Updated: Feb 18
Do you know that by being vulnerable you empower your teenager?
Now this might sound like a paradox but, I want you to imagine about stories that inspire you. Are these not stories of people who share their hearts out, those who tell you the challenges they have had to go through or are going through? Some of which they have overcome and gone on to be successful, others not overcome, and some of which they are still contending with ?
Research evidence shows that leaders (remember as a parent you are a leader) who show and share their vulnerability are more trusted and, this gains them deeper connection with their teens.
How might you show your vulnerability? I have found that accepting, admitting and apologising for mistakes and being accountable to your family especially your teenagers can dramatically enhance relationships. In fact, to restore respect with our teens, these 3As are massively powerful.
Now, the thing is, many of us parents of teens want to be seen in the best light by our teenagers. Unfortunately, most of us in the effort to be seen in the best light go to great strength to show how great we are, how stoic we are and how we never done anything wrong or failed at anything.
We pretend that nothing goes wrong in our world, and even when it is clearly visible that things are going wrong, we ignore and pretend not to feel the pain. In essence we position ourselves as perfect.
Whilst this may be what media and society propagates (only show your best side), when we as parents of teens behave in this manner, we are sending a strong but destroying message that we are perfect. Our teens then interpret this, for them to be acceptable they must be perfect. So, they begin that journey as well, of "nothing is wrong" even when they are evidently suffering.
Sharing our vulnerability can empower our teenagers.
Now, as our teens’ number one influencers, when they look at us and think we have got everything together, they feel the burden of this similar perfection being expected of them. Unfortunately, we all know that no one is perfect and therefore for the teen, this can lead to feelings of incapability - of ever attaining this level of perfection; which only crumbles their self-esteem.
On the other hand, they may see all our glory which is admirable. However, if we don’t share the details of the story behind the glory we do them a disservice. Why? Because we don’t make them aware of the actual mountains and valleys that make that picturesque scene. There is magnificent value in telling the story behind the glory and most often this involves being vulnerable.
Our vulnerability can empower our teenagers and young people.
The courage to be vulnerable is what makes us better parents, because “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences” says Brene' Brown in her book Daring Greatly.
Do you know how inspiring your scars can be?
As I write this I am reminded of the many parents I have met whose teens have committed suicide and many others whose teens are suffering under the mammoth weight of mental health problems. Their stories are heart breaking. "If only I had shared my pain, my vulnerability, myself and showed them they are not alone in the issues they are going through.
Do you think if we as parents or indeed those in the vicinity of these teens can help by being vulnerable enough to share our lived experiences?
Do you think these teens would have identified with us and feel that they too can overcome what they are going through?
Do you think by sharing that we too make mistakes, we too have been rejected, we too have felt not good enough, we too have been bullied, we too have been discriminated against, would help relief them that feeling of loneliness and the feeling that only they are going through that?
Do you think by being vulnerable you would be a buffer for them to not get to the overwhelming boiling point where they tip?
Let us make sharing our vulnerability a norm and be parents that empower our teenagers.
Let’s learn to share or messes unapologetically and present this as a gift to our teens. This is a strong way in which our teens can identify with us. It’s in vulnerability that humans connect at deep levels and it’s in these connections that life lessons are learnt.
See in teenage years, our kids are trying to make out who they are and what they are capable of. They are sensitive to outside suggestions and if you as their influential person don’t take time to tell them that failing and falling is part of succeeding, we risk them not making any attempts to try. or when they try and fail their self-worth is scathed. Sometimes this scathing is irreparable to the extent of dropping into mental health problems even tipping to suicide.
Now let’s even assume you as a parent have never failed at anything, which is unlikely for as Albert Einstein says;
But let’s even pretend you are a person who has never failed. You sure have seen people fail and you know it is part of life. Why not get in the habit and attitude of immersing your young person with stories of people who they admire, who have overcome great struggles and have gone on to succeed?
Telling these encounters can help your young person refocus and realise that they have the strength within them to overcome challenging circumstances they are currently encountering and those that they will encounter in the future because such is life.
The good news book says, nothing is new under the sun. What does that mean? Whatever questions or challenges you are going through, someone else somewhere in the world has been through that or are going through that or will go through that.
This not only assures them that they are not alone, but gives them hope.
On many occasions, all it needs is that story of that one person who has overcome.
Let’s share with our teenagers stories of great people just like us.
Tell them of Thomas Edison who said "I have not failed, I just found 10000 ways how not to do something."
Think Colonel Sanders who was rejected for his KFC recipe hundreds of times before he got his first yes!!
Your vulnerability makes you authentic, makes people feel you and connect with you. Vulnerability s strength, valour, courage.
Society has conditioned us to believe that vulnerability is weakness and is a negative trait. The opposite is true. When we try to hide our vulnerability which is the very nature of being human we expose phoniness by acting arrogantly or distancing and dismissing people because of the fear of them knowing who we truly are.
As parents of teens the one way to influence our teens is to have that deep human connection. Share ourselves as humans, our fears, hopes and true feelings and by doing this we model to them how to be real. This opens the doors for teenagers to learn how to be free, real and themselves.
Strong bonds are formed in these moments, these are moments when your teen admires you and trusts you. And this is not just fluff; there is actual neuroscience evidence that trust which can only result from parents being vulnerable or authentic
I often say that for example to restore respect with your teen, you need to admit, apologise and amend. This process requires being vulnerable.
When was the last time you were vulnerable with your family?
I can tell from experience that I feel more authentic and real when vulnerabilities, both present and those from the past.
It’s such a relief.
I also feel lighter compared to times when I have tried hard to hide and pretend that I am something that I am not.
Vulnerability is valour (boldness). Every time we honour and embrace our vulnerability, we gain self confidence, we build a wholesome character and this makes people around us feel us, trust us, feel one with us and it’s only from this position of power we can inspire our teens.
You know I always argue that parenting is leadership. The other day I was reading findings by researcher Emma Seppala’s. Again I was able to glean benefits of being vulnerable. Emotional bonds are created and one thing I know for sure and you probably know as a parent is when you and your teen are connected they are more motivated and willing to cooperate.
Vulnerability inspires Teens, and teens who are inspired are in the flow and their creativity and cooperation is heightened.
There's less tension and stress at home and calm and peace is maintained
The fear of making mistakes is eliminated as making mistakes is normalised. Remember our teens are human beings not human doings. When we nomalise the idea that vulnerability is ok, we encourage risk taking and bravery and it's from risk taking that new territories are venture and new discoveries are made.
Raising Remarkable Teenagers blog is owned by Angela Karanja the creator of The Strong Bond Blueprint - The Game Changing Program that shows you as a parent of teen how to build strong bonds with your teenager based on honesty and trust, so they actually want to listen to you.
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