Life topics

Dr G is here to help

Life articles

It's okay to like your parents

Eva MariaEva Maria has been a youth mentor since she was 13, and her book You Shut Up! has seen her profiled on TV's Close Up and Breakfast as well as in magazines and on radio stations around the country.

Her goal is to help a million adult-teenager relationships in a year. In 2009 Eva Maria will also start university, go on speaking tours around the country, work with youth trusts and individuals and families as well as work with Tearaway magazine.

She shared her thoughts on how teens can improve their relationship with their parents with The Pulse, and said that things get better as soon as teens admit they respect and love their parents.

Teens often have spirited discussions / fights with their parents and other adults. Usually this is the time advice goes out the window and emotions take over. Have you ever had a terrible fight with your own parents? Did you think about your own advice a) during the fight, and b) when trying to resolve it?
One of my speeches is titled “Teenagers are people too”. I’m human too and yes, I do have my share of spirited discussions with my own parents. Even though I have a book out about parenting and of course have been influenced by my parents, it doesn’t always mean I agree with everything my parents say, and they definitely don’t agree with everything I say or do. The really important thing is that we always manage to respect each other’s point of view. Living at home, I have always been treated like an equal adult.

How can teens help their parents trust them?

  • Admit that you respect and love your parents. Most teenagers do, but they rarely show it or say it.
  • If you see parents are trying hard to relate, or understand you, cut them some slack.
  • Stick to boundaries if they are clear to you. And tell them to buy my book! Or even read my book!
Perfection comes from practice. I think I have picked up on and tried various ‘techniques’ within conflicts whether I was in one, or witnessing, or hearing about one. It’s a matter of finding the one, or maybe a couple of ways to keep your cool in a conflict, or calm the other person down, or turn the conflict into something more productive. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out all of these techniques.

The awesome thing is I can, in the nicest, possible way, practice a lot of techniques I’ve discovered before, on my brother now. He’s 14, and is the most loveliest person ever, but we have our moments too...because we are only human, like anyone else. When we disagree, it pays off knowing how to turn the situation around.
Often parents and teens get advice like 'you should talk more' or 'just say what you're thinking'. That's often easier said than done, especially if there's money or friends involved. What are some of your tips for helping people communicate with their parents?
I guess I’m probably one of those people...
That sounds like something I’d say, but to me it’s different, because it is something I feel teenagers want, because it’s something I wanted and something over 800 teenagers I’m in constant contact with also wanted and still want. However, I am very careful that if I do say something like ‘talk more’, I always back it up with “how to”, something I’ve seen, or have made work. I strongly believe in the possibility of win-win outcomes in inter-generational conflict. People still find it hard to believe that it is possible. But sharing my knowledge through the book and speeches and coaching is really helping people, and knowing something you made is helping people so drastically, it’s the best feeling in the world.
What other ways can teens improve their relationship with their parents?
Well that’s the thing; we never really know how we, teenagers, can improve our relationships with parents, because all we know is what they’ve taught us. In fact we are not even sure if we should keep quiet like ‘good little children’, or whether we have permission to speak our mind. And if we can’t speak we can only follow what adults are doing, so in many ways we are just like you. It’s not all parents’ fault, but often teenagers are following the example they see or hear through constant reminders.  For example, a friend of mine has basically prepped himself to be an alcoholic, because his ancestor was one many generations ago. Why would he plan this for himself? Because this is what’s in the family, and he does not know otherwise.
Because teenagers get a lot of influence from their parents, I write for parents in hope that adults are smart and if only they knew what teenagers think, they would be able to find better solutions, create win-win outcomes. At the end of the day every adult was a teenager not long ago – I’m simply asking you to recall this and act from the space of better understanding.
Is negotiating a good idea - if I do this list of chores, can I go to or have a ...
Your example is not negotiations though – it’s an exchange: “I give you this when you give me that.”. This is a market, like a buy-sell process.  Like on the market both parties often think they pay too much for not enough value. Real negotiating is great when boundaries and/or rules are clear. It is a parent’s job to set these boundaries and rules preferably in the early days. Negotiation comes from finding common ground and then finding the outcome preferably where each party wins.
Emotional manipulation: are teens as guilty as parents?
In most cases, I think absolutely everyone does it subconsciously anyway.  
Are teens suspicious of you? Do they think you're on their parents side?
Not at all. I was expecting something crazy, but nope … my friends have read it, they love it, they liked how they related to a book that wasn’t even written for them. I’ve actually made quite a few friends through this book. I made a best friend through the book actually. It’s really amazing stuff. All you gotta do is something you love, and everything good happens!
You Shut Up!How can teens help their parents trust them?
Admit that you respect and love your parents. Most teenagers do, but they rarely show it or say it.

If you see parents are  trying hard to relate, or understand you, cut them some slack.

Stick to boundaries if they are clear to you. And tell them to buy my book! Or even read my book!
One of the pieces of advice you give parents is. 'Don't tell teens no' you're kidding, right?
Absolute truth when it comes to ‘no’ without a reason. Adults like to understand why things are permitted and why they are not, and so do teenagers.
As a parent, be able to distinguish from a necessary ‘no’ and an un-necessary ‘no’. A necessary ‘no’ is always right when given with valid reasoning. It is important to take time to explain. Isn’t it funny how many times an adult uses the un-necessary ‘no’?
It’s not healthy, as proven in my practice and theory when it is not backed up with a valid reason. You don’t want a teen to think that doing drugs and you driving them to the mall as similar things because you answered ‘no’ to both. If you can’t find any reason for your answer, or you start feeling you’re sounding ridiculous, chose to say ‘yes’, drive them to that mall.
Best advice for teens:
Love life – as in understand when you’re disrespecting it, and learn self-criticism. Self-criticism is a way of growing, not thinking negatively by the way.
Best advice for parents:
Join me in my mission to improve 1,000,000 adult – teenager relationships this year. As the first step – get a copy of my book because hundreds of grateful parents who already read it cannot be wrong – there’s soooo much I genuinely want to show and share right from the very bottom of my heart!
After you wrote the book you went on several speaking tours. What other sorts of work are you involved in?
I’m still speaking, with tours for the rest of the year already booked. I also coach families, parents and employers on the basis of my practice and hold workshops. Right now I’m setting up a workshop to train teenagers be mentors to their peers – similar to one I went through when I was 13 so I’m very excited about this! I’m also an assistant editor for Tearaway NZ youth magazine, and a youth empowerment trust. Getting ready to start uni as well. 2009 will be saweet!!

January 2009