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


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

Unconditional Love: What It Is and What It Isn’t

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the eight things parents need to stop doing for their kids if they want to raise an adult.  The blog reached over 7, 000 people and most people seemed to benefit from its content.  But there was one comment on social media that has stuck with me and I want to address it in today’s blog.  The comment said “this list is lame and sound like it was written by an unloving parent.”  Really?  Let’s talk about that.

Someone, somewhere, some time ago started an unhelpful rumor that led parents everywhere to believe that if they didn’t do everything for their kids all the time, have warm, fuzzy, super affectionate feelings everyday all day towards their children, that they didn’t have unconditional love for them.

Parents everywhere began and continue to feel guilty when they have any negative feelings towards their children or ask their children to do things for themselves rather than doing it for them. To combat this they began spoiling them, trying to make them happy at all costs, and let feelings of guilt (or the idea that they were somehow inadequate) govern their parenting decisions.

Love is so much more than making your kids happy. Love is more than being a service provider.  Love is more than giving gifts or hugs. Love is an attitude, a way of life, and something that is long-term and far reaching. You love your kids because they are your kids. Nothing they do will change that. You will love them no matter what. But does that mean you let them do what they want even to their own detriment? Does it mean you do everything for them to buffer them from discomfort or inconvenience? No!

Let’s dispel some common myths of unconditional love right here, right now.

Unconditional love is not dictated by feelings.

Feelings can be unhelpful, untrue and unproductive.  Feelings, though very true to us, should not dictate our actions and do not always accurately tell us what is going on.

If you are exhausted you may feel resentful toward your children because, quite frankly, you are letting them run you in to the ground. If your teenager is rebelling and taking the whole family down with him, you may feel anger, confusion and the intense desire to kick him out. Do these feelings mean you don’t love your child?  Do these feelings tell you that you aren’t capable of unconditional love and that you are a bad parent because of it? No. Absolutely not. If we let feelings govern our actions and decisions we’ll end up in a world of hurt because our feelings change like shifting shadows.

Unconditional love does not mean happy, fuzzy, service providing all the time.

There will be times when your decisions, and the decisions of your children, make everyone upset. They are upset they have to eat vegetables, do their chores and go to bed while you are upset they threw the vegetables on the floor, haven’t done their chores and keep getting out of bed. Children, because they are learning stage by stage to exercise their independence, will constantly defy, try and even mystify us.

Just because we get angry doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Just because we want to sell them to gypsies sometimes does not mean we don’t love them. It simply means we are humans and our emotions flare up in reaction to our environment. Because they make you angry, and particularly if you have fairly disobedient, ungrateful and entitled children, you may feel these negative emotions often. Just because you don’t look at your children and feel overcome with happiness at every moment of the day does not mean anything. Oh wait, yes it does. It simply means that you are human and you don’t have to compensate for that.

Unconditional love is long-term not short-term sighted.

When you discipline your kids, hold them accountable or make a hard decision and feel like a bad parent, the bad cop, the one who ruined your child’s life just remember, unconditional love works for the ultimate, not temporary, good. Selling everyone short in the long run to instantly gratify your children is not actually an act of love. It’s an act of laziness, and sometimes, even cowardice.

Unconditional love protects

Unconditional love says “you make me angry and you are ruining our family and I am going to do something about it. It puts rules in place, it helps find remedies, help, intervention, etc.”

Discipline and boundaries have wonderful effects on children long term. That does not mean, in their childlike minds, that they appreciate them. Love is much more profound than simply making someone happy and comfortable. It looks out for a person’s best interests and seeks to help them flourish in the long run.

Letting a child continue in a self-destructive pattern, sprint down the road of entitlement or remain lazy by enabling them is not love at all, some might even say it is hate. There’s a saying that what we sow we later reap. If we let our children sow seeds of destruction, rebellion, apathy, entitlement, dependency and chaos then they will later reap it. Playing the ‘bad cop’ for a while to protect your child’s future may be an act of unconditional love. Outside of your emotions you make a decisions and, even when you grow weary of doing what’s right and best, you stick by it. That is unconditional love.

Does that sound impossible?  It’s not.  But sometimes we need support.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help!  

Written by Lisa Smith

5 Reasons Insecure Parenting Doesn’t Work

What is happening, why does it seem like there are many parents who are insecure and afraid to stand strong? I know that when we become parents there is a certain element of sink or swim. We figure it out as we go, we rely on what we learned from our own parents, good or bad, we watch other parents and we may even read a parenting book. But what I am seeing are insecure parents and this was not the case with past generations.

It is true that todays parents face many new challenges, social media being a giant. Parents are continually comparing themselves to others, comparing their kids to others and this fuels the insecurity. Listed below are some of the fears that I see and why I think we need to be brave and not succumb to these fears;

1. Fear of being too harsh; 
In order to raise a child who is respectful and not entitled you may need to be firm and strong, some may call this harsh. You are the authority in the home and unless the child understands that they themselves are not the authority they will struggle with other authority figures. This will not serve them well in school, with a coach or with their future boss. They need to learn to respect authority.

2. Fear of letting your child fail;
Children need to learn to handle failure or adversity. You will not always be there to shield them so let them fail, even when you can see it coming, let them experience the natural consequences of their actions. They will learn to bounce back and be resilient.

3. Fear of letting your child miss out;
Children need to have responsibilities and learn to prioritize what is important and this may involve missing out on some activities. If your child has an opportunity to go to a birthday party but also has a responsibility to finish an assignment, attend a siblings recital or visit their grandmother then they may have to miss out. But they will learn to prioritize and deal with disappointment.

4. Fear of letting your child fall behind;
Life is not a race to the top although it sometimes feels that way. Teaching children to do a job well, take pride in your work and considering others as they move through their life choices will teach that character is important, how you represent yourself and the quality of the work you do is important. Being the first is not the goal.

5. Fear of having your child be mad at you;
Children will learn that they don’t always get their way and this may result in them being mad at you. Don’t jump back in and try to fix it. If you feel like what you said or did was fair and necessary then don’t apologize for it. Stand by your decision and let your child process it. This can be hard to wait out but they will learn to accept it and move on when they don’t get their way.

We need to be brave enough to allow our children to learn these valuable lessons, don’t shield them, it won’t serve them in the long run. Be confident enough to parent well.

If you need support or guidance in this challenge then give us a call, we can help.

Written by Lisa Strong

Stop Doing These 8 Things for Your Teen if You Want to Raise an Adult

With all due respect, parents, you are out of control and you have to stop.  Stop treating your teen and adult child the way you treated them when they were in grade school.  Here are eight things you can stop doing immediately that will move them in the direction of becoming independent young adults… that is what you want, right?  Right?!
1. Stop waking them up in the morning.

If you are still waking little Johnny up in the mornings, it’s time to let an alarm clock do its job. Start this the first day of middle school.  There are days your kid will come racing out with only a few minutes to spare before they have to be out the door. The snooze button no longer feels luxurious when it’s caused you to miss breakfast.

I heard a Mom actually voice out loud that her teen sons were just so cute still, that she loved going in and waking them up every morning. Please stop. Most sons are just as adorable as yours, but our goal is to raise well functioning adults.

2. Stop making their breakfast and packing their lunch.

Your morning alarm needs to be the sound of the kids clanging cereal bowls. Your job is to make sure there is food in the house so that they can eat breakfast and pack a lunch.

One mom asked, yeah but how do I know what they’re bringing for school lunch? You don’t. You know what food you have in your pantry and it’s on them to pack up what they feel is a good lunch.

3. Stop filling out their paperwork.

There is no longer a need to dread the paperwork that comes home from your kid’s school.  Your teens should be expected to fill out all of their own paperwork, to the best of their ability. They can put the papers to be signed on a clipboard and leave it for you on the kitchen counter. You sign them and put them back on their desks.

Hold your teens accountable. They will need to fill out job and college applications soon and they need to know how to do that without your intervention.

4. Stop delivering their forgotten items.

Did they forget their book or PE uniform?  Will they get a zero on an assignment because of it?  Too bad, so sad.

Parents, don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? They need to feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you and this develops resiliency.

5. Stop making their failure to plan your emergency.

Please… stop!  School projects do not get assigned the night before they are due. Therefore, do not run out and pick up materials at the last minute to get a project finished.  Do not race to Michaels for your kid who hasn’t taken time to plan.

This is a good topic to talk about in weekly family meetings. You can ask “Does anyone have projects coming up that they’re going to need supplies for so that I can pick them up at my convenience this week?”

6. Stop doing all of their laundry.

Doing some of the laundry when it’s convenient for you is reasonable.  But when it becomes expected and taken for granted is when it’s gone too far.  “What? You didn’t get my shorts washed?” This response should always backfire on the kid who lost their mind in thinking that you’re the only one who can do laundry. Every once in awhile a child needs a healthy reminder that you do not work for them. The minute they assume that this is your main role in life is the minute that you gladly hand over the laundry task to them.

7. Stop mailing and calling their teachers and coaches.  

If our child has a problem with a teacher or coach, he is going to have to take it to the one in charge. You, as a parent, are not going to question a coach or email a teacher about something that should be between the authority figure and your child.

Don’t be that over involved parent! Teach your child that if something is important enough to him, then he needs to learn how to handle the issue himself or at least ask you to help him.

8. Stop meddling in their academics.

These apps and websites where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our overparenting epidemic.  I have many clients (the parents) who know way more about what and how their teen is doing in school than the kid does.  Stop it!  The more you step out of the grade monitor role the more they will step in.  Trust me, it works!

What is your parenting goal?

Is it to raise competent and capable adults?

If so, then work on backing off in areas where your teens can stand on their own two feet. I know they’re your babies and it feels good to hover over them once in awhile, but in all seriousness, it’s up to you to raise them to be capable people.

You want to feel confident when you launch your kids into the real world that they are going to be just finebecause you stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own.

Old habits die hard… I get it.  Letting go isn’t easy… but it’s so necessary.  If you need help then give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  We’d love to hear your story and see how we can help.

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Know if You are Overparenting

The other day someone made the comment to me “People are so stupid.”  I thought to myself “That’s probably because they were overparented.”  Overparenting produces ill equipped, incapable, irresponsible adults who don’t know how to problem solve, how to navigate life and usually expect others to carry their burdens.  This is never the intended outcome of a parent but it is the outcome they will get.  What a disservice to their kids.

Do you overparent?  Here’s three indicators that would suggest you do.

1. Your child calls or texts you with every problem he encounters.  If your child is contacting you all throughout the day about everything, whether it’s a hang nail or a really grumpy teacher, this shows they don’t have the confidence or skill to resolve issues on their own.  It’s likely they don’t have the confidence or skill because you have not allowed them to grow emotionally as they grow physically.

2. Your child can’t handle disappointment.  No one enjoys disappointment. But disappointment should not cause a complete meltdown.  Resiliency is one of the strongest signs of good parenting. If your child has never practiced resiliency because you have done everything you can to protect him from disappointment, he will not be able to handle the inevitable adversity he will face in life.

3. Your child avoids hard work and looks for short cuts.  Kids today are used to having service providers… and by service providers I mean parents who do everything like driving, cooking, laundry, cleaning, paying for everything, etc.  This produces unrealistic expectations in your child that everything will be done for them throughout life.  So when this child (now or as an adult) needs to complete a task they see as difficult or unappealing they will do anything they can to get out of it or take a short cut.

No one reading this blog has the intention of producing incapable, irresponsible adults.  But by shielding them from hurt, hard work and disappointment we are doing just that.  It can be really difficult to change his dynamic.  But it’s possible!  Don’t lose hope.  If you need some help with it, give me a call.  You’re not alone.

Written by Lisa Smith


Publicly Shaming Your Kids: The True Effects and What to Do Instead

You know what I’m talking about…you’ve seen the videos and pictures on social media.  Check out the example we recently shared on Facebook.  Parents basically making fun of, shaming, their kids by sharing with the world the child’s mistake and humiliation.  It’s one of the many things that keep me up at night.  It’s mean.  It’s damaging.  It’s ineffective. Parents are meant to be a safety net.  Shaming your kids, at any age, is the exact opposite.

Studies show that shaming children violates their trust in their parents and can lead to permanent, lifelong problems for kids. Every relationship is based on early childhood patterns.

Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed states that shaming can actually change a child’s development, putting undue stress on the brain. Anxiety and depression later in life can stem from a shaming incident during childhood. Some kids even suffer post-traumatic stress after being shamed by a parent, or worse yet, commit suicide.  No, this is not an exaggeration.  This is science.  And common sense.

Think about it.  If the people you are supposed to be able to trust with your life, your heart and your soul turn on you, and publicly no less, of course you will be traumatized by this!  Most parents resort to shaming because they don’t know what else to do.  But some parents are just mean and immature and need to feel a rush of power so they exert their authority over their child and humiliate them at home or in public.  This is never acceptable.

Above, I stated the true effects of shaming your child but let’s recap just to drive the point home: they lose trust in you, they feel insecure in their environment and in themselves, they suffer from anxiety and depression all the way in to adulthood and some experience post-traumatic stress that sometimes leads to suicide.   Public shaming also makes your kid a target for bullies because they are exposed online and become vulnerable.  These are probably not the results you expect when you post shaming videos and pictures online but these are the results you will get.

What can you do instead when your child acts out?

  • Sit down and talk calmly but directly with your kids.
  • Pick a neutral space, like the kitchen, instead of a bedroom, so everyone is on equal footing.
  • Give everyone the same amount of time to speak.
  • Actively listen to your child.
  • Guide and direct them on what they should do next time.
  • Finally, allow for natural or applied consequences as a result of their unacceptable behavior or poor choice.  It is important to have them acknowledge and “fix” their mistake… but without shaming them.

Parenting is hard!  Get support.  Work together as a family unit.  And don’t lose hope.  If we can help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Lisa Smith

What is the Goal of Parenting?

What is the outcome we hope to achieve as we raise our children? Some may answer that they want their children “to grow up and live a happy and fulfilling life”. What does that mean exactly and how does that happen? We may say we want them to have a job they enjoy and support themselves and develop relationships with others, maybe get married and have a family. I know that these are not the only goals we have for our children but it is a start, let’s break these goals down even more.

The first goal is to have a job that they enjoy. How does this happen? Well they won’t get their dream job from the start, they have to work up to it. In order for our children to be able to do this they have to know how to persevere though some hard challenges, maybe schooling or some less desirable jobs and work up to the dream job.

So as a parent we have to teach them how to work through things that are tough to get to their goal. This means letting them struggle and possibly fail. Allowing them to experience a struggle teaches them coping skills. Don’t do everything for them, don’t make the road too easy and don’t bail them out when hardship comes and or give them everything they need so they are unmotivated to work. As a parent this may be hard, living through their challenges with them and teaching them as they go is one way that they will learn to persevere.

The second goal would be for our children to learn to have healthy relationships. In terms of a job our child needs to learn to take instruction and respect authority. Taking instruction without feeling like a failure or getting defensive can be learned. When we instruct or correct our children it is an opportunity to help them cope with frustration and imperfection. We also need to teach our children to respect authority and listen well. One way to teach this is by requiring them to respect you as the authority and to listen.

Inter-personal relationships are also important. Your son or daughter will not attract healthy friends or a spouse unless they know how to treat others. How to show others respect and care. How to be compassionate and communicate with understanding. One way you can teach this is through role modeling. How do you as a parent treat others? Are you respectful and compassionate? Do you treat your child in that way? Do they know what it feels like to be heard, validated and shown respect? Being a clear, caring communicator is a skill that will help them develop positive relationships.

Parenting is too important of a job to “just wing it”, in order to achieve your goal of raising children “to grow up and live a happy and fulfilling life” it will take thought and effort.

Written by Lisa Strong


What is due Respect from Your Teenager?

While disrespect from a teenager can be demeaning and confusing to parents, it actually brings more harm to the child by tearing at the very fabric of their future. It may be rooted in an authority figure showing disrespect to the child. Or, the child could be imitating the disrespect they see exhibited by their peers or other family members – including their parents.

I’d never say that you can force your child to respect you. But treating someone respectfully is altogether different. It is a controllable choice regardless of one’s opinion of that person. In other words, I may not agree with someone who holds a high office, or has an idea that I don’t like, but I can still treat them respectfully. Yes, it is easier and better for your teen to treat you respectfully if they actually feel respect for you. But, in fact, showing respect should have nothing to do with how they feel about you at the moment.

Often, disrespect flows from a demanding attitude for the parents’ time, money, privacy, feelings or property, and it usually starts out in insignificant ways. But even small expressions of disrespect are never acceptable. If a parent doesn’t intervene when the issues are small, disrespect can become part of your child’s permanent mindset, with behavior that gets worse over time.

Why is respect so important? It’s because respect is the cornerstone for discipline and relationships in the home. All else fails or gets short-circuited in teaching a child about maturity and responsibility when they don’t understand the concept of respect. When parents require respectful behavior, it helps the teen to be more respectful of others, and that’s a cornerstone for success in his/her life.

The longer a parent waits to address disrespect in their teenager, the more entrenched the problem becomes. If your teen is disrespectful to you, one good place to begin is to communicate that it is time for things in your home to change; “Honey, I love you – nothing you do or don’t do will ever take away my love for you– but we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Tell your teenager that even if they don’t have feelings of respect for you personally, or even when they are mad at you, they will still treat you with all due respect in the way they act, speak, and engage with you and your possessions.

Respect is a pivotal expectation in your home, so make it clear to your children that you are serious about it by backing up your words with stiff consequences for any form of disrespect. Then, be sure to follow through on those consequences, since they will undoubtedly be tested.

Written by Lisa Smith

Teaching Children to Look Out, Not In

Teaching our children the value of caring and serving others is a responsibility of parenting. A healthy family cares for more than themselves. One of the things we need to teach our children is that the world does not revolve around them. In this age of social media we are continually taking pictures of ourselves, posting what we are eating or doing, putting our thoughts online for all to see and glorifying every aspect of our lives. Really people, we are not that important. We need to show our family that although we love and value each other, there are other people that our lives can reach and touch and we can have an impact.

We can teach our children to reach out to more than each other. How can we do this? The ways to do this are many and they change as the child grows. When a child is young we can remind them of the needs of others and role model service. Involve them in making  a meal or a card for someone in need. For example if you learn that your neighbor just had surgery or lost a loved one then bring them dinner and have your child make a card. Then deliver this together. Look for opportunities to serve those around you.

Another possible project is going through your child’s clothes or toys and then take them and donate to an organization in your community. Try to show them where their donation is going and how it is helping. As the child gets older then they can do more to help, possibly volunteering for a service day to clean up the beach or clean the house of someone in need.

This is not something that you can just require of your child but it needs to be a way of life for the whole family. Something you all consider and do. You are the first example of this for them. They hear that you are putting value on this and so they will learn this too. As they get older there will probably be push back where they would rather sleep in than go to serve. But this is not optional in your family. If you can show them that this is a way of life for your family then they will learn to see that life does not only revolve around them, there are others with needs and serving others can put life in perspective.

There is value in teaching children to be sensitive to the needs of others and exposing them to a larger world. They will learn of the struggles and needs of others. They will meet different types of people, they will learn to consider others and take the focus off themselves.

Written by Lisa Strong