This was first published on ksl.com
I can't seem to communicate with my 17-year-old son without conflict. I am trying to get him to respect me, and listen to what I am saying to him about his friends and his school work. I worry about the kids he is hanging around with and the lack of interest he has in achieving things. I only want what is best for him, but he isn't listening to me anymore. I am a single mom and I worry that I am not doing enough to keep him on the right path. Do you have suggestions or advice?
It sounds like it’s time to shift from a child/parent relationship with your teen, to an adult/adult relationship. When our children are small, we parent from a place of authority. We often correct them and dictate the rules and the consequences, and this works when children are young. However, as they mature and their need to express themselves, their wants, their needs, and their opinions increases, and it becomes time to make some adjustments to the dynamic of your relationship.
In an adult/adult relationship there is more talking to each other with mutual respect and treating your child as more of an equal. This does not mean you start treating them as an adult or giving them the same responsibilities or freedom though. It’s just about honoring their intelligence and feelings more than you used to.
Instead of speaking down to your teen, speak to them with the same level of respect you might use with a friend or peer. You would probably ask them about their ideas and opinions, instead of just talking at them. If you show up differently and have genuine interest, respect, and concern for their thoughts and emotions, not just authoritative dialogue or lectures, you will get much more respect back. You will also find they feel safer with you and are willing to actually talk to you about what’s going on in their life.
As children become teens, you must strengthen your connection with them if you want to maintain influence. You can do this by making them feel heard and validated and doing more listening than talking. This doesn't mean you always agree with what they say, but you do give them the space to share their ideas, while at the same time maintaining the final say.
As your children grow, if this shift from control, to one of trust and respect continues to grow, you can have great, healthy and open conversations with your teenagers and adult children. The shift here is really a shift from fear and control — to trust and love.
Parenting from a place of fear means you are afraid that your children will not behave or make the decisions you want them to make, and as a result of those decisions you will either lose them or look (or feel) like a failure as a parent. Because we can be really scared of these things, we can have a huge need to control them and make sure our fears aren’t realized. We believe no one can trigger your two core fears (the fear of failure and the fear of loss) easier than your children.
When they make mistakes or choices that scare us, we may react from a place of fear and respond in a way that is driven by the need to quiet our fear, not in a way that’s really best for our children. Our fear of not doing a good enough job as a parent may actually make you not a good parent.
Instead, we must parent from a place of trust and love, rather than control. In this place of trust and love, because we aren’t scared, we can focus on what our child needs and behave in a way that teaches, guides and influences with respect, honoring where they are and what they think and feel.
Here are four ways to shift from fearful parenting with control and punishment, to parenting from trust and love, where you empower and equip children to make good healthy decisions for themselves:
1. Take responsibility for your fear and reactive responses
Have an open mind and analyze for yourself what could be fueling your fearful parenting. What are the fears you have about your children? Are you afraid that they will fail, they will go off the rails, they won't reach their potential? Are you afraid of how you might look to friends and family if your children make choices they don’t approve of? Are you afraid of losing them? Probably a bit of them all, right?
Most of the high risk teens we work with have parents who struggle extensively with fear of failure. They are afraid they are not doing enough, doing too much, or not guiding their children effectively. This fear is of little use. It only makes you show up as confused, controlling and overbearing, and it makes it hard for you to ask questions, listen and take the time to respect and honor your children and how they feel. The truth is they are scared too, and their fear of failure is often driving their bad choices. When you understand this, you will spend your energy building them up, instead of using fear-based reactions.
2. Decide your value is not on the line
Remember, you can see your value as a human being as in question and something you have to earn, or you can see your value as a human being as unchangeable and not affected by the way you parent your children.
We recommend you choose to see your value as infinite, unchangeable and intrinsic, as something you cannot lose or gain more of. If your children are successful, get great grades and hang out in the right crowds, it doesn’t make you better than people whose teens are struggling.
This might sound obvious, but at the subconscious level, most of us still think our performance (and that of our kids) reflects on our value. But we don’t lose value if our child goes off the rails or gets into drugs.
Stop the comparisons with other families and choose to trust your value is secure, and the same as every other human being no matter what happens with your kids.
3. Show your kids their value is safe too
Your teens and tweens have fears of failure and loss too, which influence their behavior and decisions. They suffer with major fear of failure and they compare themselves to their peers and desperately want to be accepted. They are also scared to death they won’t make it in the world.
If we want to have real connection with our teens, we must first earn their trust by creating a safe place for them and showing them the way out of their fears. You do this by loving them exactly as they are. Loving them through their bad choices, when they disappoint you, and teaching them to see their value as unchangeable too.
When they know you see their value as infinite, in spite of struggles or bad choices, they feel safe with you and this will create a relationship where you could be their 'go to' person when they need help, which is really the goal.
4. Trust the universe to provide the classroom lessons you and they need
This is the hardest part for most parents, because it feels like it would be safer to control them, but control is really a delusion anyway. The truth is you can’t really control your kids, and safety only lies in encouragement, building them up and inspiring them to be all they can be so they decide to make good choices for themselves
The better your connection with your child is, the more influence you will have. Showing them you believe in them and believe they can make it in the world (and telling them this often) actually makes them want to live up to your highest opinion of them. While comments coming from fear that imply you don’t trust them and their judgment tend to encourage bad choices.
Choose to trust God and the universe to provide the right classroom journey for each of us. This means trusting God is in charge of your kids and has their education well at hand. If they sign themselves up for some rough lessons, don’t freak out. Trust that God is the author of everything and feeling safe and in his hands, will make you more capable of showing up with love and compassion — instead of fear.
Our favorite parenting book, The Conscious Parent, written by Shefali Tsabary, encourages parents to view their teens as their perfect teachers. When you remember you are a student here too, and your child is triggering your fears, you have a chance to work on your fear issues, grow, and learn to trust more fully and love more liberally, and it will change the way you see your child’s struggles.
Work on these four things and focus on loving your son unconditionally and telling him you believe in him constantly (even if you aren’t sure you do). The more you can tell him he’s fantastic, smart and capable, the more he will see himself that way and make better choices. Set your fears aside and make sure most of your interactions with him are love driven, not fear driven.
You can do this — and your connection will improve.
Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the Master Life Coaches behind claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com, they are sought after speakers, authors and coaches.
This was first published on ksl.com
My teens (twins, 16 years old) only want to text us. They don’t seem to be open or willing to have conversations with us anymore. I keep insisting on family dinners with no devices but the kids are angry the whole time. What are we doing wrong? We have younger children also and we are afraid of losing our connection and influence with them too. How do we create better relationships with our kids and make sure they will talk to us, not just their friends?
We believe almost every parent on the planet is having this same problem right now. This new world of technology, social media, and texting can be a challenge for us all. Despite our fears and our desire for the world to be different, we must learn how to work within this new framework, if we want to connect with our children.
Despite our fears and our desire for the world to be different, we must learn how to work within this new framework, if we want to connect with our children.
By no means does this mean you drop your standards or your efforts to communicate like in the old days, but you must be smart and proactive and adapt to meet them where they are. It helps to understand the importance and the influence of technology on our teenagers.
There are many opinions on how detrimental it is for our teens to use technology for communication, however, it is the new communication process, whether we like it or not. If we exclude them from this by limiting, banning, or taking away technology altogether, it quickly creates social problems for them. If they are not communicating on social media, by text and on a phone, they are not included socially. It’s here that we see isolation, bullying, and feelings of despondency and depression come into play, as they are not connected to their peers.
We must allow them to engage in it with healthy limitations, which you can set with them and their input. These healthy limitations are best respected when they are also modeled by you. How attached are you to your phone when you are at home? Do you use your phone at meal times and after 9 p.m.? These are things to discuss as a family, and create limits based on moral reasoning instead of punishment.
Here are some ways you can improve your connection with your teenagers despite technology. This is the answer to your question, how do we continue to build trust, close relationships and instill values with our children, within their technology framework.
1. You must earn their trust and a place in their life; it’s not guaranteed just because you’re their parent.
The sad truth is if you want to be the person (and the place) they come to in times of stress, change, and trouble, you must earn it. Being their parent is not a guarantee that you will be their safe place, that they will trust you, or even include you in their life. Now, without needing to include you, or become vulnerable and risk judgment or punishment, they can turn to Google, social media and friends for help and answers when they need them.
This is a vastly different world from when we were teenagers, as we only saw our friends at school or at activities. Now, kids have constant connection through their smartphone, which is constantly attached to their thumbs and back pockets. This makes it even harder for parents to compete for their time, attention and for a position as their problem solver and confidant. Knowing your child is highly likely to reach for their smartphone for answers, instead of coming to you, is a scary place, but you can earn your position in their life through the following steps.
2. You must be a safe place for them.
If you really want to be the person your child turns to in times of trouble, you must on some level compete with technology for their time and attention, and you must be a safe place. This means you must be non-judgmental and use all your self-control to be present and listen instead of giving feedback or a lecture.
Technology offers answers fast and without judgment or disappointment in them. So you can’t risk being critical, making them feel dumb or embarrassed about their opinions and ideas. Being a teenager is awkward enough, so they need your love and support with a big dose of respect for where they are and what they think. This can be hard for parents who are parenting in fear of failure and loss, and want desperately for their children to listen, make changes or not make mistakes.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them all the time or even at all, but you must respect their right to have their feelings, ideas and emotions. This doesn’t mean you become their friend and drop parenting though. Instead, it means becoming an exceptional listener and making conversations all about them and not about you. You must validate and honor their right to feel as they do, even if you think they are completely wrong. You must do this because, at the end of the day, they do have a right to feel exactly as they do, so you must validate this right and show support for them.
Years ago, I begged my rebellious teen not to lie to me and to please just tell me the truth about his activities. His answer was, “Mom, then I need you to be able to handle the truth with love and respect, can you do that?” It was a tall order, but I set my fears aside and made it all about showing up for him.
If you can’t handle the truth and do it with love and compassion, your child won’t see you as a safe place and won’t come to you. Non-judgmental listening is the only way to create a place of safety and give you any chance of having influence at critical moments in their life.
3. Be mindful of your expectations.
We all have desires for our children. However, many of us become attached to outcomes and have high expectations. It’s good to have some expectations for your children, like wanting them to be good people with integrity and have good self-esteem. But are all your expectations realistic? Do they set your children up to succeed or to fail?
Many teenagers we coach tell us that their parents' expectations make them feel like they are failing all the time, and they honestly feel they are doomed to never be good enough. This is the exact emotion that pulls children away from you, that shuts down connection and dialogue. Often they withdraw from us and only communicate via text message (as it feels much safer).
As you set your expectations, be sure it’s not about specifics, don’t attach yourself to their exact grades, whether they win or lose at sports, or how they will perform. The healthiest and best way to set expectations is based on their efforts. This means them delivering their best effort and also finding joy and fulfillment in the process. This sets our children up to become fulfilled, self-motivated people and see that effort is worth the reward.
We also recommend a 5 to 1 rule. Deliver five messages of positive feedback and encouragement for every one conversation about improvement or correction. This is easier said than done, especially when parents are in fear and want their children to change. Focus on celebrating who they are and what they are doing well. This also creates a safe place, where they don't fear disappointing you.
4. Text your teens
If text is a communication method they are comfortable with, then use it without trying to push them into conversations they aren’t ready and open to having. Use the same 5 to 1 rule with texts (this means five positive, encouraging, fun texts for every reminder to be safe or a "Don’t forget your chores" kind of message).
Become savvy using emojis and be quick to respond to all their texts too. Remember, they live in an instant gratification world, so at some level, we must match that. Don’t wait hours to respond, do it ASAP.
Ask them to show you how to text with predictive text and how to use emojis properly. This shows interest in their world. Never underestimate the power of a positive text — “Hey, it’s mom. Just want you to know how proud I am of you and can’t wait to grab a movie with you this weekend." or "Good luck on the math test today. You’re going to be great! I believe in you and know how capable you are.”
Send them funny messages and make them laugh too.
This parenting game with technology is a new one for us all, but showing interest and enthusiasm to get on their level and even allowing them to laugh at your incompetence, is great for building a connection.
Remember to parent from love instead of fear, trust your children and watch your need to control them. Begin to adjust your perspective to one of respect, and speak to them as you would a peer or an equal, instead of talking down to them as a child.
They are still your children, but they badly want your respect and to be treated like an adult. The more you respect them at this level, the more respect you will get back. Choose to love them where they are and use technology to connect with them, and you will always have an important place in their world.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the owners of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com. Come hear them speak at the Uplift Families Conference in October - at Thanksgiving point. http://www.upliftfamilies.org/
This was first published on KSL.com
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share some ways to take better care of yourself so you feel less drained and empty in your parenting.
I feel like a terrible mother. I find myself resenting my children for just how demanding my job is. I don’t think they are more demanding than other children, but I just don’t have it in me some days. I feel emotionally drained and can’t wait for them to all be in bed, so I can have some me time. How do I successfully balance my needs and the needs of my family without resentment or guilt? I feel guilty taking care of me but resentful if I don’t. I don’t want to be this grouchy and drained all the time. What can I do?
Thank you for having the courage to speak out about these feelings that we believe most mothers feel, at least some of the time. Motherhood and balancing the needs of a home and family is a tall order and most of us have high, slightly unrealistic expectations that leave us feeling like we are never good enough.
The truth is we all feel emotionally drained from motherhood on occasion. Having the energy to give selflessly to other people day and night, is difficult and unless we learn to maintain a healthy balance and make sure our own bucket is full, we can feel drained or resentful a lot.
There are four ways you can create a healthier balance between caring for other and caring for yourself and keep your bucket full:
1. Institute some healthy boundaries
Do you allow people to take more from you than you have to give?
Sadly, almost every woman we know, answers YES to this question. Obviously, there are things you must do every day to meet the needs of your family and ensure they are safe, nourished and cared for, whether you want to or not. However, most women give more than necessary and take on extra tasks, which leave them feeling resentful and overburdened.
This over giving can lead to feelings of anger and mistreatment. Over giving may be so behaviorally ingrained for you though, you may even find even understanding the principle of balance difficult. Many people, who are people pleasers, learned as a child that pleasing others and serving was always the "right" thing to do and sacrificing yourself was righteous. But this implies that taking care of yourself at all makes you selfish. Many women and men, who grew up with these beliefs, need help establishing healthy boundaries with their spouses, friends and neighbors.
Boundaries are rules that protect you from your guilt, weakness and people pleasing, which make you to over give. They are not about controlling other people. They are about controlling you.
The first boundary you probably need is a permission rule about saying no. We sometimes have to tell our clients, “We officially give you permission to say no to things that would overwhelm or drain you, and do so without feeling guilty at all. Saying no does not make you a bad person, it makes you a healthy one.”
If you want to have healthy relationships, you must give only those gifts you can give freely, without guilt, strings, or sense of obligation in play. When you give authentically, you are love-motivated, meaning you have it to give and actually want to give it. Your giving is not driven by "shoulds" or the need to get approval or validation from others (which would make the service about you not them). If you give to others because you are afraid of judgment or letting someone down, or if you feel guilty if you don’t do it, your giving is based on fear, not love.
This week, give yourself permission to create some new healthier boundaries. Could you love yourself enough to acknowledge your needs and make sure they are met, while also tending to the family? This can be hard if you place your value in what other’s think of you or if you are trying to look like a "super mom" caring for everyone and sacrificing yourself. But there is no extra prize for the super mom or the martyr.
One of the healthiest things you can do as a mom is model healthy, balanced self-care, showing your kids it is right and healthy to take care of yourself because you are as important as everyone else. You will also find people tend to appreciate what you do for them more if you say no on occasion. When you always sacrifice yourself for others, they come to expect it, and their appreciation goes down. If you are completely taken for granted, it's a sure sign you are over giving.
2. Remember receiving is just as important as giving
This may be another bitter pill to swallow if you are a people pleaser who feels safer being the giver. But being good at receiving is just as important as being good at giving. Unless we allow others to reciprocate in our relationships, we don’t experience a truly healthy, relationship dynamic. Think of how good it feels to give a gift to someone you love. Now, think about how you would feel if they rejected your gift. You see, receiving gives the other person the same fulfillment you get when you give to them.
It’s essential this balance of giving and receiving is established in all the relationships in your life. Without this balance, you easily slip into over giving and other people either take advantage of this or walk away because they are not receiving the feelings they want.
Many relationships breakdown because, over time, the imbalance of giving and receiving takes a toll. Allowing your children to help around the house, give you a foot rub, be patient while you take a bath, or take time from their day to sit and listen to you, are easy ways that you can correct the imbalance.
Not asking for and accepting help from children may be why you have some resentment. Ask your children to pitch in around the house, allow them to cook you a meal, even if it’s cheese on toast or cereal. It’s fun for them and it’s essential for you, so drop the high expectations of doing it all and make life a team effort.
3. Ask for your needs to be me
Your needs are just as important as the other members of your family. We know this may be hard to get your head around, but your needs being met is essential to the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of the entire family.
Asking for what you need, in a loving way, is also much better than holding resentment and anger that your needs are never met. Learning how to facilitate conversations that allow you to ask for help is easier than you think. Start by asking them questions about how they feel about life in your home. Really listen and be open to some things you could do better or different. (This makes children feel very loved.) Then, ask if they would be willing to help you a little more by doing this or that for you.
We think you will be surprised at how much your family wants to love you through acts of kindness, service and support. Many of our clients feel angry that they don’t get more help, but they aren’t asking the family to help either. Start by asking for what you need without feeling guilty.
4. Drop the guilt
Mothers are the queens of guilt. We feel guilty about not giving enough time or energy, about not being enough, about not being a good enough role model, provider, housekeeper, confidante — we feel guilty when we are working and guilty when we aren’t — we feel guilty about everything.
Let’s drop this now. You always do the best you can with what you know in each moment, and you often give when you don’t even have it in you.
Your value does not change if you are tired, grouchy or drained. Your value is the same as every other person no matter how much you struggle. Your love is one of a kind and it is exactly what your children need.
You are not a perfect parent (because that’s not possible), but you are the perfect parent for your children (or you wouldn’t have been given the job). Your guilt doesn't serve anyone or anything. Get over it. Let the past go and do your best to stay present and love yourself and them today.
Keep working on your ability to receive and create some healthy boundaries for yourself this week. Figure out what you really need to keep your bucket full and make a plan to do those things.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we have in our lifetime. By showing greater compassion and understanding toward yourself, especially in times of fatigue and emotional exhaustion, you will honor your value and show up as a love-motivated parent.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cummingham are the founders of claritypointcoaching.com and upskillrelationships.com. They have programs for burned out moms starting soon.
My brother and sister-in-law moved close to our house this summer. One of their sons (my son’s cousin) is a real tyrant though, who insists on having control and manipulates my son. This bossy kid is unable to share and demands his way with tantrums constantly. I don’t know how to address this behavior with my son. I do not feel it is healthy for anyone to boss others around like this. I would never allow my child to do that. What would be the best way to bring this up with my son and teach him to stand up for himself, or talk about it with my sister-in-law and ask her to work with her child on this? These situations can be so awkward and I don’t know where to start because I don’t want to offend, but I hate how my child is being treated.
You are really asking me two questions. The first is how do I teach my child to enforce boundaries and not get pushed around by others? The second is should I bring up bad behavior to the child’s parent and how does one handle a conversation like that without offending?
We get a little excited by these people problems though, because there are great learning opportunities here for everyone involved. For you, it is a great exercise in speaking your truth and being your child’s advocate, and for your child, there is important opportunity to learn how to enforce boundaries and decide how they will allow other people to treat them. Learning this now could save your child years and years of trouble later in life. The bossy cousin also has a great lesson coming, about how you must treat people if you want them to stay in your life.
We would recommend you start with a conversation with your child, though, and see if he can change the situation by enforcing boundaries on his own. We believe teaching children to enforce boundaries is one of the most important things you can teach them because it will set them up to have healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
Adults also need to work on finding a healthy balance between showing up for others and taking care of ourselves. Most of us find showing up for others is easier than taking care of ourselves. We believe this happens because you have been subconsciously programmed to see taking care of yourself as selfish and bad — but it’s not selfish. It’s healthy and wise.
If you don’t take care of yourself, ask for what you need and stand up for yourself, you will soon be empty and have nothing else to give to anyone. Remember, you are the one in charge of making sure your needs are met and your bucket stays full. This could mean staying away from people who drain you, asking for the time alone, or for whatever space you need to refill and nurture yourself. You must show your children how to do this by example. If you struggle with this, we highly recommend you get some coaching or counseling to work on worthiness and receiving.
Or you might have the opposite problem and be really good at taking care of yourself, but struggle to want to show up for others. Either way, you get to work on balance.
Here are some tips on teaching children to enforce boundaries:
1. Ask questions
Find a time to ask your kids some questions about how they feel about playing with the cousin who insists on controlling them and always having his way. Ask them how it makes them feel and what they think is fair in those situations.
Great Parenting Tip: You should always ask questions and listen to your children before you give any advice on anything. Find out what they already know and ask questions to see if they can figure out the right answer on their own.
2. Ask permission to share
If they can’t see the answer, then ask if they would be open to some ideas on how they might handle the situation.
Great Parenting Tip: Always ask permission to share your ideas or advice and make sure the child is open to it before you say a word. This shows you respect them and their views. (Do this with adults, friends and family too).
3. Teach principles
Once you have permission, explain to them the concept of compromise and explain the need for everyone to have a say and to have a turn. Spend time teaching your children the importance of seeing everyone as the same (in importance and value) and that everyone should have the opportunity to choose how and what to play.
It’s important as you discuss the behavior of the cousin, you do not put him down in any way. You have a great opportunity to teach compassion here and this child has the same value as your children, it’s only his behavior that you are commenting on, not his intrinsic worth as a person.
4. Give them language
Equip your child with the language to enforce boundaries through role-playing the scenarios with him. This will help him feel confident to discuss the problem next time it occurs. Teach him how to stand firm and share his feelings lovingly using language like, “I think it would be fair for all of us to have a turn at deciding the game today. When you choose all the time it makes me not want to play with you.” or “Absolutely, let’s play your game, and then let me have a turn at deciding the next game so we all get to do what we want to do.”
If language such as this is unsuccessful and the cousin’s behavior doesn’t change, then it’s very helpful to equip your children with the language to excuse themselves from the play or ask for help from an adult, without appearing like a tattle tale. Giving him phrases such as “OK, I don’t feel this is fair that you keep choosing the game and it’s not very fun for me to go along with your ideas all the time, so I’m going to go home and play by myself for a while and choose something I want to do.”
You can decide from there whether to speak to the child’s mother yourself or just keep your son at home with you. The other mother may ask, at some point, what’s going on and why your child won’t come play anymore. Be prepared with the same tips above to have a loving conversation with the mother. Ask questions and listen first to see if she has seen any problems or concerns when the boys played together. Find out if she was aware, at all, of what was happening. Then, ask permission to speak your truth. There is a great communication worksheet on our website which can guide you through having mutually validating conversations.
Remember to refrain from judgment and don’t speak down to the other parent as if you know more or better. Speak to them as an equal and you will receive the same respect you are giving them back and you can hopefully come to a mutual solution.
Begin the conversation with a permission questions like, “Hey, would you be open to talking with me about how the children are playing? I’m a little concerned with something I see is happening.”
If you receive a "no" then you know it’s either not a good time or that the parents are not open to feedback or a mutual solution. This will then help you to make the decisions that are healthiest for your children. Receiving feedback without being prepared is often hard to take, so asking permission ensure you create the best environment possible for the conversation.
When you speak your truth try to use more "I" statements than "you" statements. “I have noticed that when our children play your son has a need to consistently have his way and is not open to compromise. I find that my child is not being heard or having a turn, which I don’t feel is healthy for him. I wonder if you would be open to us as parents doing our best to get involved, to ensure all the children are getting a chance to share their ideas and choose a game, as this is really the healthiest way for them to learn to play and get along. Would you be open to helping me with this?”
Learning to have these boundary conversations is challenging, but this healthy dialogue really does make for lasting relationships. You may need to have a few conversations with your child about speaking his truth in a loving way before he has the confidence to speak up for himself, however, these are all wonderful and healthy discussions that will serve your child well in their future.
You can do this.
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.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Call Tiffany 801-201-8315
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
on local and national TV and Radio.