I Treated my Teen like a Toddler and it Worked!
Authored by Troop on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 12:00 AM
Before I had my fourth child, we had our after-school routine down. The kids would come home, grab a snack, and then sit at the counter and do their homework while I sweetly micromanaged them through it. Once the babe was born, I didn't have the time or the energy to do that anymore. And it turns out, even without my constant nagging, my children didn't fall apart. My son nailed seventh grade. Honor roll student. Mostly A's and a couple of B's.
Last year, first term, honor roll again. But towards the middle of the second term, his grades started going from A's and B's to B's and C's... and I think there was even a D. So, like any good parent, the first thing I did was confiscate the cell phone "until your grades are back up". That would force him right back to where we want him, right? Nope. Three, four weeks went by...and still Cs.
The only thing left was his social life. I knew if I wanted to really see results, I would have to also bring that privilege to a screeching halt. If that wouldn't get me (I mean him) some A's, I didn't know what would. With that, coupled with constant nagging, he managed to get his grades up last minute (literally) and made the honor roll yet again!
Next quarter, at four weeks in, he was back to mostly C's.
Wasn't he living in constant fear of me removing all sources of happiness from his life? Yep, he was, but he didn't know what to do about it.
On the way home from a Futsal game, I decided we needed to have a real heart to heart about grades. Initially he gave me the, "I don't know," answer, but then, after a few minutes, he opened up.
"Mom, I am having a really hard time with school. I don't how to explain it, but I feel nervous and sick to my stomach most of the day, and when I start taking a test, I get so stressed out that I am going to do bad and my phone will be taken away, my mind goes blank." He also said, "I feel tired all of the time, and I can't focus."
This is coming from a kid who, when he was four years old, I gave him a couple of canisters of play dough and he didn't move from his chair for six hours. Not even to go to the bathroom. No exaggeration. He doesn't have concentration issues. Or at least he had not, up to this point.
It hit me.
Because I know my toddler can't feed himself, I am vigilant—borderline obsessive—about insuring he is nourished. The first thing I do in the morning is get him a drink and good meal. I jump through hoops to make sure he's getting his fruits and veggies. I wouldn't conceive of going more than a few hours without offering food or drink. And there is no way I wouldn't pack a mini buffet before heading to the park, church, or anywhere we go for longer than a few minutes. Then there's sleep. I mean, I live and breathe by nap and bedtime. What my son was describing to me was textbook anxiety, but because I had been doing a ton of my own research on nutrition lately, I had a thought: "What is he eating, and what is he not eating? What is he drinking or not drinking? When is he sleeping? And what things in his environment can we change before we chalk all of this up to anxiety?
As parents, we know the repercussions of a hungry and tired baby are tantrums and meltdowns.
When a 14 year old is tired and hungry (for good food), do we know the repercussions are anxiety, stress, B's and C's, poor decision making, lack of focus, anger, mood swings?
Later in the week, when the timing was right, my son and I sat down and talked about the importance of a good breakfast. I promised him if he wakes up on time, I would make him the breakfast of his choice (within reason). We talked about how water is fuel to our brain and facilitates concentration, and how getting too little of it is the main culprit of fatigue. And we talked about basic life skills, study skills, and organizational skills, and put a plan in place.
Our new morning routine now involves a big glass of water with a daily essential and an Omega 3 with essential oils. I make him a breakfast with a protein, carb, and fat, and send him off to school with a sack lunch and a bottle of water. I am fully aware he is probably only eating half of his sandwich and is probably trading out his apple for some Oreos, but I'm not worried about that because I know he got a good breakfast, he'll get a good dinner, and he is supplementing to make up where his diet lacks.
I also stopped threatening to take away his cell phone (which is for another post, another day). We now just manage the times he can have it. He can have after school up until dinner as long as grades are up. No phones in bedrooms!
After two months, there was significant improvement. I asked him on a scale of 1-5 how much better is his anxiety. He said "4". "On a scale of 1-5 how much less stressed are you?" He said "5". "How much happier do you feel?" "5". He said he very rarely feels hungry or tired at school, and his anxiousness is primarily around tests (uh normal). From my perspective, his mood is stable, and he is one happy kid!
I still have lots to learn, but this is what I now know:
1) Grades don't drop for no reason! If grades drop, ask questions.
2) Teenagers need their fruits and veggies, hydration, and a good sleep schedule just like babies do. You can't control what they eat, but you can control what you make available to them.
I know there is so much to think about as a mom but I think the one thing we absolutely cannot overlook is the powerful connection between what we eat and how much we sleep and how we look, how we act, and how we feel. It's true for my two year old, it's true for my teenager, it's true for me and it's true for you.