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


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 Our Busy Performance Based Culture is Effecting Parenting

Our culture has changed in the way that we view children and how we raise them and some of these changes are for the better but some are not producing the results that we want. I want my child to grow to be a person who can handle the challenges, who is considerate of others, who can maintain relationships because he/she understands how to not only take but also give. These skills need to be learned and that is our job as parents. 

What I see are kids who are very busy with activities that revolve around them and are often performance based like a sport. We all go to watch, cheer and talk about the child’s performance. I understand there is a lot of good in sports activities, things like exercise, discipline, team work and learning to listen to direction. Playing a sport can also teach how to behave when your team looses, or you miss a shot or have to sit on the bench. So I am not saying that sports are bad, what I am saying is that if that type of performance based activity is all that the child does and the family revolves around the child then they can get the wrong idea of how life works. The child will expect the attention to revolve around them and they will also feel the stress of continual performance.  

There should also be times when the child has to make a sacrifice for others. Have them go and watch someone else’s activity and cheer with a good attitude. Have them serve the family by washing the car or mowing the lawn. They have to learn to contribute to the family. Without this training they begin to feel entitled to have the attention all the time.

In the past children would also do things that were less performance based and simply for fun, art projects, build a model airplane, learning to sew these types of behaviors teach a different skill set that includes patience, perseverance and learning to pay attention to details. They can also be done with your child and this allows for time to talk and build the relationship. We are missing this element because we tend to send our children off to a coach or teacher to work with them instead of spending time ourselves.

I understand that we are all very busy but some of that busyness is self imposed because we feel this busy lifestyle is what is expected. But we can push back against some of these cultural expectations and do something different. Remember the goal is not to keep up with everyone else, the goal is to build a relationship with your child and teach them skills that will help them succeed as an adult. Few of your children are going to be pro-athletes but all of them will need to have a job, deal with challenges and maintain relationships. Let’s prepare them.

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 Give Your Kids the Best Start to the New School Year

I can hear it from my office chair… the cheers of parents as they are about to send their kids out of the house and back to school.  But the tranquility of a quiet home will only last a minute if you aren’t prepared for the school year to come.  Here are critical things to do and topics to consider as we go in to this new season.

1. Define expectations
Get really clear on what your expectations are of your kid when it comes to this school year.  The expectations should be different than last school year in some ways because they are a year older which means you can raise the bar a bit.  Discuss with them what is a reasonable grade to expect in each class, what daily chore does he need to do around the house regardless of how busy he is, what is the expected attitude toward his teachers and family and if applicable, what are the expectations about social media and dating?

2. Structure the Day
Don’t leave the schedule to chance or assumption.  Decide ahead of time through conversation and common sense what needs to happen and when.  Leave as little wiggle room as possible to avoid misunderstandings.  When is a reasonable time for bed time?  When do phones need to be put away… as in, out of their room?  You may need to buy them an alarm clock since they won’t have their phone and you won’t be waking them up.  What time do they need to be up in the morning and what time do you all need to be out the door in the morning?  When is family time?  How much screen time do they get during the week and weekends?

3. Empower Your Kid Instead of Enabling Them
Ask them what they expect of themselves in regards to school, sports, giving back to the community, being a part of the family unity.  Then ask how you can support them in meeting those goals.  Don’t do the planning or the work for them.  Instead, make sure they have the resources, encouragement and support to do it themselves.

4. Set an Inviting Tone With Teachers
There are a million studies out there that say students do exponentially better in school when the teacher and parent have a good relationship.  Work with the teacher to support your student.  Understand that teachers are just as stressed and overwhelmed as the rest of us.  Appreciate what they are doing and do your best to never talk badly about them in front of your kids.  Reach out to the teachers and give them your contact information so they can connect with you when needed.

5. Don’t Obsess
Be involved without smothering your student.  There’s no need to check online grades every day!  Stop yourself.  Pick one day a week to check out what your kid is up to academically and stick to that day.  The more you pull back the more your student will step up.

6. Leave Last Year in the Last Year
Maybe your kid did a stellar job in school last year.  This year may be the same, it may better or it may be more difficult.  Whatever the case, don’t compare to last year.  Your kid is changing.  Circumstances are changing.  Address what is right in front of you without referring to the good or bad of what happened in the past.

The new school year bring opportunity for growth on many levels… academically, maturity, socially, emotionally.  Be your kid’s biggest fan by encouraging them and also holding them to a standard you know they are capable of and nothing less.

This isn’t always easy.  Keeping yourself in check as well as your student can be challenging.  If you need help, ask us.  You don’t have to do it alone.

Written by Lisa Smith

Is Suicide an Option?

There are 121 suicides per day.  Per day!  Many wouldn’t consider suicide as an option but clearly some do.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the States.  One in 25 suicide attempts results in death.  This means 3, 025 people a day attempt suicide. Due to these alarming numbers the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has deemed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  

As a professional in the mental health industry and having lost my cousin to suicide four years ago I know first hand that suicide is an option to some and the rest of us need to inform ourselves on how to help.
Here are some warning signs and practical ways to support.

Warning signs 
If a person talks about:
• Being a burden to others
• Feeling trapped or stuck
• Experiencing unbearable pain or overwhelming emotions
• Having no reason to live or believing they have no hopeful future
• Killing themselves
If behaviors include:
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
• Experimenting with ways to kill themselves
• Acting recklessly
• Withdrawing from activities
• Not planning for the future
• Isolating from family and friends
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Giving away prized possessions or sentimental gifts
• Previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide attempt

If a person exhibits:
• Depression
• Loss of interest
• Rage
• Irritability
• Humiliation
• Anxiety
What you can do:
• Take suicidal comments seriously
• Validate the person’s feelings by acknowledging and accepting their feelings instead of rationalizing them away
• Be compassionate and gentle as the person is already feeling extremely sensitive and is trusting you by being vulnerable
• Let the person know you are concerned
• Remove all means of self harm
• If the person appears to be an immediate risk to hurting themselves do not leave them alone and if necessary call 911 for help
• If they are not already doing so, encourage the person to talk to others about their feelings and to see a professional
• Be available to talk, to listen, to comfort and, when appropriate, to “distract” them by doing something together that may give them a sense of peace
*above information from National Institute for Mental Health and
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Two Things to Keep In Mind:
• Most people who are depressed and suffering want things to change and to be better even more than you do.  If it’s difficult for you, imagine how difficult it is for them.
• If a person attempts suicide but isn’t able to complete the act be careful not to minimize the severity of the attempt. Be sure to take the attempt seriously.
There is no single cause or “cure” for depression and suicidal ideation.  It’s different for everyone.  Chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, living with a mental illness, experiencing prolonged stress are all risk factors.  But with support a person can overcome, learn to cope, survive and even thrive.  

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness month.  Spread the information!

How to Ensure Back to School Success

We made it through summer and the school year is upon us!  For some this is a welcomed change but for others it brings up new challenges.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on the right path and to help you stay on it.

First, have a discussion (a two way conversation) about what you and your child want for this school year.  What things do you want repeated and what things would you like to see change?  The best way to approach this is for you to ask that question and let your child answer, uninterrupted.  Then you can share your thoughts in response.  Write these things down… not as a list of rules to be governed by but as a way to solidify the conversation.

Next, talk about expectations.  The following topics seem to be the biggest challenges and areas of conflict so address them up front.

Grades: ask your child what they think is a reasonable grade or mark for each subject.  They may think they can ace Spanish class but feel that math will be more of a challenge.  Write down the grade or mark you both agree on for each subject.

Electronics: with the school year starting will their be different expectations for screen time, games and electronics than there was for the summer?  Have a discussion about what seems reasonable regarding how much screen time they can have on a week day, weekend, what time screens need to be turned off and turned in at night and how you will monitor this.  Hint: the simpler the better.

Curfew/Social Events: it is important that kids at any age learn how to manage their time, their stress and their work load.  With school starting there are often sports and other extracurricular activities that are demanding on everyone’s schedule.  Some families limit the amount of sleep overs in a month (as these tend to exhaust kids because they get little sleep but spend so much energy socializing).  Some families require a set amount of “down time” for their child meaning they have to be home resting, vegging, connecting with the family on a relaxed level and taking care of their overall mental health.  Curfews are necessary and need to be clearly articulated ahead of time.

Remember, this is a discussion.  You can not lay out all the expectations and walk away.  Invite them in to the conversation and encourage their participation.  Make compromises where possible.  Most importantly, keep this as simple as possible and absolutely be sure you can enforce any agreed about terms.  Without enforcement or monitoring there is no point in doing this.

To maintain success and build communication, revisit this conversation on a monthly bases.  What is working, what isn’t?  Be flexible if necessary.  Ask your kids how you can support them and what they need from you to succeed.  It’s a new year… let’s start off with clarity and hope.

Written by Lisa Smith

How do I Handle my Child’s Emotions?

Your home is an internship for your children to learn to handle their emotions and themselves socially when they are challenged. To learn to communicate feelings, resolve conflict and show care in a loving relationship. Your child should not feel like they have to fight you and justify their feeling. That is a good way to send them over the edge. Then what do we do when our child is dealing with a strong emotion, either sadness, anger, frustration or fear for example? We want to help them through these emotions in a healthy way. Giving them tools to understand and deal with the emotions.

Here are some dos and don’ts for how to handle an emotional child.

Don’t demand that they be immediately rational, they are at that moment being emotional which is opposite of using our rational brain. If they are hysterical or throwing a tantrum then leave them alone for a time until they can be calm enough to talk to you.

Do show the child empathy. Talk to them about what they are feeling. Are they scared or frustrated? As they become calmer ask them to explain what upset them and listen to their story.

Don’t tell them that there is nothing to be upset about. They are upset already so there must be something upsetting them.

Do let them tell their story, help them by asking questions about what happened. This may be hard at first but when the child realizes you are there for support and that you are calm this will give them security.

Don’t do all the talking, be more of a listener.

Don’t argue and deny their emotions. Let them know it is OK to have strong emotions.

Don’t add the word “but”  Saying, “I see you’re disappointed but…” erases everything you just said.

Do reflect back what they have told you, this will validate their feelings.

After the child has calmed down and feels like you have listened to them then you can teach them an appropriate response to the frustration. Tell them what is acceptable and what isn’t. Now that they feel heard and know that you have shown care and respect for their feelings they will be more likely to listen to your guidance. This is when you parent and teach them what the boundaries are.

Written by Lisa Strong

Communicate Needs Without Creating Conflict

Are there times when you have something you know you need to talk about with someone but you’re afraid to bring it up because it will probably start a fight? How can you bring it up and approach it without ruining the evening? Here are some suggestions that might increase your odds of success.

What do you want to achieve? Before you approach the other person think about what you want to achieve. The goal is not to always get your way but it can be to come to a solution that will work for both of you. The relationship is more important than getting your way.
Timing is important. Don’t approach your partner right when they walk in after a long day, or when the kids are demanding attention. Wait for a time when outside stresses are minimized.
Start with an affirmation. This helps your partner be less defensive. If you want to talk about your relationship tell him or her something positive you see them doing like “thanks for making me coffee this morning I appreciate your help” Or if it’s about parenting “You really helped me out when you took the kids out this morning so I could sleep in, your a good mom/dad.
Be specific and state the facts. Now you approach the topic, being specific increases clarity, “I see that you made plans without talking to me” or “I noticed you are staying late at work several nights in a row”
State how it makes you feel. This puts the focus on your emotions, “I feel left out and not considered when you don’t talk to me first before making plans” or “When you don’t come home I feel like work has become a priority and not me, that hurts”
Don’t bring up the past. Stay on topic. 
Don’t exaggerate. Saying “you always” or “you never” causes defensiveness.
State what you need. This allows your partner to know how to solve the problem with you. “I need you to clear plans that involve us both with me before committing” or “I need you home for dinner at least 3 times a week”
Admit your mistakes. When you own up to something it puts the other person in a non-defensive position. 

This style of communication opens the conversation in a clear and non-threatening way. This does not mean your partner will always agree and give you what you want. The follow up will involve listening and compromise. Considering each others feelings and trying to meet each others needs will build a bond of trust and respect.

Lisa Strong

Feeding Family Relationships

Feeding Family Relationships.

60 Years Ago, the average family dinner time was 90 minutes, today it is less than 12 minutes. Our lives have changed, both parents may be working, we have our children in after school activities and we don’t all work 9-5. We have all heard of the benefits that studies show for kids and teens who share family dinners. It is true that they do better in school and are less likely to be overweight or engage in risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol, and sexual activity. But what is it exactly about the time around the table that brings these results?

The dinner table can act as a unifier for the family. A place where everyone feels connected, a place of community. Children report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can also benefit.

Now what is a family to do if family dinner is not an option. I think we can recreate a similar benefit by purposefully making a time for this connection. Maybe a special family breakfast either during the week or on Saturday or Sunday is one option or make Friday game night or family movie night, rent a movie and provide popcorn. We want to make it a fun time and a time when you all make it a priority to be together and connect.

As a parent, especially in the teen years, you can begin to feel like all your interactions with your children is about their behavior, are they doing what is expected, you become the cop. Family time provides as opportunity to build your relationship with your child apart from performance. A time to enjoy each other without being critiqued.

Childhood is not always easy, children experience stresses in school academically as well as socially. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family time can act as an intervention. A time when we can listen to our children, give them a safe place to talk and be supported. If you have multiple children teach them to be respectful of each other. Do not allow one to put the other down, or tease to the point of hurt. We want everyone to feel that family is safe and loving.

With all the research and awareness of the benefits of the family dinner, let us be purposeful and bring something like this back in our home. We want our children to come to family for connection, love and support not anywhere else and we need to provide that opportunity.

By Lisa Strong

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