[Part 2]: End Teen Defiance — Pour Water


Visualize this! You’re walking along and spot a plot of hard cracked earth. One small sprout has pushed through letting you know that the earth is capable of supporting life and growth. You feel drawn to the land and its sprout, so in an attempt to foster growth, you connect with the land by digging, poking, and talking endlessly but the earth doesn’t respond. Actually, you can’t be sure but the land seems to be getting harder and the small sprout less vibrant. As you wonder, “I know this land has valuable life under it, how can I support it or bring it out without working sooo hard?,” you look down and notice a water can by your feet. Out of ideas, you begin to douse the land with water. It takes a minute, but you begin to see the land transform before your eyes. The dry brown land, begins to darken as it soaks up the water. Countless sprouts shoot up towards you, thirsty for more. You take a deep breathe, smile, and pour more being sure to refill your can and take long sips to replenish yourself along the way.


The Power of Water

Metaphysically, water symbolizes compassion, connection, healing, relationships, cleansing, release, and emotions (ever been caught in a “flood of emotions”…whew!). The symbolism of water can support the evolution or transformation of our relationships (especially the one with our kids). It can also support the evolution of our personal growth (which I believe is the purpose of all relationships, to help us personally evolve 😉 ).

When Our Relationship Runs Dry

When a teen says, “no!” it’s usually because they don’t feel heard or understood (ooor maybe they’re just ‘hangry’– angry because they’re hungry…lol). 

Just as it can feel difficult to raise a teen, it can also feel difficult to BE a teen. The most common statements I hear from teens are: “they don’t listen to me…they treat me like a child… what I think never matters to them.”  

Here’s the thing, when our kids feel heard, respected, and understood, they’re less likely to feel a need to erect the hard earth wall in an attempt to feel heard, respected and understood.  

With that said, I hear some of ya from way over here: “how can I listen past the eye rolling, sighing, or yelling?… stop acting like a child and I’ll stop treating you like one!… your thoughts do matter but after a while I get emotionally drained and it’s kinda hard to care anymore.”

I get it! It’s so hard to hear, respect, and understand someone who doesn’t seem to hear, respect or understand you. But here’s the thing, in this game, the one with the most fully developed frontal lobe must lead the way (that’s us!). Our kids are more likely to mirror what we show them. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we should roll over and play dead.  The same way we model compassion, we also have to model self-respect and boundaries (more on that when we get to Earth).

Not all Relationships are Watered Equally

You can never go wrong by starting with water — connection and compassion. It’s difficult to hear someone when connection is not present.  Have you ever had *that boss* you disliked so much that they could ask to borrow a pen from you and you’d tense up?  Now, think of that friend that you love beyond measure. They can give you the most gut wrenching feedback and the relationship still survive and maybe even thrive!

Why IS that?!?!

Because the latter relationship with your friend has one thing that your relationship with your boss lacked. 


All healthy relationships begin with connection. 

Drink Some Water

Start by connecting with your yourself. You cannot fill someone else’s cup if your well is dry. In those tense moments ask, “how can I bring myself water right now?” It’s perfectly legal to call a time-out for yourself and continue the conversation when you feel more rejuvenated (also give permission to them to call time-out for themselves).  

As I pointed out earlier, water also symbolizes relationships and healing. Relationships are powerful avenues of healing. When we notice the same dynamics arising again and again in the same relationship or across different relationships, this may be a sign that what we’re experiencing has nothing to do with the relationships at all. This may be a sign that something within you is calling to be healed. 

Pour Some Water

Once you’ve connected to yourself through self-compassion, then you can attempt to connect with your child by offering compassion.  When a power struggle arises, ask questions and listen to understand what’s being said as opposed to listening to respond to what’s being said (sooo hard, I know!). As they speak their truth (which may be veeeery different from yours), validate their feelings, needs, and desires.


“So you feel powerless… You have a need to feel heard in this family?” 

Is not the same as saying:

“You’re right, I’m wrong. Thank you so much Perfect Child o’ mine for enlightening me!”

When we begin with connection and compassion, we pour water on the hard earth which softens it. And soft earth makes lousy walls.

Try this! The next time you notice that your child has erected a hard earth wall, first, check-in to see if you have enough water in your well to connect. Next, challenge yourself to ‘pour water’ on the relationship by inviting your teen to spend time with you. Allow them the opportunity to choose the activity. Let the know that you have no agenda going in; this is time to just spend focused time with them.  

Bonus point! Explain the ‘pour water’ concept to your teen. Give them permission to say, during a tense moment, if they’re unable to offer water to the relationship and need a break to fill up their well. During calm moments, have a family discussion about how each of you fills up your well during tense moments. This mirrors and invites them to explore emotional self-regulation.

Double Bonus Point! Take a moment to reflect on the emotions that come up for you when you’re struggling with your teen. Do they remind you of an earlier time in your life or another relationship? What might this experience with your teen be inviting you to heal within yourself?

I coach parents with teens all the time and one thing I know to be true is that different things work for different people. If you’re experiencing escalations, push backs, arguments, worry, conflict, and power struggles I’ve got news for you– what you’re experiencing is totally normal. I’m not going to use those annoying fear-based tactics and tell you that without a coach your family is headed for Armageddon-sized destruction; most families get through the child and teen years relatively fine. But the truth is that a little coaching can getcha further faster, with less drama, deeper connections, and more hair on your head. 

So, if you’d like individualized solutions around what’s going on in your home, click here to schedule a discovery call and let’s explore what strategy will work best for you and your family. 

Ya know I love hearin’ from ya.



P.s. The process of pouring water on a “hard earth” stance is also where the idea of allowing our children to ask questions would fit. In the post that inspired this series, “Empower your Child (and Yourself) with this rule,” I suggested that we allow our children to ask questions when a directive from an adult doesn’t feel right. This approach increases the connection by increasing our understanding of their perspective and their understanding of ours. Also, when we allow questions, we’re opening opportunities for us to teach some (water soaked 😉 ) lessons. 


<– <– End Teen Defiance Part 1


2 Responses

  1. I love your ideas, and I love how you connect our actions to water and earth and fire- it helps me to get back to basics and not get lost in different theories and approaches.
    I do think this process is infinitely harder with special needs teens. My son is 16 and has Aspergers, anxiety, adhd, and depression. So those developmental delays mean his frontal lobe will take many extra years to develop- he’s always years behind his peers. But the hormones happen at the same time as with everyone else! So I have an angry, confused, depressed teen with the regulation and reasoning abilities of someone 4 or 5 years younger. It is exhausting and challenging. But you are absolutely right that nothing good comes without connection- our boy is confusing, but we need to keep connecting and communicating.

    1. HI Jen,

      YAY! I’m glad the approach helps you. You’re right, it’s so easy to get lost in the theories when it really boils down to similar strategies. YES! I hear what you are saying. It can definitely be a bumpier road. Our child has special needs too. I was just telling someone today that our key word is CREATIVITY when it comes to augmenting the neurotypical strategies. With that said, you’re right! Connection is key. It’s so much easier to deal with fiery feelings when the connection is strong.

      Skip to the “Bonus Points” option above. When things are calm, try asking him if he can tell when his “fire” is getting bigger. What does he notice about himself? It may be something small like his face gets hot or his toe tingles.

      Also, reflect on what you notice when his fire begins to grow and share with him what you notice. Then ask if he can tell you what he needs from you and from himself in those moments. His answer doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. You may have to offer options that work for you to get him there and that’s okay. The conversation may take place over time (vs in one sitting) and that’s okay too. All in all, “Forest Fire Prevention” is our biggest ally. If we can keep our kids from escalating, that’s a huge win… help them learn how to notice when they’re escalating, an even bigger win.

      Lastly, always remember, you can click the “Free Consultation” button above and we can chat things out. You’re doing great just by being here, mama!

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Hi, I'm Lynyetta

I'm a psychologist and family empowerment coach for self-aware women and their families.