By Kim Giles and Sean Barnett
This was first published on KSL.COM
I’m really suffering here; our son (who is now 19) is drinking and smoking weed. He is always lying, his grades have started to plummet, and he is of no help around the house. We tried everything from taking away his phone and car, grounding him and sending him to counseling, but he keeps gravitating toward friends that are obviously not concerned with their future. He only attended one semester of college and has lost two jobs in the last three months. The more I try to help him see that what he is doing is leading him down a miserable path, the more he pulls back. He doesn’t respect any of the family rules, and he often sleeps all day. I know he is depressed and anxious, but I am at my wit's end. What would you suggest?
(I have brought in coach Sean Barnett to help me answer your question, as he is an expert at working with at-risk teens.)
He says you must focus on the one thing you have control of: your suffering.
This may be hard to hear, but you and only you are responsible for the pain you are experiencing here. The intensity of your misery is in direct proportion to how far you are willing to go to avoid being responsible for the pain you are feeling. In other words, if you own responsibility for your suffering, you would finally have the power to lessen it.
It will also help if you will separate the facts from the judgments and meaning you are applying to the situation. The facts are that your son uses drugs and does not perform well in school or at work. You and your wife have tried punishing him and sending him elsewhere to be “fixed,” but he is still making the same choices. You would like to connect better with your son, have honest and direct communication and help him avoid a hard life, but you are not experiencing that.
The judgments and applied meaning to your story are that drugs are terribly harmful, school and work are critical, his friends are a bad influence, and your son is disrespectful, unhelpful, lazy and depressed. These are not totally true.
Let’s start with the drugs. Drugs can become addictive and can cause mental, emotional and physical damage to users, and the ones you are talking about are illegal, which means they can lead to incarceration and close doors to countless opportunities. It is normal for a parent to fear these things for their child. It can also feel like your son’s struggles are a reflection of the job you have done as a parent, and that brings personal fear of failure into the equation.
The reality of drug use (from many addiction experts) is that only about 10 percent of people who use recreational drugs become addicted or experience serious long-term adverse consequences. This means your son has at least a 90 percent chance of getting through this stage of his life with no more than a few figurative or literal bumps and bruises.
The hard truth is you have little control over what your son chooses to do. Even if he ends up in the place you fear, it will be the result of his choices alone. He will have signed up for those classes. Period.
You only have control over how you choose to feel and respond. So, the question is, how can you sleep well at night and feel you’ve done everything you can to be a good parent?
Here are a few things we recommend:
Trust that your son is choosing the perfect classroom journey for him. The most valuable lessons in life always come through extreme adversity. If your child experiences pain from his choices or makes choices that create rough trials, and there is nothing you can do to prevent this, do not carry the weight of having to save him from these consequences. Remember, a baby chick dies if you help it out of its shell because it needs the struggle to become strong. Some children need some of their lessons the hard way. If they keep signing themselves up for those classes, they apparently need the lessons (and consequences) those choices will bring. The message you want to send to your child is you love him no matter what and believe in him to come through this. Then trust he is in the hands of someone greater than you, who is ultimately in charge of your child’s journey and education. Hand the weight, worry and fear over to a higher power and trust him to see your child through. You aren’t giving up supporting your child, but you are trusting God to help make it all work out. (You are more likely to keep or create a good connection with your child, too, if you stay out of fear as much as possible. Fear-based responses are void of love, and love is what your child needs.)
Be the person you want your son to be. It is crucial to realize our children can’t hear our words. They only hear our actions and how we live. It is insane to yell at your kid in an attempt to teach him how to be a respectable adult. Do you remember being 19? Would you open up to someone that labeled you lazy or hated your friends? Would you feel comfortable sharing your deepest fears and shame with them? You want to be a safe place and an understanding person they can come to for unconditional love and support. Do not enable the bad behavior, but always love and believe in him to turn it around.
Speak your truth clearly and follow through with consequences. If drug use is unacceptable in your house, have the courage to stand in that truth. If you believe a 19-year-old should contribute to household operations, or be either enrolled in school or employed to live at home, own it. Write your ground rules clearly, and then let your son know these are simply conditions of residing in your house. They have nothing to do with how much you love him. These are rules that are necessary for your sanity, not his. But remember, you have all the latitude in the world concerning how drastically you set your consequences. Sean wrote contracts with his son that were clear, progressive and agreed upon, long before he realized he was no longer a good fit for living under his parent's roof. He would be happy to help you develop a sensible, fair and effective family contract.
Accept your own faults and fears first. Anything you see in your son that makes you angry or fearful might be a projection of fears within your own shadow side. Shadow work on your own fears can be frightening, but if you trust the treasure you seek is always in the cave you fear, this can be the most liberating work in your life. You must own all the faults and weaknesses you hate about yourself, and learn to tell the truth about them. It is only in this kind of vulnerability and humility you find true freedom and connection with your son. Take off the masks you have created in an attempt to protect you from your fears of not being good enough. As long as you have secrets about your own life, no one can connect to the real you. When you get real about your fears and weaknesses, you can connect with your child as two scared students in the classroom of life, with the same intrinsic worth, who are just learning different lessons. From this place of vulnerability, your child will feel safer with you, and you will have greater influence in his life. But you have to get off your high horse to connect from here.
The key to alleviating stress within your family has everything to do with addressing the things you control and accepting the things you cannot control. Remember, you are in charge of the amount you suffer over your child’s choices. Accountability for your feelings always resides directly with the person having the feelings. When you recognize a behavior in someone else that results in your emotional pain, the best place to start is by working on your own fear issues. We highly recommend that parents of at-risk teens be the first to get coaching or help. You cannot help your child from an unbalanced place.
Focus on trusting that we are all going through the perfect classroom journey for us, to teach us the precise lessons we need most.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. Sean Barnett is a master coach working with teens, parents and others who need greater skills to build good relationships.
I need help with parenting and getting my child to follow my lead in the values my wife and I have. My daughter doesn’t seem to care about honesty, responsibility and the other virtues we care about. How can I change that? How can I raise my kids to be more trustworthy?
We all strive to be good people, to be generous, kind and responsible. We are people with values, who work hard and do the right things. We like to believe, because we have good morals, we are raising children to live the same way. But are you sure you are raising children who will thrive in adulthood, and be contributing members of society, who you and others can trust?
There is a quiz on my website to find out if you are creating trust in your relationship with your child and teaching them to be trustworthy.
Here are a few ways you can improve your parenting to facilitate lessons that ensure your children will grow into responsible, functional and trustworthy citizens:
1. See your children's magic
See your children for all of their genius, talents and strengths. Remember your children are on loan to you and they are meant to learn from you, but they are also here to help you grow in wisdom and love. They are your teachers as much as you are theirs. This attitude will help you see your child as the same as you in value and importance. Your parenting will be love motivated when you truly see their unlimited potential and accurately understand your role. Unfortunately, most of us parent from fear. Our fear-driven behavior comes out when we try to protect our children from failure, rescue them from their mistakes, or when we fail to give them learning opportunities and experience the consequences. Many children today are not given the opportunity to develop trust in themselves and their journey because they are being bailed out at every turn by fearful parents.
Instead, teach your children to trust themselves and their journey. You do this by choosing to trust the universe to handle their education and constantly tell them how amazing they are. Take every opportunity to tell them they have value, talents, wisdom and capacity and that you believe in them. Remember your children will always receive the perfect lessons they need from the universe, so there is nothing to fear. When you choose to trust this truth, you become more peaceful and encouraging in your parenting.
2. Play the long game
Many parents struggle with the big picture. Due to their fear they play the short game of putting out fires and rescuing, instead of facilitating long-term growth. Good parenting is a long game and requires vision. It’s the difference between taking the time to teach a child to wash dishes versus doing it yourself because it’s faster. Paying for a car instead of helping them earn the money. When we adopt a long-game perspective, we see the details in our children’s lives have purpose and meaning. This gives us the opportunity to support and encourage learning.
Don’t become too attached to your child’s performance or position. It’s easy to project your own goals on them when you don’t think they have any. Your need for control, perfectionism and progress can quickly override your desire for their happiness. Remember your children are always on track in their unique and personal classroom. They are signing themselves up for the lessons they need. You must drop your agenda and show up as their cheer squad. Don’t get hung up on short-term losses. Give children your unconditional love and support, instead of judgment or fearful control. Remember your job isn’t controlling them into adulthood, it’s helping them grow their way there. This may require letting them experience painful mistakes, so they win in the long term. It’s better for them to fail while under your roof than later in life when they aren’t.
3. Don’t stress over mistakes
What is your attitude toward mistakes? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes and your children to do the same? Do you find yourself feeling disappointed or taking your child’s mistakes personally? Guess what, adolescence is practice time. When we role model emotional resilience through healthy language and behavior when we make mistakes, we show our children mistakes are not failures.
Life is about learning and we can only learn by trying and sometimes that means failing. Adolescence is the time to make mistakes, reset, recover and try again. Don’t be so quick to judge a mistake as a bad thing. Also, don’t be too quick to rescue your child and save them from the lessons their mistakes create. It can serve a child to experience disappointment, rejection and some humility.
Perfectionism may keep you aligned to the idea (and delusion) that you can control their life. This can negatively affect your language and behavior. Your real job is to hold them accountable, show them love and help them navigate through the mistake with confidence and emotional resilience. If you have trouble with perfectionism or you beat yourself up for any mistake, you must get help with this too, because your children will follow your example.
4. Set them up to succeed
Do you set your children up to succeed with realistic expectations? Sometimes our fear can get the better of us and we find our expectations high and unrealistic. Do you and your spouse discuss your expectations or even allow input from your children as to the goals and expectations? Do you realize the bar should be set differently for each child? Some children are driven, self-motivated and set their own goals, while others need a lot of encouragement and guidance.
We help parents understand the unique psychological inclinations of each child, so they can be smarter parents. Analyze your children and ask yourself which of your children need more pressure and responsibly, and which need less. Trust naturally grows out of responsibility, and your job as a parent is to let go and hand responsibility over to the child, step by step, as they are ready. Setting goals together where they can succeed not only boosts confidence but also provides fertile ground for trust.
Every parent wants their children to be trustworthy, to know what makes them happy and for them to feel confident and independent in making good choices for themselves. This can only happen when they are set up to succeed with wisdom and love.
If you are having trouble parenting with wisdom and love, it means you might have some fear of failure or loss yourself. You may need to get some help to work on your fear issues before you try to guide your child. You can’t teach what you don’t have. Then give your children opportunities, responsibilities, practice ground and the freedom to experience consequences and you will produce trustworthy children who you and others can rely on.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham own claritypointcoaching.com. They are master executive coaches who also work with couples, families, parents and teens.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share tips and tricks for getting more help around the house.
I’m getting more and more resentful as the years go by with all the work I do to keep the house and family running. I feel unappreciated about it and I’m just getting tired of these tasks. My family is not much help either. Unless I nag and yell, no one lifts a finger to help out. Do you have any advice for my overwhelming and lack of motivation?
Many parents experience resentment and are overwhelmed about the work it takes to keep the home clean and running smoothly. But choosing a martyr story and feeling anger or resentment about it will push other family members away and make them even less interested in helping.
In order to change things at your house, you must first take responsibility for your emotions and for creating a situation where no one helps you. You are at least partly to blame because you have either not asked for help or you are not handling it the right way.
You may have too many expectations or timelines (like wanting it done now or you’ll do it yourself) or you may communicate poorly what you need and how you want it done. If you are someone who complains about the quality of the job they do, you may have created a place where they can’t please you — so they’ve given up.
1. Detach from perfectionismUnfortunately, many parents are attached to tasks done correctly and they have a hard time embracing the learning process and rewarding attempts made by their children to help. These parents experience fear of loss, that they are going to lose quality of life by forgoing the standards they desire.
A practical way to adjust your perfectionism is to show your family you appreciate their efforts even if they aren’t up to your standards. The most common mistake we see from parents is going in to straighten things up after their children’s attempt to help. This tells your child their efforts weren’t good enough and this results in them being less willing to do the job again (at least not with the same enthusiasm).
Instead, reward their efforts. Language such as, “Tim, I love how you straightened your bed cover like that.” Instead of, “Tim, you did a good job, but your forgot to tuck in the bottom sheet and you still have a pair of shoes that needs to go into the closet.” Your intentions are good in teaching them quality, but all your child hears is “I have failed, my best is never good enough and why do I even bother.”
The kids in our Tuesday night teen class say feeling like a failure is the primary reason they are not willing to help out around the house. You may think it’s because they’re lazy, but they say parents will be mad at them either way, so why try.
2. See every experience with your children as your perfect classroomParents often feel fear of loss when they come home to find the children have made a mess in their house. You may have exaggerated angry reactions because you feel robbed or taken from. You feel robbed of the time and energy it will take to put things right. Instead of being triggered by fear, this is a beautiful opportunity to look at your need to be in control and why you have to have things perfectly clean.
Many parents are too invested in the opinions of other people and what their clean house says about their value. You may need to remind yourself your value is not tied to your house, and a happy family is more important than a house that looks like a museum. Whatever happens today in your home is your classroom and a chance to practice being the loving, mature, strong, kind, wise adult you really want to be. Every mess is a chance to practice seeing your value as infinite and not tied to any situation.
3. Be realisticYou must have realistic expectations before asking your children to clean anything. You may want to clean it with them a few times first, so they are clear of your expectations. It also helps to be specific — “Tim, I would like you to clean your room, don't forget to make the bed and put all of your shoes in the closet.”
Set them up for success by allowing a realistic time frame instead of placing high demands when there is little time or energy to achieve them. Setting your children up to succeed in their efforts maintains the enthusiasm and willingness to help you.
Children as young as 8 to 13 can learn most skills through watching you. Simple tasks such as taking the trash out, feeding the dog, collecting the mail and making their beds every day.
Children younger than this can participate by cleaning up their toys or drawing materials, and learning to dress themselves and buckle themselves in their car seats.
Teenagers and young adults can participate by maintaining the yard, washing cars, cooking meals and completing weekly laundry. Household tasks with weekly repetition provide great learning opportunities for your children.
Many parents at our weekly free parenting classes are uncomfortable with the idea of their children doing tasks wrong or not doing them. If your expectations are realistic though, you can allow children to make mistakes, to not follow through on their jobs, or not do the best job the first time and use these as positive learning opportunities.
Instead of just yelling and demanding, take the time to talk through why they made the choice they did and what do they think about the job they did. When you take the time for this kind of learning you will make your child feel respected and you will give your children the skills to be a functional adult someday, which is definitely worth the time and effort.
By taking the time to allocate household tasks that are age appropriate and showing your children how to do them, you give them a sense of achievement while also relieving your burden.
Sit down and discuss the chores with the whole family so each person realizes what the tasks are and that this is an equal work zone. Explain your expectations and that everyone must pull their weight so no one has more responsibility or tasks than the others.
As time goes on you can also invite flexibility and freedom and let the children rotate on specific tasks or swap with other family members. We heard about one son paying his sister to do his laundry, this is actually a great “real life” experience. You can do it yourself or pay someone to do it.
Another great idea is to tell kids they can either do their chores or they can hire the “Mom’s Cleaning Service” to do them. If the chores aren’t done by this specific date, then you will do them, but it will cost them. This cost comes out of their allowance. If they do their chores, they get the money, but if not you keep the money. You must be fine with it either way, so they get the freedom to choose. (This works really well with children who like control and choices.)
You can approach parenting without a martyr complex and become a calm, wise leader and get the whole family involved, if you just take the time to make this happen.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
Question:I admit I have high standards and expect my kids to excel and get really good grades, but I would feel like a bad parent if I didn’t. My husband and I are both over achievers who have post-graduate degrees, and we have been successful in business. Of course we want the same kind of life for our kids. A friend recently asked me if I think I put too much pressure on them and I guess I’m not sure. I think maybe there is a fine line between too much pressure and not enough, at least in my opinion. I also expect my kids to be pretty independent and responsible, but this friend made me feel like she thinks I’m there for my kids enough. I would be open to an outside opinion on what’s too much pressure, I really want to be a good parent and raise them right. Your articles have been helpful in the past so I thought I would ask.
Answer:The thing you must be aware of is more and more kids from affluent families, who have supportive parents, are suffering from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and substance abuse, and these kids are the most at risk for suicide.
An article in The Atlantic magazine about the suicide rate in Palo Alto, California, showed how often kids from wealthy families end up stressed, miserable and suicidal. The author, Hanna Rosin, said the major factor for these kids is pressure from parents that leaves them tired, discouraged and feeling alone.
There is an interesting book called "The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids," which might interest you. Author Madeline Levine says there is a toxic combination that happens when there is too much pressure to succeed and not enough connection with their parents. Those two together create the risk.
She says parents are too often over-involved in some things while being under-involved in others. For example, they care a lot about grades but don't take time to listen and connect.
Here are some warning signs that your child may be at risk:
You must be realistic about the world you live in today; 5,400 teens take their life every year, and untreated or unrecognized depression is the No. 1 cause.
Seventy percent of teens today suffer from at least one episode of depression before adulthood. Academic stress, family financial struggles, romantic problems, peer pressure, divorce and traumatic life events are usually the catalyst, but a lack of good mental and emotional coping skills then turns into depression or anxiety.
Psychotherapist Karen Ruskin, Ph.D, says parents need to be supportive, not pushy. She says "the key is to be your child's biggest fan and nurturer” and make sure their mental and emotional health are your main concern. Many parents struggle to teach kids how to process emotions, because they don’t know how. You can’t teach what you don’t know.
Parents must upskill themselves first and become more mentally and emotionally resilient. Then, make it a high priority to teach children how to handle life and maintain confidence and self-esteem.
Here are a couple of other important things you must do:
1. Allow failuresThis means not overreacting from fear when they happen, and making sure a child knows their value as a person is not tied to their performance, grades, sporting events or anything else. Teach kids their intrinsic value is the same as every other person on the planet and nothing can change it. They cannot be less than anyone else and they can’t be better either.
When failure happen say, “Well the good news is that doesn’t change your value at all. How do you feel about it? Is there anything to be learned for next time? Is there anything I could do to help?” When you have failures, you must also model a healthy way of handling them.
2. Teach life is a classroom, not a testThis goes along with No. 1 — make sure they see every experience as an interesting lesson that showed up to help them grow, but doesn’t affect their value at all.
3. Teach and model good self careIt is your job to make sure you feel good and are creating a life you want to live in. Parents who model this behavior give kids permission to make life enjoyable and recognize when they are emotionally drained and what they need to do to get back up, Make sure you don’t call yourself stupid, live in constant stress and panic, and are unhappy most of the time. These behaviors teach kids all the wrong lessons. If you need help getting your own life and thinking on track, get some.
4. Teach kids to follow their own inner truth about what is right for themTeach them to make their own decisions by letting them. They sometimes need guidance and to learn how to stick to things that are hard, but teach them that they alone are entitled to choose what activities, sports and hobbies are right for them and honor their feelings.
5. Spend quality time asking questions and listeningThis is probably the most important thing you can do. Make sure they feel heard and understood and that you honor and respect their right to their own ideas and opinions. Respect and caring is a two-way street, and you must give it if you want it back.
You must remember the most important thing your child needs to make it in the world isn’t an ivy league education or perfect grades, it’s a good sense of self-worth.
Children who see themselves as capable, strong, smart and valuable rise to the top as adults wherever they go. Make sure instilling confidence and teaching healthy ways to process emotions is your first priority.
Give them lots of opportunities to solve their own problems (with you just asking smart questions to guide them), make decisions and experience the consequences from their choices. Saving them from loss or disappointment won’t prepare them for the real world. Be OK with some failures now, while they cost less.
If you need help to calm down your own perfectionism fears and high expectations, reach out to a good counselor or coach who specializes in overcoming fear. A little professional guidance can change things fast.
You can do this.
If you understood the reasons your child lies to you, it would help you not to take it so personally and you would understand how to stop it. Most parents take dishonest behavior from their children personally, as if it is their fault, and they feel they have failed as a parent. Many of the parents that we work with feel betrayed by their kids because they know they have taught them better.
You did teach them better, but this behavior, although very frustrating, is not about you. Resist taking this personally and don't let your fear of not being a good enough parent be triggered. What we know through our specialized work with teens and young people is that lying is usually a result of frustration, panic and emotional pain. Teenagers don’t set out to lie or to be deceitful, and most of these kids do know better and were brought up with a strong moral compass. The teens who lie the most are the ones with a strong sense of right and wrong, but they also struggle with a terrible fear they are not good enough.
This fear of failure creates a need to embellish, exaggerate and portray details or situations in a way that makes them look good, and therefore feel more secure. We all know what it’s like to not feel good enough. We all compare ourselves to others too much and we feel we don’t fit or are somehow broken. It is really this fear that drives most of our bad behavior. It makes us do or say whatever we have to do to quiet the fear.
These kids are not broken or bad people. They have just lost their way and are making poor decisions and not living up to their potential because they have low self-esteem and little self-belief.
Here are some things you can do to help them turn their lives around, stop the cycle of lying and gain your trust in them again:
1) Create a secure environment where they can be themselves without judgment
Although it may seem difficult, create a space where your children can heal, feel and express themselves without judgment or criticism. You can do this. You may have to set your high expectations to the side for a little while though, so you can create a safer space where your teen will talk to you. You must create this space so you can really understand what is going on with your teen and identify where the low self esteem is coming from.
Many young people aim low in life because they are afraid of failure. They would rather aim low and fail than really apply themselves, become invested and risk the pain of failing. As adults, this doesn’t make sense to us as we know that life is about learning and often we fail on our way to success.
Unfortunately, teens don’t have this perspective yet. Young people are very literal, and their self image and fear of failure may dictate all of their decision-making, including the choice to lie. You can create a safe space for them by listening a lot more than you talk. You may want to learn our formula for validating conversations so that you learn to do this right.
2) Love them through their poor decision and bad behavior
No matter what their mistakes and poor decisions are, love them unconditionally. This does not mean you condone or accept their bad behavior. It means you make it clear their behavior is not acceptable, but that it also doesn’t change how much you love them.
Many teenagers we work with are immature and do not see their parents' behaviors clearly. They view their parents' anger and frustration as a lack of love for them. This is a scary place for a teen to be, as they feel alone and abandoned. Communicate clearly that you love them, but do not accept their behavior, and ask frequently what you can do to assist them.
3) Make the time and space to communicate effectively
With teens coming and going, there is often very little time for healthy and consistent communication. Before long, the only communication that is had is negative or fear-based. This can mean the idea of going home becomes scary or undesirable.
You can be sure if your child knows the difference between right and wrong, there will also be a lot of shame and guilt about their bad behavior and their poor decisions, including the lying. However, many teens at this stage are in too deep, and they don't have the skills to articulate how they feel. They are always afraid of further anger and rejection. This perpetuates the cycle of further lies, dishonesty and your teen being anywhere but home.
If you want to change this, you must create a rhythm and some rules about how often they are home. This gives you some control over the time you have with them so positive communication can happen. Despite all of your frustration and disappointment in their behavior, make a concerted effort to have fun, joke around and show them love. Listen to them (a lot) and make sure you honor and respect their right to their opinions and feelings.
Also let them know how much you love having them around. Love wins every time, so put in the time every week to maintain and build your relationship.
4) Encourage them to trust the journey
Everything happens in your life for a reason (to teach you something), including the lying and deceit experiences you are currently having. Adopting this perspective and trusting the journey gives you a healthier view of the experience. Know that this time and stage will not last forever and try to maintain an attitude of curiosity, asking every day, "What is this experience here to teach me?" instead of "I am a victim, this should not be happening!" or "I am failing as a parent."
Remember, tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to try again. That is how the classroom works. This attitude goes a long way for everyone involved. Trust that this child is in your life to help you learn and grow and gain greater compassion for yourself and others. They are your perfect teacher and you are theirs.
5) Forgive quickly but put in strong consequences
When the lying does occur, forgive quickly, but put strong consequences in place to prevent it from happening again. Take away car privileges, money, electronics and other luxuries to show you mean business. Lying is not acceptable now, because it’s not acceptable ever as an adult.
Right now, your teen is on training wheels, learning how to be an adult in the world. It’s important to keep your consequences strong now so they learn while the lessons are cheaper. But then also forgive them quickly and do not let the lie affect your love for them or their intrinsic value. This is the most effective way of preventing further dishonest behavior.We totally get why you feel scared, you are afraid that your kids are going off the rails, afraid that they are turning away from God, or won't live up to their potential. There may even be evidence of them dropping out of school, having an entitlement mentality or not being motivated. Don’t overlook these behaviors and get help by a well-trained and experienced specialist early on, especially if you have any suspicion of your child having low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts.
To get more help for your teen, reach out to our teen and young adult specialist coach Nicole Cunningham or attend our free parenting workshop on Dec. 8.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. Nicole Cunningham is a master coach who specializes in working with parents and teens.
First published on ksl.com
Please help us with our 17-year-old son. Despite all our best efforts and role modeling, we have raised an entitled child that expects things in life he hasn’t earned. He has been jumping from job to job, because he feels they are too boring or the pay is too low. He instead spends his time hanging with friends, sleeping too much, or arguing with us that we aren’t there for him, although we pay for everything and he even has access to a car. Honestly the entitlement attitude is wearing thin, but we don’t know how to fix it. We can see that we made life too easy on him, because when things don’t go his way he sulks and acts like he hates us, or blows up in anger over small things. How can we get him to accept some responsibility for his life now, without pushing him away?
We are seeing this more and more with the teens we work with. These aren’t bad kids, they just didn’t learn how to be responsible hardworking contributors as children, despite their parents best efforts to teach it. They are also displaying repressed anger and confusion about who they are, where they are going and how to get there.
It is going to take getting tough and enforcing some real consequences, and doing it consistently, to instill better work ethic and cure the entitlement in your son now. The attention-seeking, excuse-making behavior happens because teenagers seek negative attention over no attention at all, and often they don’t know a better way to ask for the love and attention they need.
It is a time of great change and confusion for teens, and often their entitled behavior comes from fear they don’t know how to get what they need on their own. If you can look beyond the sense of entitlement, you will see a child who is desperately lost and scared. He has huge fear of failure (the fear he isn’t good enough) and this is creating the selfish, egotistical behavior. You will have to be very encouraging, validating and firm with your consequences to fix this.
Introducing new rules that encourage better behavior is essential, but it must also include having lots of mutually validating conversations, where your teen feels heard, validated and encouraged. This ensures you are addressing the underlying fear issues while maintaining a loving connection. The best way to have this conversation is gently, with love, and frequently. There is a communication worksheet on my website to help you do this. Constantly reassure them you are there for them and you believe in them.
Set aside some time every week to do something (one on one) with your teen. Getting food together is usually your best bet. Then, work at listening and asking questions more than you talk. This is difficult for most parents and will take time and practice to master. You may consider some life coaching for yourself, so you get the tools and skills you need to really connect with and help your child.
Here are some ways you can teach work ethic and eliminate a sense of entitlement in your teen:
If you are struggling with this, get some professional help yourself and quick. You may benefit from some parent coaching while you get another coach to work with your teen. Either way, some consistent tough love and consequences are in order, and we promise the sooner you do it, the sooner you will get a son who cares about his future, wants to be successful, and cares about others. Professional help makes a huge difference.
It’s a critical right time now, and you still hold more power than you realize. Use consistent rules and consequences to reshape his attitude. You will be doing him and the rest of the world a big favor by doing this.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the CEO of claritypointcoaching.com and a master executive coach. Nicole Cunningham is a master coach who specializes in working with teens.
This was first published on KSL.com
My teenage daughter rules the house and if she’s not happy, no one is happy. She is so difficult when she doesn’t get her way, it’s sometimes easier to just give in and not ask too much of her. I choose my battles and don’t let her walk on me about the big stuff, but I think I’ve become a doormat on the little stuff. She knows how to manipulate me with guilt to get what she wants. I hate it, but I don’t know how to change the pattern. Any advice?
Most teens use a great deal of manipulative and attention seeking behavior on their parents, and many parents, due to their fears of failure and loss, get played.
When your fears of failing as a parent or losing your child get triggered it’s hard to see the situation clearly and respond in a way that really serves your child. Instead, you may find yourself giving in, reducing your boundaries or even allowing yourself to be manipulated into doing or purchasing things in order to feel safe.
(Obviously, there will be some of you, who feel very comfortable enforcing strict boundaries and saying no to their teens. This article is directed at the parents who get walked on or manipulated and may not see it.)
We often see a cycle of guilt and fear in our Parenting Bootcamps, where parents, subconsciously create and contribute to cycles of manipulative behavior, as a result of their fear. Coaching these parents to function in a fearless state, stops this over-compensation and enables them to put well thought out, balanced and productive boundaries in place. These boundaries enable them to love and support their children without drama or being sucked into psychological games.
Eric Berne M.D. published an interesting book in 1964, called Games People Play. In it he describes the subconscious games people use to make themselves feel better or get what they want. All parents should be familiar with these maneuvers teens (or adults) may use.
Watch for these games in your home in your children and in yourself:
(You may be where they learned it.)
1) The Shame and Blame Game. This is where you are critical or judgmental towards other people and project your shame (your fear of not being good enough) onto others, because if you can cast them as the bad guy, then you must be the good guy. At least that is what it feels like in the moment. In reality, putting other people down only makes you feel better temporarily, because focusing on their shame doesn’t really take yours away.
If you have a teen that is critical and/or complains about everything and everyone, they may be having a self-esteem crisis, and they may need professional help to change the way they determine their own value. When they are more secure they will be less critical.
2) The Self-Pity Card Game: This happens when someone calls you on your bad behavior and you immediately play the self-pity card and talk about how bad you have it. You are really asking people to excuse your bad behavior and feel sorry for you instead of being mad at you. You may say things like, “I’m sorry, but everything is going so wrong for me right now, I’m having a horrible day, I have no friends, or I’m just so depressed. That's why I behaved badly.” They use self-pity to manipulate their way out of being responsible for their behavior.
This is favorite of “drama prone” teens and works well on loving, caring parents. You must watch for this and validate their hard time, but do not remove their responsibility for their behavior. You can’t let this game work or you will encourage more of it.
3) The Sympathy Card Game: This happens when they constantly talk about how bad they have it or how terrible and/or worthless they are. This is a game to get validation from other people. People play this game on Facebook when they leave posts like “Worst Day Ever” but they don’t leave an explanation about what happened. They do this because they are subconsciously fishing for validation. This game is a subtle and immature way to get attention.
If you see this in your teen, it is a sign they need some help with their self-esteem though and trust us, you cannot fix this with compliments or praise. It’s a deeper issue and may require some professional help to change the way they value all people and themselves.
4) It’s Their Fault That I Can’t… This is about blaming others for making it impossible for you to do something you should be doing. Teens often blame the teachers for their bad grades, their parents for their bad attitude and their friends for their sadness. The payoff here is they aren’t responsible for anything.
You must insist that your teen be responsible for everything they do, think or say, and for every situation they have created in their life. If you don’t they will become a powerless victim and spend their entire life there. Again, this may require a professional help (or someone other than you) to show them the truth or teach you how to handle being the bad guy.
5) You Don’t Love Me: This is a common game with teens, as it is really good for manipulating parents. Parents feel guilty (especially if they have been working long hours and already feel like they are letting their family down) so they have to give the teen what they want, to prove their love. If you are seeing this in your home, don’t give in on this one, but show an increase of love and attention in a healthy way somewhere else.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you have healthy boundaries and a healthy connection with your teen:
When you don’t know what to do… just ask questions and listen. Don’t say anything but, “Tell me more. Help me to understand what you are feeling.” If you haven’t created a safe place or listened well in the past, you may have to apologize for that and promise to just listen now. Then, validate your child’s feelings, while at the same time enforcing strong boundaries as to how you and the family must be treated and what behavior is appropriate.
Good communication, trust, and mutual respect (and seeking professional help early on) are the keys to a healthy relationship with your teen.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
My husband and I have six children and have always had a happy home, or until the last few years anyway. We have always been a close family but the last few years we can’t seem to connect well with our older kids. I understand that the changes of puberty and high school can be overwhelming but my older children seem to be angry, disconnected and impatient with us and their younger siblings. What can I do to diffuse all this hostility and connect my family again?
The real reason that anyone behaves in a badly is they are scared of failure — not being good enough, or loss — the fear of missing out, being mistreated, or being taken from. It is these fears, which cause us and our kids to feel grouchy, angry and even mean at times.
During the teenage years, children are experiencing more fear and insecurity than ever before. They are also going through a natural process of starting to pull away from the family, so they can eventually become independent adults. The two of these factors together can make for a great deal of moody anger and rude behavior.
Anger, frustration and negativity that come across as misdirected rage towards the family, are really suppressed fear. When anger and fear are shut down, not accepted or pushed aside they can be suppressed, which can lead to exaggerated and explosive behavior.
Just like happiness and sadness, frustration and anger are emotions that require validation and time. We must validate the feelings that come up in our older children, listen to them, and honor their right to be experiencing this and feeling the way they do, instead of just correcting them. They must be allowed to be angry, scared and grouchy at times. However, guidance is often needed to teach teens how to process and express their anger in acceptable ways. You must understand the huge boil of emotions they are experiencing at this time, and focus more on connection than correction.
Suppressed anger can look like these three behaviors in your teen — denial, withdrawal and brooding.
Suppressed anger and the behaviors associated with it can be corrected as you move your teen out of fear into greater trust and love. There is a great worksheet on our website that steps you through an Emotional Autopsy to process emotions. I highly recommend you get it and look for ways to show your teen how to use it. If they are interested in trying it, take a picture of it with your phone and text it to them. (But only do this if you have asked if they are interested and say they want it.) You can also help them to experience less fear by teaching them (by example and the things you say) the two important principles below, which help lessen fear.
Another great way to connect to your teen is to make sure you get some one on one time with them every week. Make this a time of fun and be engaged in learning about your child’s life and mindset, instead of just approaching this time as disciplinary correction or getting to the bottom of their issues. Take them out for food (they love that) and make sure there is no lecturing or interrogations. This is a time to listen and validate their right to be where they are and think they way they do. You might want to make sure you have our Validating Communication Worksheet and study it beforehand so you handle this right.
Like all of us, children and especially teenagers want to be heard, accepted and acknowledged. Listen to them and invest in the relationship. Speak about your concerns from a place of vulnerability (sharing your fears) instead of your authority and really make the effort to show up consistently each week. Share with your child how you see every situation in your life an opportunity to learn and how this helps you come out of fear and into greater trust and love.
Some great questions to ask teens when you are together include:
Be patient with these conversations and drop your expectations or attachments to a specific outcome. Trust that with greater connection your child will feel safer and safer. Anger and misdirected rage take time to heal. Your child may also need some professional help to gain some new skills for dealing with their thoughts, emotions and experiences at school. Check out some of the coaching options we offer for parents and teens.
Feel reassured that the foundations you continue to lay down for your children are never in vain. No matter what the age of your children, they watch you and your behavior as an example and crave connection and validation from you. Do your best to make sure your language and your behavior heal instead of hurt. Commit to validating and continue to pour into your relationship with them. Here is a link to access many other articles and tips for dealing with teens.
You can do this.
Master Life Coaches Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham run www.claritypointcoaching.com and offer coaching workshops and classes for both parents and teens.
Starting school this year has been rough for my son. He has terrible anxiety and stresses over everything. We can’t seem to convince him, no matter what we say, that his fears are unfounded and he is OK. He is having some panic attacks too, and I’m starting to wonder if he needs medication, but I really really don’t want to go there. Do you have any suggestions for helping him have less anxiety?
There are some things you can try before resorting to medication. I’m going to give you suggestions that could help change your child’s fear-based thinking on both the conscious and subconscious levels.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and is a master coach and speaker.
I read your article last week about parenting and I have a question about it. I can see that I am control focused and I have probably damaged the relationship with my kids because of my high expectations and need for obedience. I think they have lost respect for me too, and think they can never do anything good enough. This has even made them a little passive aggressive, so they tell me what I want to hear to my face, then turn away and do whatever they want. It’s almost like in trying too hard to have control, I now have even less. Is there anything I can do at this point to turn this around?
First you must ask yourself if you want control and obedience, or if you are willing to let that go, for self-driven, responsible, wise children who respect you.
It’s super easy, as a parent, to want obedience and control, because these make you feel safer, but in the end I think you will agree that you don’t really want blindly obedient sheep who are easy to control. You want strong, wise, independent children who make good choices for themselves — right?
The reason you subconsciously like control and obedience is that when children misbehave, it triggers both your core fears, failure and loss. Bad behavior makes you afraid you’re failing as a parent (or afraid what others will think of you) and it creates your greatest fear — losing them. So, controlling them seems less scary.
When these fears get triggered in you, your autopilot subconscious reaction (that comes before you have a chance to think) is usually to get angry, emotional, controlling or self-focused. In this place you aren’t even capable of seeing what your child needs in that moment. You are too focused on you. In this place you usually yell, control, punish or push to get whatever you need to quiet your fear.
When you parent like this (from fear) your children will feel it and they know this whole thing is all about you and what you need to make you feel better. This isn’t about them or coming from love.
This is what makes them lose respect for you. Fear is never respect. Fearless strength, wisdom, love and compassion are.
I think you would agree that blind obedience isn’t really what you want. What you really want are happy, wise, well-balanced, mature children who respect you and have a healthy connection with you, which gives you some influence in their lives to help them. So here are some tips to create that:
1) If you want your kids to respect you, you have to be respectable. Respectable means you have control over your subconscious reactions and think before you speak. It means you are mentally and emotionally mature and wise. A respectable parent is a conscious parent, who is showing by example that good decisions pay off and create happiness. You must be someone who practices what you preach and deserves respect. If you struggle with this, I highly recommend some coaching or counseling to work on your fear issues and learn some tools and skills for making your own life better.
2) If you want your kids to respect you, you must be respectful. This means you show them the same level of gracious, kind, mature behavior you would use with peers or adult friends in your life. (But this isn’t about being a lenient friend instead of a parent.) It’s about treating every human being, even the ones in your house, with courtesy and respect, honoring their value as a human being as the same as yours. This means you will ask questions about what they think and feel, and really listen and even care about their opinions. It means you will include them in the process of setting rules and their consequences, because if they have a voice they will respect you and the rules more. If you want respect, you must give it.
3) Watch your attachments and make sure your attachment to “the connection you have with your child” is more important than your attachments to anything else. Most of us have some unhealthy attachments and care too much about tasks, things, ideas, control and approval. These attachments sometimes cause us to put these things before people. On our psychological inclinations chart (on my website) you will see that many of us are overly attached to these things:
Ideas — We only feel safe if our family members fit the expectations or ideas we have about what they should be or do. Anything outside of that ideal feels unsafe. So, you may need conformity so badly you may hurt the people or sacrifice a connection for it. Your children may start to resent your ideals as more important than they are, which means they will further reject it.
Approval — This means your sense of self-worth comes from what others think of you and/or your children. An attachment here will again make children lose respect for you because your neediness and people pleasing come from fear and weakness, not strength or confidence.
Achievement/tasks — This means you attach your value to your performance and you are overly focused on doing everything and doing it perfectly. This may mean you put the projects you do for your family ahead of actually showing up for them emotionally. You may see sitting with them, asking questions and listening, as lazy or less important than cooking, cleaning or working.
4) Remember your children are here to teach you every bit as much as you’re here to teach them. Every problem, power struggle or misbehavior is your perfect lesson or chance to grow. I believe your specific children were sent to you, because your unique challenges are exactly what they need to grow. There are no accidents, and though you aren’t a perfect parent, you are apparently the perfect parent for them. If you mess them up, it will only be in the perfect way they needed to be messed up, so they can spend the rest of their life learning, growing and processing these perfect challenges for them.
5) Be authentic, vulnerable and real with your kids. Let them see you make mistakes, apologize, and learn. Show them you’re a struggling student in the classroom of life too. Let them see you get hurt, forgive, and find balance between caring for yourself and caring for others. Don’t be a drama queen though and subject them to emotional immaturity, but do let them see your heart.
6) Do more listening than talking. Have great conversations that don’t turn into lectures. Listen more because you are actually interested in understanding them, not just guiding them. Help them to explore their options in each situation and figure out why some choices are better than others. Tell them they are smart and should make good decisions for themselves, not for you. Have great conversations about what it means to have integrity, and be honest and responsible. These conversations aren’t about control, though, they are about being authentic and sharing why you have decided to live the way you have. Always ask permission before you talk, share or advise your kids. “Would you be open to letting me share something I’ve learned with you?” This is a great permission question, but honor it if they say no.
7) Understand your child’s unique personality, psychology, fears and values. You can do this by asking lots of questions or you can get some professional help to discover your child’s unique psychological inclinations. Armed with this knowledge you will know exactly what they need.
You can rebuild a healthy connection with your child, but you may also need to sincerely apologize first. Explain how your fears of failure and loss have made you overly attached to control, approval, ideas, task or things. Let them know you are now committed to change that. Work on being more respectable and respectful and you will earn back their respect.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is hosting a parenting workshop on Aug. 25. Please visit her website for information.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and is a
popular life coach, author and speaker. She was named
one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly
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