away. Teenagers have not figured this all out yet and often will say or do things that are hurtful, insulting, and frustrating without giving it a second thought. In these situations, it is important for parents to let their teenager know how what they did or what they said made THEM feel. This will help raise their awareness to the fact that what they do impacts others emotionally in addition to allowing parents to express their dissatisfaction about a situation in a way that won’t necessarily turn into a big argument (if you tell your teenager how what they did made you feel, they cannot argue that you did not feel the way you are saying you did – it makes what you are saying less difficult to challenge). This role modeling ongoing will make an impact over time.
On the other side, this quote is true for your teenagers also. They will often forget the content of lectures, the details of the conversations and the explanation of why you have certain rules in place, however, they will not forget how you made them feel during these moments and in your general day-to-day interactions with them. Do you make them feel like everything single thing they do is wrong, do you make them feel like their ideas and visions are stupid or unrealistic, do you make them feel like they are nothing but a pain in your household, do you make them feel like all they do is disappoint you, do you make them feel like they are the cause of all of your problems, do you make them feel like you wish you had another child instead of them OR do you make them feel important, special, valuable and worthy of having love on a daily basis? Remember – one way of making them feel will cause them to pull away or push you away and the other will draw them to you.
I am not suggesting that you will never be angry, frustrated, annoyed and fed up with your teenager. All of these feelings are normal for parents of teenagers and are in response to the challenges faced when raising a teenager. When you do have them, it is okay to acknowledge them, understand why you are having them and communicate them appropriately to your teenager in terms of how what they said or did made you feel and why. But…what you also need to be communicating to them on an ongoing basis is that they are important to you, that they matter and that no matter what, you care about them and want what is best for them. Remember, how they feel will stick with them in a more powerful way than just words being spoken to them.
Children who feel good about themselves and who feel important have more confidence and courage to be out there in the world, doing important things and passing along their value to others. Children who feel awful about themselves, who feel like inconveniences and who do not feel important get lost in the world and don’t rise to their full potential. Or…even worse…they “live down” to the negative feelings and expectations that have been instilled in them.
A great skill for all parents who want to better connect with their teenagers and who want to make sure they are creating those positive feelings is Validation. If you download this free audio program: 3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers, you can have instant access to an audio tutorial where I will walk you though this skill and give you examples of how to start using it with your teenager immediately. It transforms relationships.