[Part 4]: End Teen Defiance – Spark Fire

Hard Earth? Spark Fire!

VISUALIZE THIS! You‘re exploring the forest and decide to camp for the night. You use the last bit of daylight to find wood and start a fire. You then realize you have no fire so you go to nature to seek guidance. You see a beaver and ask, “how do I spark a fire?” The beaver offers you a piece of wood from its dam. You add the beaver wood to your pile and wait. Nothing happens. Disappointed, you return to nature for more guidance. You see a panther and ask, “how do I spark a fire?” The panther growls loudly. You return to your hard wood pile and growl loudly and deep until your throat hurts but still no fire. You turn to nature one last time but find no one. On your way back to your hard wood pile you notice a small cave with light pouring from its mouth. As you move closer, you realize the light is fire! Joyfully, you race into the cave and see a wise elder woman sitting next to the fire. You ask her, “how did you spark this fire? Please tell me! I’m cold, sad, and out of ideas.” Without saying a word, the woman wraps a cloth around the top of a stick, douses the cloth with oil and lowers the oil-soaked cloth into the fire. It ignites instantly. With a smile and a nod she hands it to you. With a newfound sense of joy and motivation you race back to your camp and light your hard wood pile. You sing and dance alongside the swaying shadows cast by the fire. The more joyful energy you exude, the bigger the fire grows. Eventually, you settle down for the night and drift off to sleep watching the last embers of the hard wood turn to ash.


In part 3 of this series, we explored how “blowing air” or focusing on our thoughts, can soften your teens “hard earth.”  Today we’ll explore how sparking a fire can motivate you and your teen to work together to reduce the hard earth (i.e. wood) to ash through validation, visualization, and celebration.

The Power of Fire

Metaphorically, fire is heavily associated with anger or the “fiery” tempers of our collective consciousness.  And while this metaphor is deeply embedded in our consciousness, it’s not the only idea we associate with fire. Symbolically, fire represents will, strength, transformation, energy, passion, motivation (as in, “light a fire” under someone to get them moving), zeal, desire, compulsion, action (be careful your actions don’t lead to “burn out”), and reaction. 

Fastest Way to Smother a Fire

One of the most powerful ways to motivate or “ignite a flame” within a person (especially a teen) is to acknowledge them and their efforts. It’s hard to believe when they’re full of “hard earth,” but our kids really prefer to please us rather than push us away. When we set a clear path to our family expectations, our teens are more likely to walk it again and again. On the flip side, we can easily smother that flame if they feel they’re in a lose-lose situation (e.g. they’ll never be trusted with power or its impossible to satisfy family expectations), they’ll protect themselves by erecting hard walls and struggling for power. 

Fastest Way to Start a Fire

Fire and hard earth (ie wood) actually go really well together! But in order to work, the fire must be ignited by friction or fuel, like the oil the wise woman used in the story above.  Let’s say your child doesn’t want to do homework and they’re pretty “hard earth” about it. Like the story suggests, you can growl at the hard earth or throw your own hard wood into the mix… which just makes a bigger pile of wood (and a sore throat). In addition, these approaches will likely lead to less connection, fewer conversations, and possibly a lower passion for school. 

“Spark” Motivation through Validation, Visualization, and Celebration

Fire must be ignited. Validation, Visualization, and Celebration, like oil, get everyone’s fire going. When we add one of these “oils” to our kid’s hard earth, they feel validated, understood, and seen. This sparks within them a desire to engage more and put forth more effort.  

1. Spark their flame by validating at least one aspect of the story they’re telling themselves. Teens are more likely to let down the hard walls when they feel their perspective is being heard and validated.

“Ya know, I understand where you’re coming from on that. There’s a chance you may not use calculus anywhere in your adult life.” 

2. Spark their flame by visualizing with them. Start by asking them to tell you their goals and passions. Do they want to go to college? Music school? Back-pack across Europe? Then help them visualize the steps they’ll have to take and requirements they’ll have to meet to reach their goal. 

3. Spark their flame by celebrating when they take a step towards their goal. It’s easy to think that the older our kids get, the less they need celebrations for things they do well, but the truth is that celebration is a HUGE fuel that sparks the motivation flame within most people, regardless of age. Celebrations don’t have to be huge. They can take the form or a few words or simple actions that say, “hey! I noticed.”

As parents, our biggest challenge may be to accept that our kids visions for themselves may not completely align with our ideal vision for them. I remember when my now 21-year-old sister told me that she wanted to ditch college (my words…lol) and keep her job at a local store. 

Growing up, the question was never “are you going to college?;” it was, “so what college are you attending?” I didn’t understand how not going was even a choice in her mind. It took every fiber of my being not to lecture her (okay, okay, I did give a few mini-ish lectures). But I eventually had to accept that my way was not perfect and her way was just that — her way.

I did share my concerns and the potential pitfalls I saw, but in the end, I had to let her run her own race. Fast forward to today, she’s now decided to attend college but I had to realize that my power struggle with her on this issue only sucked the air out of our relationship (and fires cannot exist without air). 

Try this! Find one way to validate, one way to visualize, and one way to celebrate with your teen this week. Afterwards, let them know that you were consciously trying something new and ask how each felt to them.  Ask what felt good and what not so good. Then talk about how it felt to validate, visualize and celebrate them. Hearing the impact these “oils” have on those we care about can give us insight into what works best.

Bonus point! Apply these “oils” to your partner or someone else in your home and repeat the process noted above. When we douse the house with motivating oil, this increases the feel-good vibration of the entire home. I also sets a standard that sparks everyone’s passions and joy. 

Have  you tried validating, visualizing, and/or celebrating in your home? How’d it go?

What are your thoughts on using these “oils” as fuel to motivate your teens fire?

Comment below!

You know I love hearin’ from ya!



Ps. if you find you and your child entering into 5-alarm fire mode during one of the “spark” processes listed above don’t ditch the process, pick up your water can and throw some compassion on the flames to calm them.

Pps. If you’d like more guidance on how to make the validation, visualization, and celebration “oils” work in your home, let’s hop on a call!


<—<— [Part 3]: End Teen Defiance – Blowing Air


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Hi, I'm Lynyetta

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