Ep 98: From Insecure to Marvelous

Episode Summary

Shanterra McBride, author of Love Your Jiggle and founder of Marvelous University, joins Andy for a talk on how to help our teens through their most awkward years and what to do to prepare them for the big world ahead. 

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Being a tween and becoming an adult is an awkward time not just for tweens, but for their parents! Bodies are changing, friendships are growing more complicated, and your once confident child may appear to be folding in on themselves, pulling away from the world, just at the moment when they need to learn how to be on their own in it!

Instead of being able to tune in more accurately to their own voice, our teens are increasingly confronted with a myriad of messages on who to befriend, how to behave, and what to wear. With so many companies and personalities vying for our teens attention, it can feel like there’s no room for the voice of a parent. 

But teens, arguably more now than ever, need a steady parental presence… 

This week’s guest Shanterra McBride gets it. She knows from her own experiences mentoring and educating youth that parenting is hard. She also deeply and truly believes that, parents, you can do this

Shanterra McBride is the author of Love Your Jiggle: The Girls’ Guide To Being Marvelous and founder of Marvelous University. Although Shanterra’s book centers on girls, her experience in education has led her to work with teens of all genders and ages. She knows that insecurities and awkwardness during the adolescent years hit us all hard—and that sometimes all it takes for a teen to feel okay at the end of the day is for a parent to just listen

McBride discovered her passion for working with teens as volunteer in AmeriCorps. Placed in what at the time was considered the worst school in Washington, D.C., Shanterra found her calling in helping awkward, insecure, and misled “ducklings” turn into marvelous swans. 

Shanterra realized three main areas thwarting teen success and came up with unique ways to tackle each. 

First, every teen she met had body image issues—even before the days of Instagram and TikTok. While we often think of “body image” as a girl-specific issue, for young people going through puberty no one is exempt from having a complicated relationship with their body. 

At a time of such physical and obvious changes, there is already plenty for a teen to be self conscious about. Throw in an aunt’s comment to your daughter about her “new boobs” or an uncle’s tease directed at your son and his “puny muscles” and your teen might just want to run from the house screaming of embarrassment. 

Whether your teen is an early or late bloomer, as skinny as a stick or with extra jiggle, Shanterra explains that we need to get teens focusing on what their body can do, not just what it looks like. Different bodies can do different things and we can help our teens appreciate their own physicality by reminding them of this. Shanterra goes so far as to recommend telling your teen to spend some time looking at themself in the mirror—seriously! Before jumping to a judgment on this idea, consider that your teen should know and make their own decisions about their body before others tell them what to think and feel about your teen’s shape, size, or color.

To lessen the already fraught feelings around our teens changing bodies, Shanterra prefers to use the word “jiggle.” She acknowledges such a silly sounding the word immediately disarms teens. And she insists that “jiggle” means a person’s whole body…not just the parts that can actually “jiggle”. Loving your jiggle then, is embracing your whole self and everything your body and mind can do as well as all the potential inside! What an incredible gift the power of a healthy self image is for teens.

The second big issue teens face that Shanterra identifies revolves around friendships. She realized teens, particularly “new” teens look at friendship all wrong

Teens navigating the new and more intense social hierarchies of middle school and high school may lose sight of what friendship is truly about. Instead of choosing friends based on honesty, mutual respect, and shared interests for example, Shanterra saw adolescents making friends based on what relationships they thought would elevate them in the eyes of the group. Using relationships as a means to an end, like popularity, is not the lesson we want our teens to learn, particularly if we want them to become adults with healthy relationships. 

Although it’s difficult to watch a child struggle with friendship drama, parents can help nudge kids in the right direction. Shanterra suggests parents can step in by helping their teen pause to contemplate what characteristics would be good to have in a friend…and which characteristics your teen is putting forth. And when drama does happen, not jumping in and getting riled up, but pausing again to encourage contemplation instead of snap judgements. 

Of course, usually what a teen will want most is just an ear to listen, and maybe someone to talk things through with. 

Which brings us to the final issue of unmet needs in teens. The three needs are independence, connection, and mastery. We’ve already seen how with friendships teens might be struggling with connection. But what about independence and mastery? 

In our interview, Shanterra touches on how although our teens might still be “kids” in our eyes, they are ready for increased independence. Shanterra has seen so many teens worn out from being told what grades to get, what activities to do, when to get their chores done, who to be friends with, etc. To make sure your teen’s need for independence is met, give them age-appropriate responsibilities and consider collaborating on any household policies or rules. For example, together deciding on a curfew and what consequences there would be in the event the curfew is broken. Your teen needs to feel that they have some control over their own life. 

When it comes to mastery, Shanterra is referring to developing skills. As parents we should avoid rewarding our teen for simply “showing up”—after all, we don’t get paid to just “show up” to work, we have to do the work that is required of us. We should absolutely celebrate and congratulate our teens when they hit a goal or milestone, and we should absolutely be emphasizing the work they put in to get to those markers. You don’t have to win the championship trophy to have a met need of mastery—but you do need to perform and work hard in that final game if you plan on walking away with a sense of accomplishment. 

Throughout all this, it can be all to easy to forget that parents have needs too! Luckily to make things simple, they are the same as teens: independence, mastery (competence), and connection. Parents also need to feel that they have control over their life, are connected to others, and have something they are good or getting better at…which in some cases might be parenting!

In this episode we  cover:

  • How to help your teen “pause” during friendship troubles
  • Body image issues male teens might face
  • The overlap between parent and teen needs 
  • Why it’s important to give teens feedback now
  • A pep talk for any parents who are having a particularly difficult time

Shanterra’s keen insights into teens along with her endearing charm make for a great interview—I’m excited to share it with you!!

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Help your teen pause when they are worried about what a friend “said”:

“Hm are y’all having this conversation on text or phone call? Did you see her face when she was saying this or are you just reading her words?”

-Shanterra McBride

2. Help your teen pause if they lash out at a friend:

(Members Only)

3. When your teen’s voice cracks, or a sign of puberty rears its awkward head:

(Members Only)

4. If a relative makes an embarrassing comment about your developing tween:

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: I read your book here, Love Your Jiggle, and I’ve read about you in some other books now, including this book, One Trusted Adult.

Shanterra: Yes, my good friend, Brooklyn.

Andy: Okay. So, you’re showing up all over the place here. So how did you get into doing all of this stuff and writing about being marvelous, and what propelled you to be talking about this and writing about it?

Shanterra: Well, I would have to say working with girls, working with young people has always been my life. And I would… I guess, it’s because I’m the oldest of a lot of grandchildren. Like a lot of grandchildren. So there was always young people around. But I would say getting into college, I went to college as a vocal performance major. I was going to be an opera singer and absolutely hated every… Not everything about it. I like singing, I hated everything else. And my grades were a reflection of how much that was a wrong major.

Shanterra: But anyway, long story short, I ended up changing majors to sociology. And that’s when I really started learning more about theory, and families, and systems, and young people in a different way as opposed to just playing with them outside and really learning about their development. And that just set the road on to who I am now. And really getting into something that spoke to humanity.

Shanterra: And so working with girls here in Dallas a little bit, because right after college I moved to Washington DC and worked at a high school there through a nonprofit organization. I was an AmeriCorps Vista member, which is the domestic Peace Corps and my assignment was at what they would call the worst high school in DC. And I think the school has made a lot of changes, but this was like early ’90s, right?

Andy: Small disclaimer, things have changed.

Shanterra: I’m just saying, you know there’s been change. But I would say that being there, I was the youngest person at the school as far as the adults. And I was responsible for getting teachers and the school involved in the community and the community involved in the school. A long way to say I was the service learning coordinator. And I started a girls program there. And that really, Andy, that helped me to see that, and one of the wisest man I know I trained with him when I was in DC, Thandor Miller taught me that young people could care less about how much you know until they know how much you care.

Shanterra: And so being in that school, being in my classroom, not really sure what I was doing. I was like 22, 23 years old. But girls would come and sit in my classroom and just talk. And I wasn’t a therapist. I wasn’t a counselor. I was just like, so we’re chatting. This is what we’re doing.

Shanterra: And they would keep showing up, and that really, I mean, that set the tone for me. I was like, “I must do this for the rest of my life in some kind of way.” And so that started the whole marvelous movement as I like to call it.

Andy: You then have this book, Love Your Jiggle. So then this was something that you felt was like really important or that was missing in other books. And it’s something that needed to be said. And why did you feel that? And what made you think, “Hey, I’ve got the answer that people need to this problem?”

Shanterra: This is it. I felt that we talk society, we talk a lot to girls about how to be. We talk to girls about how to dress-

Andy: Or not to be.

Shanterra: Exactly. So we give a lot of messages to girls. We tell girls, don’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t go out too late. Don’t do that with your body. Don’t talk about that. Like all of these don’t dos, right? And I felt like girls needed a guide to really walk them through how to be their amazing selves. And you would think that comes naturally if we would just give girls the space to just be, but since we don’t, I felt like girls would benefit from having a guide book on five simple rules that would help them navigate middle school or high school. I’ve had college women read it and they’re like, “Yeah, where was this when I was…”

Shanterra: So, it’s one of those things where they’re so simple but yet when you pull back the layers, they’re actually complicated because we don’t really talk about them a lot in the public space, especially with girls. But I felt like they needed a guide to just navigate the waters and to promise them they will make it through. They’ll make it through this phase of adolescents, regardless of how it seems, you will come out on the other side.

Andy: There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Shanterra: At the end. It’s a long tunnel, but-

Andy: You might lose track of the light for a while. You won’t even be able to see it in there for maybe a couple of years, but it is there.

Shanterra: It is there.

Andy: Okay. One of the things in your book that I thought was really cool was just about really taking some time to define the meaning of friendship. And you write in here that you really wish this was something you did in middle school or high school. Okay. Why is that important for teenagers to do?

Shanterra:

Well you know, it’s one of those things where your friends really define who you are. And we put so much pressure on friends, and I use that word, but it’s one of those things where it’s more about who am I seen with? Who wants to be seen with me? Who do I get to eat lunch with? Who will wait for me before they go in the building? Who will wait for me after school? Who will wait for me in the hallway so I don’t have to walk to my next class by myself? Right?

Shanterra: So it’s way more than the characteristics of a person. We look more to the actions or the benefits of what that person can do for us. And I think we really miss the mark because we spend so much time seeing who’s popular, meaning who is known by the most people? Who is the best dressed? Who all those things, instead of, how do I feel when I’m around this person? Right? Like, do I feel safe? Meaning, can I express the goofiness that is my personality, or must I always act just like them? Can I, I always talk about, especially with girls, can I just sit with this person and not have to hold my stomach in? Guys don’t really know that, but girls, definitely. Women can relate to that. Can I just be?

Shanterra: And I think if I would have known that in middle school and high school, and I have some wonderful friends still from middle school. Few of my closest friends I met in seventh grade. Wonderful, wonderful people. But I also remember that feeling of, is this going to be good for me? Can I sit with this person or can I hang out with this person on the weekend and will that be okay for the look? Because I was new. I went to a new school in seventh grade. And I remember that feeling of, will this be okay? And I just wished that young people really started to think about, what do you want in a friendship? What do you desire in a friendship? And then, is that the kind of friend you are? If you desire trust and honesty, is that what you’re putting out?

Andy: What do you recommend for parents who have a teenager who’s in a similar situation that you were in during that time?

Shanterra: I always share with parents to remember that adolescence is a stage, they will go through it. The other thing I will suggest really is to listen first and go into rescue and action mode after the listening. I think so many parents when they hear there may be friendship drama, want to sweep in and rescue. Right? Yeah. There’s no… Everyone should want to be for as my child. Right. You know. And I always ask parents to listen. And part of listening is to also ask their wonderful teenager, is this something you want me to just listen to or do you want my advice? Because I think a lot of times, young people, especially girls just want to vent. They don’t really care what we think, they just want us to listen, not every now and then say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that happened.” And it’s horrible, and then agree with them. That’s it.

Shanterra: And I know that that sounds, they’re probably going to be some teenage girls like, “No, that’s not true. Well, kind of.” But I often ask parents to just think about, just ask. “Do you want me to just listen?” Because we all need space to vent. “Or do you want my advice?” And that I think will really help a lot of us get through the maze that is middle school and high school. Or the maze that is interacting with other human beings. It is truly, it can be an up and it can be a roller coaster. And everyone doesn’t like roller coasters. So it’s one of those things that we also have to understand. Sometimes friendships are going to have good days, great days, horrible days. But that doesn’t mean that the friendship is over. It’s really advise parents to listen first, ask if advice is requested before we sweep in and rescue.

Andy: Yeah. Because it might be just a temporary thing that’s over tomorrow. And then you’re an idiot if you make this huge deal about it.

Shanterra: Most of the time. Most of the time. And then even asking, “Are y’all having this conversation over text message? Have y’all had a chance to talk to each other?” Those kinds of things, because we all know things can be really escalated through text because we don’t hear the tone. Regardless of how many emojis one uses, you still don’t hear the tone. And so that helping young people pause, that’s what I feel like a lot of our jobs as adults is, to help them pause. And so asking them, “Are y’all having this conversation over text or is this a phone call?” Or now with everything being on Zoom or FaceTime, “Did you see her face when she was saying this or are you just reading her words?” Just those little pauses to help deescalate the situation. That doesn’t mean that the friendship still won’t end or may actually need to end. And I think sometimes parents are afraid of that. But at least it gives everybody a chance to pause before we jump all the way to the conclusions.

Andy: I love that. And yeah, I think that’s something that we all need also to feel like, to have someone say that, “Hey, I think you did the best you could. And you’re doing a good job and sometimes that’s all they need and they don’t really want a bunch of criticism. Like they’re not at that stage yet, they’re kind of like still feeling really unsure about the whole situation and they need to be first reassured and calmed down and just, it’s really hard to listen to any kind of advice or think about anything deeply when you’re in that emotional state of, “Oh no, this thing is happening and it’s terrible.”

Shanterra: Absolutely. Oh Gosh.

Andy: It’s like kind of the first thing you can do as a parent, that’s so helpful. It’s just like, “It’s okay, you’re doing a great job. I think you just did the best you could and-“

Shanterra: Yeah. And just help them pause. I mean, and I’ve also had some parents where their wonderful angel has done something really rude and mean. And so the parent may not need to say, “You’re doing a great job.” The pause may be, “Hmm, that sounds like that was really tough. Or that sounds like… Were you angry when you sent that text or did something else happen? Because I don’t know. If I received that I don’t know if I would have been wanting to talk to you after that. But still having them pause. I think accountability is really important when it comes to teaching young people how to be friends.

Shanterra: And I know like, I have a niece who’s only nine months old, so she is the most perfect person on the planet. And I’m already thinking about, one day she may not be nice to people. One day she may say something hurtful and that may affect her friendships. And I will, as her, I’m assuming I will be her favorite person–

Andy: Of course.

Shanterra: –of course–So I will have to say to her, “Wow, Olivia, that wasn’t very nice.” I still will hopefully give her space to pause and think, but I just don’t want to Pat her on the back if there is behavior that we have agreed upon, behavior how we want to treat other people and how we want to be treated. So that’s why I always decide what you want in a friendship and then be that kind of friend.

Andy: And don’t demand it from other people or don’t accept less than that from the people that you call friends.

Shanterra: Which is so hard. They want to stay in these friendships and that’s why now I’m asking girls especially, and guys too. But to think about, what do you desire and what do you require? Like what do you desire in a friendship, or in a relationship? What do you desire? What are the things that will be absolutely wonderful? But then when you come to your requirements, what are your non negotiables? What are the things that you will not put up with that are just, “Uh-uh (negative), this is not up for discussion.” And know what those are and be comfortable walking away when those things aren’t in place.

Andy: Can you talk a little bit about body image? You write in your book that one of the difficult things about it is that everybody seems to have an opinion. And even people in your family, relatives, will start to make comments, especially as girls start to mature and go through puberty, we get all these kinds of comments happening that people just feel entitled to make. Because you know, “I’ve known you since forever. And this is okay. Yeah, I can say this.”

Shanterra: “I used to change your diapers!”

Andy: Right. Yeah. So that gives me permission now. So that’s tough. Is that something that you have some advice for on how people can deal with that?

Shanterra:Yes. Oh my goodness. When I use the word jiggle and so I use the word juggle for body, all things encompassing, because one, it makes people laugh. Like when you cannot say the word jiggle and I see, I see your face and you cannot say it without smiling. And so it was really, for me, it was really to disarm the conversation and like, “Okay, let’s talk about our jiggles.” And it’s not just the stuff that moves on our bodies. But the thing about girls loving their bodies is this, we are up against this battle with people, strangers, plus people we know commenting on our bodies. Telling us what our bodies should look like. Telling us how our bodies should move or not move. Telling us what we should wear on our bodies. Like all of these outside forces coming at us.

Shanterra: And I don’t think people really remember that when you’re going through puberty your body is changing without your consent. You are not giving your body permission to do any of this. And for a lot of girls, they are angry that this is happening. And when you have your favorite aunt who when you walk in the door, just like, “Oh my gosh, you’re getting boobs.” That is not what you want to hear. You know what I mean? When you just come in.

Andy: Of course. It’s like a violation.

Shanterra: Come on. Right? And so for a lot, it is just like you want to turn yourself inside out and just-

Andy: –Crawling to, is there a dark space somewhere?

Shanterra: Can I hide? Can I hide right now? And I just don’t think that well intention family members, close family friends who are like family, that they really understand the impact. Because most young people, especially around puberty, they don’t want to be seen. They really want to hide. Because again, their body is changing without their consent. And so, yeah, they’re spending more time in the bathroom. Yes they’re running up your water bill. Yes they’re standing in there and gazing, even though they will cringe at the idea because things are changing. And so what I try to tell young people, especially girls, is to love your jiggle to when you are feeling bold, stand in the mirror butt naked, like nothing on, and just gaze at yourself.

Shanterra: And when I talk about this in person, it never fails girls looking at me like, I have grown five heads. Right? Because it’s like, “What? Why would we do that?” And I always say, “Because you’re absolutely marvelous. What is happening, what you see in the mirror is the most beautiful, majestic, wonderful creation that there is. And you need to learn how to stare, gaze at yourself, find your birthmarks, find the mole, find whatever it is that make you wonderful.” Then I even tell girls, “Now turn around, turn around and look at it, just look at your butt. Just…” And again, it never felt they’re like, “Oh my God.”

Shanterra: But for me, it’s one of those things where, go ahead and get it over with. Just gaze. Just stare. And I also say this as we get to chapter three, I also say this because a lot of times when there’s a sexual encounter or an experience, some of the times the other person gets to make comments about your body. About the girl’s body. And girls aren’t familiar with their own bodies. And so it’s so impressive when someone else says, “Oh, the dimple on your left jaw.” And the girl’s like, “I’ve never even stared at myself. I don’t… Oh they notice that I have a dimple on my left jaw.” Well, that’s nothing to be impressed with if you have spent time gazing at your own self. So it’s not a big deal when they say, “Oh, you have a mole on the right side of your neck.” “Yeah, I know.”

Shanterra: So it’s instead of giving power, it’s understanding, once I am so familiar and comfortable with my own self that I get to make so many more decisions for myself than allowing somebody else who basically telling me stuff that if I would have just spent some time gazing at myself, I would see these wonderful things too.

Andy: What do you think a parent’s role is in that situation? Should you say something to other family members if you hear them making comments? Kind of like pull them aside, do you think? And just say like, “Hey, I know you’re… I’m not trying to be whatever, but we need to talk-“

Shanterra: “I know you probably meant it as a compliment, but stop talking.”

Andy: Yeah. You’re trying to be cute. “I get it, but we just try to really stay positive. We just try to not talk about,” or I don’t know. How would you phrase that?

Shanterra: A lot of the times, and this is going to be two parts. So first, a lot of the times parents are noticing this because they’re doing it in their home and so they’re already making the comments and seeing the pre-teen or the adolescent like freak out. And so this is the great time for parents to give warning to those relatives before we arrive. Like, “Hey, hey, hey-

Andy: “Hey, things are changing.”

Shanterra: Yeah. You’re going to notice it. It’s happening. But let’s not go there. So that pre is really great. If it happens and it is so quick that the… And most of the… Well, I would say for both parents, most of the time it’s, “Oh, oh, I didn’t know that they were going to say that.” It’s when they see their pre-teen or their adolescent basically getting ready to crawl inside themselves and go invisible, the great thing about a parent can always say is, “Yeah, things are happening without our consent all the time. Yep, it’s part of growing up. Yep it’s, man, I get that.” Or, “Oh gosh, I remember when my aunt did me like that and I wanted to run and hide.”

Shanterra: So even identifying and just–even though they’re like, “What are you talking about?”—”Oh my gosh. I remember when that happened to me and I wanted to absolutely go outside. If you want to go outside, go outside.” You know what I mean? Just making them not feel so strange because they didn’t respond the way that most of the adults in the room wanted them to respond. And actually as an adult, what do I expect them to say? Like what… Yeah.

Andy: Good one.

Shanterra: I mean, honestly, what did we expect them to say? And so if, as the parent or the, as my friend Brooke talks about, the trusted adult, even if I’m in the space and I hear it, I can say, “Oh my gosh. I remember when my aunt did that to me and I want it to disappear. Feel free to disappear right now if that helps.”

About Shanterra McBride

Shanterra McBride is the author of Love Your Jiggle: The Girls’ Guide to Being Marvelous, an inspirational book for girls ages 11-17.  Additionally McBride is a coach, educator, speaker and founder of Marvelous University, a social enterprise that offers life coaching and success planning for young people, specializing in leadership development for girls and young women. Shanterra has traveled to Morocco and Peru to deliver workshops to girls on the permission of valuing themselves and expecting the same from others.  She has spoken in cities throughout South Africa on girls’ empowerment issues including creating safe spaces, combating gender-based violence, and anti-bullying. 

Shanterra was awarded the Profiles in Leadership Award from Southern Methodist University (SMU), for having made a significant impact on the city of Dallas and on the quality of life for girls and women all over the country.  Shanterra earned her master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University. She obtained bachelor’s degrees from SMU in public affairs & corporate communications and sociology. Shanterra is a member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  

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