Archive for April, 2012

I truly love this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  This is so very, very true.  Our emotions will always carry more weight and stick with us more than words alone.  When someone says something important to us, it becomes important because of how we feel when we hear it – not because of the words alone.  The emotional response we have to something is what pulls us to it or makes us want to push it away. 

This is important to think about in all of the relationships in our lives – how we make others feel when they are around us will draw them towards us or make them want to push us away.  Teenagers have not figured this all out yet and often will say or do things that are hurtful, insulting, and frustrating without giving it a second thought.  In these situations, it is important for parents to let their teenager know how what they did or what they said made THEM feel.  This will help raise their awareness to the fact that what they do impacts others emotionally in addition to allowing parents to express their dissatisfaction about a situation in a way that won’t necessarily turn into a big argument (if you tell your teenager how what they did made you feel, they cannot argue that you did not feel the way you are saying you did – it makes what you are saying less difficult to challenge).  This role modeling ongoing will make an impact over time.

On the other side, this quote is true for your teenagers also.  They will often forget the content of lectures, the details of the conversations and the explanation of why you have certain rules in place, however, they will not forget how you made them feel during these moments and in your general day-to-day interactions with them.  Do you make them feel like everything single thing they do is wrong, do you make them feel like their ideas and visions are stupid or unrealistic, do you make them feel like they are nothing but a pain in your household, do you make them feel like all they do is disappoint you, do you make them feel like they are the cause of all of your problems, do you make them feel like you wish you had another child instead of them OR do you make them feel important, special, valuable and worthy of having love on a daily basis?  Remember – one way of making them feel will cause them to pull away or push you away and the other will draw them to you.

I am not suggesting that you will never be angry, frustrated, annoyed and fed up with your teenager.  All of these feelings are normal for parents of teenagers and are in response to the challenges faced when raising a teenager. When you do have them, it is okay to acknowledge them, understand why you are having them and communicate them appropriately to your teenager in terms of how what they said or did made you feel and why.  But…what you also need to be communicating to them on an ongoing basis is that they are important to you, that they matter and that no matter what, you care about them and want what is best for them.  Remember, how they feel will stick with them in a more powerful way than just words being spoken to them.

Children who feel good about themselves and who feel important have more confidence and courage to be out there in the world, doing important things and passing along their value to others.  Children who feel awful about themselves, who feel like inconveniences and who do not feel important get lost in the world and don’t rise to their full potential.  Or…even worse…they “live down” to the negative feelings and expectations that have been instilled in them.

A great skill for all parents who want to better connect with their teenagers and who want to make sure they are creating those positive feelings is Validation.  If you download this free audio program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers, you can have instant access to an audio tutorial where I will walk you though this skill and give you examples of how to start using it with your teenager immediately.  It transforms relationships.

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Have you heard the term “Helicopter Parents”?  This is a term that is frequently used for a particular parenting style in which parents “rescue” their children from the difficult things that come their way in life.  Parents who are Helicopter Parents will often make excuses for their children, take their child’s perspective of a situation at face value without looking at all the facts, blame others for their child’s behaviors or difficulties and take steps to eliminate any discomfort their child may be experiencing due to their bad behaviors.  It is understandable how parents fall into this particular parenting style – if you love your children, you don’t want to see them suffering or uncomfortable so you do what you can when situations arise that bring up these difficult emotions.  However, what happens when parents use a Helicopter Parenting style is that they don’t allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, they don’t foster positive decision-making in their children and they are not teaching their children to be responsible for themselves.  In many ways, Helicopter Parents do a disservice to their children because they don’t let them experience difficult things as children (when the stakes are much lower) which can cause major problems for them as adults.

If you have a tendency to fall into this parenting style – this post is not to make you feel bad but rather to offer some insight into why this is not always the most effective parent style and some tips for adjusting what you may be doing.  If you function as a Helicopter Parent, your child will continue to depend on you to solve their problems and will look to you to blame others for their mistakes.  It may result in less conflict in the moment (since we all know that children – especially teenagers – can lash out when you are holding them accountable for something), however, they are not learning anything other than to come running to you when the going gets tough which will be exhausting for you!

Below are a few tips to consider which will help you not fall into this parenting trap and which will help your child grow into a responsible, independent adult:

1.  Be an advocate, not a rescuer:  of course your child will need you for support or to help them out if things are difficult and this is part of your role as their parent.  When you function as an advocate, you support your child, you help make sure they are heard and you step in when you need to.  However, what you don’t do, is bail them out of all the difficult situations they experience.  For example:  Your child is struggling in a particular class because they get a lot of homework and they are not seeming to understand the information learned in class so they are doing poorly on their homework assignments.  As an advocate, you may set up a meeting with the teacher and talk about ways of getting your child extra support in the subject matter so that they are able to understand and complete their homework.  What you would NOT do is go to the school, attack the teaching by saying they are not teaching effectively and demand that your child be moved to a different class with less homework.

2. Validate them but don’t always agree with them:  validating your child shows you are listening, you are understanding what they are experiencing and let’s them know you can appreciate that something is difficult for them even if you don’t fully understand why or if you don’t agree with their perspective.  For example:  Your child has a sports game and does poorly in a game.  They complain that the coach was being unfair or that their teammates were not helping them be successful during the game and they are really upset about it.  You may know that the reality is that they skipped 2 practices and stayed up late the night before the game and that they simply did not play as well as they typically do.  In this situation, you can validate them by saying that you know they are upset because playing well is important to them and acknowledge that it can be really frustrating to know they can play better.  If you do this, they will feel heard and supported but you will not reinforce their view that everyone else is to blame for their bad game.

3.  Let them sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come with mistakes:  this is a really important tip.  Children need to experience being uncomfortable and learn to manage it.  Our feelings drive our behaviors so when children are feeling uncomfortable, it will influence their behaviors which is important.  This can be difficult to watch but it is life and a much better lesson to learn as children than as adults when the consequences and stakes are much higher.  For example, if you teenager cannot get up for school on time and ends up with a Saturday detention that causes them to miss something they were really looking forward to, it is much less of a consequence than showing up late for work as an adult and being fired and then unable to support oneself.  If children are always comfortable, they will never learn to make good decisions because they know that regardless of what they decide that you will make them comfortable again.

Loving your children is critical and necessary for their positive growth, however, rescuing them can actually stunt their emotional growth and development.  For additional parenting tips go to How To Parent A Teen and sign up for our free, weekly Ezine.

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I have heard so many parents say that they do not understand how their teenager can behave for teachers, with their friend’s parents, with relatives but not with them.  This often causes parents to question their parenting abilities and can create a lot of negative feelings between parent and teenager.  What is likely happening if you are in this situation, is that you are receiving the biggest backhanded compliment from your teenager.  It feels more just like a backhand period…but it many ways, it really is a compliment.

What happens is that teenagers walk around confused, unsure and often feeling out of control much of the time.  You, as their parent, are their “safe person”.  This means that they know (whether consciously or unconsciously) that despite their behaviors, you are still there every day and they know you will take care of them.  They know that you will still love them and that you will not “cut them off” like friends may do if they acted out with them or “kick them out” like schools may do if they were to act out too much there.  When teenagers act out with their parents, they typically don’t even understand what is going on.  They just feel a wave of strong emotion and it all gets released towards parents who are the safest.  With this said, it is not okay for your teen to continue to do this.  Understanding it can help you reshape their behavior, but this is not behavior you should tolerate ongoing from your teenager.

Below are some suggestions for addressing this with your teen so that you do not continue to be on the receiving end of all their difficult emotions:

1.  Be realistic about changes:  if your teenager has been yelling, screaming and swearing at you – understand that this will not change overnight.  Be clear about what you need to change first and focus on that (i.e not screaming and slamming doors, not swearing at you, etc).

2. Be clear:  during a period of calm, talk to your teen in a non-blaming way.  Let them know that you have been thinking about things and that you want both of you to work on making changes.  Then be clear about what needs to change, what you will do to work on it and then try to allow them to come up with a plan for what they will do.  If you avoid blaming them, they will be more likely to engage with you and will be more likely to feel understood and cared about.

3. Let them know the consequences:  come up with a clear consequence if they continue to engage in the problem behavior and make sure they understand it.  You will need to be committed to enforcing this each and every time as needed or else none of this will be effective.

4.  Don’t escalate the behavior:  if your teen begins to escalate themselves, don’t allow yourself to escalate to their level (easier said than done!).  This is really important – try speaking calmly, in a soft voice and let them know you should both take some space if they continue to escalate.  Then you can come back to the situation when you are both feeling calmer.

This is a process and will take committment and work, however, you should not be subjected to all your teenager’s challenging emotions.  Instead, you want to teach them self-control and how to express themselves appropriately which is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

For more parenting tips, go to the How To Parent A Teen website at www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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As my family is currently dealing with the serious illness of a family member…I am taking time to reflect on how I spend my days, how I notice the moments in my life and how I try to make each day count.  And to be honest with you…I am not sure I always do the best job with this.  Isn’t it easy to just let a day, then two days, then three days go by without really even noticing what is important or what makes you happy?  I think most of us get caught up in this trap – just getting through the day and thinking about how you will plan out your next day.  I am often planning out my next weekend on Monday – what about Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday??? Can’t those be good, important and meaningful days too? Of course they can be but I think we all miss the boat sometimes.  We get too caught up in being pulled in too many directions and we lose…we miss out…and it is time we will never get back.  It takes work but bringing awareness to each day, reflecting on what is good and on what is important each day and making sure that we are taking advantage of the moments we have can create a much more fulfilling life.

Have you ever noticed that you can take a trip somewhere and notice all the beautiful things you see, smell and hear as you are driving or walking?  This is because you are tuned in.  I remember doing this one time while on a weekend away in New Hampshire in the fall.  All the beautiful colors, the crisp air and the calmness I felt.  Then I got home and realized all the same colors and the same crisp air were present at home but where was the calmness?  Why did I not see the colors or feel the air in the same way?  What I realized was it was all still there – I was just not taking the time to notice it all as I had when I was away.  I was not being conscious and mindful.

So – I challenge us all (myself included) to take a few moments each morning and each evening to make each day count by doing the following:

1. Each morning:  wake up, set an intention for the day, make a conscious decision to make the day count (even if it is busy, crazy and overwhelming), appreciate the people in your life and know that life is what we make of it

2. Each evening:  reflect on your day, appreciate what you have in your life, let those who you care about know you care and focus on what is positive instead of dwelling on the negative (even if you are frustrated, angry or upset)

Our minds are powerful and we can choose to live our lives in a powerful and meaningful way or we can choose to focus on all the wrongs in the world and the negative things that have been done to us.  Which do you choose?

Go to How To Parent A Teen for free information, products and programs designed specifically for parents of teenagers.

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