Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Lisa Damour, Ph.D., author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood”
LD: The way I laid out my book is that I’m saying that there are seven developmental tasks that teenagers are working their way through as they move from being children to being adults and a lot of what looks like chaos or confusing behavior is actually girls, but teenagers in general making their way along each of these tasks and it’s not a straightforward process.
PI: You do set out these seven transitions as chapter headings and you say early on that it’s pretty normal for adolescent’s, boys or girls to begin pulling away from their parents, making their rooms their refuge, talking less, more one word answers, but that in general, parents are more alright with it when boys do it than when girls do it. Why is that?
LD: Well, this is a really interesting thing and it was one of the real pleasures of researching this book is that I would come across research studies and I thought; oh, my gosh, they just demonstrated empirically something that I’ve intuited or a lot of parents have intuited and what we find when we look at the research is that parents are comfortable giving more privacy to their sons than to their daughters.
There are a few different reasons. One is, I think often parents expect and get a high degree of closeness from their daughters and we just have a lot more comfort as a culture with giving boys more latitude or expecting that boys will be more private and not quite so forthcoming. Those stereotypes may or may not hold up, but when teenage boys become more withdrawn or more private from their parents, they may be talking to other people, I have said this, and I say this in the book, it’s not unusual for me to have parents say, “Oh, you know, he’s a teenage boy. He doesn’t talk to us.” They say it with kind of a smile. But if a teenage girl stops talking to her parents, everybody gets worried. I think that what we need to remember is adolescent’s want privacy, they want distance and space and we should hold the same standards for girls as we do for boys.
I’ve watched as I’ve had conversations with parents individually and in large groups when I point out that teenage girls are actually doing nothing different from what teenage boys are doing, you can see parents relax because then it becomes less about some worrisome rupture in their relationship with their daughter and more about normal development and being fair in terms of what we expect of both girls and boys.
PI: I was trying to work through that myself and I was wondering if it’s that parents think of girls as more vulnerable to calamity than boys or they have specific fears about the big, life-disrupting acts of pregnancy or things like that. Is there something that is specific to young girls that might explain that a little bit better?
LD: I think there can be. I think historically there has been this sense that somehow girls are more vulnerable through adolescence, more bad things can happen, like you say, they could get pregnant, they could get taken advantage of and things like that.
We’re in an interesting moment as parents in that we now have a lot more information about our teenagers than any parents ever have had before because we look at their phones and we look at their digital technology use. I know that that is often advised as a responsible parenting behavior. I think it’s a lot more complicated than that; how much parents should or shouldn’t be monitoring what kids are doing on their phones because a lot of what kids are doing on their phones are the exact same things that we did in locker rooms, we did on the back of the bus, those kinds of conversations that we had with our friends that were irreverent or silly or boundary-pushing, even if our behavior was very much as it should have been.
I will say I think now, there’s a lot more overall anxiety for parents of teenagers. I sometimes think about it almost like a full body CT scan. You know those scans that some physicians will recommend, but a lot of physicians strongly don’t that go looking for any problem anywhere in the body as a preventative measure.
I think, in some ways, what goes on in a kids’ phone is a little bit like a fully body CT scan. It’s a ton of data. A lot of physicians will not recommend a full body CT scan because you end up with all of this information that you never needed to know and that unnecessarily alarms you because there’s not really a problem and only because you went fishing did you find something that might be benign or might have gone away on its own or was never going to turn into a problem and I think that that’s often the experience of the American parent right now.
They have a ton of data on their teenagers and so then they see some probably off-color conversation between two teenagers of any gender and it can really get their alarm bells ringing. What I am trying to constantly remind parents of is we had a lot of those off-color conversations too, but there was no record and no way for our parents to see and so no one became alarmed and they never needed to.
PI: This phrase “unnecessarily alarmed” does come up in your book Untangled in that each chapter goes through what is normal to expect and offers good tips about what to do about it, but then each chapter ends with what to be alert for especially, what’s the more extreme condition in this category.
For example, in the chapter about departing from childhood, you note that the lingering in childhood phase is going on too long or the jumping to adult behaviors is coming too soon and certainly then parents might want to respond. Say more about that in general and in that particular chapter.
LD: Sure. Just to give a broad overview of the book, there are seven developmental strands and in order they are; parting with childhood, joining a new tribe, harnessing emotions, contending with adult authority (which I will tell you was my favorite chapter to write), planning for the future, entering the romantic world and caring for herself. Those chapters go in that order. Those are the chapter headings. In general, that’s the order of the things that are a big deal for teenagers. The first thing is that they pull away from their families and then they need to find friends, then they need to manage all the big emotions they’ve got. At the same time (and I say this in the introduction) these seven developmental strands happen in order and all at once and I think that that’s part of the stress of adolescence.
As I was working on the book trying to come up with a structure that felt right to me, it came as such a useful innovation in the book when I decided that every chapter would end with a section called “When to Worry.” I think the way I think about my book, and I’ve had other people spontaneously describe my book to me is to say, most of the book is saying this super weird thing that your kid does, don’t worry about it, here’s why. There is this other super weird thing your kid does, don’t worry about it, here’s why. There is this annoying thing … but then at the end of every chapter I say okay, now we’re over a line. This is outside the normal range of adolescent behavior.
Chapter 1, Parting with Childhood, there is a lot of stuff that girls and boys will do that is part of their journey to move away from being young to being older, but there are some things in that journey that tell me something isn’t working. Girls who really seem trapped in being little and want to be little and don’t seem to be wanting to move forward towards adulthood, that always raises a flag for girls and boys. A lot of the book applies to boys who are racing ahead; twelve-year-old’s who are trying to dress like 20-year-old’s. Thirteen-year-old’s who are becoming sexually active. That obviously is grounds for concerns as well.
PI: Lisa, I’m interested in asking you to talk a little bit about what is often a key conflict for young girls to be experiencing, young boys too, but it’s special and different with girls and that’s bullying. You write about it a couple of times in different chapters, particularly as it relates to how girls bully first. I’ve always heard that girls tend to bully more psychologically, but there have also been some very disturbing, brutal and even fatal stories of physical bullying between girls. I’m interested in your discussion about distinguishing conflict from bullying without excusing real bullying. Could you talk a little bit about that distinction for a parented to be making?
LD: Sure. To start with the last bit there, one of the things that I think we don’t do enough of is making a distinction between conflict and bullying, like you say. Conflict is kids not getting along. Bullying is when a child is on the receiving end of mistreatment and there is a power differential and they are unable to defend themselves. It’s very much a one-way street.
I think often when kids come home and talk about what’s going on at school, they may talk about conflict, but it sounds like bullying, so they’ll tell what’s being done to them at school. They’re human, they get to do that. Parents can think; oh, my gosh, my child is being bullied at school, but often when parents get in touch with the school, they get a fuller picture. There may be more of a two-way street going on between children. I think it’s very important for us to not overreact to what is conflict because conflict just comes with human beings being in close quarters with one another. That’s a very typical part of any group of people who have to be together all day for nine months a year are going to come into conflict with one another. Bullying, like you say, is much more serious. It’s a systematic and consistent mistreatment of somebody who is helpless.
For what it’s worth, and I think this can’t get said enough, boys, when we look at them, just looking at the data are much more aggressive than girls, both physically and they also are as relationally aggressive. When we talk about girls using relational aggression, things like excluding, eye-rolling, gossiping, things like that. It turns out actually that boys are even with girls in terms of using those same tactics to mistreat one another. Girls, in some ways, have gotten a bad rap around bullying because everybody talks about mean girls and girls are so mean, but when we just look at straight up frequency of unkind behavior, girls are actually kinder to one another than boys are.
There is an interesting phenomenon. I write a monthly column for The New York Times and I wrote about this a while back. The title of the column was something like, “Girls aren’t meaner than boys, it just looks like that.” What we see when we keep digging into the data is that when girls have a fight or a disagreement, the impact is different than when boys have a fight or a disagreement.
When girls are upset, they tend to discuss it. They go find somebody and they want to talk about it and then, when a girl hears that a friend is upset, she engages in what we call vicarious stress. She becomes upset and then she wants to talk about it.
When boys are upset, they tend to distract themselves. If something goes wrong with a friend, it’s much more likely for a boy than a girl that the boy will go home, go to his room, do something on his computer, go outside and shoot hoops, something like that and he keeps it to himself. This lessens the reach of any one “mean” event.
What we see is that when one mean thing happens among some girls, everybody hears about it. When one mean thing happens amongst boys, no one may hear about it. This isn’t necessarily better or worse for boys or girls. Girls get a lot more social support than boys do. I think there are a lot of boys who suffer very quietly, but at the same time, girls can keep things going well past a helpful point by talking and talking and talking whereas boys often feel better faster because they’re not discussing it endlessly.
Once you get into the world of bullying and disagreements among girls and boys, the data gets really interesting really fast.
PI: Classically, if you look into the bullying phenomenon, you often get to the point where [you realize] that the bully must be having issues as well and you write about keeping an eye out for whether your daughter is actually participating and being a bully herself, but I’m curious; is the conversation of the psychology of bullying is also something that you can start to introduce to girls and teens that allow them to be curious and empathetic about this person to understand it and going around that way somehow offers a solution or a crack in the veneer?
LD: That’s an interesting question. Kids who are bullying, there is often some degree of suffering. They’re struggling with something and empathy and developing empathy even from people who seem to have a lot of power and seem to be enjoying it is always a good thing.
When we look at the literature on bullying in terms of how you prevent bullying or stop bullying, what has been found by the people who really do beautiful work on this is that it's the bystanders who have power to make a difference. A child who is being victimized by bullying cannot stop it. That’s the nature of bullying and the bully doesn’t often have a very good reason to stop it. It tends to be working well for the bully. They’re getting a lot of social power and with power comes a degree of wanting to hold onto it, but it’s the bystanders who invariably are present when bullying happens who can effectively intervene.
They can do a few different things. One, and this can be a risky thing and not something kids want to do all the time which is fine, is confront the bully. They can say, “Knock it off. You’re being cruel. Stop it.” Another thing they can do, and this is the more likely thing for kids to do, is try to protect the victim; “You come sit with us. There is plenty of room at our lunch table. We would love to have you.” Another thing you can do as a child who watches bullying is you can go get a grownup or you can alert an adult that that’s what’s happening.
It’s an interesting thing to be both a psychologist and a parent. I’ve tried not to have my profession be too much of a liability to my parenting, which it very much can be, but the work I do has shaped how I talk with my own daughters about bullying and what I will say to them is “Look, if there is a kid who is being mistreated and you’re there to watch it, I don’t care how you feel about that kid, it is on you to do something.” I’ve given them those three options. You either need to tell the person to knock it off, you need to invite that kid to come play with you or you need to let a grownup know what’s going on and that’s non-negotiable. You may not like that kid and that’s fine, you still have this obligation.
Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Brown University scholar and writer Dr. Lara Dotson-Renta, Ph.D.
PI: One of your essay in The Atlantic starts this way: (and I’d like you to comment and say a little bit more about it) “A few months ago, I was walking home from the bus stop with my eldest daughter during the last week of kindergarten. She was lagging behind as usual, picking up sticks and shiny rocks when she casually asked, “Mama, are the kids with browner skin more trouble? Why can some of them not read too well? Why do some people think Spanish is not good?” “In that moment” you write, “the heart that lives in my stomach jumped and a mild nausea set in.” Say more about that.
LDR: Well, kids have a way of bringing focus and clarity and really putting you on the spot and making you think of ways to mediate or translate the world for them. It was evident to me then, as it is to me now, that seven is an age where kids really notice and process everything. No longer is it enough for them to take your word for it as their parent, but they see an observable reality. They are making sense of things as they observe them, as they see them. With that comes questions and conclusions, a different kind of needing from you as a parent in terms of making sense of things.
At the time, we were in a pretty diverse school district that drew from many different parts of town. It had a socioeconomic spectrum and there were many people that were like us, my husband and I, which is to say, a lot of education, we value it highly, a lot of privileged and great life experiences overall, but a lot of kids who came from struggling socioeconomic backgrounds. At the time, she was able to see and observe firsthand the overlap of ethnicity, race and socioeconomics in the classroom. She had students who were first generation immigrants, she had students who were black, she had students who were Latino. She is half Latino on my side.
She started to ask [questions]: “Why do people say things about speaking Spanish that aren’t so nice?” “Why does it seem that the little boy that is getting in trouble is consistently a child of color?” We started to talk about these things in a way that was comprehensible for her, but that was honest to what she is capable of understanding and to her intellect.
PI: How do those conversations go? What was your goal? How do you feel you did?
LDR: You hope as a parent that you do alright. I can’t hope with a seven-year-old to get into the history of this country or socioeconomics or anything like that, but I can say, “Why do you think that is?” or “What do you think is right or wrong?” “What doesn’t make sense to you and why?” We took it piece meal, bit by bit, and once she stopped showing interest or maybe was satisfied, we’re done for that day and we’ll pick it up again if and when it’s an issue.
It’s important for me to say, “It’s alright to notice differences and to question them.” It’s not necessary and actually counterproductive to say, “I don’t see race. I don’t see gender. I don’t see language.” We see those things and to say that we don’t is disingenuous, especially to a child who clearly does. What I say to her is “Okay, we see those things and we acknowledge them and then we move forward. I know this about this person and it’s alright that they’re different in X, Y or Z way” and that includes her. It’s great to acknowledge, it’s perfectly normal to acknowledge that she is different in perspective or what languages she hears at home or in her parents’ background, but you just move forward from that rather than not acknowledging it.
PI: With regard to gender, race and class, what are some other looming issues that your youngsters might have to wrestle with in the future, or maybe already are encountering, that might be helpful to parents that are going to be facing these issues too?
LDR: For us in our particular household, there is the acknowledgement that the experience for our children will be very different from that that each of us had and this is true for both my husband and me.
I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. I was born in Puerto Rico. We had a very cut and dry, easily discernable way of identifying ourselves culturally. I came here when I was in elementary school to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico and I immediately knew that I had to learn English. I was different. My mother was struggling with the language particularly. I navigated my childhood in a very distinct cultural context where I was very comfortable and very at home saying this is what I am.
My husband grew up speaking English, a Southern California American household, a protestant family and the context was very different.
Our daughters will be navigating both of those identities and they will claim both mama and daddy in very different ways and so what we try to do is navigate and help our kids mediate. They don’t have to choose. They can feel at home in both sides of their families. Also, with humility accept that I don’t fully understand their experience in the same way. My husband has to accept that he never grew up a little girl and he never had to navigate two cultures; hearing mama speak one language to you while daddy speaks another.
We’re making the path as we go with them in full recognition that what they think of as normative in their childhood will be very different than our childhood, both my husband and I separately.
PI: It’s interesting. One of my questions was the inverse of that. I haven’t had children, but I’ve helped parent some and I like to say I survived my own childhood. Certainly, parents bring the things that they did struggle with; struggling with understanding, growing up into their game plan for raising their own kids. You were talking about what was different for you and you have to acknowledge that and work with that, but what are some things that are coming up for you as a parent from your own childhood that you particularly want your kids to master that does feel familiar or does seem universal to the growing up years?
LDR: I think that there are some things about growing up specifically that are universal that you feel like as a mother you have some of this. “I’m going to tackle this in the best way I know how because I remember what it’s like to be a girl at a certain age or at a certain point in life.”
I’m reminded as I watch, particularly my eldest (my youngest is four) who is seven going on eight. Seven going on eight is an age where you begin to leave early childhood behind and you start to navigate a big of a more complicated social world. I had forgotten, but quickly began to remember how complicated that social environment of girls can be. There are codes to navigate and groups begin to form and there are all of these things that you become aware of around seven, eight, nine years old that you can sense but don’t fully understand, things like image and popularity and what is and is not considered weird or cool or fun.
As I watch my eldest begin to observe and experience these things and manage them and ask questions about them, you start to remember what it was like yourself to be seven, eight years old. You have to dig back, dig deep and remember how you were feeling then and what made me feel supported and seen and what didn’t and try to encourage the things that you know were helpful for you while setting aside those that weren’t.
You have to acknowledge however that your child is not you. My daughter and I are very alike in some ways and very different in other ways. Trying to adapt and come up with new methods of helping her manager her world, I have to acknowledge that she is a different entity.
PI: We’ve talked with other guests about parenting challenges. The issue that has come up is this idea that you’re touching on here which is the exploration of your psyche, your own childhood. It seems like that you aren’t intimidated by that or find that fascinating to think back and “dig back” as you just said.
LDR: I will definitely say, particularly as you watch your kids get older and enter different phases of their young lives, it does, to some degree, require you to look back at yourself and your own childhood and how that has impacted the adult that you’ve become. You can question and think about what things good and bad, what lessons or even what baggage that you bring with you to parenthood and how you can use that to help your children grow up and productively separate that and understand that whatever baggage you might have to deal with, it’s not your children’s to bare. It’s your own issue. Don’t bring it to your children. Start something fresh.
Being very candid, I came from an environment where my parents did not have a good relationship and my mother wasn’t particularly empowered when I was a child and I had to teach myself a lot of things about independence and about self-esteem. I had to come to that late and I had to watch my mother come to it very late in her middle age and claim these things after my parents divorced.
Looking at my children who do have two supportive parents who have a positive relationship, they already have an experience that I never navigated. That’s a blessing, but it’s also bitter-sweet because I never experienced it and, to some degree, I don’t understand it. I’m able to take a step back and realize that my children are in a good place in a number of aspects of their lives, let me not bring my issues or my concerns and my baggage to them.
That comes to bare in things like independence because my mom might not necessarily have had the support that she needed. She was incredibly protective of me. Sometimes I have to take a step back and say alright, even though my instinct is to want to keep my kids near me in a cocoon, I have to let them be sometimes and I have to take that step back and say, the hyper worrying is mine, so I’m going to let them play in the yard on their own and watch from afar rather than getting in the middle of it and trying to mediate everything that they do, I’m going to give them that space because that’s theirs. This isn’t me. You navigate that and you try to find that balance between letting them fly and letting them experience what they need to experience and bringing to bare something that might be helpful for them from your own experience.
Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles Talks with Dr. Michele Coleman, Ph.D., Founder/CEO
of The Attachment Healing Center in New Mexico.
PI: Now you mentioned earlier that psychologists will define a certain level of this independence behavior, detachment behavior or spending more time in their rooms, closing the door, getting less verbal with their parents; one word answers like, “What happened in school today?” “Ah, nothing much,” as an acceptable or reasonable part of teenage development. My question to you is do you buy any of that or is it a matter of degree in terms of identifying when do you let the door slam shut between you and that child, how much space do you give them (“I need my space!”) versus working on this ongoing communication, support, understanding, empathy?
MC: The population I serve is a population that didn’t get a lot of that positive mirroring when they were children. For all kids, it’s really important to be seen. I think a lot of times teens want to pull away from their parents because their parents are telling them how to live, what they did was wrong, full of negativity and putdowns; “Why are you listening to that music? That music is awful.” We’re not really working hard to join their world; “Tell me about your world. What’s going on? What happened today?”
I was at the gem show gone for four days. Last night, my son was camped out on the floor of my office and filled me with everything that happened while I was gone. He’s going to be 15 in a couple of months, so that’s a really big deal. He wants me to know. He wants me to know everything. There is a girl he wants to ask out for Valentine’s Day; “Mom, how do I do that? What do I say?” I listen to his music. He gets to share new music with me. Something happens on the bus on the way to school or happens with a peer or a girl breaks his heart, he comes home and he tells me about it. I listen to him. I don’t tell him how to feel. I don’t tell him what to do. I listen to him; “Wow, that was hard! Thank you for sharing that with me.”
PI: Let me interrupt because some parents listening to this right now are swooning wishing that they had that too. We’ve talked about this a little bit, but in your case, in a nutshell, what allowed this to happen? Is it all this work that you’ve been describing?
MC: Oh yes, absolutely. He knows I see him, I’m not going to judge him, I’m not going to put him down, I’m going to challenge him, I’m going to call him higher to be his best, but it’s that attunement piece that you asked about. He shares his world with me because I don’t judge it.
PI: How many years have you had him?
MC: Three years, almost three and a half now.
PI: And starting in a difficult place?
MC: [laughs] The insight I had a couple of weeks ago, I told my partner. Paul, you’ve got to know we were down on our knees; “Oh my god! I can’t do this! How are we going to get through this?” He physically attacked me one day and I think the only reason that I’m still here to tell the story is because I grew up in the inner city and when he physically attacked me, I attacked back and it shocked him that I didn’t cower. I stood up; “Excuse me?” and that gave my partner a chance to come in and say, “Call the police.” I said, “Okay” and he calmed down. Immediately he caught himself.
PI: Was this fairly recently?
MC: That was three months ago, so yes, it was fairly recently. He was at a place where his trauma was coming up; seeing domestic violence in his birth home. That was coming up and so it reenacted. He attacked me and I was helping him with his math homework, but it was also what he was telling himself then; “I’m stupid. I can’t.” He is hiding the shame from himself and he projects it on me, but he was able to shift that. How do I do that? I attune to him, I hear him, I see him, I reflect that back; “Is that really how you want to show up?” It’s been a lot of work over the past three and a half years to be able to have him want me in his world.
PI: It strikes me that status quo is probably two steps forward, one step back.
PI: It doesn’t fall into this sunny field where everything is good 100% of the time.
MC: No, and yet you stay grounded, you use your tools, you stay present, we process that, we get through that, he apologizes, he learns from it, his brain changes and we move forward and I still love him. He’s still my son. He’s going to be okay.
PI: And that’s true in our adult partner relationships too when you get right down to it, right?
MC: Yes. The attachment cycle is we connect, we do things, we play games, we go to dinner, we go to the movies, we play cards, we talk, we connect. All those things connect us.
Then, the next part of the cycle is disruption. Something is going to happen to disrupt the attachment cycle; “You were late picking me up.” “You were late for dinner.” “You said you were going to do and you didn’t follow through.” These are natural disruptions.
The next part of the attachment cycle is the most important. When I make a mistake, when I disrupt the connection, I must repair and I come in and take 100% ownership that that was wrong. “I should not have done that. I apologize. I’m going to work on that going forward.” Then, you have to follow through with actions because otherwise, it’s just words. Then we can connect again, but disruption is a natural part of the attachment cycle.
PI: Well, it’s a natural part of life because really what you’re trying to do is offer tools for coping. Your website says, “We all wish for lives without trauma or difficulty, but even if our lives contain such things, we can deal with them. To me, the truth is that every life contains such things certainly, so the skills and awareness is that you’re giving youngsters are really supposed to help them no matter what the trauma or difficulty.
MC: Absolutely, and then they get to move forward with those skills because life is going to continue to happen.
PI: You’re starting with the things that are present that are identifiable, but then it becomes more of an umbrella approach, not what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens to us.
MC: Yes, how do I learn? How do I heal? How do I grow through this? How do I have relationships in a healthy way?
PI: We started talking about specific things that probably seem to be part of the agenda of young girls growing up, and you’ve touched on some of these, but let’s parse it out a little more specifically about sexuality and puberty and sexual relations. You also mentioned that sexual abuse is in the cards for some of these young people that are at the core of your work. What are some specific things or application of these tools that are really relevant to those sorts of groundbreaking and ground-shaking issues for youngsters, young girls especially?
MC: A lot of times when young girls are out in the world looking for love in all the wrong places as we say, they’re looking for validation. I said to my class this morning, and our parents didn’t realize this when they were raising us, but the brain doesn’t change with focus on the negative. The brain changes with a focus on the positive. Are we, as parents, scanning for our teenage daughters are doing well, what they did right? Are we making it big? Are we making that a big issue; “Oh, I’m so pleased [with you]”?
My daughter, my youngest daughter who is 25 this year in June, she was ditching school when she was in high school, all the things I said we see with teenagers. She was bringing home bad grades, I was getting emails from teachers, she was just doing awful. Traditionally, she would bring home an F or a progress report, I’d see how awful it was and she would get a lecture from me. I could go on for days about that F and how she’s doing in school.
One day in the middle of that, I said to myself, “Wait a minute, if I’m going to get more of what I focus on, I need to stop focusing on the Fs. I need to stop making that a big deal. When she brings home a B or C even, stop and make that a big deal. When I started, she brought home a passing grade. It was huge. It was a big deal; “Wow! Thank you so much! This tells me you’re studying at night, you’re making the choice to stay in class, you’re not ditching.” All the things I said in the negative, I turned it to the positive because she had to be making those choices to bring that grade home.
Kids aren’t going to do something really big initially. It’s like sticking your toe in the water. They’re going to do it small first. We have to scan for when they’re doing it well and then make those small things big. Go on and on and on. I say to parents, “Even if you have to repeat yourself, repeat yourself! It feels good! They’re getting dopamine, they’re feeling good, they’re getting oxytocin in the relationship. This is what you want. This is how they come to care about what it is you care about.
Then she started getting good grades and she actually graduated high school on time. I was shocked.
PI: A devils’ advocate question that I’m sure you’re aware of when you hear people describe this. They tend to say, “Now you’re overdoing it,” or “You’re giving credit for attendance or for just showing up.” There is some value in trying to establish these levels of success even. What would you say to that person?
MC: What is it you tell me your daughter is doing? She’s ditching school, she’s making choices you don’t want her to make. I’m sorry. Is that important to you? Are you willing to do something different? Is what you’ve been doing up until now working? That’s what I usually say because I’m not going to fight.
So, either you’re a customer and you’re motivated to do something differently or you’re not. Why is she going looking for love in all the wrong places? Because she’s not getting it at home. Yes, I hear people say, “I’m not going to praise you for what you should be doing anyway.” Okay, but it’s important to me that she graduates high school and goes to college. This is important to me because I know it’s going to be important to her down the road. This is her life. I’m going to start where she is. Meet them where they are.