New Episode! Why Middle School Is So Tricky with Jessica Speer
Dec. 6, 2022

How To Support Teens To Own Their Story With Nellie Harden

This week we are talking about the basic needs of our teens and helping them to develop their narrative and inner voice. We discuss the importance of supporting our teens not to get stuck in the dizzying maze of social comparison and perfectionism. 

We are joined by the incredible Nellie Harden - wife and mom of four teen daughters, author, speaker, podcaster of the 6570 Family Project, retired homeschooling parent, and adventure chaser.   

Nellie is a Christian Family Life & Leadership Coach who focuses on helping parents and their teen daughters to recognize their inner strengths and uniqueness - and help them to establish a solid foundation to build the rest of their life on. 

We discuss it all.  You won’t want to miss this one. Join us on our Facebook group at, where we can continue to connect and share stories and resources.



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Hi, and welcome to Real Life Momz I'm your host Lisa Foster and Real Life Momz is a podcast that's all about connecting moms through real parenting conversations. I believe that moms have so much insight and knowledge, and together we are powerful. On this podcast, we give moms a voice to tell their stories and share their expertise and resources through real conversations. And this week we are talking with Nellie Harden. She is a mother of four teenage daughters, author, speaker, podcast host of the 6570 Family Project Podcast, Christian family life and leadership coach, retired homeschool parent, and an adventure chaser.

Nellie is here today to help me discuss how we can help teens own their own stories and not get stuck in the roadblocks of comparison and perfectionism.

Hi Nellie, Welcome to Real Life Momz. I am so excited about our conversation today because I have teenagers and my daughter especially, has been struggling this year. Really, this has been the hardest year that I can remember. Um, it's just overall self-esteem issues. She constantly compares herself to others and literally will say that she does not feel good enough. So I'm excited to talk to you today because I think I really need this conversation. I'm sure the listeners do as well.

Um, but just how teens can kind of own their own stories and just not feel like they have to be perfect all the time.

Yes, Yes. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on the show. It's a great pleasure. And this is my favorite topic to talk about is, uh, these teen girls and what they're going through. So thank you so much for having me.

Oh, good. And I'm glad it's your favorite topic cause Yes, we need all your help. Um, so why don't you just start by telling us a little bit about your background? 

Um, well, uh, it's just life, right? And it's life. It has <laugh>, it has, has so many twists and turns in it. Um, so first of all, I am a mother of 4 teen girls right now. So, uh, not 14, but 14. And, um, but yeah, so, uh, I'm married for a couple of decades plus now, and we have our four girls and we live on the, um, on the East Coast. But we got here through some, you know, strange twists and turns like so many, uh, other people's lives.

And I actually went into, my background is biology and psychology, and I've always been fascinated with behavior. Like I wanna know what's happening inside biologically, but also I wanna know how that then manifests itself into behavior and the psychological pathway it takes in order to get there. It just always fascinates me, but I started in the animal realm actually and in marine mammals.

And so, um, I, I kind of joke and say I went from like hump ex to humans because that is true. That has been, my journey. But I love that I was able to see the very simple, um, very black-and-white nature of family life before adding on all of the human complexity that I did about 10, 12 years ago when I slipped into the human realm of things. And, I use that very frequently today.

And when I'm peeling back the layers of so much complex human, uh, humanity in our psychology and all of this, I peel it back. I'm like, Wait, what is the purpose of this? What is the black-and-white nature of this? Okay, so let's start there and then we can re-add these layers one by one and look at each one. And so anyway, that, that has been such a benefit, um, to my career.

And we went through a ma massive health crisis in our home, um, around 20, uh, oh eight to 2010. And, uh, we had to just start, uh, making a lot of changes in our home for all six of us. Um, mm. And the girls were little at that point. And when you have to start making new disciplines, new positive disciplines, you need to discipline yourself along the way. Um, you need to have these, uh, changes that are happening and have real conversations with your kids, um, even at that young of an age.

But then I've seen the fruits of that as they've gotten older. Uh, we, my husband has a heart condition that, uh, is genetic. And so we had to have, he was in ICU and they could all have it too. And it was just, it was this, it was a lot. And then one of my twins when she was two, just five weeks after my husband's heart surgery drowned in my in-law's pool, and we had to bring her back.

Oh my goodness. And so it was, it was a tumultuous, uh, couple of months there. And, but my whole point is that we really came together as a family and worked as a team, and that's how we've been doing this ever since. And in doing that, um, I just was called, for lack of a better word, um, and I don't know if there is a better word. Uh, I was really called into working with families than in 2012, and I've been doing it ever since in different capacities, but always behavior, always disciplines, positive disciplines.

And so that is where I have, uh, really been and landed. And then covid <laugh>. Right. I feel like there are so many stories are like, and then Covid then hit. Yeah. Yes. And, um, so I had already been homeschooling for about five years when Covid hit, then everyone was homeschooling.

And I had my DMs blowing up and asking, How do I do this? I have no idea. And so I really started helping people. I was turning an elbow there and I was helping people add a new role to their family. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, how can I be mom, but I'm, or, and dad, and now I'm also a teacher. Like, what, how does that even work? How can they respect me in this role? How do I switch and take off that hat and make dinner? Right. It was so weird, uh, on top of everything else happening.

And I really started working in, in, uh, developing disciplines there. And it has just manifested into this beautiful work that I do in particularly helping families with teen, uh, teen and between girls, between nine and 17. Really take them, uh, the families together as a team and, and, but take them from surviving, hoping, thinking, worrying, am I doing all the right things to mm-hmm. <affirmative> knowing they're on the right path for their child.

And so that's the, believe it or not, the shortest version of how I've gotten here.

<Laugh>, it sounds like you kinda got thrown in, if you will, <laugh> to the experience. And I love the way you're saying team, that you were a team. So is that part of the way that you're kind of working this disciplinary action, if you will, like that it's actually a team approach, that it's not just your kids, it's also the parents too?

Right. And so, yeah, I really do look at a family as a team. Like the parents are the, are the, you know, team leaders, hands down mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But when you approach something together, then you're dropping the power struggles and the animosity and the frustrations. You're dropping three-quarters of those, if not more at the door. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because you're approaching something together, you're discussing something, you're asking opinions, you're asking for, you know, comments. What are their ideas? Right.

And this is where you get into exactly what you were talking about with your daughter. And how old is your daughter?

She's 16.

Okay. All right. So, there are five things that every single human needs and that ever has been, ever was, and ever will be. But during the teen years, when our frontal cortex, all of that beautiful logical space behind our foreheads, when that is still a piled mess of live wires that are, you know, sparks everywhere. That is not, that's not working. Right. And so most of our decisions during that time period, and keep in mind our brains are not fully, fully, you know, done cooking, so to speak, until about 25, 26.

But during these teen years and adolescence is really, um, well, adolescence, I, I actually heard not too long ago, and, you know, brace yourself, but is from six to 32 in America right now.

What? Wow.

Six to 32, I say no to that. You know, I, I'm not denying that. I think that that is true in many cases, but I am saying no to that in my house. <laugh>,.

You gotta be done before 32. Yeah.

I'm like, no, not okay. Um, but let's face it, we all know a 32-year old that is still in the adolescent phases. Okay. And you're like,.

Yeah, true, true statement. Yes,.

Yes. Nine years old is when this preteen, you know, I'm using error quotes, you can't see me here. But where this preteen, uh, time starts, you know, though usually the end of high school, but it can go a little bit longer than that anyway, when their frontal cortex is still under all of this strain, they're being, their decisions are coming through the amygdala, which is your fight or flight mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so that's why all of these young women especially are like all in or all out, and it can switch on a dime.

And you're like, they're so dramatic and they're so irrational, and yes, they are. And it's because their brains are not fully functional yet.


They literally cannot think as we do. But these five needs that they have are to be seen and heard, and they have to feel loved. They have to know they belong somewhere, and they have to have a purpose. And so those five needs are right there. And they are like, if you put head, you know, if we as adults are just knowing that those are our five needs, and most adults don't even know that, but they are. But if you put headphones on and blast them on volume 10, that's how much those needs are amplified for our teens today.

Hmm. And so the, um, the roadblocks, if you will, the roadblocks to those needs, one of them is the one that you are talking about right there. And that is that comparison and that perfectionism and people-pleasing, identity shifting, all of these things are roadblocks to those five needs. So the trick really is one of the big tricks is to help them fill their needs and help them know how their needs can be filled in a positive, productive way.

Now, could I ask you, um, cause all things are coming up. I mean, Yes. My daughter, this is Yes, yes, yes. I am checking everything off. Now when you say to fill those needs, now if you ask her what she needs, right? Like she does not know. Yeah. And if I ask her what a purpose is, she does not know that either. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how do you fill those, or is it just going back to like making sure that she's being seen and heard, but she doesn't even know what she needs?

Like how does she feel seen and heard? Does that make sense?

Yeah, it absolutely does. And so if you ask them, you know, like what you're saying, what are your needs, that's too ambiguous for them to be like, I don't know, I need a, you know, a glass of water. I don't, whatever, just leave me alone. Right? Right. And, um, and that isolation time, I was just talking, I, I run a youth program for a, a small group of youth here in, uh, locally. And we were just talking last night when she, uh, this young woman was saying, I isolate a lot.

And I, I was like, It's okay. It's okay to physically isolate. You just don't want to mentally and spiritually isolated, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if you need to go, I'm an introvert personally, I like when my whole family wakes up in the morning. At the same time, I feel like, and I don't even drink coffee, but I feel like I had five cups of coffee, you know?

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I am all jittery, and all the things I need that physical isolation in the mornings mm-hmm. <affirmative> and to, to just put my mind right and get me in the right place. And so I never want these, you know, young women or anyone to feel like, Well, if I'm isolating, that means I am A, B, C, D, you know, whatever. And doing these self, you know, uh, Yahoo or Google diagnoses at home because they like to be in their room alone or what have you mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, you know, that's okay. But then it's the, it's spiritual, it's the, it's the mental isolation right there mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. But, um, that being said, break it down. So mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, in another, uh, group of youth that I work with, we went through this exercise and it was a beautiful thing.

So it's not only about you, Right? Which is something that in today's culture, is really shoved down their throat. Like, how do you feel? What do you want? And how, how can you be happy right now? I mean, the heck with everything else, what do you want? Right? But in the real world, it doesn't work that way, or it doesn't, if you ever want to have true joy, right? It's about communal living. And so it's what do I want and how can I serve others? And that's what we do in our, our young women's, uh, group that we have of teens.

And so when I ask them, and we went around the room, I gave him some time, we went around the room and I said, Okay, when do you feel heard? Like, what, what does it look like when you feel heard? How does it physically feel to you?

How do your emotions feel? Like, how do you mentally feel, but actually what is happening? Right? And so we went around and we talked and, and we had some great conversations. And then I said, Okay, so if, you know, if you're walking around school tomorrow, you're all in, you know, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, whatever grade you're walking around school tomorrow, and you know that every single person there has this need also, how are you gonna show up for that? How can you show up for somebody else's need to, you know, to be, to be heard, for example?

So, you know, some examples, um, that I've, I've gotten from these conversations are simple things. Uh, you know, everybody, it's, it's when I walk into the room, someone says hello. When I walk into the room, someone says, hello, Someone smiles at me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because then they feel welcome.

They feel like, Oh, I do belong here. I can be here. I have permission. Right? Someone's excited to actually see me. And unfortunately, that is not the case for so many of our young people today. When they're walking into class, you know, you have certain groups of people, um, that you walk in and 20 people are like, Oh, hey, it's so great to see you. You know, and they're doing all this. And then you have a majority of the class that comes in, and no one says anything to them at all. So how can we even out that playing field?

Because, you know, those, those kids that even, uh, those young women that when they walk in 20 people say hello to them more times than not, they don't feel like they have a true friend. They have a, they have a, they have a fan base if you will. They have followers, they have this and that, but they don't have a person that when it's Saturday during the day, or they're having a bad day that they can call. Right? Yeah.

So true. Yeah. From the outside, it doesn't look like that. Like, that's somebody, my daughter is like, everyone, you know, will say hi to her. But when I come in, like, you know, people are just like, Eh, I'm kind of like this. She'll call herself the straggler, you know, know's, you know? Yeah. She's kind of that side person, but it's true. It's like that person. And I've said that to her too. You know, that person might not still feel filled inside when everyone's saying hi. Maybe they don't have that one person that they know they can go to and that best friend that they can go to, You know, even though everyone's saying hi to them, she's always comparing herself.

It's always, always, the grass is greener on the other side.

So I think we all, as adults, have, at least most of us, have those stories of those people that we knew in high school that peaked in high school. Yes. Right? So those are really good conversations to bring up, because you want to connect with them anytime that you're talking with your, with your child, you really want to connect with them. So you wanna be calm, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you wanna be curious and ask questions. So how are you really don't, um, uh, accept the F word, which is fine.

Don't accept that <laugh>, I, I'm like, Oh, how are you? Fine. And then they walk away. No, no, no. You know, I call that F word, right? And so, no, how do you really explain in more than one or three word or one, two or three words, you know? And, um, just ask questions.

So how was that? What did you do at lunch? Right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But not just asking questions. Also tell them about your day. Let them into your life as much as you're expecting and hoping to be let into theirs. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and that, that's part of that team environment, um, right there. But in one of those conversations, my point was going to be, you know, do you want the best parts of your life to be now, or do you want it to be all the years that are coming up after high school, right?

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, like, you are building into something amazing right now. And unfortunately, some people are going to peak right now. And I feel bad for them. I really do. Because there's so much life after high school, I know that you don't see that right now because you're in it, and I don't expect you to see that right now. But there is so much life after middle school and high school, and so much so that most adults look back on it. And it was just a blip on the screen. Yeah. Even if it was terrible. My middle school experience was awful.

<Laugh>. I was the, I was the, I was the kid that moved in sixth grade, so I was the new kid in school. I was wearing purple peewee Herman, uh, sweaters. And my vein.


I'm like, What? And, um, yeah, like, it was terrible. It was really bad. I had some terrible pranks played on me, all the things, but it also fortified me into the person that I am and helped. Now I can look back and I see the insecurities of those people that were doing that to me. And I actually feel bad for a lot of them. They were in really rough homes. They were in rough lives, Right? Yeah. But it's that perspective that is so important.

Yes. Yes. And we talk about that, uh, a lot, you know, about, um, you know, something happens or she feels a certain way, you know, I'll say, in five years, are you even gonna remember that? You know,.


A good question. Yeah. And she's like, No, I'm like, then I'm like, Why sweat it so much now? Like, it's not, it's not gonna be important in five years. And she, and she knows that. And my son too. He knows that. Um, so I think that's always kind of fun to put out there and give a new perspective. I have to say, I had a Michael Jackson look <laugh> go. Cause I had a perm, um, that was really, really tight middle school. And I just had this like Michael Jackson and Blue, like really, um, a leathery jacket that I wore, <laugh>.

So it was; it was a look for sure.

Nice. I.

Love it. So we all have those things. Yeah. And we survived <laugh>, so that's, Yes. But yeah, I think, and another thing, I think my, my daughter, it's interesting. As I said, grass is always greener on the other side. Like a real example of what she will come up with is that, you know, she wants to go to these parties, you know, those parties, and a lot of times she is not invited. Um, and then she, she eventually can go to one because a friend could invite her or something strange like that, and she'll go to the party and, and honestly, she doesn't have a, a great time.

Yeah. She really doesn't. And then she leaves, and then she finds out her other friends were at a different party, and they had a great time, you know, And she was like, Oh my God, I missed that party.

It was the best time. And, you know, I said to her, I said, Well, do you, you really think you would've had a better time at that party? And her answer was like; You know what? Honestly, probably not. Because of the party we went to, none of us really liked, but then it was shown on social media and it, and my friend that went with us was like, Oh my God, that was so fun. That looks so much fun. We should go back. And she was like; We hated that party <laugh>. You know, like, it looks fun, but it's not.

I was like, So why do you think that other party that you didn't attend was so much better? You know, you probably wouldn't have liked that either, honestly. Yeah. If the right people are not there. So it's just this, like, I don't know, like, I guess the question too is, do you feel like that social media piece makes it also looks like it's more exciting? And how much is that playing into some of this too?

9000%? Yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, you cannot have a conversation about, um, the development, uh, both, uh, personal, emotional, and mental. You cannot have that conversation with how without social media coming into it mm-hmm. <affirmative> today. And, you know, to your point, you know, I was wearing Peewee Herman, you were wearing Michael Jackson. We did not have a phone in front of us capturing that to then be not only, you know, dissed by the people in my class, but the whole school, or multiple schools or the world, which is what it, you know, it feels like to them mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. So yeah. I mean, all of those roadblocks that we had, those are also exponential today. All those roadblocks that I talked about with comparison. Right. And because we're not comparing to other people anymore, we are comparing to this highlight reel to filters. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Um, I was watching not too long ago, there was this, um, movie, and it was just like supposed to be a funny part of the movie, but it was really sad to me because this is what I see so many times, is this girl gets up in the morning, this young girl, she was, I, I don't want 13, 14, maybe years old. And she gets up, she gets all the makeup on, she works out, she's doing like some pushups, and, um, she, uh, does the hair. She's doing all this, and then she goes and gets back in her bed and, um, puts the phone on her, and she does the whole like,

Oh, I've seen that. Yes.

Such a great night of sleep and all of this. And I was like, Oh, you are. What? You know, like, not you, but that behavior is what is wrong today. Like, no. And we are starting a little bit, little bit more with adults and young adults, uh, in order to turn the corner on this and be like, All right, this, we can't do this. This was completely ridiculous. But in the realm of, I would say this, like nine to 17, it's still very, very much that way.

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and so you're comparing yourself to a highlight reel. It's the same thing. Yeah. If you, you know, you're trying to compare your, your husband or your, your kids or whatever to a movie that you just saw the other day, and you're like, Why can't you be more like, you know, so and so, and you're like, you mean the person that had their lines written and edited and then took 92 takes for that <laugh>,

You know? Right. Right. It's just un it's unrealistic. It's just unrealistic. Yeah. This is out there. This is what our kids and teens are growing up with, and that's what they're seeing, and that's what they're kind of expecting. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> they should be. So how do we break that cycle?

Well, the thing is, and I see a lot of, I see a lot of people trying to bubble this out, Right. And nope, we're just not gonna, you know, my kids are not on social media. They're not taking any part of it. I don't want it to be a part of our lives, which is all well and good, but their kids are not going to be with you forever. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And the, this time zone, the second half of childhood is really a build with them part. The first half of childhood is build for them. The second half is build with them, and you are their guide in order to teach them in, you know, it's like a adulthood, uh, class.

Right? It's like we have driver's ed. This is adulthood Ed is the second half of childhood. So if we're not teaching and guiding them here, then they're going to crash as soon as they, you know, get the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, later on mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. And so I am not saying, you know, give them everything now I'm saying have some serious conversations. See where they are mentally and mature wise, if they are okay. Go in it together. Go into it together as a family, uh, you know, have it be an open account and you know, Oh, so, you know, do you learn anything, uh, you know, cool on Instagram today or whatever. Oh, I saw this thing on Instagram today. Have some messages that you're sharing back and forth of like, I don't know, funny dog videos or whatever.

But it keeps you relevant in their social media story as long as you know you're there and you are seeing some things too. Oh, it was so funny. About a year ago, I was sitting on the couch and, um, I, I just said something that was some TikTok trend, which now all the social medias, I don't ha even have TikTok, but all the social medias have like, just blended together. Um, and so you could see, you know, something anywhere, and there was some trend happening.

And, um, <laugh>, I, I turned my oldest daughter and I said it, and she thought it was the funniest thing in the world that her mom like said this TikTok trend,.

But it was relevant. Like she,.

It was relevant, and she knew that I was in that space too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, a few days later she was like, Oh, did you see the newest trend? I'm, Oh no, what is that? And she's like, Oh, it's this thing, You know? And so just stay relevant in the story mm-hmm. <affirmative> and ask, you know, have you seen anything like this? And bring up your own experiences. Like, Ugh, I saw this, you know, thing on Facebook or Instagram or whatever today. And it really frustrated me. Have you had anything that's really frustrated you that you've seen? Right. But that's, again, it's a part of that.

It's a tennis match of conversation and experiences going back and forth between the two of you. It's not just you asking the questions, it's you telling about your experience too.

What I'm thinking is, I happen to have a really great relationship with my kids. We do talk a lot, which is really nice. Um, I don't think every parent has that. So, you know, these back and forth conversations, you could get a one-sided conversation of, Hey, you know, Oh, let me show you this on TikTok, and you can get like an eye roll, you know, <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I'm sure there's some parents out there that are dealing with that. What would you say to those parents that maybe aren't gonna get that back and forth?

You gotta start somewhere and start small.

Roll, roll your eyes, roll your eyes back. <laugh>, right?

Yes. Anyway, whenever you're going into a conversation, um, just have some pause there and ask, you know, so I, this is what happened to me today. Right? Always introduce yourself first into the conversation, and then little by little, you can have them, uh, become more accustomed to being able to share too. But they have to know that it's a safe space in order to do that, that you're not going to get mad. Right. You're not going to, uh, ridicule them.

You're not going to mock them; you're not going to make them feel like they're stupid, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, or uneducated or anything like that. It needs to be a safe space for them to also share. And the best way to do that is to be vulnerable yourself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so if you can be vulnerable yourself first, they feel like they can be vulnerable too. You're always the teacher. The parent is always the teacher. And that doesn't mean your kids won't teach you things because they will, they will definitely teach you things. Just like if you went out and asked any teacher in the world, they would say, I've learned a lot from my students.

They've, they've taught me before. But in the grand scheme of everything, you are always the teacher. And you need to go first. You need to go first.

I know with my son, so different than daughters, but my son can be very quiet and, you know, I can ask, He could be the F kid, the fine,.

Right? <laugh> the fine. Yeah.

Um, and he'll, I'll be like, How was your day? He's like, Fine. And then what I realized is I don't have to fill the silence, and instead, I sit in this silence with him, and then eventually, all of a sudden, words will start to come. Like, it's almost like it's okay to be in that silent place together, even though sometimes it feels awkward and you feel like you have to fill it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, sometimes I think just waiting in silence can also help. Like, you're just, you'll just be there no matter what. Even if you're just gonna sit in silence. But usually, he'll open up pretty quickly right after that.

That is so true. And that really points out a difference also, uh, not to say that that can't work with young women, because it definitely can, but it does shine light onto a difference between, um, men and women. So in young women, we have a lot more white matter in our brains, which penetrates everywhere. So you think about it more like, uh, fingers going everywhere in the brain, or spaghetti. We can think of multiple things at the same time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> a lot easier than men that have a lot more gray matter.

And so they are more boxes. They open up this box, think about that, put it away, open up this box and put that away. So when your son, you know, you're, you're just waiting for his box to open <laugh>, you're, you're like, Okay, so I'm just gonna wait here. Okay, that one is open now.

So we're gonna talk about it. And that's another reason too, that a young women can get so much more overwhelmed, so much easier, because we're like, I have, I have history and I have, you know, gymnastics and I have this, uh, extracurricular project I'm doing, and there's a football game and all of these things. And guys are looking at them, or their parents who have more logical thinking than them are looking at them going, Why are you freaking out? It's okay, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But they're thinking of it all at the same time, and it feels like the world is on their shoulders.

And so that, that really, uh, you know, points a different difference between them. Plus, in a young woman, the memories, uh, memories flow through the emotional center of a woman's brain, and they don't for a man. And so when your daughter is coming home and she's talking, it's like four o'clock in the afternoon, and she's talking about something that was really terrible that happened at 8:00 AM Right. And maybe the afternoon was fine for her, but she's talking about what happened at 8:00 AM her emotions are right back at 8:00 AM again.

Okay. Yeah.

And so it, it, they really do live all the way throughout. I mean, sorry, their, their emotions go all the way throughout that memory as well, so they can relive all of that over again.

And that's so hitting the spot, because <laugh> Exactly. That's exactly, She will be like, I have a test and then I have a, you know, a football game and I have this, and I have that, and I have to go there and I don't wanna miss out on this. And then it's like, my son, you're like, Hey, what you doing? He's like, Eh, <laugh>. It's like, it's nothing. And I'm always like, Or, you know, she could get a grade that wasn't ideal for her, not for everybody else, but for her. Yeah. And she, she's wagging out, and then my son's like, Yeah, gotta see, you know, like a big deal.

And it's so true. I think I heard on NPR once, it's like, the men have a single lane, country road, you know, <laugh> can actually, and then the wo like a women's brains are like this, like five lane highway, right? Yeah. And that's why we can like multi have all the.


<Laugh>. Exactly. And all the honking, and, and it makes me feel bad. Like I turn to my husband after hearing that and going, Oh my God, you can't, you really can't do it. You know? Yeah. I get it now. It's a single-lane <laugh>, but I know it's so different. And I'm just getting back to like, how do we support these emotional five-lane highways that are thinking of every single thing and feeling every single thing?

Honestly, it's empathy. You just need to sit in it with them for a second. You need to, you know, uh, I was just having this conversation, uh, yesterday with another student too. And think about it this way. When someone comes up, and they push you, right? When you're being pushed by something, there is the push. There's that physical contact, there's that physical, um, pushback, right? And, and there's that, uh, touch that's happening, that aggression, if you will, or that challenge that's happening, and then use direction and go the other way, right?

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So when they come home, and they're feeling all these things, the worst thing you can do is dismiss them, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like, it's fine. You're, you'll be okay. Stop freaking out. Right? You don't, because then it makes them feel, again, not serving those five needs. They don't feel seen and heard, right?

Right. Yes. Yes. And.

So if you are dismissing what they're saying, then they don't feel like you're a safe place to share what they're feeling with. And so being like, God, I get it. I'm sorry, that really stinks. I know you're feeling overwhelmed, and I, I understand what overwhelm feels like. And let's just, let's just sit here for a second, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, do you wanna have some goldfish with me? You wanna have some, uh, whatever Dairy Queen. Those are always in my house. Yes. Dairy Queen. Like, let's just go sit and be quiet for a second if that's what you need, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, or do you need to go be up in your room for a few minutes?

That's fine. Whatever you need. Okay. And then we'll talk about it. I wanna hear what's going on. I want to, I want to hear, um, you know, what got you here, and then we can do something about it. So there has to be that time when you're actually dealing with it. And then you can have the, the after after that. But you can't skip over the emotional turmoil. You can't go through, you can't just hop over it. You can't dismiss it. You can't mock it, Right? You need to be in it. Mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. And then you can get to the other side and do something about.

It. I think the challenge, at least for me, would be like being in it, um, but not looping in it. Does that like make sense? Yeah.

Yeah. You as the teacher, as the guide, as the parent needs to be able to see the other side of this, even if they can't yet, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so sitting there with them and just knowing, all right, I'm right here. I know this really stinks, right? There's a thousand situations that could, this could pertain to. Um, but you know, they, they got a bad grade on a test. I have. My girls are like that too. You know, if, if they got a grade that doesn't fit in their tiny box of what's acceptable, um, then they're freaking out.

And so yeah. Just sitting there, I know this bothers you. I know, and you studied hard, Um, or maybe they didn't study that hard, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, you know, there's consequences to things, and I'm sorry that you're learning this lesson, but that just means that we can do better next time, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, just have that conversation today. And so, you know, it's never failure. It's always a step towards success. You just need to view it that way. But that's not the first thing you say. The first thing you say is, I'm sorry, this really stinks.

But yes, that makes sense. Like making them feel seen, making them feel heard by just listening. Yeah. Then kind of going to that next step. Right? Wow. So much. Now you, you do a lot in this realm. Uh, do you have specific resources or anything that you'd like to share, uh, for other parents and listeners?

Yes, actually, I have a wonderful resource, um, specifically about these five needs that we've been talking about tonight. And, um, so if you, um, my website is, and if you just go to that slash five needs the number five and the needs, um, you can get there. It is not on my public site. It's, it's a secret place. Um, so you'll just have to go there. But, um, otherwise, it is available if you, um, in our community. So I have a community called Family Architects Club 

I call, I call parents architects because we are literally planning, designing and building the beginning of someone else's life, which is kind of a big deal. Yeah. In the Family Architects club. Um, that is a resource that is always available, um, to people. And then, uh, I have wonderful, um, uh, program or, um, masterclass called the Daughter Decoder that is all about getting from going over how you can go from the, I don't know, I hope I'm doing the right thing. I hope I'm not screwing them up. I have no idea if I did the right thing, right.

To actually, I'm, I know that I did the right thing for her. Right? It's about getting to know her, your specific daughter. And I, you know, I have four of them. All four of them are very different. I need to address and talk to them each differently in how they need to be seen, heard, love, belong, and have a purpose.

That is so helpful, and I'm gonna check those out for sure. What else would you like parents to know?

Uh, if we can just approach things as a team, right? These power struggles that so, so, so many of us as parents with teen daughters face on a daily basis, we don't have to pick up the rope on the other side of that, right? So I always say, just drop the rope and pull up a chair, <laugh>. And so when they are sitting there and they're trying to pull, and they're trying to pull, they're trying to pull, and your instinct, because if you're holding a rope and someone comes up on the other side of you and pulls on it, your instinct is to pull on it too, right?

That is our general instinct. But we have to fight that right now, especially because we only have, you know, the name of my platform is the 65 70 Family Project, because that's how many days are in 18 years.

We have a, we have a, a clock on this time that we get to be their greatest, you know, teachers and guides. After that. We're just more people that they come back and, you know, ask questions to, and we're always their parent, of course. But this 6570 is our highest impact zone of their entire, of our entire lives that we spend together with them. So during this time, especially if they're trying to pull, they're trying to pull, there's a reason for that. It's not because they're trying to just be rude. It's not because they're trying to be spiteful.

There is something happening under there that usually tide ties back to their five needs. But it also could have to do with these roadblocks, right? Maybe they're super embarrassed about something. Maybe they're super stressed about something because they're suffering with perfectionism. Maybe they are having some comparison issues, whatever that is, that is then coming out as this behavior. So if you look at, uh, like two circles, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and they're touching. That. Touching is where the behavior is happening, but the behavior is the end result of a, of a thought and psychological process.

So we have to look beyond the behavior, look behind it, and see what's happening there. And that's what we need to do. And you will never be able to do that if you're sitting there pulling the rope too.

That's such a good point. Yes. Yes. Okay. So you take a chair, <laugh>.

Yes. Drop the rope, pull up a chair. Yes.

Pull up a chair. I love that so much. And then really see what's behind the behavior. Okay. So, and I think we've hit a lot of the scene. Heard. I mean, the love I feel like is explained. I mean, yeah, Right. Love belong. Is that towards, like, their community within the family, or just both?

Both. Definitely both. And so you think about it, um, you know, one of the biggest things that, especially a family with, uh, multiple children face are sometimes one sibling feels like they belong and another sibling does not. Yeah. And it can fluctuate over time, right. But having them really own their roles is the antidote to this. Belonging is one of the biggest antidotes there. So owning their role as a big sister, little sister, big, you know, big brother, little brother, whatever that is, um, owning their role as a child, owning their role as a friend, as a member of the family, whatever that is.

And so a great example here would be, um, maybe you're having some issue or need some help with one of the other siblings. You can go up to this child and say, Hey, I can only, you know, do so much and give this kind of perspective to what so and so is going through.

But as their big sister, I could really use your insight right now. What are you seeing? How can you, how do you think that we can help them? How do you think you can help them? Right? And so having them belong and own their role in the family teaches them then how to own their roles that they have later on in life as a, as a parent, as a, you know, as an employee, um, as a spouse, all those things. So really helping them know and own their role.

If they own their role, they feel like, Wow, I am, you know, this big sister or what have you, and I have responsibilities here. And my, my input is valued here. If they go to school and they're ridiculed there or they're ignored there, it will not hit them nearly as much because they do have a place that they genuinely belong. Mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. And what I'm hearing you doing there too, which I love so much, is you're also taking out just the you and like actually putting like a, serving others for them too, where they're helping their sibling and really, Yeah. That's serving others. I think that's such a big piece that I think we missed. Because I mean, if you read like the happiness books, right? <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative> or things like that, the Dalai Lama, like, things like that. It's like, it's actually the serving of others is usually what brings the most joy to people.


So, yeah. I love that. Love that. Okay. And then purpose. Let's get that purpose piece. So the purpose, how do we show them that purpose?

The purpose does not have to be this big grandiose life purpose, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the, the thing that you don't want them feeling is, I don't, no one cares if I'm here or not. Mm. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I have nothing that I'm pursuing. I have nothing that matters to me, right? That is what we want to avoid because it's definitely not true. But if they're telling themselves that, then that is their truth and they will believe it 100%. And so having just these small carrots to go forward, if that's what they need, or you know, big carrots down the line, that's fine.

But really investing in their interests is what is going to be key here. So maybe they're not great at school, maybe school doesn't interest them so much or whatever, but something else does. Maybe it is, I don't know, maybe it's skateboarding, maybe it's fashion, maybe it's hot air balloons. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you can, you know, put whatever those, the context of what they are interested in, in their everyday life as well. Look at history of those.

Look at math of those, look at that. Or you can have them, you know, pursuing something like you really love, I don't know, hot air balloons just came into my head for whatever reason.

Yeah. That, that's random, but that's okay.

<Laugh>, it's so random. And, but that's the point. Cuz our kids can be so random. Yeah. But if that is an interest of theirs, great. Cool. Let's go learn about those, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? There's a museum for everything somewhere. Like, let's go learn about that. And it's something that's in front of them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So a purpose is just something that is in front of you that you are pursuing, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's what we want to always get them. We want them curious and excited about the world around them and always pursuing something mm-hmm.

<Affirmative>. And once you get them as in that habit and that mindset, then there's always something further to do. They will never be able to sit there and say, It doesn't matter if I'm here or not, I have no interest. There's nothing for me to do in this world. Which.

Would be a really sad place. You know, my son is funny because he, he's kind of like that, you know, whatever kind of kid. But he does have a lot of different interests, like, honestly, so I, I'm gonna call them purposes. You know, he's interested in a lot of different things. My daughter who's more of that like social, going everywhere, right? Um, you know, her interests, they are narrower. Like, she's very into dance. So she's part of the dance team. Um, and she loves it. But like, I think her therapist actually asked her recently, you know, besides dance, you know, what else is your purpose?

And she had no idea. So what do you say to that? Like where, Just cuz I think one of the things is, is if she's loses it or if she's not good at it, then it's like, Wow, that's such a huge hit, you know? Um, so what do you say to that first? I'm assuming a lot of girls are like that. Like they have something they really kind of focused on.

Yeah, No, I would agree. Yeah.

Yeah. So what about that I guess is what I'm asking?

Well, I would say with that, that it is not as focused in as you might think, just talking about all the aspects of it. So let's just take dance for example mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? So if you're interested in dance, that doesn't always have to mean that you are the dancer, right? You could go study dance, you could own a dance studio. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you could, you know, um, you.

Could just watch it, I guess.

Yeah. Yeah. Just watch it. You could study the history of it, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, there's, there's so many things that you can do around a subject. It just, it doesn't mean here. Like I skateboarding is a, is you know, one that comes up for, you know, kids a lot, um, especially earlier teens. And it's like, well, you know, that doesn't mean that you have to be the skateboarder. Maybe you wanna make a skateboard, you know, maybe you want to, um, study the aerodynamics of it. Maybe that will turn into you working at NASA same day someday.

I don't know, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But why are you interested in this? So for your daughter, like why is she interested in dance? Is it emotional expression in a physical way? You know, what is it that, uh, that she really likes about that? Is it the movement? Is it the exercise? Is this more of a kinesiology thing that she's interested in? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So really just kind of picking that apart and having some fun conversations about that and seeing where she is because it will broaden that goal for.

Her. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yes. Cause then there's so much more to dance, so that for some reason if she wasn't dancing or got hurt or, you know, sick or something that she couldn't do that part of it, there would be so much more that she could still do. Exactly. So I, I really love that. Well, great. Ugh, that it's such a good conversation. I really appreciate you coming and talk about this subject. Now I'm gonna ask you, because the holidays are here. They're coming up around the bed. Oh my. What has been your favorite holiday gift to give to your kids at any age?

It doesn't matter.

I would just say we, um, with having four kids, we, um, always, uh, you know, stay pretty limited. But I think my favorite is just always just experiences. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Like, I would rather give and have an experience, you know, with them. Um, or they, you know, give them something to have then to, you know, give them a sweater or whatever. Mm-hmm. You know, Um, so just an experience, find out what they like. Mm-hmm. And then give them an experience in that.

I like experiences too. I love for that as well. <laugh>. Yes.

Yes. So good.

Well thank you for talking through just kids and just that whole perfect feeling and comparing themselves and just the five needs that they need and the roadblocks that they could experience. Um, I think it's helpful. Definitely will make me personally look at like the next <laugh>, which will probably be tomorrow, Right? Or maybe tonight, I don't know. It's not that late here, but then next time my daughter is just overwhelmed and in that like, it's better over year or I don't have that, or I'm not good enough while my son is just saying, eh, it's okay.

Yep. I know. Now I understand it more and I'm gonna pull up a chair. There you go. I love it.

Thank you for listening to this episode. Nellie had so much insight into this topic. What I truly will walk away with is making sure I'm providing my teens with the five basic needs of feeling, seen, heard, loved, belonging, and having a purpose. And sometimes that just might mean just pulling up a chair and sitting with them.


Nellie Harden Profile Photo

Nellie Harden

Author/Speaker/Family Life& Leadership Coach

Nellie is a Christian Family Life & Leadership Coach who focuses on helping parents and their teen daughters go from HOPING they are doing all the “right things”, feeling lost and just surviving teen life to KNOWING they are doing the right things for their unique child and getting her set on a solid path to establishing her personal authority, owning her responsibilities and living in her joy so that she has a firm foundation to build the rest of her life on where she trusts herself, stays aligned in her values and trades chasing worth for standing in her confidence every day in order to face anything and become the leader of her own life.
She is a wife and mom to 4 teen daughters, author, speaker, podcaster, retired homeschooling parent and adventure chaser. She has a degree in biology and psychology, years of leadership training and a diverse behavior background from humpback whales in the South Pacific to teens and parents in homes across the world. She believes in a life of intention, making dreams and goals realities and knows that the best way to change the world is through one living room at a time!