If You Have A Teen, Read This!

Is your relationship with your teenager changing?

Are you grieving a little, and celebrating a little?

Is your teenager ready to leap forward?

Are you struggling to find your balance in parenting your teenager?

I hope your relationship with your teenager is changing – it should be, and this typically involves more of a need for privacy, a need for separation from you for the emerging self.  However, many parents have  a hard time navigating this emotionally and also how to deal with a teenager’s behavior.  My answer to a lot of this dilemma is expectations and boundaries.

Boundaries with teenagers actually aren’t that difficult in some ways.  Teens want increased freedoms, but with that comes increased responsibility and accountability.  Increased freedom is also based upon how well the teen has navigated increased freedom in the past.  It shouldn’t be based upon what Sally down the street does, because you as the parent are responsible for your child, not Sally, and your child may be a different maturity level than Sally.  Always, always remember the ultimate goal:  to raise a functional adult!  So, start where you are and move forward.

I think it’s important to ask yourself several questions:

1 – Did you come from a enmeshed, codependent family structure growing up OR conversely,  a family structure where you received no boundaries, no guidance, no support?  This can influence how we approach our own teenagers.  Examine yourself and how you function in relationships.

One of the solutions for this is to look and to consider not only what we want our children to be able to do by the end of THIS YEAR (not six years ahead to get ready for college; that is meaningless to early teens or even mid-teenagers!) What would help your child increase in not only FREEDOM but RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY this year?  Part of the plan of parenting teenagers is to make our teenagers functional young adults who are able to leave home and live on their own.   What boundaries would help this?  Where do they need a little nudge toward balance?  Where are they emotionally and maturity wise?  It isn’t always about the “number age” a teenager is, but what their stage of developmental is.

2.  Are you killing yourself for your teenager?  Sometimes we reinforce bad behavior.  We don’t need to be available every minute for our teenagers.  If you are being treated poorly, but yet also are running yourself ragged taking care of your teen, you may be enmeshed or you may be enabling your teenager to be self-centered and even downright narcisstic.     You can say no,  you don’t have to do something if it isn’t in your own best interest or even yes, if it is super inconvenient.  Yes, we take care of our teenagers, but a teenager’s wants are not the same thing as actual needs.

3. Boundaries come with conflict.  You can explain the “why” of the boundary – the teenager may not like it!  Conflict is fairly inevitable.  You can explain at what age you think x want/x activity is appropriate for your teenager – they may not like it!  Somehow, you have to keep your emotional response out of it.  There are no shortcuts for this; it is just having a consistent, calm response.   Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility and accountability.  So the only thing you can do is keep building a bank of positive, loving memories to hold you over when the conflict is there and keep showing them that a good track record goes a long way toward increased freedoms.

4. Set boundaries on technology.  The number one problem I see parents having with early to mid teens (ie, 13-15 or 16) is the lack of boundaries around technology which influences the teenager not being interested in completing things that needs to happen – chores, schoolwork, etc.  and seems to encourage holing up in a room and not doing much else.  Use a Disney Circle or another device to limit things.  Set limits that involve no phones at the table to eat and no phones at night.  Don’t just accept how it is.  Approval for social media and apps and games should be coming through YOU.

5. Connect!  Turn off the technology,  and do things as a family.  Take an interest in your child’s healthy passion even if you don’t totally understand it.  Love your child and what they want to do. Do things together.  Have a special breakfast just the two of you once a week.  Take a special overnight trip together.  Keep building up the memories and love.

6.  Are you helping your teenager avoid making mistakes?  Mistakes are vital, and if we are resilient parenting, parents with a growth-mindset,  we are helping our teenagers learn how to be resilient in the face of disappointment instead of changing the path in front of the child so they don’t fail.  This is important work, and boundaries involving not bailing your teenager out are important.  The quality of a teenagers life and their life as a young adult in a healthy and supportive family,  is based on their own choices, not what we do as parents.

7.  Are you setting the expectations up front ahead of time?  I find sometimes when we are in a rough spot with our teens, we have to think clearly ahead about how to speak to one another, to lay out the expectations of what we expect and why, and to ask if the teen needs support in following things through.  We also need to be clear as to consquences. This goes back to boundaries – things don’t go on as usual when a teen isn’t holding up their end of things.

Blessings,
Carrie

Raising Functional Adults

This is the main function of parenting: to raise functional adults.  This is done through understanding stages of developmental maturity, through appropriate connection between parent and child and child and the world, and through slowly letting go toward the child becoming an adult making their own decisions but having a family to support and encourage them.

It sounds brief in that way, and requires much more thought in real life than what I just wrote in that sentence. There are situations that come up a million times a day that can help your child move toward being an empowered adult.  So how do you do it in real life?

First, know your DEVELOPMENTAL norms.  Every child eventually weans.  Every child eventually sleeps in their own bed ( usually by age 10, if not before, is when they stop cosleeping or wandering into your room in the night with a bad dream).  If you know the developmental norms, then that helps you know what is NOT normal and when you might need help.  It might also help you identify anxiety or depression and when to intervene.

Second, respect your child’s IDENTITY.  This is not only extroversion or introversion, but temperament, and likes and dislikes.  This doesn’t mean you don’t get to nudge  a little at the appropriate points toward things that would be healthy, but it means you have a fundamental knowledge of who your child is. Nudging is different than dramatic pushing. Sometimes all of us, including adults, need a nudge from those who love us in order to better ourselves.  It is okay to nudge towards health and balance and normal developmental maturity.   And we respect their changes.   Because they are children who are growing, they have every right to grow and change into something different.  Do not peg your 15 year old into a spot because they acted a certain way when they were seven years old.

Third, provide ENCOURAGEMENT and CONNECTION.  Supportive phrases include encouragement, which is different than praise. Encouragement allows room for growth and room for the child to decide when and where to be proud of him or herself.  Connect with them in their love language.

Fourth, teach your child how to be EMPOWERED.  Teach them how to listen to others, teach them how to manage their own intensity, teach them how to  problem solve, teach them how to set boundaries.  Do not rescue them from real-life consequences.  These are skills you must have YOURSELF before you can teach them!

I would love to hear some of your real life situations – let’s help each other.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Compassionate Parenting For Toddlers

Is your adorable toddler exploring and getting into everything? Toddlerhood can be one of the most fun (and exhausting times) to parent, dependent upon the personality of your toddler!  Some toddlers need to be saved from death every hour, and some are content to be near you and involved in what you are doing.  In any case, having a few compassionate and fun responses to typical toddler situations up your sleeve can be really helpful!

One foundation to keep in mind for all toddler situations is that toddlers do well with a rhythm to their day (try this back post on Finding Rhythm With Littles, and meaningful work  (the post I linked here is probably one of THE top guest posts on The Parenting Passageway for ten years! Go check it out!)

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your GENTLE  hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch so get up and correct things gently the first time with your loving presence and ability to distract them.

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.

These are the top common situations with toddlers and some simple solutions:

“Into Everything”:

Options:

  • Child-proof, child-proof
  • Model how to explore fragile things with your help and put away
  • Keep less things out, access to art supplies, toys, etc should truly be limited

Your Ideas:

Picky Eating:

Options:

  • Rule out a physical cause; check food allergies and sensitivities
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar choices, have many healthy choices
  • Look at your child’s food intake over a week, not just one day
  • Have a schedule/rhythm for mealtime and snack time  and sit down with your child to eat in an unhurried manner
  • Serve smaller portions – your child’s stomach is the size of their fist
  • Serve your child’s favorite foods as a side dish to a main meal
  • Do not feel ambivalent about your child’s ability to eat what you serve
  • Allow an option to have toast or cereal for one night a week
  • Try frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn right from the bag or raw veggies with dip if your child is old enough and this is not a choking hazzard
  • Let the kids have a vegetable garden – children often will eat what they have grown
  • Start calling green veggies “brain food”
  • Sneak veggies and fruits into smoothies, or finely grate or chop and mix into foods the child likes
  • Fill a muffin tray or ice cube tray with different healthy kinds of snackable foods that the child can pick from
  • Model good eating yourself – eat a wide variety of foods!

Your Own Ideas:

Poor Sleeper:

  • Rule out physical problems  – many children had reflux when they were younger and are off of medications by the time they are a year or so, do make sure reflux has not reared its head again.  Also be aware of a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis – see the comment in the comment thread below.
  • Educate yourself regarding normal sleep behavior – segmented sleep throughout the night was the norm until the Industrial Revolution
  • Expect disruptions in sleep around change, stresses, developmental milestones
  • Try a more consistent routine during the day calming and soothing techniques for naptime and bedtime
  • Try lots of daytime sunlight and dim the lights after sundown; put your house to sleep after dinner
  • Limit afternoon over-stimulation, be home and have a consistent routine where things are structured around getting ready toward sleep
  • Look at the foods your child eats
  • Hug, sleep, hold your child – parent them to sleep
  • Co-sleep
  • Remember that many toddlers and preschoolers are poised for an early nap and an early (6:30 to 7:30 PM) bedtime – sometimes we just miss the window!
  • Watch out for TV and other media exposure
  • Many normal, health co-sleeping children do not sleep a 7 to 9 hour stretch until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Refuses bath:

Options:

  • Use bubble bath, toys
  • If she fears soap in her eyes, use swimming goggles or sun visor
  • Try bath in the morning instead of at night
  • Try a shower
  • Get in tub with child
  • If child fearful of drain, can drain tub after child out of tub or after child  leaves room

Bites adult:

Options:

  • Do not take it personally, do not over-react
  • Most common between 18 months and 2 and a half years
  • Re-direct behavior
  • It is not okay for your child to hurt you!
  • Do not bite for biting!

Your Own Ideas:

Bites other child:

Options:

  • Watch child closely during playtime but realize children of this age do not need many playdates if any at all – limit the exposure and situations you are putting your child in!
  • Give attention to the victim
  • Usually biting stops by age 4

Your Own Ideas:

Slaps faces:

Options:

  • Re-direct behavior
  • Do not hit for hitting
  • Model non-aggression

Your Own Ideas:

“Demanding, exacting, easily frustrated”

Options:

  • Review normal developmental milestones and behavior
  • Check how many choices you are giving and how many words you are using and use LESS
  • Try to get in a lot of outside time
  • Go back to the basics of rhythm, sleep, warm foods, nourishing simple stories and singing

Will not get dressed or put on shoes:

Options:

  • Plan ahead and use easy to put on clothing, check for tags, seams
  • Sing a song, look for body parts, dress by a window
  • Dress together
  • Put clothes on when you arrive at destination

Your Own Ideas:

Running Away in Public Places :

Options:

  • Limit the number of public places you take child
  • Bring along a second adult to help if possible

Your Own Ideas:

Temper Tantrums:

  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated; accept the feeling – All feelings are okay; all actions are not.
  • Look for the triggers – hungry, tired, thirsty, hot/cold, over-stimulated
  • Try to avoid situations that set your child up to fail
  • Give YOURSELF a moment to get centered and calm
  • Remove yourself and child from scene if possible (if in  a public place)
  • Can get down with child and rub back or head if child will allow,  can just be there
  • Once child has calmed down, can nurse, give him a hug, get a snack or drink
  • If child is mainly upset and gets wants you near but you cannot touch child, consider doing something with your hands to keep that peaceful, centered energy in the room!  Hold the space for your child!
  • Do NOT talk – for most children this just escalates things!
  • If child is okay with being picked up, can go outside for a distraction
  • Try back post More About Time-In For Tinies

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses Car Seat

Options:

  • Let child have a bag of “car toys” that can be played with as soon as seat belt is buckled
  • Have a contest who can get in the fastest
  • Be a policman, fireman, truck driver

Your Own Ideas:

There are many back posts on this blog about toddler development and behavior.  I can’t wait to hear from you and your experiences with your toddler!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Yourself and Your Child”

How is everyone doing reading along in this fabulous book?  We are up to Chapters 9 and 10, and these are great chapters.

Chapter 9 is entitled, “Parenting Responses That Affect Self-Esteem” and it gives a number of different scenarios with responses from a nurturing parent, a structured parent, a marshmallow parent, and a criticizing parent.  I think this could be really helpful to parents new to different developmental stages.  If you are curious about the differences in these responses, I refer you to the scenarios but in a nutshell:

Nurturing Responses – based on respect, love, support, encourages self-responsibility, parents help children, children are seen as having capacity to grow and succeed, warm

Structuring Responses – also based on respect, but offer more set limits and sometimes demands a performance outcome; expects children to be capable and responsible.  This kind of response can work well WITH a nurturing response.

Marshmallow Responses – grants freedom but doesn’t make a child accountable or responsible.  It sounds supportive, but in reality views children as inadequate and incapable.  It blames others, or the situation for a problem.  Views children as fragile.

Criticizing Responses – based on disrespect, ridicule, blaming, fault finding, comparing, labeling.  Humor is often cruel, touch is not warm but instead punishing.

What style do you use the most?  The good news is that it is possible to change your response style!  You can catch your children being good, you can find the things they are doing right, you can give up blaming and fault finding.  Mistakes can be fixed, and children can learn responsibility!  

Chapter 10 is about parents being leaders.  I love this, as it was one of the first topics I ever blogged about when I started this blog 10 YEARS ago!  So, if we are going to be leaders, we need

1- Vision, direction, goals.

2- We need to communicate our vision, direction, goals.

3.  We need to keep focused

4. – We need to consider the needs of others  – we are team as a family!  This is the FIRST place that children learn teamwork.  Team sports are awesome, but the family is the first team!

5. – Support the progress – support over the obstacles.

6.- Expect success!

If you are a REACTIVE parent, you are reacting, usually with threats, force, criticism, humiliation, ridicule, punishment.  We can, instead, be proactive!  What are the biggest sticking points for the day?  How could thing flow smoother?  What is our big vision as a family and how are we communicating that?  If you want to see more, here is a post I wrote some time ago about writing a Family Mission Statement.  Pages 93-94 of this book also talk about crafting a vision of a Winning Family.

A closing thought from page 94:  “If you live your life from your highest values, you will bring peace and compassion to your family, community, and world.”

The change begins with us!  Please leave me a comment and if you have a link to your Family Mission Statement, I would love to read it!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Empowering Your Child

I think sometimes we as parents can really confuse what we are supposed to be doing as parents.  Our children need to be able to do things that will help them learn how to make great decisions, that will foster their skills in communication, that will help them become functional adults.   There will be mistakes along the way; protection from mistakes and therefore protection from a child developing resilience is not the goal.

So, in that vein, these are the messages that I wish more parents would say to their children when things get hard for the child:

You can do this.

You can do hard things.

I believe in you and I believe you can handle this.

I love you no matter what, but I do expect you to make good choices.

You don’t need avoid the things in life that are difficult.

You can deal with the things that come your way.

It is okay to make mistakes.

It is okay to ask for help.

Taking responsibility is important.

You are going to make great decisions now and as an adult. I trust you.

You are amazing, and  you’ve got this.  I am here to help, but you really can do this.

 

Are there any other empowering phrases you wish people would say to their children?  Leave me a comment in the comment box!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Toolbox of Tips For Communicating With 9-12 Year Olds

This is second in a three-part series of discipline, communication, and development for 9-12 year olds so we can all be more effective parents!  The first part to this series can be found here and got a warm reception from readers as it tackled discipline, responsibility, protection, sports, emotional intelligence, and more.

One thing I love about this age is that I think we have a chance to make a big impact on how we resolve conflict and communicate with one another.  The home is really the first and most major place in which children learn this!

So, the first thing to be aware of is what is your communication style?  I find many adults have a really hard time helping 9-12 year olds with conflict and communication within the family because they themselves were never taught communication skills or conflict resolution?   So, I think we need to think of things such as:

  • How do we deal with things and other people when things are not flowing smoothly? How do we react? What do we say?
  • Do we accommodate conflict by being a people pleaser and backing down on our boundary?  Do we avoid conflict and run away?  Do we become competitive and try to win over why we are right?
  • How good are we a collaborating during times of conflict?
  • Are we direct?  Can we say and use “I ” statements directly when we communicate – “I am frustrated!”  “I am angry!”  But……
  •  What do we do with those feelings then, though?  Take it out on everyone around us?  Yell, scream, shut people out, cry?
  • Do we put people down when we are frustrated or irritated at the situation?  What do we perceive as “disrespect”, why, and what do we do about it?
  • Do we use steps in resolving conflicts?  Only then can we really model.

For younger children, we often think of things such as using our bodies to walk over to the child, connecting with the child and getting the child’s attention, using a calm voice with a simple request, helping the child follow-through in the request.  If conflict ensues, it often is just a matter of hungry/tired/exhausted/needing connection, helping the child calm down, following through or making restitution.  Attacking, lecturing in a long tirade, blaming doesn’t do anything to teach a child how to communicate or solve conflict.

For older children, things become infinitively more complex however.  There is often less of a “working together” model in place developmentally, which is normal, but it can also impact communication and openness.  Here are some suggestions to lay a good baseline:

What are the ESSENTIAL family rules (boundaries)?  Not like pick your socks up off the floor, but the really essential things. What specifically triggers the adults in the family, and the 9-12 year olds and makes the house less peaceful?  What is so essential it can’t be avoided, but what is not essential and could be discarded?  Pick and choose the ESSENTIAL.

In our family, this does include respect and good manners for one another.  Manners are how we show we care about one another, and we should have respect for the fact that we are all different people with different temperaments, personalities, and interests living in the same house together.

If there are things like doing homework or completing chores causing conflict in the family how could you break it down into an action plan that garners cooperation?

Make the family a place of POSITIVENESS and SUPPORT.  One of my favorite phrases to use with my children is, “I am here to help you.  Tell me what you would like to see happen.”  That opening often sets up a much better conversation.

Make the family a place of TEAMWORK.  This is often set in ages birth-9, but it is never too late to start!

EMPOWER.  Children ages 9-12 are not going to do things the way you do them as an adult, but the more empowerment you can give them within the rules of the house and what needs to happen. What will happen if responsibilities are not done?  If poor words are chosen?  If the child becomes completely angry?  Figure these things out in a time of quiet and calm, and have it ready to go and draw upon.

START TEACHING. Responding to what other people say in a defensive way is not an effective way to communicate, and just like learning to walk or throw a baseball, learning how to communicate takes PRACTICE.  A few hints:

Everyone must be calm. This step often takes much, much longer than everyone would like.  Take the time to calm down. Come back later.  There are few things that have to be solved in a split second.

No defensiveness. No yelling. No name calling.  No accusations.  No physicality. If any of these things happen on the part of your 9 to 12 year old to you, stay calm.  Tell your child you would like to help them.  Most 9-12 year olds can still get really overwhelmed by emotions, and need space and time. Defensiveness, yelling, name calling, accusations only ramps up the whole thing and instead of problem solving it is just emotions spilling everywhere.

We can all disagree, but the reality is if we all live together, we have to come up with solutions that work for the family, and we have to agree upon boundaries and rules in order to  live together.  Nine to twelve year olds are often not really logical, so it is important to help guide the discussions.

Listen carefully, and talk about how things happened and what you would each like to see happen.  Come up with a plan.   Make restitution.

I would love to hear your experiences in communicating with your 9-12 year olds!  Let’s exchange ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

Three Steps in Dealing With Challenging Behavior

There probably have been complaints about children and teen’s behavior as far back in time as one can imagine!   In light of behavior that is less than desirable and is repeating, I think there are three main steps to take as a parent in dealing with this behavior head-on:

  1.  Ask yourself if this is normal behavior for this age?   Many parents have expectations that are far beyond their child’s age and need to be reassured this is part of childhood maturation.  We are losing perspective on this in American society rapidly.
  2. If it is normal behavior for the age, but it is still making the family full of tension, ask yourself how you will guide it with boundaries so your family can live in harmony? 

a.  For a young children under the age of 7, guide with the principles of rhythm carrying things (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc doesn’t help any behavioral situation!), songs and pictorial speech to move things along, and the child making reasonable restitution for what isn’t going well.  If you determine things aren’t going well due to a lot of stress and hurriedness in the family, try to decrease the amount of stress. Look carefully and listen to what the child in front of you  is telling you, but do balance that with the needs of the family.

b.  For the child ages 9-13, guide with the ideas of rhythm and restitution in mind, and rules of your family and of life in general – how do we treat each other in kindness; how do we treat ourselves and others.  Listen carefully to what your child is saying, but also state the expectations and boundaries firmly and kindly.   Go in with the idea that these things will need to be worked on 500 times or more to stick.  If things in the family are super stressful for varying reasons, consider simplifying and also adding in techniques for dealing with stress for the whole family.

c.  If the child is 14-18, guide with the ideas of family rules in mind, and consequences and restitution.  A teen can vacillate widely from seeming very mature to seeming very young and immature, and it is important to remember that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed.  You must still be there to guide, and you are not at the “friend” stage of parenting.   Teenagers still want boundaries, limits, and a guide.

3.  If the behavior is not normal for the age...

a.  Is it quirky  behavior and being exacerbated by stress and hurriedness? Simplify things and see if things improve.

b. Is it truly not appropriate behavior and not responding to anything you do?  Then you may need professional help  through family therapy or other behavioral intervention.

c. If you are a homeschooling family, do not assume that going to school will make things better.  I think kids who are having problems at home often will have problems at school unless the family is so chaotic they will function better in a more structured environment. But if the child themselves is really  having problems stemming from themselves, they will have problems across environments.

Just a few thoughts,
Carrie