In the second and final episode of a two-part series on vulnerability, Tana Amen is joined by her daughter Chloe Amen to discuss the ways a parent can get their children to open up and be honest with them. Kids’ experience is much different these days, and with many of them trying harder and harder to be noticed on social media, it often causes a disengagement in real life. Learn how to take the steps necessary to understand your children and lead by example, and they will likely find it easier to open up and connect with you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Welcome back. I am here again with Chloe, my daughter, who I'm so proud of. We were talking about vulnerability. You read Brene Brown's book, "Daring Greatly", and I was so impressed, because I read it, like I said, in my 40s, and you read it at 14. You're going to get just so much benefit by reading some of these books and learning this stuff at an age where, you know ... I'm always so impressed at how much you're always trying to better yourself, and that's a really important thing.
We talked in the last segment about some of the things you do to ground yourself, how you might be able to help teens utilize some of those skills. One of the things I want to talk about in this segment is helping parents. You talking to parents about how they might be able to help kids, and me talking to parents. Also talking to kids. Also, what's the opposite? What happens if you decide you don't want to utilize some of these skills? I like what she says. We want to be thinking about abundance versus scarcity, okay? We have a scarcity mindset and we're terrified of being vulnerable because we're focused on scarcity. She identifies these three components: shame, comparison, disengagement, sort of the opposite of what we're trying to do with being vulnerable and opening ourselves up. Shame is a big one. It's why people don't want to be vulnerable, right? You talked about that in our last segment.
#ChloeAmen : Yeah.
Tana Amen: You mentioned that. Talk a little bit about comparison.
Chloe Amen: Okay.
Tana Amen: For teenagers.
Chloe Amen: Especially people my age. I was going to say, especially people my age, comparison is big thing that kind of dictates what we do and the decisions we make, because we're so worried about, "This person does this better than I do," or, "What if I don't do it as good as this person?"
Tana Amen: Or her hair is prettier, or she's skinnier, or ... I mean, it goes on and on with teens.
Chloe Amen: Everything. Right. I think that how we kind of gauge what we're comfortable with doing is based on what other people are comfortable with doing. If that person's comfortable with doing it, then maybe I should be too. What if you started it? What if you were the one to set that tone, and what if you were the one to do it first? That's being vulnerable. What if you were the one to it first, and other people were to go, "Oh. Okay. She did it." Instead, I think we kind of compare ourselves with other people and see how it turns out for other people before we decide to do it.
Tana Amen: Right.
Chloe Amen: I think that's kind of what goes along with comparison.
Tana Amen: Have you read Roosevelt's speech, "Men in the Arena" yet?
Chloe Amen: I think I've read part of it.
Tana Amen: Oh, you should read that one.
Chloe Amen: I think it was actually in the book. It's one that was in the book.
Tana Amen: It's one of my very favorite speeches or quotes, because I always told Daniel when I met him ... Like I said, I started working on my personal growth early on in life, but I don't think I really had my major breakthroughs until I was in my late 30s. You're way ahead of me. It was hard for me. There were a lot of things that were hard for me based on the way I grew up, and not having the same access to things, and the support and whatever, but I was working on it.
Chloe Amen: Right.
Tana Amen: I told Daniel when I met him, I never, ever, ever would marry someone who was well known. I would never ever marry someone who was a public figure or famous or on TV, God forbid. He was like, "Why?" I'm like, "Because I want anonymity." It took me forever to build my privacy and walls and anonymity and I would never want to be in the public eye.
Chloe Amen: Careful what you wish for.
Tana Amen: Careful what you wish for. Yes. Then, not only did he do that, but then he wanted to drag me with him.
Tana Amen: I actually love what I do now, but I had to really learn how to do that. That speech, "Man in the Arena", just so well sums up. It's people who are in the arena, who are taking chances, who are making a difference. So what if you're being criticized. The people on the sidelines, so what if they're making criticisms? They're not doing anything.
Chloe Amen: They're not doing anything. Right.
Tana Amen: Those are not the people I actually want ... I get criticized all the time. I can just read my Facebook page. I get criticized all the time. There was a time that would have been crippling to me. Now I'm like, "Well, if I'm not getting those criticisms, I'm not making a difference." It means I'm not busy enough, because that means I'm actually doing something if people are criticizing me. I actually use that as almost an opposite gauge. Does that make sense?
Tana Amen: I like that. The other one I want to talk about with you for teens, is disengagement, because social media is a big thing. Not only are teens using social media to compare themselves, but you mentioned something to me that was really important. You said that kids have to do more and more and more now to be noticed.
Chloe Amen: To be noticed.
Tana Amen: Because of social media.
Chloe Amen: It gets more and more extreme as social media continues and grows bigger. In order to be noticed or get, I guess you would say, validation, you have to go to extremes.
Tana Amen: There's nude pictures.
Chloe Amen: Right. You have to do all these crazy things and put it out there on social media in order to be noticed.
Tana Amen: Right. In their attempt to engage and be noticed, they're actually almost disengaging in the real world.
Chloe Amen: In the real world.
Tana Amen: Their social skills are less. They're not present with people and places. We go to, you know, Disneyland, even. Every teenager I see is like this. They don't even know. What? They're not even enjoying Disneyland because they're so busy trying to be on social media. It's crazy. It's a really important thing, and I don't know. Our society, we need to start working on that. As a parent, I've always, because I've done so much work on myself, of course I want to be able to pass that on to you. We never know if we're actually doing the right thing, right? I always joke at some point I'm going to have to pay for your therapy. That's okay, because we never know. You don't come with a manual, right?
Tana Amen: We're trying to do the right things, and we want ... People who listen to this podcast are trying to do the right things.
Tana Amen: We don't often get the truth from our kids. I feel like I get the truth a lot from you. Sometimes I'm like, "Ouch. I'm not sure I wanted to hear that," but it's good. What are some things that parents could do or could do better to help their kids to open up and be more authentic and be more vulnerable? What are some things that parents do that cause their kids to sort of shut down?
Chloe Amen: One thing, I think, that's really important. Parents sometimes expect their kids to open up to them, be honest, be more vulnerable. At that same time, they're not willing to do it. They're not willing to be vulnerable. They're not willing to open up to their kids, so why should their kids open up to them if they're not willing to open up to their kids?
Tana Amen: I've told you some pretty shocking things, actually, I think.
Chloe Amen: Yeah. I would say so. Yeah. If you're not willing to open up to your kids and be vulnerable with your kids, why should they do the same with you? I think one place especially when you're a teenager that's really important is kind of trying to think like them. They're worried about being approved of, about getting validation, and that's why they look at other teens their age to see who's done it first or if it works for them or doing certain things to be popular, doing certain things to get certain things. I think that, as a parent, you have to kind of just look at it in their kind of perspective, and go, "They're just afraid." They're just afraid to do it because they're afraid of the outcome, you know what I'm saying? You have to kind of just see it from their perspective instead of getting upset with them.
Tana Amen: I try really hard to remember what it was like being a teenager, and quite frankly, I remember it sucking, kind of. Yeah. I remember that. I do try to tell you things, and I've always tried to make it sort of age appropriate at the time, but a little shocking almost, so that you would know ...
Tana Amen: I've done that intentionally, because I wanted you to know that number one, I wasn't perfect. Number two, that it's okay for you to do the same. I tell you stuff that's a little bit edgy for your age, because when she's young, that might be like, whatever. It's always age appropriate, but just enough so that she knows, "Oh, my mom knows what's going on, and it's okay for me to talk to her."
Tana Amen: I never wanted to make it sound like, "Oh, I didn't do that. I was such a good girl," because that is not going to help you to open up to me.
Chloe Amen: Right. What we want is somebody we can relate to. In order to be able to relate to somebody, if you want somebody to relate to you, you have to think like them. You have to be relatable in their sense.
Tana Amen: Yeah. We would always joke around about it. I think I've heard some of your friends talking, and I would often say, "Why don't you talk to your mom about that?" "Oh my God, I can't do that." It's like, "Why?" Why do you think that they say that?
Chloe Amen: I think that they're afraid, just like anyone else, afraid of opening up to anybody else, like their peers, because it's going to be disapproval. It's going to be you're a lesser person because of it. I think, not outwardly saying it, but I think that sometimes parents do that. I think that sometimes parents, without really knowing it and without maybe not really meaning it, they kind of go, "Oh, that's bad." Kids think of that and associate that with, "I'm not as good. I'm not as good because my parents disapproved of me." Being a parent, it's kind of like we look up to our parents because they're our role models. Growing up, it's like, "My parent does this. My parent does that." Every kid wants to follow in their parents' footsteps. It's hard. It's really hard, just like it is with your friends, when you feel like your parents don't approve of you. If they feel like they can relate to them, it makes it a lot easier, instead of putting the shame on them, which makes them not want to open up at all.
Tana Amen: Is there anything else you would add to that? Is there anything that has made it easier for you to open up? I know one story. You might not even remember this, and I don't know if it helped or not. Maybe you can say it helped or it didn't help. Chloe is a perfectionist, has been by nature since she was little. Really hard on herself. That did not come from me. We don't try to do that with her. We always encourage her effort, not her grades, not the outcome. We always encourage the effort. It's the hard work. It's the work ethic that we encourage. It's never the grade or whatever, the result.
You studied really hard for a test one time. It was like, I think, fourth grade. Anyway, she got in the car and she was crying. She was so upset because she didn't get a good grade on the test, but she studied really hard. I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry sweetheart. I'm sorry that you didn't get the grade you were expecting." Anyways, when you told me the grade, I'm like, "Okay. High five." You were mad at me at first. You were like, "What?" I'm like, "Give me a high five." You got really upset. I'm like, "Come on. We're going to go for ice cream." You looked at me and you go, "Now I know something's wrong with you. Number one, ice cream? Ice cream? You? Ice cream?"
I took her out for ice cream, and it was an intentional move. It was to emphasize a couple of things. Number one, it's the effort, it's not the outcome. Perfectionism is never going to be the thing that's going to help you out in life, but I also never wanted you to be afraid to be able to come and share with me when you're upset about something. It's like that's not the goal. The goal was to have you put the effort in, because the effort's always going to pay off. The grade, so what? That eventually will happen. If you keep putting the effort in, eventually it will catch up. I think when parents get so focused on the details, it can really damage that relationship.
Chloe Amen: Right. We can't always control the outcome of what happens, but it's what you do to get there that's important. If you follow the right steps to get there and the outcome doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, that's not something we can control, but we can control how we get there. We can control what we do to make it happen, whether it turns out the way we want it to or not. Another thing that I kind of tell myself is not to ... because I'm a perfectionist, is to not let my vulnerabilities and what I think I need work on, or what I think I need to be better at define me, define who I am. It's like if you let every little detail that you're like, "I can make that better," or, "I'll wait."
Tana Amen: I'll wait until it's better.
Chloe Amen: "I'll wait. I'm not going to do that until I know it's perfect."
Tana Amen: In other words, you don't take risks, because you think you need to wait until you're better.
Chloe Amen: Right. I also think that when we put ourselves out there, if there's one thing that maybe someone picks out or that you yourself pick out that you don't really like, we let that one thing define who we are. "I'm not as good because of that thing." I think it's really important to know that you can decide what defines you. You can't let everyone else decide that for you, or your own little thing about yourself that you think you want to change. I think we can still want to change certain things. We can still want to improve. That's why I read books like "Daring Greatly". We can still want to improve things about ourselves and still own who we are and what we stand for while doing it, and not let that make us less of who we are.
Tana Amen: I love that. We would highly recommend the book, "Daring Greatly". I am so happy that you joined me today.
Chloe Amen: Me too.
Tana Amen: I think it was really helpful for teens to hear, and to help them find their center and their balance and not necessarily look to other teens for approval, but rather to find their own grounding and be authentic.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of "The Brain Warrior's Way" and the "Brain Warrior's Way cookbook" we give away every month.