The Concierge Parent

The Concierge Parent

Whether your kid is one of 5.9 million with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or not, it’s probably safe to say that you as the parent are the one paying most attention on your child’s behalf. Parents have gotten out of control on this front.  You have become your kid’s eyes, ears and brain.  You stand up straight and snap to attention when your kid’s teacher or coach starts talking at orientation while your kid sits their bored, playing on their smartphone, completely disinterested.  And then you ask me why your kids are not more independent, self-reliant and responsible for themselves.  Are you kidding me?

Here’s the problem.  You are a concierge parent (that label coined by Julie Lythcott-Haims).  Just as a hotel concierge does all he can do to make your vacation a perfect and hassle-free experience you try to do the same for your kids life.  You look ahead at what possible pitfalls, obstacles and challenges your kids may face and race ahead to smooth out the path so there are no hills for them to climb (or, God forbid, a valley).  You pay for every possible opportunity so that your child can have every experience… like enrolling them in sports at three years old, hiring a tutor for your first-grader so they can have a fifth grade reading level so they can be better prepared for college by second grade.  There are some parents who take their 8 year old kids on first class vacations around the world so they can “experience life.”  Again… Are you kidding me?  Have them go outside and ride bikes with the neighbors… that’s life.

Fast forward to young adult-hood.  Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said this: “Graduates exit West Point with the rank of second lieutenants in the Unites States Army.  the great majority are great men and women doing the right thing.  But there are a creeping number who have parents that over-manage them, such as by driving them to their first assignment.  That’s totally inappropriate.  You don’t need your mother to show up at the front gate of Fort Bragg with you, or help you find an apartment.  You’re twenty-one or twenty-two years old.  You need to deal with the landlord yourself.  That’s part of learning to act as an adult.  Our graduates are mature leaders of character well prepared to lead America’s sons and daughters and with all the right tools to be successful at the tasks the army will require of them.  However, there are a small percentage of parents that will not, or cannot, ‘let go” and continue to hover over their adult children.” I haven’t worked with families associated with West Point but I’ve worked with thousands of others who have similar stories.

Here’s the take away for you… empower your kids.  Get out of their way.  Stop being their concierge, planning their every activity, wrapping them in bubble wrap to prevent pain, paving the way for a perfect life experience.  You’re intention is to help them, I know.  But you can be certain you are hurting them, instead.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith


Fear-Based Parenting

Fear-Based Parenting

Remember when you were young and the world was full of only opportunity and adventure?  Then you became a parent and everything changed.  Every sharp edge, electrical outlet and stranger on the street became a deadly hazard that needed to be safe-guarded against.  Fear started lurking around every corner.  It’s one thing to use wisdom in parenting but it’s another to parent from a place of fear.  What does that look like?  Mark Gregston, parenting expert, identified four elements to fear-based parenting.  Instead of recreating that wheel I am going to repeat some of what he says on this topic.

FEAR #1: Loss of Control

As parents, we tend to think that if we lose control of our kids, they will somehow go off the deep end and wreck their lives for good. This makes sense to some degree.  We know the dangers inherent in the world, so out of love we try to shelter our precious children from harm. But in order to do that, we clamp down on them. We start to dictate every area of their lives—from what they wear, to where they go, to what they do in their free time. Of course, we want to ensure they have the best opportunities as they grow up.  But when we are overzealous in our protection, our high-control techniques keep teens from exercising muscles that will actually strengthen their character in the long run.

Fear #2: Exposure to Culture

Our culture bombards us with an ever-increasing number of suggestive and inappropriate media messages, and it’s easy to fear that our kids will be led astray. Unfortunately, short of wrapping our kids in bubble wrap, blindfolding them and plugging their ears, we simply can’t protect them from every negative influence. It may be tempting to make the boundaries so tight that there is no wiggle room, perhaps by keeping them from all technology. In reality, this is both impossible and unhealthy. The Internet and technology are too pervasive. And really, there are many good uses for them. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The desire to protect our children from culture’s negative influence is legitimate. But in the teen years we have the opportunity to move from teaching and policing to coaching and training.  While they are young, children need greater adult supervision on the computer, and this is where Internet filters come in handy.  But teens require guidance on how to deal with the constant stream of information they have access to every day.  It’s not enough to use filters anymore; there’s always a way to get around them.

Instead, let’s have honest conversations with our teens about proper boundaries.  Talk with your son or daughter about cyber-bullying, and ways they can avoid it and help others.  Discuss the dangers of pornography and the reasons they should keep their eyes pure.  Talk about the problems of over-sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and the hazards associated with revealing too much to strangers.  These conversations will be more effective than harsh rules. Teaching our teens to have discernment is vitally important.

Fear #3: Conflict

Confronting kids never gets easy but it is often the pre-cursor to change.

Conflict happens in every family. But we should not be afraid of it.  Yes, there is always a possibility that something said or insinuated might be hurtful.  You could make a mistake in your approach to conflict (wrong timing or mishandled accusation) or in the content of the discussion (misinterpreted words or comments wrongly made in the “heat of the battle”). But don’t let these fears stop you from engaging in family conflict! When you make a mistake, be quick to apologize. It will be another good lesson for your kids, and an exercise in humility for you. So don’t run from conflict between you and your teen. Use those times to communicate and work through the problems together.

Fear #4: Loss of Appearance

Parents might also worry that their child’s bad behavior will reflect negatively on their parenting, so they micro-manage the house to erect a façade of perfection. But this fear-based attitude can be devastating for both you and your teen. Concerning yourself with your own good image is one of the fastest ways to build resentment in your home. If your teen has to have the haircut you want, listen to the music you approve of, wear the clothes you pick out, work at the job you chose, or have the friends you like, you’re inviting a rebellion.

Of course, no one is suggesting that you lower the standards for proper behavior in your home. But keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you or your child. It’s okay to admit, “We’re struggling right now.” Teens will make bad decisions. Parents will make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean you’re failing. There is not a parent on the planet who has achieved perfection. Let go of your fears about projecting a flawless image, and parent your teen in confidence.

You can be scared as parents. But you cannot parent in fear.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

Why Do I Need to Balance Discipline and a Relationship?

Why Do I Need to Balance Discipline and a Relationship?

If you are concerned because your home environment is one of tension and chaos then looking at your parenting style may be a key. Improving your parenting is not all about structure and discipline although I think providing a stable environment where your children feel secure and know what is expected of them is very important. But without a healthy, loving relationship with your child they will not be motivated to listen to you or abide by your guidelines.

According to Nicole Schwarz, parent coach and licensed family therapist “It is the value of our connection that determines how well they listen to us, accept our limits and values, and cooperate.” 

Establishing and maintaining the relationship takes intention, your child needs to know that you care about them. Are you someone who makes it a priority to spend time with them, listen to their concerns and show them respect?

Spending quality time can be doing things with your child that they enjoy but it can also mean taking the time to listen to their concerns. I often hear a parent say “My child does not open up to me”. I understand this can be a problem but that usually happens when the child feels judged for their ideas or they don’t think you really want to hear from them because you are distracted by your phone or work or any number of things.

I found with my own children that bedtime was a good time to connect. I would go in and sit on the edge of the bed and ask open ended questions and then sit back and listen. I would try to be an encourager not critical. I would show respect for their ideas and feelings, not minimize them. If they feel that you are invested in them and really care then they are more likely to trust your guidance and discipline when the time comes.

We forget about how important this relationship is and sometimes the environment in the home can become so negative and tense that we loose motivation to work on the relationship. But if you think about it in your own life the concept makes sense. I think each of us would be more likely to work hard for a boss who has shown interest in us, who listens to our concerns and who shows us respect. Investing in the relationship improves the family tone and environment.

Maintaining a balance between discipline and a relationship does take intention. Discipline can feel very negative and harsh to a child so make sure they know that it comes from a place of caring and love. That you value them, the unique person that they are and their opinions and views.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us! Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

You’ve protected your kid from failure, discomfort, rejection and pain for far too long.  Despite your good intentions you have harmed them.  Yep.  While you meant to help them you have hurt them.  If students are in their late teens or early twenties when they first face their own very normal human trait of imperfection and experience failure, they’ll lack the “brush it off, get back on the horse, try again, persevere through it” mentality they could-should– have cultivated in childhood.  We need to normalize struggle.

Kids need to know that failure, pain, discomfort, hurt and making mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of.  Instead, they need to understand that such experiences can be lessons and even open up new possibilities.  But this starts with the parent backing off enough to let their child experience, well, life.

Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said “With some of our new cadets right out of high school, if you raise your voice they get teary-eyed.  Like no one has corrected them on a behavior before.  You’ve got to be able to have a setback, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and drive on.”

Harriet Rossetto of Beit T’Shuvah rehab facility in Los Angeles said  “A lack of resiliency is common among addicts.  They find that they can’t cope with failure or pain so they self medicate.  In contrast, studies have shown that the best predictor of success is a sense of resiliency, grit, capacity to fail and get back up.  If you’re prevented from feeling discomfort or failure, you have no sense of how to handle those things at all.”  I could not agree more.  So how do we build resiliency?  We will discuss this much more in my next blog but for now the answer is simple: let them fail and let them feel the pain of their failure.  Love them through it but don’t fix the situation for them.

I said it’s simple, not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

How Does Your Own Childhood Effect Your Parenting?

How Does Your Own Childhood Effect Your Parenting?

As a child in any family we learn to adapt with behaviors that allow us to survive. We take on a role that serves us well. You may be the responsible one, the rebel or the quiet one that does not want any attention. Now that you are a parent, are you seeing some of these learned behaviors in your own parenting? This can be a good or bad thing. How did the style of parenting that was used with us play a role in how we parent our own children? We don’t want to pass on family dysfunction so let’s look at our behavior and implement the good and correct the bad.

Are you imitating your parents behavior because that is all you know? Sometimes we unconsciously recreate the type of environment that we grew up in because it is familiar and therefore comfortable. A negative example of this is when we become the controlling or overbearing parent to our children because it is familiar and feels comfortable and known. Just because it is known does not make it the best for your family. Each family, each child and each individual is unique and the style of parenting needs to be adapted to what is best for the individual.

As a child we may have developed behaviors that helped us manage our own childhood environment. For example if a parent was verbally abusive we have learned to avoid confrontation and so we don’t stand up for what we know is needed. As a parent this behavior will not serve your child well. They need to be taught what behaviors are appropriate and this may cause conflict if they don’t get what they want. Parenting requires a controlled and loving strength in the face of confrontation. Don’t fold and give in just to keep the peace.

Sometimes our child’s behavior will trigger a reaction in us that is exaggerated for the situation and you think, “Where did that come from?”. Your reaction is not really from what your child did but from something it may have reminded you of. Maybe that is how your parents reacted to a similar situations. Children will cause chaos, things will get broken or spilled, it will be loud at times, there will be clutter but all of these things are normal and manageable but if one of these things triggers an over reaction on your part, then look at that and explore why that is happening.

We also have an inner voice that speaks to us words and thoughts that we heard in the past. We may have had a very critical parent who often questioned if we were capable of a task and filled our mind with doubt. Well parenting is a very challenging task so we need to hear a voice of encouragement and support. Hopefully we can get this from our partner and/or other relationships but if not then we have to retrain that inner voice.

All of these reactions come from a gut impulse to a stimuli that was set in motion in your childhood. Learning to respond in a controlled and appropriate way instead of reacting on impulse will break the cycle of dysfunction and allow us to function in a way that is best for our unique family.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Parent an Adult Child

How to Parent an Adult Child

It’s tricky when the human you have cared for, protected, guided, provided for and loved with all your heart becomes a human who doesn’t need so much of that anymore.  Where does that leave you as the parent?  What is your new role?  Here are a few do’s and dont’s to consider.

1.  Only give advice when you’re asked for it.  This is a tough one, I admit.  But don’t let yourself off the hook or make excuses for yourself.  You want to jump in, protect them from making a mistake, be the buffer between your adult chid and heartbreak.  But this becomes counterproductive in two ways.  First, your now adult chid still doesn’t have the ability or permission from you to make their own decisions which is emotionally thwarting. Second, they will stop sharing ideas, dreams, fears and experiences with you because they do not want your advice but you keep giving it anyway. If they want your advice they will ask for it.

2.  Encourage instead of warn or criticize.  As adult children they may live different lives, have different values and need different things than you.  That’s ok!  Unless they want to break the law or want you to break the law then let them live their life fully.  When they say they are taking a trip to a remote island don’t tell them to put on sunblock or to look both ways before they cross the big bad foreign street.  Instead, tell them how exciting it sounds and that you hope they have the time of their life.  When they talk about getting another job or buying a home or riding their bike across the country stop yourself from warning them of all that could go wrong and remind yourself that they will figure it out, they will make a mistake here and there but will learn from it and that you are there to listen, encourage and only give feedback when they ask for it.

3.  Have fun with them.  You’re both adults now!  Isn’t that great?  You can build a new relationship of mutual respect.  You don’t have to look after them when you go out to eat or go on vacation together.  You can relax and learn all about this person who is growing and learning and living an independent life.

4.  Listen and learn about what they are interested in.  I know a mom who has a son in his late twenties who travels the world with a back pack and his bike.  It’s his passion.  His mom, however, won’t exercise even for a million dollars and is happy to stay home and relax on her front porch without ever leaving the country.  But she delights in listening to her son’s stories even when he tells her he had to sleep outside on the beach in Spain because he was too late getting in to the town he hoped to find a room in.  She doesn’t scold him, warn him, tell him how worried she is to hear that.  She just laughs and kindly rolls her eyes.  This invites her son to tell her so much more than if she were to react with judgement or disinterest.  They have a beautiful relationship.

Having a relationship with an adult child can be tricky because it’s all new for both of you.  Instead of fighting to keep control fight to let go and watch what blossoms.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

What’s Wrong With Being a People Pleaser?

Why are some of us so frustrated in our families, feeling like we are serving everyone else and our needs or wants are not being attended to?  Why is this happening? It may be because some of us are people pleasers and can’t or won’t communicate our needs to our family members. The result is that the family just goes on with what they want and they get it because they speak up and make it happen.

You may be the pleaser in the family so you are often meeting the needs of the other family members but at the end of the day you realize that you are frustrated because you didn’t get your needs met.

How does this keep happening? How come your family members are not meeting your needs? It is because you haven’t expressed them clearly and you haven’t required them to take you seriously. Often times if you are a pleaser you are not comfortable with conflict. Your role in the family has been to avoid conflict and smooth things over.

As children a pleaser was given the choice to either follow the rules set by others and receive praise or to stand up and challenge the rules and expectations and receive a withdrawal of affection and a feeling of abandonment. So this child learned to not challenge or create conflict. They have to renounce their own thoughts, feelings, needs and desires in order to stay connected and approved of. Also to avoid feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.

After doing this for years they loose the ability to nurture and care for themselves. They don’t know how to communicate their desires in a healthy way. It often comes out in anger and frustration. There is a difference between pleasing and serving and it comes down to the motivation. Is the motivation to avoid conflict or is it to relate with respect and care? Here are some examples.

Pleasing in parenting; Your child has lost their favorite toy. You hate to see him/her so sad and disappointed and don’t want to face the tantrum so you replace it right away.

Serving in parenting; Talk to him/her about responsibility and appreciation. Work on a plan so they can earn back what they have lost. Help and support them in the process.

Pleasing in a relationship; You don’t agree with your partner on an issue, for example how to spend your money, so you give in and give up. It’s just easier than fighting about it.

Serving in a relationship; Take time to talk about it and listen to your partner to gain an understanding of their perspective and share your perspective. Then work together to problem solve, speaking with respect and considerations until you work toward a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

Communicating honestly and clearly can be frightening for a pleaser, they fear loosing the affection and connection to the other person. It is something that needs to be learned in a safe and trusting environment. Seeing this behavior is the first step toward healing. You can learn to communicate your needs in a healthy way.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us! Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong


How to Know When Your Kid Has Too Much Power

I stood there watching equally dismayed and fascinated as a mother negotiated with her four year old about bedtime.  I went from dismayed to appalled when the four year won… no designated bedtime for him.  What?!  I could not believe it.  But then I started thinking about how much power over parents almost all kids have now days.  How much?  Too much!  This is harmful on several levels.

Kids,  at any age, aren’t mentally capable of using their power wisely and for their own good.  If they get everything they want and when they want it this creates a deep sense of anxiety.  It would be the same if I became President of the United States.  I’d have no idea how to use that power wisely because I have not been prepared for that.  If I were behind the desk in the Oval Office I’d have full blown panic attack.  I’d be begging people to tell me what to do because I’d be in way over my head.  The difference is that I’m old enough to know that I was in over my head whereas kids usually can’t make that distinction.  That may not be the perfect analogy but you get the idea.  Kids crave reasonable and loving boundaries, limits and guidance.  And it’s your job as the parent to put those in place.

So how do you know if your kid has too much power over you and over his own life?  There are two glaring red flags to watch out for.

1.  Constant negotiation.  I hear it all the time from parents with kids of all ages.  They tell me that everything is a negotiation, from bedtime, to what to eat, to when they will do homework, what chores they will complete and so on.  While I do believe kids should have choices they need to be age appropriate and only allowed when the child demonstrates the ability to manage themselves on that particular topic.  Appropriate choices are good as long as they have oversight by the parent with the child’s wellbeing at the forefront.

That four year old I mentioned earlier ended up going to bed anywhere between 11pm and 1am.  He was always late for preschool and was having constant meltdowns because he was exhausted and lacked structure and routine.  It was his mother’s job to dictate bedtime.  If she wanted him to have a choice about sleeping time then he could have chosen which set of pajamas to wear… that’s an example of age appropriate decisions.

When it comes to teens there is often a negotiation about curfews, bedtime, screen time, which classes to take.  The key is to have a reasonable conversation.  Narrow down the healthy options then let them decide.  But it’s harmful and unhealthy to give them full reign over their life at 14, 15, 16 and so on.

2.  You see that your kid is experiencing undue anxiety and stress.  This can come in the form of a tantrum, losing his temper, crying over something minimal, losing motivation or trying to gain more and more control.  If you observe any of these things in your child then it could very well mean he has too much power.  And when any of us get power we usually want more, in fact, we feel like we need more and more to make ourselves feel secure.  But the truth is they need less power and more guidance, loving boundaries and limits.  It may sound counterintuitive but I believe it’s the truth.  Again, kids need choices and autonomy but it must come with limits and oversight.  They are not equipped to have unlimited power (or close to it) over their own lives.  That’s why they have parents.  That’s why they have you!  Otherwise, they feel overwhelmed and anxious.  So step up, set limits, enforce boundaries and guide your child as he navigates his life.

Clear Expectations Brings Security to Your Child

Are you saying things like, “clean up your room” or “get yourself ready for bed” without ever clearly explaining what that means. Clean up your room could mean that you just don’t want to see anything on the floor or it could mean that each toy should be in its proper bin. You may be unhappy with the job that your child does because you never took the time to teach him/her to do what you expect. By showing your child what you expect you can reduce frustration and bring a sense of security to your child.

It may just be easier to do it yourself but that is not thinking of the long term goal. You want to raise children who feel capable and have a strong work ethic. I think children thrive when they feel useful. So before you ask them to do something, you can do it with them, come alongside, giving guidance. It may take repetition and support. Focus on what they are doing well, don’t nit pic at their mistakes. Your positive attitude can be contagious, if it looks like it is easy and fun for you then they will be more willing.

When explaining your expectations to your child make sure that the expectations are reasonable. Consider the child’s age and ability, their attention span and understanding. We want them to be able to succeed.

Once the expectation is clear and you have taught your child where things go for example, then you need to check on them in a reasonable amount of time to see if they did what you asked. If you don’t follow through by checking then you are not able to either praise them for a job well done or teach them what they may have missed and how they can do better. Checking on them shows them that you mean what you say and it is important to listen. If they have chosen to totally ignore your request then you will need to give them the consequence.

Having clear expectations also applies to behaviors outside the home such as how to behave in a restaurant or the grocery store. Before entering the grocery store for example, get their attention and explain the type of behavior you expect. Should they hold your hand, have one hand on the cart or maybe sit in the cart? Tell them they need to keep their voice at a reasonable volume, no running or grabbing things off the shelf. No whining if they don’t get what they ask for. Once you have explained what appropriate behavior is then you explain what will happen if they behave, maybe they can get a cookie from the bakery, or if they do not behave, you will have to leave the store and there will be limited screen time that evening. Then you must be willing to follow through with these consequences, either good or bad. They need to know that you will stand by your word.

Children do not know what is appropriate behavior unless you teach them. You want them to learn to handle themselves in public, to care for themselves at home and to contribute to the family.  Parenting requires you to teach and to follow through. You will bring security and clarity to your child when they know you are a person who is showing them the way with love and consistency.

If you are struggling with any aspect of parenting, you are not alone and we can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong

How Parents Can Take Care of Themselves and Why It’s Important

You know those safety instructions they give on a plane… the ones which include reminding parents to take oxygen first in the event of an emergency before they give oxygen to their children. It’s a perfect analogy!  A parent who lacks enough oxygen can’t possibly be in the best possible position to take good enough care of their kids.  As we all know, many parents feel guilty taking care of themselves and feel that every drop of their energy should be poured into taking care of their children’s needs.  This is a lie that you need to shed if you want to be healthy, have emotionally healthy kids and healthy relationships with them.  And don’t forget… your kids are watching how you take care of yourself and will likely follow in your steps.  Here’s how to be a great parent while still taking great care of yourself:

1. Take care of your physical self.  Get enough sleep!  There’s not much worse than a chronically exhausted parent.  Eat healthy.  Take walks alone to clear your mind, exercise, do yoga anything to get your blood flowing and your body in good condition.  This builds emotional and physical stamina which you obviously need when raising children.

2. Take care of your emotional self.  Go out without your kids!  And when you’re out don’t talk about your kids and don’t take calls or texts from your kids during this time.  Focus on other important relationships with extended family and friends.  Write in a journal.  Step away from your phone and other screens every day.

3. Fill your emotional tank.  Do something you love!  Aside from your all important children… what makes you laugh?  What feels fun?  What brings you peace?  What brings you joy?  What makes you feel good about yourself?  Do those things at least once or twice a week!

4.  Stop making your kids problem your problem, his roller coaster your roller coaster, his life your life.  Go get your own.  Ouch… did that hurt to hear?  If it did then maybe you are too close to your kids.  Yep… I said it.  As parents, you want to and feel as though you should be so involved in their every drama, every relationship, every emotion, every event.  This is not the case.  Yes, you need to have a good grasp on who their friends are, what they are up to and how they are doing but you don’t have to live it yourself.  Be aware of what’s going on, don’t take it on as your own.

As your kids grow, you need to give them opportunities to experience life and the room to problem solve and cope with hardship, disappointment and sadness.  Disconnect yourself and you will be healthier, happier and much less tired and they will have a chance to grow.  Trust that you have taught them well then allow them to practice the skills you’ve given them.  They will feel good about themselves and you will feel less stressed.  If there’s a crisis, that may be different.  But for the every day scenarios… step away.  It’s counter-intuitive, I know.  But you will all be better for it.  I promise.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.
Written by Lisa Smith