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Posts Tagged ‘parent advice’

Teenagers can present as ungrateful, like they cannot be bothered by you and like they could take you or leave you as their parent at times.  There is no arguing this and most parents of teenagers can identify with this at some point – whether all the time or occasionally.  Despite this, what I have seen happen over and over is that parents assume that their teenagers do not want to spend time with them and therefore they stop asking because they are tired of being rejected.  Although it makes sense that parents stop asking their teens if they want to spend time together, teens often times end up seeing this as a rejection and feel not cared about.

If you are saying to yourself that this does not make any sense you are right!  It doesn’t make logical sense that your teenager pushes you away and then gets hurt that you do not ask them if they want to spend more time with you, however, this is often times what happens.  One of the ongoing questions parents of teenagers ask themselves is “how involved should I be in my teen’s life?”  There is no clear answer or magic formula, however, your teen will notice if you stop trying to be involved.  It is a fine line and often confusing for parents who want to spend time with their teenagers but don’t want to feel like they are being controlling or overly involved.

I have worked with parents who were struggling with this issue and below are some of the suggestions we have come up with through the coaching process that have helped them identify ways they can offer to spend time with their teenagers in a way that is enjoyable for both them and their teenager.

  • Once every couple weeks, offer to take your teenager out for a meal on the way to or from another activity.  This will give you 1:1 time with them consistently and does not require them to miss out on other events with friends.
  • Mothers and daughters can go together to get manicures or pedicures.  Schedule a time where you can go at the same time and sit side by side so that you are talking during your time at the salon.
  • If you share a common hobby or interest with your teenager, this is a great way to spend time with them.  Golfing or playing baseball, tennis or volleyball is a great way for parents to spend time with their teenagers.  Or if you both enjoy reading or art, you can go together to the library or to shop for books or supplies.
  • Use car time as a way of spending time with your teenager.  If you are driving them to an appointment or to a friend’s house, try to use this time to talk to them in a casual manner so that they know you are available to them rather than having car rides in silence or with the radio turned up most of the time.
  • Schedule a family game night (or allow your teenager to invite a friend also).  This is a stretch for many teens but I have worked with teenagers who report that they truly enjoy such events.  Teens often enjoy sitting in the comfort of their home and playing games they enjoy with people who do not judge them.  It’s worth asking or trying!
  • Have one special meal together each week.  Maybe make it together, plan it together or go shopping for it together also.

Sometimes it takes some creativity but it is worth putting thought into things that would appeal to your teenager.   It is important to continue to offer your teenager opportunities to spend time with you – even if you think they will say they are not interested most times you ask.

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It is recommended that teenagers get 9 hours of sleep per night because they are still having a lot of physical, emotional and brain growth which really does require this much sleep.  It can be a struggle for parents to get their teenager in bed at a reasonable time for a number of reasons:  teens get a lot of homework, have sports or other extra-curricular activity commitments that often going until later in the evening and of course teens also want to watch TV, play video games or chat with their friends via computer, text or phone.  Below are some tips that can assist you in getting your teenager to bed and asleep earlier and move them closer to that goal of 9 hours of sleep each night.

  • Keep a cool room – this is tough in the hot summer but it has been proven that people sleep much better in a cool room.
  • Adjust the lighting– when possible, dim the lighting in your house at 8 or 9pm.  Simply doing can create a more relaxing environment.
  • Try to not let them nap – many teenagers are tired after school and come home and nap.  This does not give them the time they need to refresh and results in their going to bed later and continuing in this cycle.
  • Encourage them to exercise at times other than right before bed – it is much harder to fall asleep if you are wound up after exercising.
  • Help them avoid caffeine – this will interfere with their sleep and many parents do need to place restrictions on their teen’s caffeine intake after school.
  • Teach calming techniques – whether it is listening to certain music, using a soothing scent like vanilla or lavender, drinking warm tea, reading, etc.  Try to help your teen explore activities that are soothing and calming for them.
  • Keep a schedule – this can be difficult but trying to have your teen going to bed and waking up during the week at the same time will help their body adjust to falling asleep earlier.  Also, not allowing them to stay up too late or sleep too late or all day on the weekends will further help with this.
  • Unplug at night – set a time for all electronics to be turned off and stick with it.  Remove them if you need to or set up a system where all wireless connections shut down at a certain time each night.
  • Be a good role model– even though as adults, our bodies are not growing and changing like a teenager’s body does,we need sufficient sleep also.  As you address your teen’s sleep needs – try to address your own also.

For more parenting tips and resources go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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I feel that talking about and planning for summer is an important topic each year.   Teenagers look forward to their summer break and usually start the countdown right after April vacation.  Whether you have a teenager home from college or a teenager out of high school (or middle school) for the summer, you are potentially less thrilled than they are about the summer “break”.  Parents often struggle with the summer breaks because they feel like their teen may have too much unstructured time or that they may “sleep their days away”.  In addition to this, they generally also want their teens to be able to have some time to relax, have fun and enjoy their time off from school.

I have found that when teenagers do not have any plans or expectations for the summer that it does not go well.  It is generally not healthy to have teenagers sleeping all day or not having any sort of responsibility for the entire summer.  Of course there are some teenagers who will work all summer full-time and there are some who will fight the idea of working or committing to any schedule as long as they possibly can.  It is my experience that doing some planning for the summer and giving teens choices produces the best results that are agreeable to both teens and their parents.

Below are some suggestions I have given to my private clients that I have seen work out well for teenagers during their summer breaks:

  1. Have a discussion with your teen prior to the summer where you set some expectations.  (For Example:  “I know that you want to have time to spend with your friends and relax this summer but three days per week you will need to be up and ready to leave the house by 10am –  the other days you can relax and sleep in more if you want”)  Such discussions both set the expectation and offer your teen some choice.
  2. Let your teen know that they will have household chores to do – outline them clearly (maybe make a chart) and negotiate any allowance they will receive (if this is something you have for them but it is certainly not necessary) if successfully completing their chores.  Hold them accountable to doing their chore before you give them any allowance.
  3. Let your teen know that they will be expected to work (if age appropriate) or volunteer for a certain number of hours per week.  I have had families who have had their teens volunteer at the following places, however, there are many, many more based on your teens interests and your location:  animal shelter, nursing home, hospital, library, daycare center, in a work setting that is of interest to them similar to an internship or apprenticeship, soup kitchen.  I once worked with a girl who volunteered to help clean in a gym in exchange for a summer gym membership which worked out really well.
  4. If your teenager is old enough to work, have them start filling out applications now – the earlier the better rather than waiting for everyone else who is finishing up school to begin doing the same thing.
  5. If your teen is not old enough to work you may encourage them to offer to mow lawns, walk dogs, baby sit locally, etc.  These are great ways to begin to teach responsibility and to help them earn a little extra money.
  6. Explore any appropriate summer sports leagues / camps.  This is a great way to help structure your teens days if this is an area of interest for them.
  7. Explore other enrichment activities:  art classes, music lessons, sewing classes, computer classes, photography classes, sailing classes, dance classes, etc.  Many of the local community colleges have programs for students during the summer months which offer a wide range of classes.

It is always best to find something that helps build both responsibility and competency in your teenager which will benefit them as they grow into young adults.

For more Parenting Tips designed specifically for parents of teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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Does your teen have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or do you suspect they do?  If so, they will respond differently than most teens when you try to set limits or implement consequences.  They will often rebel and will challenge you more, disregard rules more and sometimes even thrive on conflict and pushing your buttons because it gives them a sense of power and control.  Having a teenager who is ODD does not make them a bad person by any means.  Teens with ODD are often very bright, creative, determined and have many of the same strengths other teenagers have.  With that said, they can be very challenging and tiring for parents because of their determination and willfulness.  Below I offer a brief clinical description of ODD and then some tips for parents of teenagers with ODD who are struggling with managing their challenging behaviors.

Criteria for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD):

At least 4 of the following behaviors must have been present for 6 months or more for a child to meet the formal clinical diagnosis for ODD

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with adults
  • Often purposefully defies rules
  • Often purposefully annoys others
  • Often blames others for their mistakes or bad behavior
  • Often is easily annoyed by others
  • Often is angry or resentful
  • Often is spiteful or vindictive

(All of these are behaviors that most parents see to some level in teenagers, however, teenagers may meet the criteria for this diagnosis if the behaviors are frequent and more severe than the average teen)

In addition, these behaviors:

  • Cause significant problems at home or at school
  • Are not due to another Mental Health diagnosis
  • Do not meet the level of Conduct Disorder (teens with conduct disorder are more likely to be violent, steal and become involved in criminal activity)

If you believe your teenager has ODD, you can certainly explore getting professional support for them as well as for you since parenting can be increasingly challenging and frustrating.  There are formal evaluations that can be done by a therapist or even at school if you feel these would be helpful.  The good news is that many teenagers grow out of this diagnosis and the challenging and rebel behaviors go away as they enter adulthood.  One of the biggest frustrations for parent with teens with ODD, as I mentioned above, is getting them to follow the rules and to care about the consequences.  Below are some suggestions for parents who are struggling with this issue:

  1. Be really clear about the rules and keep them as consistent as possible:  I often suggest that parents write the rules down and both parent and teen sign them which makes it harder for teens to challenge them, manipulate them or say they did not know about them in the moment.
  2. Do not give chances:  the rules need to be the rules ALL the time and need to be enforced consistently.  If a teen with ODD thinks they have any wiggle room or that they can bully or badger you into changing the rules, you will be challenged over and over which will result in your feeling completely drained.
  3.  Only issue consequences you can enforce 100%:  this is the biggest and most important part of all of this.  Teens with ODD are those who, when grounded from the phone, will still sneak on it when you are sleeping.  Or when they are grounded from going out, they will sneak out the window.  If you issue a consequence you cannot fully enforce, you will lose powerSome examples of ways I have helped parents with this issue are:  completely turning off the cell phone service or blocking the internet service in the house, taking away a laptop or unplugging the keyboard from the computer and locking it in the trunk of the car where it cannot be accessed, restricting providing rides for teens to do fun things or restricting spending money given to them.  They will still try to get around these things and will likely have some level of success.  If you restrict them from the phone, they will use friend’s cell phone, so what is important when issuing these consequences is to say something to your teenager like, “Because you did not come home again on time for your curfew, I have taken your cell phone and you will not be allowed to use it for one week”.  (you are not saying that they are not able to talk on the phone at all for a week because you know they can use a friend’s phone – you are saying they will not be able to talk on THEIR phone for a week which is something you CAN control 100%).

This can be tiring to say the least and parents often feel like they are being punished too by having to turn off the internet or dealing with their teenager’s constant badgering when consequences are issues and enforced.  This is all very true and is the reason why many parents throw in the towel and give full control over to their teenager.  But it does not have to be that way – get the support you need and if you are consistent, you will see progress.

For more tips on staying consistent, go to the How To Parent A Teen website at www.HowToParentATeen.com and download the free audio program for parents of teenagers.

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I have worked with so many parents who talk about the frustration and sadness they feel about how rude, disrespectful and entitled their children can be at times and with the amount of arguing that goes on in their homes.  I think what can be so difficult is that as adults, many of us could never imagine speaking to our parents or doing the things that we see some children doing today.  Let’s face it, we are living in a different time with kids being exposed to things that make them want to grow up faster, with kids being exposed to other kids doing bad things more often and with increased challenges in supervising children (more parents working, social media, more controversial content on TV, etc).  These are certainly not excuses for bad behavior, however, it helps to remember that kids today are living in a different world and navigating through different challenges.

What these behaviors can do for many families is create unbelievable conflicts where parents are accused of being old-fashioned, not understanding, unfair, ridiculous…and worse.  This leaves children extremely frustrated with their parents and leaves parents extremely frustrated, hurt and disappointed with their children.  The dynamic that then plays out is one where children and their parents are on opposite sides of the battle field, both fighting for the “win” they so desperately want.

The problem is, it should not be about a win/lose situation.  It should be about what is best for the family and what is in the best interest of the children.  When parents are able to shift their mindset to this, situations can be easier to manage and responses can be more thoughtful and proactive rather than only reactive.  When parents remain calm, they are more in control and children understand this.

Let’s face it though, it is not easy to stay calm when your child is challenging you, questioning you, nagging you and telling you how awful you are, right?  What is important though, is that you DO stay calm during these times.  When anyone yells and repeats themselves over and over, it is generally coming from a place where they feel out of control (kids do the same – the less they feel heard, the louder they yell).  When parents yell and make harsh decisions in the moment based on strong emotions, children sense this and they know that they are in the driver’s seat.  If you are a parent who has done this, you are far from alone – most, if not all parents, do this because it is a natural reaction to a strong emotional state.  However, it typically results in either an unrealistic, excessive punishment, in saying things that shouldn’t be said or in having a completely ineffective conversation.

If you are a parent who wants to reduce your arguing with your teenager, try implementing the tips below:

  1. Control your behavior, don’t try to control theirs:  you have 100% control over your reactions and if you remain respectful and calm, it will make a difference.  When we change our behaviors, the behaviors of those around us usually change.  Don’t spend all your energy trying to make your teen stop yelling or swearing…just control what you do.
  2. Give your teen a quota:  expect that your teen will make some mistakes and will become emotional and remember that they have many lessons to learn during this time in their lives.  If you give yourself a quota (for example…your teenager will yell about a rule at least once per week), then you are going to be better prepared for this when it occurs and will not respond in a reactive way.  Over time, you will be able to help them better manage their emotions if your emotions remain under control.
  3. Don’t feel the need to rescue them all the time:  your teen will make mistakes and may have to tolerate some uncomfortable consequences for these mistakes.  This is healthy and will help them learn to be good decision makers.  Don’t feel like you need to control or prevent them from making all bad decisions.  They will end up resenting you for trying to “control them” and will never fully understand the consequences of bad decision-making.
  4.  When they are talking…listen:  when your teen is talking (even if you feel that the arguments they are making are not legitimate), listen to them.  Let them know that you are hearing them so that they don’t have to keep raising their voice.
  5. Walk away:  don’t continue to engage in an unproductive conversation that keeps going back and forth.  If you are on one side of a tennis court and walk away, the other person can no longer hit the ball back and forth – the same is true with interpersonal interactions.  If you disengage from the fight, there is no longer a fight to be had.  Simply say something like, “I don’t think this conversation is helpful to either one of us so I am going to leave until we are both calm enough to talk about this in a better way”.  Then leave (walk off the court)…if they want to get in the last word or comment as a means of re-engaging you…resist and urge to respond and maintain your control.

This is not always an easy thing to do but when done consistently it really makes a difference.  For some great tips on additional techniques that will improve your communication, relationship and overall parenting confidence with your teen – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com  and  gain instant access to the free audio program titled 3 Power Strategies for Parents of Teenagers.

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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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