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Teens More Frequently Bullied Online

When socializing on the Internet, many teens are exposed to “cyber-bullies.”  Cyber bullying occurs when highly negative or abusive language is used, or there are threats of violence or assault.  Over the past five years, researchers have seen a 50% increase in the amount of cyber bullying that teenagers experience.

Surveys of teens Internet behavior reveal some disturbing trends.


Typically, cyber-bullies represent no real threat.  In the wide majority of circumstances, this takes the form of ugly comments about looks or friendships or boyfriends.  For most, this has relatively little consequence.  However, some teenagers are deeply bothered by the conversations they experience.


Teen discussions online often use harsh language.  If you allow your teenager to chat freely on the Internet, without monitoring their conversations, it is likely that you are missing a very disturbing trend.  Absent any parental limitations, teenagers often end up using harsh, and profane language.  In my parent coaching practice, I see more and more examples of teenagers whose parents do not model such language, and the adolescent does not use such language at home.  However, on the Internet, they become “one of the crowd” and ultimately end up using very abusive and ugly language.


Internet chat rooms become very personalized.  Another growing trend is for chat and instant messaging (IM) sessions to take on a highly personalized quality.  As if no one is watching, teens (and particularly teenage girls) will open up and share the most intimate thoughts and feelings.  In doing so however, they then open themselves up for ridicule and attack.  These can get very ugly.  Many parents are appalled when they discover the true nature of the dialogue that goes on in their homes!


The teenagers who are most vulnerable are the newbies, who are not particularly Internet savvy.   When new to the Internet chat world, adolescents are often not prepared for the harsh language they experience.  Many feel traumatized, and deeply hurt, by how quickly conversations deteriorate into personal attacks.


Those who are quite savvy, and who use the Internet frequently for socializing, express fewer incidents of cyber-bullying behavior.  This appears to be the result of learning not to take the conversations personally.   However, very few parents would view these discussions as healthy.


What can parents do?


  • Use parental controls on your browser. Then monitor. Monitor. Monitor.


Most parents will affirm that they do monitor their child’s activities.  However, your teenager is likely much more savvy than you are.  It is not enough to occasionally walk by and look over their shoulder.  You need to make sure the parental controls are always activated.  You don’t need to know more about computers, but you must know more about monitoring the computer than they do!


  • Purchase “ghostware” to know what your teenager is doing when you aren’t looking.


It is relatively easy to install software on your computer that will allow you to monitor what your teenager is doing.  Unfortunately, you may be able to trust your teenager, but you can’t trust everyone that they are meeting online.  It is essential to carefully monitor communications, to ensure that your teenager is following guidelines that you can support.  This also gives you a tool for keeping track of their language, and the quality of the exchanges.   You can see every keystroke made when they are online, or writing an email.


They won’t like it…but…the Internet is the gateway to the entire world…the good and the bad.  In my opinion, it is fair game to warn your teenager that this is not a confidential form of communication, and that you will be watching over their shoulders.  They don’t need to know exactly how you are doing this.  You just need to keep an eye on things, and have integrity by letting them know you will be watching.


  • Keep the computer in a central area of the home.


There is a growing trend for teenagers to have a computer in their bedroom.  With several teenagers in the home, this makes monitoring computer usage difficult.


It is much easier if you establish a ground rule that requires the computer to be within eyesight.  In this way, your presence serves as a significant deterrent to behavior and conversations that you would not approve of.


  • Establish clear consequences for violating your guidelines.


Establish guidelines about the kind of language that you approve of.  Also, make it clear that your teenager is not to have their profile on websites such as or  Furthermore, make it clear what types of websites are off limits for them, such as sights containing adult language and content.


Once you have established these guidelines, then make sure that your teenager understands that there will be a consequence for violating the guidelines.  If you make clear that they’ll lose the computer for a week, and then follow through with that consequence, your teenager will learn to honor the guidelines that you put into place.

If you follow these simple principles, I think that you’ll find that you can keep a handle on your teenager, and make sure that they are not a victim of cyber-bullies, or other negative influences online.  Read more about this on my new blog, at









What are the most important components of good parenting?  I invite you to consider the power of the calm, caring and consistent parent.


  1. Calm. 

    This is, of course, about remaining calm in the face of difficulty and struggle.  It’s not about remaining calm when things are easy.  Most of us can do that.When life isn’t giving you what you want, this commitment is about keeping your cool in the face of challenges.  You may often find that your children don’t give you what you want (in terms of behavior and emotion).  When you can stay calm in the face of parenting struggles, you can begin to use reasoning, intellect, and the skills that you’ve learned throughout the years to solve the problem in front of you.  However, when you lose your cool, none of those resources are available to you.  The tools you have learned about all go flying out the window!

    Staying calm in the face of turmoil provides an additional benefit.  You provide a healthy model of how to walk through the world.  Our children will often find that the world doesn’t give them what they want…and keeping our cool is essential for success.

  2. Caring. 

    This may seem obvious, as I have never met a parent who has stated that they didn’t care about their children.  That would be crazy!  Of course we care!The secret here is about HOW and WHEN we show that we care.  It’s not about unconditional love for our children, as that is a given.  It’s about the caring behavior that flows from that love, and learning to master HOW we offer our caring.

    For example, nurture lots of caring and attention for the moments that you value.  If you care about kindness, be attentive to it.  If you care about hard work and effort, notice it.  If you care about cooperation, give your attention to it.  If you care about healthy eating, nurture it.

    Give lots of caring to the things that you really care about.

    On the other hand, make sure that you don’t show lots of caring for things that you don’t value.  If you don’t want more drama, whining, negativity…then don’t show lots of caring attention.

    Thus, the lesson here is to learn to care with discretion…when it comes to specific moments and behaviors.  Care in a way where you give your energy and caring to that which you really care about…and make sure that you’re not caring about the things that will not serve your children.

  3. Consistency. 

    Let’s imagine you put up some fleas in a jar and put a metal lid on the jar.  After doing so, you would hear this “ticking” sound as the fleas where jumping up against the lid of the jar.  The fleas are quite literally bumping against the limits of their reality at that moment.


Within just a few moments, the ticking noise calms to a complete quiet, and we would see the fleas jumping in the jar, and coming within a half an inch or so of the lid.


Even with their tiny “flea brains” they have learned to respect the limits imposed by the lid on the jar.  Every now and then for a few minutes, you might hear an occasional tick, but then it is eventually it is completely silent.  The learning is complete.


You can then do a magical thing.  Take the lid of the jar off, and you’ll see that the fleas keep jumping, but stay within the limits they just learned moments ago.  They don’t jump out!


How did the fleas learn to honor this limit so quickly…with just a little flea brain?  They learn because there was a consistent limit.


This “metaphor” is remarkably important as you consider the role of consistency in your parenting.  Just think about it…a flea learns to honor the limits when limits are consistent.  But lets imagine for a moment that that lid on the jar kept changing…moving up and down when the fleas would jump.  Would they ever learn with an inconsistent limit?  Doubtful.


The same is going to be true for your children.  If you place limits on their behavior, and the limits keep changing from day to day, or from parent to parent, children have trouble learning where the limits are.  If bedtime is at seven thirty, but it moves to eight o’clock when you have a “good day” then you are going to be in trouble.  The same is true for homework routines, healthy eating and all the rest.  Your children will be constantly negotiating and pushing the limits…if you are inconsistent.


The three C’s set a solid foundation.  When you remain calm, you show discretion in your caring, and you’re impeccable in your consistent setting of limits, you will undoubtedly establish a solid foundation for your children.








What Parents Model: The Often Over-looked Secret To A Better Home

We all understand that life can be remarkably challenging, and that raising a family makes it more challenging, and having a  strong-willed or difficult child multiples the struggles.  In all situations, we still have to remember the vital importance of maintaining the most impeccable model as parent we can be.  As a parenting coach, I am fond of reminding my clients that “You can’t expect your children to act better than you do.”

How often are we willing to compromise what we know is right to indulge the emotion of the moment?  If we are willing to be reactive like this, then here’s what our children see:


  • When Mom doesn’t get me to do what she wants, she can scream and yell at me.


  • When I don’t listen to Dad, he can throw a tantrum.


  • When Mom and Dad don’t agree, they can fight and yell at one another.


So please understand:  All your child knows is that Mom and Dad can yell, scream and fight with each other if they are unhappy.  In fact, your children may also see you throwing grown-up tantrums; whining, complaining at them and sometimes…even fighting between yourselves (just like siblings).


Inside Your Child’s Brain:  Imagine that there is always a small recording device in your child’s brain.  This recording device is always recording information, and always striving to understand how to handle things.


This recorder is taking notes about how to handle frustration, how do deal with anger, and when to complain and when to react.  It never stops recording, and pays close attention to every comment.


But the recorder is especially designed to record the events that are more intense, more emotional and more memorable.  Those take a special place in your child’s memories, and serve as a guide to handling life.


How does your child understand the rules of life?  For some, it sounds like this:  When you don’t get what you want, you just throw a fit.  It’s okay to yell and scream.  It’s okay to even embarrass yourselves in front of others, in order to try to get what you want by yelling and screaming.  It’s okay to be disrespectful if you are angry.  And it’s certainly okay to fight and yell to get what you really, really think is important.


Do you see how this works?


It is simply impossible to try to coach your children into remaining calm, when they face frustration, if you can’t model this yourself.


It’s impossible to teach your children to remain respectful and reasonable, when they aren’t getting what they want, if you have shown them that loosing your cool is acceptable

when you get frustrated or upset with someone.


What do you do when things get difficult?  What do you do when you had a tough day?

How pleasant are you to strangers who are short with you?  How calm are you in the face of turmoil and stress?


Answer these questions, and you will have a good sense of what your kids are learning to do when they have had a tough day, or when not getting what they want from life.


Helping Your Child Feel Good…Even If They Get Rejected.

There will likely be times when your son or daughter gets rejected or excluded.  They don’t get called for a birthday party, or they weren’t picked to be on the sports team, or someone called them an ugly name.  All of these can be hurtful, and your child will benefit from the right kind of support.

For some of you, these moments will be infrequent.  Your child usually fits in.  That’s fortunate.


For others, your children may not be so fortunate.  They may be a bit awkward…maybe a little “geeky”…or perhaps just very shy.   Sometimes it’s just the clothes they wear.  At other times…it’s about a “difference” that makes your child stand out, and other children make fun or ridicule them for it.


But at one time or another, almost everyone will experience getting picked or rejected by their peers.  It’s going to happen.


You can likely see the consequences.  Your child might be moping around a bit.  For some children, they will talk with you about it.  But, for many children, you’ll pick it up from their behavior.  Other than the obvious emotional upset, there are other consequences of such rejection.


Rejection and exclusion reduces self-control.


Some interesting research suggests that kids who feel excluded or rejected demonstrate a loss in the sense of self-control.  In other words, they perceive themselves to have LESS control over their choices that is true.


For example, when feeling excluded and rejected, children tend to initiate less,  they tend to give up easily, and they are more inclined to over eat, or to eat junk food.


What is clear is that being rejected reduces a child’s normal motivation to control their own behaviors.  With lowered motivation for self-control comes more reactivity and more need for “immediate gratification.”  Your child may show less patience, and want it right now!


Parents: You can do something about this! 


The same research suggests a reason to be optimistic and hopeful.  Researchers found that when we are made aware of the change in behavior, corrections can be made.


In other words, this same research suggests that when parents point out the change in behavior by specifically noting that, “Sweetheart, you seem to be giving up too easily on your math and ask me for help when I know you can figure this out.  Try a little harder, and I will check on you in a few minutes.  I know you can do it.”


That type of supportive coaching by parents will help to turn things around for children.


In specific situations where your child has experienced rejection and you see a change, you can simply comment on the change in behavior, and emphasize that, “I know this isn’t easy, but it’s not good that you are letting it stop you from doing your best.  You can do better, if you try.”


You may notice more impulisivity, or that they are eating more, or that they seem more easily frustrated.  That’s where you gently comment on their behavior, and let them know that mom and dad are absolutely confident that they can do it better.  This seems to be remarkably beneficial in these situations, and it’s very simple.


Here are a few more examples:


“John, you keep throwing down your pencil today.  That’s just not like you.  I know

it’s frustrating to not make the team, but I also know that you can do better with your

homework.  Why don’t you take a few minutes off, and then come back and get that

done while keeping your cool.”



“Alicia, that’s the third time that you’ve yelled at your brother today.  I understand your friends were mean to you today, but you can handle this better, and I expect you to do that.  The next time that you lose your temper, you will need to take a timeout.”


Or …

“Stephen, you seem to be eating like a mad man today.  You can slow down, and       finish what you have in your hand…but that’s all.  I know that you are upset about the teasing today, but eating like this will not help.  We can talk about it more if you want, but eating more is not the answer.”


The strategy here is that you comment on their behavior, affirm that it’s okay to be upset, but also insist that they have more control and that they can do better.


Isn’t this simple?  And yet the preliminary research suggests a powerful effect on short-term choices with you children.


Try it out and see if it doesn’t make things better for your kids.  Rejection is a tough experience, and we can all get ‘hooked.’  If your child gets too caught up in the feelings, their behavior will reflect it.  This strategy gives you a tool to help pull them out.  Let me know how it works at


Three Secrets for Success and Happiness This Year

With the New Year underway, many of us pause to consider how we can enhance our children’s happiness and satisfaction.  Yet, we are often somewhat disabled from taking the kind of action that can really make a difference…because we simply don’t know what to do.


In this article, I want to introduce three simple, yet practical ways that you can begin to make this the best year ever for your family.


Recent research from brain-behavior studies provides wonderful guidance to help us understand how the brain works.  We know, for example, that most of our decisions occur quite literally “in the blink of an eye.”  The brain seems to work at almost light speed, and most of our decisions are made without our conscious awareness.


Furthermore, many, if not all, of our day-to-day choices are activated (or de-activated) by some external event.  It could be a question from a parent, a friend, or a co-worker.  It could be an alarm clock.  It could be someone’s voice in the background.  It can also be activated by an internal thought, which turns our attention to a preexisting belief or conclusion.  So…how can you use these findings?


  1. You Can’t Nurture What You Want By Focusing On What You Don’t Want

    In the world of parenting, we would all like to “activate” thoughts and behavior that lead to happiness and success.  You play a major role in activating healthy patterns by how you invest your energy and attention.

    One powerful mistake that we make is a very common one.  We have a natural tendency to focus on what we don’t want…rather than focus on what we do want.  Think about how easy it is to notice what’s not working in your relationship with your children, rather than build on what is working.  Consider how often the bickering pulls you into the lives of your children playing, while you ignore moments of cooperation when things are going well.

    So…here’s the critical distinction to hold:  Notice how often you want to point out behavior you don’t want, people you don’t like, moments you don’t appreciate, and situations you can’t stand.  Instead, quickly drop these in your mind, and turn your attention to what you do want, and notice all that you do appreciate in your children and in your life.  This is a critical first step to helping to shape an amazing year.


  1. Avoid Negatively Biased Questions

    Another subtle, but powerful, way you shape your children’s thinking is through the questions that you ask.  Almost every question contains some form of an assumption or bias.  Some assumptions are bigger than others.  Some are skewed positively and others are skewed negatively.  Some contain bias that is harmful, pointing your children in the direction of pessimism and helplessness, while other assumptions bias your children toward optimism and success.

    For most of us, there is little awareness to the nature of the questions that we ask at home.  Let’s look at a few questions that “prime” your child’s brain for failure and unhappiness.


  • Why didn’t you pick up your room?
  • Why are you always so grumpy?
  • What did the coach say when you missed that foul shot?
  • How many did you get wrong on your spelling test?
  • Why did you lie to me?
  • Why do you keep making the same mistakes?
  • What’s wrong with you son…you don’t seem to listen?

    Notice where these questions direct your child’s attention.  They direct your child to a thought or belief that includes a “presupposition” that is negatively skewed.  It’s critical to eliminate these types of questions as a daily practice, and instead…


  1. Use Positively Biased Questions to Prime for Success and Happiness.

    Let’s imagine you took a few moments to consider what positive and healthy presuppositions you would like to build into your conversations with your kids.  I must assume it would include positive experiences such as:


  • Listening in class.
  • Learning, excitement.
  • Enjoyment.
  • Thoughtfulness and kindness.
  • Skills.

    Most of you would view all of these as positive experiences for our kids to have.  So let’s talk about creating questions that prime the pump in positive ways.  Here are a few examples:


  • Sweetheart what did you learn in math today?
  • How many of your spelling words did you get right today?
  • What did you enjoy about your visit to the museum the most?
  • When you were in school today, what thoughtful and kind thing could you do for your teacher?
  • In soccer practice, I wonder how much you will enjoy learning to be a better player.
  • Close your eyes sweetheart, and just remember all that you learned last year.  Now tell me, how might you possibly use that learning to make a positive difference in the lives of others?
  • Who do you love sweetheart?  Who loves you?
  • When we go to your grandmother’s tomorrow, in what ways could you show kindness and thoughtfulness to her?


Choose your questions carefully, and presume positive responses before you ask the question.  You’ll notice not only through the change of behavior, but by the reports of your children.  They will tend to focus more and more upon the focus of your questions.







Summary: Why wouldn’t you want to make life as struggle free as possible?


While there will certainly be struggles, why not establish a structure and routine that makes life easier?  It can be done!


This is best achieved through creating a world where chores and responsibilities are completed without the need for constant decision making, without the need for nagging or prodding, and without the need for continued monitoring.


Thought-Full Routines:  How to make life a struggle!


First, lets talk about how not to do it.


Here’s how you can make life difficult and create a constant struggle.  This approach generally requires that you also get to “have” incessant nagging, prodding, negotiating, pushing…and sometimes even a bit of yelling, screaming, and threatening of consequences.


Make day-to-day routines flexible…make decisions based upon moment-to-moment fluctuations…and day-to-day routines will be a struggle!


That’s the rule!  You can fight it.  You can argue with it. You can disagree with it. But that’s the rule!


You make these daily routines flexible and changeable, and then you’ll always have a struggle as things go on.


Can I really say “always”?  Well perhaps there are a few exceptions, but I rarely see them.


Why is this the case?


  1. Children thrive with structure.

    Children thrive in an environment where there’s predictability.  Behaviorally, academically, and emotionally, children thrive when there are consistent, clear routines that remain relatively unchanging.


  1. Children thrive on predictability.

    There is comfort and security in knowing when things will happen.  While children involved in chaotic and out of control family systems often rebel at the initial signs of structure and routine, they quickly adjust and their behavior calms.

    With this, adjustment also comes an emotional calming.  Children will often report a sense that life is easier after experiencing a consistent structure and routine.


  1. Consistent routines remove decision-making.

    This is the true source of the magic.  Daily decision-making on all routine stuff is removed, and thus there is no wasted energy.  The energy is reserved for what’s really important!


How many of us actually have to make a decision to brush our teeth in the morning. Very few, I hope!  And as such it presents no emotional stress or challenge.  It’s not really

a chore!


For those of you who buckle your seatbelts on a daily basis, it becomes routine and there is no stress to this.


In the early stages of an exercise program, the daily commitment often involves a decision and, at times, a struggle to make the decision. If you have exercised regularly for years however, there is no decision to be made.  It is a given that you will exercise.  It gets easier…when there is no decision to be made.


In essence, these events have been “pre-decided.”  A level of automaticity then evolves that eliminates the stress of making a decision.  The result: reduced anxiety, and reduced stress and greater harmony.

“Thought-LESS” Routines


By “Thought-LESS” routines, I am referring to a way of parenting that does not involve constant thinking and evaluating about what kids need to do next.


By “Thought-LESS”, I mean that both children and parents fall into a structure and pattern that allows for the basic responsibilities to be addressed without a lot of struggle.  Instead, these occur effortlessly.


By “Thought-LESS” routines, I mean that that you nurture “habits” that eliminate the need to constantly figure out what’s next.  It’s been pre-decided.


What happens when you establish a home with “thought-LESS” routines:  Lots of time is available to discuss things that are of real importance to the family. Little time is put into managing homework behavior, and instead discussion actually occurs about what is being learned.


Little time is spent getting the children to the table to eat, and instead meaningful discussion occurs about life events.  Little time is spent arguing over homework or bedtime routines, and greater opportunity is available for simply spending quality time with children.


Do you have a sense how this works?


When routines become consistent and predictable, there is relatively little discussion and dialogue that goes into the completion of these fundamental responsibilities that we all have to take care of.  If children learn to do this, their minds are freed from the struggle with what’s important to do in life.  They don’t end up wasting their life doing battle with the fact that they have to do homework, even though they may not like to do it. They simply get it done.


This is a formula for success.  This is a formula for making life easy.  This is a formula for staying healthy, emotionally strong, and focused on what’s really important.  Make this the way you do things at home, and watch how much easier day-to-day life becomes.


The Season Of Gratitude: Three Essentials For Building Appreciation and Gratitude

As the Holiday Season starts to unfold, we not only begin Holiday plans, but often we build in more moments to pause and express our gratitude for our lives.  It is truly one of those hidden secrets of happiness.  Gratitude opens the door to enjoyment of the life we have now…rather than spending our time focused on the future as salvation from the present.

Yet, many parents express frustration with the lack of gratitude and appreciation that their children seem to experience.  This is not the case for all children, of course.  But for many families, parents notice that the more they give…the more that their children want.  And the more they want, the more they appear to lack appreciation for what they get.  Many of us see this happening, and don’t know what to do about it.  Here are three keys to getting started:


  1. Be Chronically Grateful!

    When parents come to my office and complain about their children not being grateful, I first ask how often they complain about their life.  Almost without exception, parents concede that their children often hear Mom and Dad complaining about each other, events at work, the lack of money in the budget, what the neighbors have done, in-laws “craziness”, or their lack of happiness with the children’s behavior.  In other words, many of us who want our children to be more grateful are modeling the opposite!  We model negativity…noticing much more of what is not working…rather than focusing on what is working!

    So the first suggestion is quite simple:  Become what you want your children to be.

    Stop noticing what’s wrong!  Instead…notice what is right in your world.  Pay attention, and stop complaining about what you don’t like.  Instead, nurture discussions around the parts of your life that you love, the parts of your life that you enjoy, and the parts of your life that you appreciate.

    Also, remember that it is hard to teach your kids a trait that you don’t own.  Gratitude has to begin with what we model.  The more we live in a state of gratitude and appreciation, the more our children can learn naturally and easily.  Without it, we are asking our children to master this perspective…when we haven’t done so ourselves.  It just won’t work.

  1. Stop Rewarding Negativity By Giving It Your Energy and Attention.

    Negativity can take many forms.  It can look like a complaint, a constant problem, finding what’s wrong with everything, and always wanting more.

    Okay…let’s get real for a minute.  This is what really gets to you…isn’t it.  When kids complain about their life…and you know that they really have an exceptional life.

    Intuitively, we understand that there is no room for gratitude when your kids are caught up in making complaints, finding only problems and constantly asking for more and more.

    As parents, you know that children can become upset, and can express legitimate concerns for which they need our help and guidance.  Obviously, you want to respond to these.

    However, if you notice that your children have learned to habitually complain about their siblings, friends, parents or their teachers…it’s time to just “allow” those complaints.  Or if they have fallen into the pattern of making repeated demands, then it is time to stop lecturing or resisting the demands and complaints.

    It is essential that you limit how much you “invest” in these complaints or demands, as your energy only serves to feed these negative patterns.

    Instead, just “allow” the complaints to fall on disinterested ears.  Show no interest whatsoever, in other words…just ignore them completely!

    Teach your children (by your actions) that such behavior is NOT worthy of your attention, and they will learn that such behavior is NOT worthy of their attention either.  They will learn to let go of these patterns…when you have let go of these patterns.  Instead…


  1. Invest Your Life Energy Into “The Good Stuff.”

    Are you serious about nurturing gratitude?  Here’s how you get the ball rolling.  You have got to put your daily energy into the behaviors and actions you value.

    Don’t be lazy about this.  If you are serious about nurturing gratitude and appreciation, here’s the formula that will make it happen.

  1. Start noticing how often things work out to serve you and your family.  Find (in your own mind) how you find more appreciation for clerk at the grocery store, your neighbor, your friend, and even your health.  Even when you see a lack (such as a lack of health), see if you can find a way where it serve to strengthen you, and bring you to a state of greater appreciation.  NOW…start expressing that when you around your children.
  2. Start noticing everything that you enjoy and appreciate about your children’s behavior. Let your kids know how grateful you are that they open the door, or help carry in the groceries, or take the dog for a walk.  Express appreciation for how they waited patiently in the car, or answered the phone respectfully.  Use thoughtful language consistently and repeatedly as you pay more and more attention to the behavior that you want to nurture and promote.
  3. For every instance where you express your appreciation for your children’s actions, “catch” four more positive moments and just notice these without verbal comment.  Simply smile.  Or simply wink.  Or simply nod.  Or it could be a touch on the shoulder or a brief “thumbs-up.”  In other words, give lots of non-verbal appreciation…by simply smiling and noticing the moments YOU really appreciate and enjoy.


In this way, you use your influence to nurture “the good stuff.”  Your children will learn to pay attention and to notice the most wonderful and valuable parts of their life…because you do!    They will be able to do so because you are taking the time and putting forth the energy to notice their behavior.

I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful Holiday Season!  As you spend time with those you love, I hope you begin to put these ideas to work, so you can see the power of these simple changes.

The Right Balance for Summer: Work vs. Play

Summer is around the corner, and we all anticipate good times ahead.  Summer is filled with fun times, vacations, camping, swimming, sports and plenty of down time.  We all need it, and anticipate the warm, lazy days of summer.


And yet, for most of us as parents, we also want to continue to nurture responsible habits and teach our children the fundamentals to be prepared for life.  However, too often we wait until late adolescence to start teaching this.  We then realize that our adolescent has no intention to take on responsibility, especially during the summer.  They believe, and have often been taught, that summers are for fun only and that they shouldn’t do any real ‘work.’


The ‘Making it Easy’ Approach to Summer.


Many children face the summer with multiple vacations, hanging at the pool and an endless array of sleepovers and daytrips to have fun.  They won’t crack a book, pick up a rake or make a bed.  Mom or Dad are not only planning what seems like an endless array of entertainment, but they are also responding to ongoing requests for sleepovers, pool parties and sudden get-togethers.  For others, sports practice and playing emerges as the primary activity, and family fun seems to hinge around these events.


All things considered, the focus is on making sure children get to do (mostly) what they want.  The ‘making it easy’ approach is filled with ease and fun, and little responsibility.  Parents seem to serve more as taxi drivers, day trip planners and ‘boredom fixers.’


So, what’s the problem you may ask?  Isn’t this what everyone else is doing?


Seeking Balance:  Easy vs Hard?


So somehow, in the middle of this overloaded world of opinions, marketing messages and exploding data, our sense of reasonableness has failed us.  We have lost our compass along the way!


We seem to want our kids to have only ease and fun, not realizing it seems that this will come with consequences.  Perhaps more problematic, we too easily seem to follow the lead of our children’s wants and desires.  It’s almost as if the more we give our children what they want, the more we seem to think this is good for them.  We see this trend growing, as six year olds carry IPhones and a Starbucks cup.


“Children do not know what they need.  They only know what they want.’


Until a solid, responsible maturity is reached, children will tend to want what is easy, what is enjoyable, and what relieves any pressure or sense of anxiety.  They will incessantly argue and fight for that easy path.  (Some adults take this path as well, of course.)


Notice, if you walk this path with your kids, your children seem to get almost everything they want, while putting forth little effort.  In today’s world, this translates to a very abundant life for your children, without any investment on their part.


Such choices come with two consequences, and many of you see this already.  First, there is usually very little sincere gratitude for all your efforts.  What happened yesterday is irrelevant.  It’s now, what will do YOU do for me today mom?  This is often quite poignant during the summer months, as week after week of effort on your part is met with minimal gratitude from your children.


Secondly, there is an inevitable building of the sense of entitlement.  Kids often feel they have a ‘right to an abundant life’ without any effort or investment.  We have trained them for this, and may again do so this summer.


The bottom line is this:  If we make things too easy for our kids, life will be harder later.


The Solution:  Balance Responsibility with Fun


When we review the literature on success and satisfaction in life, we find that hard work and effort must be balanced with some time to rejuvenate and enjoy.  This is the common sense formula for life satisfaction.  It is also a clear requisite for continued optimal functioning and good mental health.


When too much demand or responsibility is required, life is drudgery.   We have no sense of ease and no opportunity to rejuvenate and re-group.  The is true for adults and children.


We also see that muscle, that we fail to use, begins to atrophy.  This is true for ‘brain muscle’ as well.  When we learn a skill, and then ignore it for months, our skills decline.  Academically, children consistently lose between 2 and 3 months of their academic skills.  Why?  Because we put no demand on those skills during the summer.


No Surprises Here:   Preparation Comes from Preparation!


I know that sounds redundant, but let me explain.  If we want our kids to be well prepared for the school year this fall, we prepare them.  If we want our children to be well prepared to take responsibility in life, we give them responsibility.


Honestly, there is no secret psychological formula.  Our children will benefit from working the ‘muscle’ of responsibility and effort this summer.


The balance is simple:  Require some work, some effort each day.  Not a lot.  Just enough to keep the academic muscle strong.  And don’t hesitate to require daily chores to help out around the house before the friends come over or the fun begins.  It’s easy to start small, and yet the benefits are large.


You will be thankful as the years’ progress because your child learns lessons from life, that your words will fail to teach.  Offer them these lessons, while still enjoying an awesome summer.  Remember to follow me of Facebook and Twitter for great tips this summer.

Reality Talk For Resistant Teens

Let me begin by emphasizing that this article is not about every adolescent.  However, for some of you, you have become quite familiar with the teen I am about to describe.   Let’s imagine you asked the question, “How was your day?”


It seems innocent.  It seems that you are concerned.  There was no tone in your voice.  There is nothing that you are angry about.  Your adolescent appears to be sitting at the table doing nothing.  All appears okay.


Yet the response that you get sounds something like this:


  • “None of your business!”
  • “Leave me alone!”
  • “Why do you keep bothering me?”\
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “UUggghhh!”
  • “Don’t bother me!”
  •  “Why are you always asking me questions?”
  • And so forth….


Of course, with this adolescent, you have probably been through this several hundred times….maybe more!


It doesn’t matter what the time of day.  It doesn’t matter what question you ask.  It doesn’t matter how you ask it.  The more concerned and worried we become about their guarded or resistant responses, the more we tend to press…and the more ugly things seem to get.


The only exception might be in the event that your son or daughter actually WANTS something from you, and then you get a response that sounds more like a human being.  In fact, they can be “sweet as pie” as long as they are getting what they want.  If this is your child, you may have a case of what I call, “The Adolescent Third Degree Burn!”


What is the Adolescent Third Degree Burn?


While not every teenager goes through this phase, certainly many do.  This is a stage of life where every question, inquiry or request is taken as an imposition.  It’s as if you are probing into their personal world with a dagger in your hand.



To understand this metaphor, imagine their self-esteem has been burned…and the boundaries are hypersensitive to any effort to find out “What’s going on in there?”  The more you try to get inside…the more reactive they become!


If you are dealing with this, you are probably aware that most of what you read says that you should just keep asking….and keep asking…and keep asking.


This is wrong.   Why?  Because it doesn’t work for resistant kids!


Does your teen seem to appreciate your repeated worry, concern and efforts to connect?  Do they ever open up to your questioning and probing?


No!  Notice it just keeps pushing your son or daughter further and further away.


Now this doesn’t mean you give up communicating; it just means that you approach “touching” a child who has been “burned” very differently than you might approach others.


What’s the advantage of this metaphor?


First, it prepares you for the reality of trying to communicate with a teen who has landed in this place.  Be prepared for the hypersensitivity, and don’t take it personally. Just hold the awareness that if you probe, it will get ugly!


Secondly, the metaphor of a third degree burn implies that there would be great sensitivity to touch or pressure.  It’s not that you can’t communicate; it’s just that there can’t be an effort to move inside this psychological sphere of energy which is hypersensitive.


You can communicate with your teen.  You just can’t probe…you just can’t inquire…you just can’t push.  If you do, you will get the over reactive and seemingly inhumane treatment that no parent really deserves.


Third, all burns eventually heal, if you stop probing and picking at them!  Thus, the metaphor implies that this is not a lifelong condition.  However, when you stop pushing and probing, the burn begins to heal.


Finally, when you cease efforts to probe into your teenager’s world, you’ll find more opportunities for dialogue and discussion.  How?  Rather than inquiry, we focus on meeting them where they are at.


Meet Your Teen Where They Are At!


How do you do that…you are asking?


First, rather than probing about their day, comment on the day.  Simply state, “It was a beautiful day outside.”   Don’t get hooked by their response.  If it’s positive…keep going.  If not, ignore it.


Secondly, don’t ask questions where you already know or can get the answer.  Instead of asking who won the game, you do a little research and then comment, “I heard you guys won by five points.  Nice job.”


Third, rather than asking about the results of their math quiz, you comment, “I noticed how hard you studied for your Math quiz last night.  I am sure you did your best.”


Finally, try to resonate at their level of emotional investment.  By meeting them where they are at, you actually show respect for their struggle.  While it seems counter-intuitive, I encourage to simply notice the results.  You don’t have to wait weeks or months to see the effect of this strategy.


“But won’t they think that I don’t care?”


No, this is not the case.  The probing approach, with resistant teens, just pushes them away.  You invest more and more energy in the resistant, ugly comments…and you just keep getting more ugly comments.


In this approach, you stop investing in the ugly moments, and you stop being the only one always investing in the relationship.  Because you do this, you give your teenager the chance to begin investing in your family.  Just notice what happens when you try!  And remember, it doesn’t happen over night!  Burns take a while to heal…just be patient for a few weeks.


Showing Respect for a Parent’s Request: Getting Kids to Listen!

Parents are often asking how to get their kids to listen and respect their request to help out or to take care of basic responsibilities.  Many times parents will say,” Why do I have to ask Johnny to pick up his shoes seven times before he will listen to me?  Why can’t he just respect me when I ask him to do something?”


In essence, these parents are asking that their kids listen.  They want to be able to ask their kids once, and have their children respond.


But often children do not respond by honoring a parent’s request.  Some just ignore their mom or dad.  Some say, “I’m busy.  Wait.”  Others may be more defiant, simply stating, “No!”


The end result is often the same, as the child is not listening.  As time goes on, if parents do not develop an effective strategy, the pattern will worsen and parents will end up asking over and over again.  Typically, most parents get very frustrated with kids’ not listening like this, and ultimately it ends up in an ugly, unpleasant exchange.


So what’s the secret to getting respect for a request? 


There are three keys to getting your kids to listen when you ask them to do something.  It doesn’t depend upon their personality, although certainly kids have different personality styles.  Some will respond more rapidly, and others will take a little bit of time.  However, the formula remains the same regardless of your child’s temperament.  Don’t get seduced into believing that you have to dance around your child’s temperament, or you will always be dancing!


  1. You will get respect by offering respect.  Many times parents will fall into a pattern of using very controlling and demanding language with their kids.  It might sound like this:
    1. “Pick that up.”
    2. “Put that away.”
    3. “Get your homework done.”
    4. “Stop hitting your brother.”
    5. “I said STOP THAT NOW!”

      Would you like to be spoken to in that way?  I doubt it.  If you want your kids to respond to a request, make sure that it sounds like a request-and not a command.  If you’re asking them to pick up their toys, make sure that you’re asking.  If you want them to do their homework, ask.  If it’s a time when you need to be more firm, and you have to get out the door, say it like this: “It’s time to get your shoes on, because we have to go to the doctor’s appointment now.”

      Avoid the command, “Get your shoes on now.”  If you fall into that pattern, you likely won’t like what evolves when your child moves into those teenage years.  It can get really ugly when your words come back to haunt you!

      This “asking” will not ensure a success.  It just ensures that you speak to your kids in a manner that models the way that you would like to have them speak to you.

  2. If it’s really important, say it once…and only once.

    Rather than making the request over and over, just say it once. If you are in the habit of asking seven times to get your kids to do something, their brain learns to expect seven requests.

    If you want them to respect the first request, make only one request.  If you end up harping and nagging on them, their brains will begin to expect that.  They actually come to learn that you saying something once only means you will say it again…and again…and again.

    Know that it doesn’t work to repeat your request…if you want respect for your request…unless you want to spend most of your time constantly repeating everything you say just to get every little chore done around the house.

    Bottom line:  Say it once and then…

  3. Rely upon actions to teach respect for your words.

    When you follow words with more words, the value of your words becomes diluted.  If you just keep throwing more and more words out there, your children learn that your words don’t mean anything.  How would you expect your kids to know that you really mean business, if you’re willing to repeat the same request a dozen times?  It just can’t work that way!

    The secret here is to find a consequence (that requires your action) and trust that that consequence will teach your kids to value your words.

    For example, if you want your daughter to cut off the TV and come to dinner, you ask once.  Perhaps you wait five minutes and then you go out to where the TV is, cut it off, and walk out of the room without saying a word.

    Let’s imagine that you’re in the grocery store, and your son starts bugging you for a treat.  You tell him “No” once, and then you go on with your shopping.  If he wants to have an upset, let him have his upset…but your “action” is to walk away from his whining and upset.

    In every situation, you want to remain respectful.  You will never feel bad for maintaining your cool.  State your position once, and then follow with decisive action.


If you follow that simple formula, you’ll see that your requests become honored with increasing consistency.  Just remember however; all of this is a learning process.  Don’t expect perfection immediately.  You have to allow your kids the opportunity to learn, and that may take two to three weeks.  Be patient, and let the respect for your requests build over time.



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