“You mean we can tell you anything, and we won’t get in trouble?”
The look on my 17 yo’s face was priceless as he asked me this question.
“Yes. That is correct.”
The look on my face didn’t quite highlight the same giddy anticipation.
Nor did the thought bubble in my head as my husband and I shared with our three teens our decision to implement no consequence conversations into the parenting mix. To say I was full of dread and still wondering what in the world we just got ourselves into is an understatement.
Here’s the thing. When your house is full of teens, any semblance of what used to work in parenting is out the window.
Ba-bye, to any residue of normalcy. So the hubs and I decided to take a chance on no consequence conversations, a concept we learned from watching the television show, My Wife and Kids, staring Daymon Wayans.
“Learning how to parent from a pretend family in a sitcom isn’t as drastic as it sounds,” said no mom ever. But when you have three kids living under your roof whose brains aren’t fully developed, random is the new normal.
We explained to our teens that going forward, we would call periodic family meetings in which the kids were free to tell us anything they wanted. Maybe a poor choice they made, a predicament they were in, a temptation they were facing, etc. They had complete immunity from consequences regardless of what they revealed. Our goal was to simply listen without judgment or reprimand as a way to build trust and connection.
My oldest became wide-eyed once again, “Are we allowed to call a family meeting any time we want?”
He’s funny. But I’m smarter.
“Um, no. But nice try.”
And so began our journey as we opened up the table for our first go-round with no consequence conversations.
(I talk more about this rogue parenting tactic in my new course,
Mindful Mothering: 10 Practices for a Healthy Mom Life – see below)
Our smarty oldest told us things we expected to hear because he’d already been caught drinking, sneaking out, and lying, among other things. Our youngest, 13 yo daughter, was still full of innocence. But, it was my middle 15 yo son that caught me off-guard. Up to this point, he was seemingly our rule-follower and peacemaker. So when he shared his heart, I was totally unprepared for the emotional fallout of hearing about his transgressions.
That’s what makes the concept of no consequence conversations such a challenge. Hearing things that turn us inside out and refraining from passing judgment (let alone voicing our displeasure) isn’t for the faint of heart. But the reward of loving on our kids with grace and acceptance for their flaws and misgivings goes a forever way to build trust and connection.
And trust and connection are essential if we want the chance to be there for our kids when they need us. If we want them to believe our home is a safe space where they are loved, as is. This is not the experience I had as a teen. I didn’t communicate with my parents about anything. There was no trust and connection between us. And when I did get caught doing something unruly, I was punished and shamed severely.
So, although I often felt a significant burden after our family meetings, a knowing always brewed in my spirt. A knowing which said we did the right thing and the fruits of our grueling labor would come.
Since our first meeting eight years ago, all three of our children who are now in their 20s have opened their worlds to us, and I mean their w.o.r.l.d.s. They are still willing to share openly without veiling the truth. They aren’t ashamed to confide because they trust us. We share a deep connection.
While ignorance as a parent might be bliss, how many of us would want to find out our teen is suffering in silence? Or covering up a secret or contemplating horrific ways out of a mess?
As a mom, knowing what’s going on with our teens allows us to guide them and help find a solution. Sometimes we can only pray and love them, what a privilege.
In case you’re wondering, our kids were still punished. Family rules and expectations didn’t change. But we had a balance. When our teens felt they were in over their heads, we were there. Each has expressed heartfelt gratitude for the safe haven.
The bottom line is we listened, we prayed, and we learned to trust.
Ultimately, we survived. Our family has grown stronger in faith and love as a result. Maybe these conversations could do the same for you…
Hi, I’m Shelby – a sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, pro-LOVE Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials. I’m also co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”
I talk more about this rogue parenting tactic in my new course, Mindful Mothering: 10 Practices for a Healthy Mom Life. The course is a culmination of the most valuable practices I’ve put into practice over 26 years of parenting. All are focused on shifts in perspective: changing how we see ourselves, our kids, and motherhood, in general, to help us turn mom guilt, insecurity, and worry into confidence, contentment, and peace… at least on most days.
The session about no consequence conversations is a free preview, so check it out and see what you think. To sign up Click Here