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Kids to College: Survival Guide for Parents

Parenthood has two big transitions, when your children arrive and when they leave.  Both can be terrifying.  And after saying goodbye to your college student on move-in day, one of the hardest things to come to grips with at home is the sudden lack of information. You’re excluded from your student’s experience in a new way, and no one can invite you in except your student — and that’s only if they want to. That doesn’t mean you disappear from their lives.  But it does mean you play a different role.  You’re going from manager to consultant and supporter.

Here are some things parents and other professionals suggest to make the transition better and healthier for everyone.  The following tips have been collected from several articles and books that are proven to be effective and trustworthy.  Give these ideas a try.  

Give them space. College students need a grace period to meet people, get involved in campus life and focus on their new environment without constant reminders of home. No matter how eager they are for college, it’s not easy to get used to new surroundings and sleeping in a new bed. This is hard for some, extremely hard for others and super easy for a few.  Give them the space to figure it out. That doesn’t mean you don’t have conversations, but follow their lead. One of your kids may text constantly, while the other might not touch base for weeks on end.  

Be prepared to listen then let go. Often kids call or text when they’re feeling low, and trust me, you’ll hear about the roommate drama, the rotten exam or the malfunctioning laundry machines. But once kids have unloaded, they move on, leaving you to worry into the night about a problem that likely doesn’t exist for them the next day. Or if it does, it’s their issue to solve. Try not to let their download ruin your day. It’s probably not ruining theirs.

Offer guidance, not a quick fix. If your child is struggling with a normal issue, such as not finding people they like, hear them out (see above), because a sympathetic ear is helpful. But don’t leap to offer a fix, such as contacting a resident adviser on their behalf. We want our kids to become competent and independent, and they need to develop problem-solving skills. They also won’t learn to get comfortable with discomfort and build resilience if we handle things for them.

Point them to resources. When your student complains about homework or a dorm challenge, ask them about resources on campus, and nudge them to pursue those avenues. You should no longer be their one stop shop when it comes to solutions.  They need to seek out other avenues.  Colleges have staff ready to help students. Resist the urge to micromanage. If students don’t know where to start, suggest they check with their resident adviser. Resources include the tutoring center, academic advising, career services center, student health clinic, financial aid office, multicultural center, first-generation center and more. Engaging with other students and professional staff is the best way to adjust. Keep pointing them back to campus.

Ordering groceries for them? Stop. You’re paying for a meal plan, after all. And no, your student doesn’t need a laundry service. Campuses provide washing machines. Students need to develop life skills, and now’s the time to start. Their roommates and future partner will appreciate your not making life too easy for them. Hold back on all the extras.

Know when to get involved. You know your child best, and no one is paying attention like you are. If you suspect a mental-health condition is sending your student into a tailspin, or if they’re experiencing a recurring illness or unfamiliar allergy that doesn’t sound normal, it’s okay to ask questions and follow up. When a health or safety issue isn’t being addressed in a timely way, a phone call from a parent can make a difference.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

6 Ways to Raise Awesome Teenagers

Really, the first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parentsSome do that (that’s when parents call me), but the overwhelming majority do not.  I’ve worked with thousands of teens so I can testify to this.  Expect more from your teen than a lousy attitude and lazy work ethic.  Teens are awesome so expect awesomeness!  Here’s how, according to Christie Halverson but with my commentary.

1. Love Them Fiercely

Yes… fiercely.  As in everything about them as much as you can imagine loving another.  Love their whit, their quirks, their messy hair, their scattered minds, their funky style, their type A, B or C personality.  Love it all because they are growing in to glorious humans and you get to be a witness to that and you get to profoundly influence what they are growing in to.  But just loving them isn’t enough.  Love them so much that they are overwhelmed by it, inspired by it and  propelled by it.  Love them so much that they can’t help but experience it and be comforted by it.  Demonstrate this love regardless of their performance.  Love them fiercely just because they are yours.

2. Listen Extravagantly
 
When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes when they will divulge the secrets of their day with you.  Be excited to see them. And if that is hard or impossible because of bad behavior then call me and we can work that out.

Put down the cell phone. Don’t waste this time making dinner or taking a phone call or working on the computer. Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying. Be empathetic. It is really hard to navigate high school and middle school. Don’t offer advice at this time unless they ask for it. Don’t lecture. Just listen. It makes them feel important and valued. We all need to feel that way.

3. Say Yes More Than You Say No

The world is forever going to tell them no. For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave after wave of “you’re not good enough” and “you can’t do this” crashing down on their heads. As adults, we experience this often.  It’s draining, discouraging and defeating.  Don’t be that voice in their life.  Of course, there are things they can not do.  But do you need to be the one to point that out?  Or can they learn that on their own with you still being their cheerleader?  If nothing else, instill in them the belief that they are not limited and they can do anything if they’re willing to work hard enough for it.  Be the YES, YOU CAN in their lives. Help them leave the house every day feeling invincible.

4. Say No Often

I know.  I’m killing you with “say yes” then “say no”.  There’s a reason so stick with me.  This is more about saying no to experiences that will be harmful to them or expose them to too much, too early in their life.  

You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness. Don’t let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice about alcohol at age 16 in front of their peers . Don’t let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex… or anyone for that matter.  Teenagers need to be home and asleep in the middle of the night.  Be the parent. Set up rules for their safety, both physical and moral. You would think this rule goes without saying, but trust me, I’ve known a shockingly large number of parents who don’t. 

5.  Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the living room or the socks on the sofa as laziness. Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible. And sometimes it is.  But sometimes it’s not.  Instead, and before you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes. Find out about their day first. Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it. Ignore the mess for a bit and put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug. Talk to him about his world. Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing. THEN, and only then, ask him to pick it up and put it away.

That being said, do you completely ignore the state of their bedrooms all the time? No, you do not. But pick your battles, and and pick the appropriate time to fight them. Once every seven to 10 days or so, tell them their bedrooms need to be picked up. Which they will do more happily because it’s not the running loop of a nagging mom. They know when you  ask, it needs to be done.

6. Stand Back and Watch the Magic Happen

If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine. They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness. They are hilarious and clever. They are thoughtful and sensitive. They want us to adore them. They need us to adore them. They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.  I know, I know… it doesn’t always feel that way.  But it’s almost always that way.  If you go at it from that perspective you will find yourself responding differently to them, embracing them instead of trying to remake them.  Imagine the power in that and the impact it will have on them as a human and on your relationship!  

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

When Your Teen Isn’t Ready to Go Back to School

I hear the sighs of relief and the shouts of joy from parents as the first day of school draws near.  I also hear the groans and the tears from the teens who are experiencing the back to school blues.  

This time of year brings a mixture of frustration and excitement for teens. They love getting new school clothes, seeing their friends again and driving themselves to school, for those who have a license. But they don’t relish the returning structure of earlier bed times, homework and the possibility of getting Mr. or Mrs. Meanest-Teacher-Ever for a teacher.

Even though our teens have been through the going-back-to-school scene for years, they still need our help to make that transition as smooth as possible.  Consider these practical things you can do as a parent.

Express expectations clearly. Now is the time to establish expectations and goals for the coming school year.

  • Do they need reminders about who can be in the car with them when they’re driving?
  • Are you revisiting curfews?
  • Are you creating space for homework? It’s a great idea to set up a special area for kids to do their homework — not in their room where they are isolated and have too many distractions. Talk through the what, when, where and why. That will cut any arguments during the school year over getting his work completed.

Have those conversations before school starts so your teens understand your expectations.

Go over their schedule with them. Several weeks before school starts, your teens will probably receive their class schedule. This is a good time to talk with them about their classes and teachers, along with any potential problems or concerns. Then together, strategize ways they can respond to those issues in a healthy way.

Help them get organized. Sometimes the stress of the new and unknown can overwhelm teens. By guiding them to take baby steps, you can help relieve some of that stress. I know one family who together pulled out all the notebooks and binders and put them in order of class schedule, marking each subject and period number. So simple, but it dramatically reduced their teen’s stress. Help your teens think through how they’d like to organize their locker, supplies and clothes. By brainstorming with them (not for them), you can bring a sense of excitement to an otherwise mundane task.

Once you and your teens have eliminated possible stress points, you can focus on making sure stress stays at bay by balancing school, social and personal time.

Encourage sleep. Teens need sleep — and a lot of it. But with smartphones, Netflix and extracurricular activities, sleep often gets pushed aside. And when teens are sleep deprived, they’re cranky and don’t handle stress well. All the adults can relate to this!  Since a regular bedtime is healthy and necessary for academic success, start at least a week before school by making sure your teens get to bed at a decent hour. (Studies suggest they need at least nine hours of sleep a night.) That also means they disconnect from technology. Have them leave their mobile devices and laptops outside their bedroom at night. I know parents who have a technology “box” where everything gets stored by 9 p.m. Why let your teens get distracted through the night with texts and other temptations to stay awake?  And trust me when I say they DO get distracted throughout the night by technology even if they swear otherwise.

Limit extracurricular activities. No, your teens don’t have to be involved in everything. This could be a whole other blog but don’t get me started on that.  Let them pick an activity a semester. If the activities are adding to their stress load, however, you don’t have to feel guilty about saying no.  This is a life lesson about balance. One that, as parents, we need to be modeling.  

Milton Berle was probably thinking about teenagers when he said, “The human brain is special. It starts working as soon as you get up, and it doesn’t stop until you get to school.” Of course he was kidding (or was he), but parents can do a lot for their teens by teaching them that with school, along with so many things in life, it’s the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Starting on the right track with good back-to-school decisions can help teens, and parents, adjust to a new school year.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

The 3 Things Your Teen Fears Most

What your teens fear most is quite different from what may keep you awake at night. Most parents’ worries are theoretical and future-based — fear for their teens’ safety at school and their ability to compete in an increasingly tough world, college applications and their kid getting a job.  Teens, in contrast, fear what is already directly in front of them. While social media stretches their global perspective, what’s on their minds most is narrower than what you might think.

Dr. Kevin Leman believes that three innate fears drive teen reactions. He also believes there are antidotes to each of those fears that only you can provide.  When you know those fears and what your teens need most from you, you can provide what’s already within your control — lasting antidotes to help them power through and develop resilience.  Let’s get to it!

Fear No.1: REJECTION
Who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? But with teens, this craving trumps all else. Worse, in the peer jungle, liking is based on who’s highest on the food chain for the day, so rejection is hard to escape. I’ve had many clients who’ve been ditched by a best friend then refuse to leave the house for days because they were so crushed.   I’ve had others who lived and breathed sports only to get cut from a team then want to quit everything and change schools.  Not exactly demonstrating resilience.  Here’s the rejection antidote… unconditional love and acceptance at home.  Since rejection is part of life, learning how to handle it positively is critical. If your teens end up in the dirt of the peer heap or fail to make a team or club, listen, empathize, and then offer perspective. Do not judge their feelings or compare them to your own.  With this kind of love and support your teens can learn to take rejection in stride and become resilient.

Fear No. 2 UNCERTAINTY
Your teens may act like nothing bothers them, but they worry constantly. Ever-present on their minds is the survival-of-the-fittest peer environment in which even those on the highest rock can be dethroned at any moment. That makes their world outside your nest rocky, but throw in uncertainty at home — like a parent who has unpredictable work schedules or whose parents are getting divorced — and the uncertainty can be paralyzing.  The uncertainty antidote… stability at home.  When your teens arrive home, they need a safe, calm atmosphere where they can sort out their thoughts and the events that threw them a curveball that day. You are the constant in their rapidly evolving universe. They need to know you’re there, not leaving, will accept them and that they are a priority over your work.  And remember, role-modeling unchanging character, priorities, and most of all, a rock-solid presence guarantees a foundation stronger than any uncertainty your teens face.

Fear No. 3 BEING THE TARGET
Fear can reign in competitive or vicious peer groups. Anything “different” about your teens, including clothes, “loner” status or the simple fact they’re breathing next to an insecure guy who needs to ensure he’s top dog, paints a big target on their backs. With the ease of spreading rumors on a smartphone, it’s not just face-to-face bully encounters anymore. Social media’s anonymity and few , if any consequences mean anyone can say anything about anyone at any time and share it at the press of a button, and it’ll remain indefinitely in the electronic universe and your teens are acutely aware of this, all the time.  The antidote… is a balanced perspective and a “we’re in this together” guarantee. Bad things do happen, and people can be so mean sometimes.  Both are facts of life, so it’s better to prepare your teens before it happens, if possible. Share a time when you were targeted. Point out that many bullies behave as they do because they’re insecure, and taking someone down makes them feel temporarily important. Knowing that truth and knowing you have their back removes some of the sting.

Every time your teens step out your door, that trio of fears hangs heavily over them. Is it any surprise, then, that they sometimes react to that high stress by picking on a sibling or even you? But when you understand what’s really going on behind the attitude-of-the-moment, you can provide support for their daily trek into the teen jungle.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

6 Ways to Monitor Your Teen and Social Media

Like it or not, for better and for worse, social media is here to stay.  The question now is how you’re going to monitor it with your teen.  There are lots of options but I’ve narrowed it down to six common and effective tips.

1. Set the ground rules.  When is social media access allowed and when is it not?  What sites and content are acceptable, which are not?  These ground rules should apply to the whole family whenever possible.

2. Educate Yourself!  What sites are your kids on?  What is the difference from one site to the next?  I understand it’s easy to be overwhelmed or feel like you don’t have the time to learn all there is to know about social media but you must. You can’t bury head in the sand.  

3.  Use All of the Privacy Settings.  All the devices your kids use should have strict privacy settings. These settings include who sees online social media posts, what social media sites are permitted and virus blocking on all devices.  Safety first!

4. Insist on full access to all social media accounts.  Of course your teen will argue this on the basis of privacy.  But this is a non-negotiable parameter.  Teens are less likely to share inappropriate content and more likely to stay safe when they know you will check up on them.

5.  Teach them how to protect their online reputation.  Teens don’t give this much thought so  it’s your job to teach them.  Kids can be impulsive and may not think about how their social media usage affects their ability to get a job or college entrance in the future.

6. Be a good example!  Whether we want them to or not, our kids follow our lead. Let’s be a good example in this area as we practice smart online usage and etiquette.  I promise they are watching.

Social media doesn’t have to be a bad thing… but it does have to be monitored. 

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Help Your Hurting Teen

As a teen and family coach who has worked with thousands of teen, I often hear parents talk about how much their teen is hurting emotionally. In today’s unpredictable world, encountering hurt is as inevitable as paying taxes. It’s even more so for your teen. Add intense peer pressure, a friend’s betrayal, derogatory comments on social media, the cultural rearranging of values and family structure, and it’s no wonder teens face significant trauma.

No parent likes to see her children in pain. When your teen is hurting, you can follow these three principles to help them work through the hurt and develop strength and resilience.

Acknowledge The Pain
Ignoring a hurt doesn’t make it disappear. But you can comfort your teen by saying, “I know you’re hurting. If that happened to me, I’d be hurting, too.” That speaks volumes to your teen about your support.  Don’t compare their pain to any of your pain… past or present.  Don’t tell them to “let it go.”  Don’t talk on and on about the situation at hand with sage advice or anything else.  Just listen, validate and support.

Listen Without Judgement
Emotions are not right or wrong. They’re simply what your hurting teen feels. If you want them to talk, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Stop yourself from telling them what to feel and what not to feel.  Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t be feeling the way they do.  Just accept them right where they are and remember that they are teenagers… most things are a big deal to them!  They will mature emotionally as they grow up and they deserve the time and space to do that without judgement.

Strategize How to Handle the Situation Together
Don’t rush in to fix the problem!  Rather than solving the problem for your teen, encourage him to strategize a path to healing. 

Helping your teen brainstorm his next move will make him more resilient in the future. On the other hand, rescuing your teen from emotional hurt weakens them and promotes a victim mentality. Yes, there are times when he should get an adult involved. But most of the time, them staying in the fight and proactively problem-solving will help them stand strong in life’s storms that we know are sure to come.

When your teen has followed through on their plan, cheer the effort: “What happened to you was really tough. But you were strong and rose above the situation.”

Your belief in your child means more than you will ever know.  

 I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Encourage Empowerment vs Entitlement

Thousands of families and kids later I have become able to identify the fine line between an empowered child and an entitled one.  You want your kids to feel empowered. You tell them to speak up, be assertive and reach for their dreams. But what happens when you give your kids too much power? They become entitled which is quite different than empowered. An empowered kid has a strong sense of self, ambitions, dreams and direction.  An entitled kid is bossy, demanding, dependent and usually not enjoyable to be around.  Here’s how to build empowerment without crossing the line in to entitlement.

1.  Give your kids what they need, not everything they want.

Showering gifts on your kids may feel good to you, but children develop an unhealthy sense of entitlement when there are no limits on their wants. Free stuff is okay now and then, but too much free stuff always backfires. And I do mean always.  The more kids are given, the less they appreciate, and the more they demand. When it comes to gifts and rewards, moderation is best. A few meaningful items have more meaning than an endless bounty of plenty.

2. Never let your kids diss you.  

I am routinely shocked by the way children speak to their parents. And that’s saying a lot since I’ve worked with thousands of families!  I see children yell, curse and even hit their parents. Nothing destroys the peace of a household more than parents who let their kids get away with such shenanigans. No kid wants a parent he or she can push around. Kids who talk down to their parents suffer from low self-esteem, poor peer relations, depression and a lack of structure and parameters. So if your kid disses you regularly, don’t be wishy-washy. Put a stop to it. Be firm about behaviors that are unacceptable and strive to create a culture of mutual respect in your family.

3. Don’t be a “Fix Everything Parent”.  

Fix Everything Parents are the hardworking superheroes of parenting, willing to do anything for their child in a heartbeat. However, they have a terrible habit of swooping in and saving their kids from frustrating situations. By doing so, they keep their kids dependent, rob them of growth opportunities and create gaps in their emotional development. Kids with Fix Everything Parents don’t think twice about bossing or manipulating them. It’s better to teach your kids how to work through frustration and come up with their own solutions. Don’t save the day! Remember, frustration is the fossil fuel that drives maturity. Helping your kids work through frustration is far more empowering than saving them from it.


4. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.  In fact, be ready for it!  

Being a good parent requires making unpopular decisions now and then. If you surrender to temper tantrums or avoid conflicts to purchase peace, you’re setting the stage for bigger problems in the future by teaching your kids that negative behaviors get them what they want—and that’s the last message that you want to send. Grow a backbone, don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Model empowerment.  In the end, your kids will appreciate and respect you more for it.

5.  Fortify your leadership
Put an end to your kids ruling the roost before it begins. Foster an environment of mutual respect in your family and empower your kids with healthy habits that will last them a lifetime.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  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

4 Ways to Love Your Teen and Help Them Like You Back (Maybe)

An eye roll (or 20).  Indifference and disrespect.  Self-centeredness.  Testing every boundary known to mankind. For some parents, the teenage years test the bonds of unconditional love like no other parenting season. We can’t force our children to behave respectfully, love us wholeheartedly or — let’s be honest — even like to be around us.

But here’s the good news: After working with teens and their families for more than a decade, I’ve noticed four key things that help parents connect with their teens, and as a result, make it easier for those teens to appreciate their families in return… most of the time.

Fight Fair

Conflict isn’t the problem; knowing how to resolve it without scratching each other’s eyeballs out is. The goal is to reach a compromise with a greater understanding of each other, rather than wounding each other with dagger-like words or cold indifference. When we stick to the rules of a good, clean fight, the resolution is always better.

If you want your teens to engage in a meaningful discussion devoid of name-calling, low blows, running away, eye rolling and dismissive speech, show them how. This means you have to set the example. You, as the adult, have to refrain from sarcasm, criticism, and yelling.  Stick to the issue at hand, not all the issues of the past.  Reserve your veto power for the biggest issues.  And always be quick to ask for forgiveness when you blow it.

Understand Them

Figuring out a teen sounds like an impossibility, akin to understanding quantum physics or capturing video of Bigfoot. While it might be impossible to wrap our minds around our teens’ mood swings and irrational emotions, we can get to know them as individuals. Sure, you know your son still gets hungry at 4 p.m. just as he did when he was 5, but do you know what his greatest fears are at 16? You might know your daughter would rather be grounded for a week than clean her room, but do you know who her best friends are and why?

Show love by taking time to know their evolving likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, conflicts and accomplishments. Your teens are changing quickly, which means you have the joy and responsibility of continually discovering them — who they are and who they are becoming. Showing an interest in your teens might not spark instant reciprocation, but they will likely soften when they see you genuinely care to know the real them.

Let Them Go

Yes… go… away from you.  Your goal as parents is to help your kids reach adulthood before they leave your home, not hope they figure it out after they leave. To do this, you have to concede freedoms, even when teens don’t use those freedoms wisely. Let them increasingly make their own decisions about food, sleep, homework, purchases and activities, and allow them to enjoy the rewards or suffer the natural consequences of their choices.

Allow them to try and fail with as little “rescuing” as possible. For example, if you’ve given your teen the freedom to drive your car and she crashes it, let her know she is responsible for the repairs. Or if he works hard to purchase a car, let him decide which set of wheels to buy (even if you believe it’s a frivolous choice).

Anticipate Change

One of the only certainties about the teen years is that they will end. In a few years, your relationship will change. So before your teens launch into adulthood, ask yourself:

  • How do I want to spend the days we have left together?
  • Are there battles I can relinquish?
  • Are there experiences I want us to share?

Make the most of these days, and tell your teens why you’re being intentional. Invest in your relationship, not only to keep you from regret, but also to give your teens a solid footing for their lives ahead.

Sound hard?  Truth be told, it can be!  But you don’t have to do it alone.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help.  

Written by Lisa Smith