Updated: May 15
"Relationships are like trees. It is like a homeowner asking a gardener to fix a leaf on a tree. Even though the leaves are suffering, any good gardener knows that the leaves are just a representation of what is happening at the root. This is the same with our children. We cannot address behaviors without first addressing the most foundational parts of the relationship."
This month I had the opportunity to interview Author Katie Millar Wirig. I very much appreciate the wise insight she shares. A treasure for all of us is here. Also, be sure to check out her incredible book Becoming a Mean, Teen Parenting Machine.
TCA: How did the idea for Becoming a Mean, Teen Parenting Machine emerge?
KMW: In my professional relationships, I would frequently have parents come to me for help correcting behaviors that they saw as problematic. They would explain that their child would be involved in something that wasn’t positive or serving them and wondered how they could stop the behavior. I had to explain to these parents that relationships are like trees. It is like a homeowner asking a gardener to fix a leaf on a tree. Even though the leaves are suffering, any good gardener knows that the leaves are just a representation of what is happening at the root. This is the same with our children. We cannot address behaviors without first addressing the most foundational parts of the relationship. This book does just that. It delves into how to repair the relationship with your child, how to build a stronger foundation of trust, how to have better conversations, and what parents need to do to become a safe place for their teenager. Once you have achieved this you will see the behaviors, or the leaves, begin to blossom and heal again.
TCA: Share a story where you recognized your growth as a parent.
KMW: I have one child who is really hard on himself, which is unfortunate because he is also the one that gets into the most trouble. It is a challenging combination because he needs to be parented and corrected, but when I do, it often makes him feel poorly about himself. From a young age, my husband and I learned that the best way to parent him was through positivity and by trying to prevent the undesirable behaviors. We started each day by saying statements of things we knew he wanted to be but wasn’t yet. For instance, even as a pre-teen, the moment he would wake up I would welcome him with “There’s my best helper! I am so glad you are awake, I’ve been missing you!” This was calculated because even though he wanted to be viewed as responsible and helpful, he was often destructive and difficult. I knew that he was creating a narrative in his mind that he was the “problem or naughty” child and I felt like if I could get him to believe that he was the responsible one, he would act that way. We would intentionally give him lots of love and praise to notice the good. We also stopped correcting every little thing and instead only lectured him on the things that really needed to be corrected and instead focused on the positive. It was a huge shift for him and me. I learned that our kids want to be good and they want our approval. But for many of them, it is hard and goes against some of their tendencies, especially if they have a problem with impulse control. This experience years ago taught me to approach everything with my children positively. It also reminded me that our children are inherently good and we need to foster that goodness.
TCA: How would you define the process of growth as a teenager? How would you describe the process of growth as a parent?
KMW: One of the things we discuss in the book is how to set learning goals instead of performance goals. Performance goals focus on the result, where learning goals focus on the becoming. When our children have a performance mindset they set themselves up for failure, and they reject seeing all the growth they really have. Also with a performance-based mindset, the focus is put on grades, achievements, winning etc, rather than on the real goal, which is becoming a better person. Parents can fall into the same trap. Learning how to see growth from a becoming or learning mindset rather than a performance perspective changes the way we view ourselves and the world around us.
TCA: This month we celebrate Mother’s Day. Next month, we celebrate Father’s Day. What insight, wisdom, advice, or hope can you share with parents as they approach these special holidays?
KMW: Kindness is everything; kindness to ourselves and kindness to our children. As we approach days that help us to honor parents, look back at all the progress you have made in your parenting journey and embrace your children for who they are. Give them love, acceptance and kindness. And make sure you do the same for yourself.
MAY 2023 GIVEAWAY
Be sure to enter to win this month's giveaway! And pass on this opportunity to a friend!
The Grand Prize includes:
Paperback copy of Becoming A Mean Teen Parenting Machine (ARV $13)
Lifetime access to the At-Home Anxiety Healing Program (ARV $147)
About Becoming A Mean Teen Parenting Machine:
Creating a happy and emotionally healthy teenager begins in the interactions with their parents. The Parenting Machine reveals the keys to transforming your relationship with your adolescent children. Teenagers are a maze of emotions and many parents are throwing up their arms wondering what happened to their sweet, obedient child. Taking it back to the basics, mother and educator Katie M. Wirig, demonstrates how to implement tried and true principles that will ensure results. Read more here.
About the At-Home Anxiety Healing Program:
This program is ideal for any family. It gives your teen or loved one a way to learn proper coping tools that will help them throughout life. The program consists of 8 audio sessions and a journal to track progress. It simulates CBT group therapy sessions but can be done privately and in the comfort of your own home. It can be done as a family, or done individually, but many people find it especially helpful to do in a group setting. Learn more here.