Connection Not Perfection with The Ish Girl


Do you long to connect with your teens on a deeper level? Yearn to be there for them in their life-is-too-big moments? Want to share life lessons with them – without sounding like an afterschool special?
Then you’re in the right place! Join The Ish Girl (aka Amy Kelly) as she uses Young Adult books to tackle important issues facing teens today. Using fiction, Amy will give you parenting tools to broach a variety of hot topics, and lay a foundation of trust and communication with your teen.
From body image to bullying, academic pressure to addiction, learn to build bridges using the stories your teen is already reading.


Connection Not Perfection with The Ish Girl navigateright Episode

Developmentally Appropriate - 5 Ways to Show Up as the Grown Up


I talk a lot about what’s developmentally appropriate in teens. I’ve done a couple of Episodes on it, I did a 5-part series on it for middle school teachers, I have an eBook about it. (All free resources you can find in the Referenced in the Episode section at the bottom of this page.)

I bring it up frequently because it’s something that’s had a HUGE impact on my own parenting, and how I frame connecting with teens on the podcast and in the classes I teach.


But, one of the biggest ways it’s influenced me is probably not what you’d think.

Yes, understanding the things that are developmentally appropriate in teens has helped me reframe my expectations with my teens. But more significantly, it’s brought into focus areas where I’m not showing up as an adult with my kids.

Here’s what I mean.

When I first laid out the list of developmentally appropriate behaviors in teens, it was after a long discussion with my good friend Tami, who is a counselor. (You can listen to us talking about it in Episode 35 & Episode 36.) Here’s that list, in case you’re wondering.


It is developmentally appropriate for teens to:

  • be emotionally reactive
  • be overly self-conscious
  • have insecurities about their place with peers
  • value their peers’ opinions over adults’
  • not be aware or able to voice what they feel, think, or want at times
  • experience increased body awareness and comparison
  • be impulsive and exhibit reward-seek behaviors
  • make choices that don’t reflect the values and beliefs they’ve been taught
  • question and challenge the values, beliefs, and world views they were raised with
  • lack empathy for others
  • lack the ability to connect their current actions to possible future outcomes or consequences
  • withdraw from challenges and avoid potential failure
  • complain about their parents and feel like they’re being treated unfairly

When I read through this after we’d compiled it, my first reaction was, “Hmmmm.” Because I knew I displayed a lot of these behaviors sometimes. Not all of them, but enough to make me question how fully . . . developed I am, shall we say. Being emotionally reactive? Check. Not being able to voice what I think, feel, or want at times? Check. Withdrawing from challenges to avoid potential failure? Check.


Now, you know I’m all about having grace and compassion with myself – that’s the very definition of being an ish girl – one who has humorous grace with herself when discovering she’s messed up or flaked out. Again. And boy did this list give me a ton of opportunities to practice that.

But having grace with yourself doesn’t mean staying in the same place indefinitely. It’s good to understand what’s developmentally appropriate in teens, because those are areas where they are growing, figuring out who they are and who they’re not. But all of us? We’re the grownups.


I knew I need to address those areas where I was – for the sake of making this simple – acting like a teenager. So here’s what I realized:

It’s my job to show up as the grownup.

That means I need to get super comfy with recognizing when I’m in fight-flight-or-freeze mode with my teens and know how to get myself out of it BEFORE I work with them on the issue at hand. Also to cozy up to? Offering sincere apologies and making amends.

It’s my job to know what it looks like to be the grownup.

It’s not about getting it perfect every time. It’s about knowing what the ideal is, shooting for it, and showing grace for yourself (and your teens!) when you don’t hit it. And I can promise you, you won’t.

It’s about becoming familiar with the things that are developmentally appropriate in teens, and modeling what it looks like to handle things as a fully developed and mature adult.

I need to remember what’s under my umbrella – and what’s NOT.

Regardless of age, my children's’ attitudes, words, thoughts, feelings, actions, emotions, beliefs are NOT under my umbrella. What is? ONLY my own attitudes, words, thoughts, feelings, actions, emotions, beliefs. Which means I have NO CONTROL over any of those things in my teens. That factoid saves me a lot of frustration because trying to control those things in others is a no-win prospect.

I need to continue the conversation with my teens when we’re not in the heat of the moment.

When my teens are being developmentally appropriate, I need to deal with the immediate effects and mitigate any damage – which might look like redirecting them to more appropriate behavior, giving them (or myself) alone time to think, asking pertinent questions, etc. But it is AFTERWARD, usually when we’re doing something where we’re not face-to-face, like driving, walking, working in the kitchen, that the best interactions happen. After we’ve had time to process the previous events, I use moments like those to ask questions, to make amends, to communicate any hurt feelings, and to reconcile and reconnect. These are times when I intentionally communicate to my teens that I love them no matter what.

I need to hold myself responsible for how I show up with my teens.

Teens may look like little adults, but they’re definitely NOT. Remembering that like 2-year-olds, they’re still in the middle of developing emotionally, mentally, and socially, is a good way to stay on track. Yes, we obviously have different expectations of a 13-year-old than we do for a 2-year-old, but the principle is the same. You didn’t get angry with your toddler when they threw a tantrum, because you expected it. (hopefully!) So why would you get angry when your 14-year-old throws a fit because you told her “No, you can’t go to the coed sleepover, even if all your friends are going.” You can pretty much count on her doing that.


If you want to take a deeper dive into developmental appropriateness, getting out of a fight-flight-or-freeze response, or even how to stay under your own umbrella, check out the Referenced in this Episode section below to find links to those episodes. You’ll also find links to an eBook about what’s developmentally appropriate in teens and a graphic that explains the Under Your Umbrella idea.