This was first published on ksl.com
I heard someone say recently that kids today don't have the same level of empathy for others that we did back in our day. It got me wondering if this was true. So, I did some research and was surprised to find that science agrees.
According to an article in Scientific American, our country is experiencing a great decrease in empathy for other people, which the authors call an "empathy deficit." The article mentions "a recent Gallup poll showed that roughly a third of the country doesn't think there's a problem with race relations" and the authors suggest this shows that many people aren't grasping other people's perspectives. They blame technology, social media and the pandemic as major causes.
On the "Speaking of Psychology" podcast, episode 95, they also state that there's scientific research to back up the notion that Americans are caring less for others and more about themselves. Even Forbes magazine announced that the word for 2021 would be "empathy."
The work of researcher Helen Riess, author of the new book "The Empathy Effect," aims to show the "ability to connect empathically with others — to feel with them, to care about their well-being, and to act with compassion — is critical to our lives, helping us to get along, work more effectively, and thrive as a society," according to a Greater Good magazine article about the book.
The article goes on to say that Riess' work shows empathy involves our "ability to perceive others' feelings ... to imagine why someone might be feeling a certain way and to have concern for their welfare. Once empathy is activated, compassionate action is the most logical response."
We could all show more compassion for the other people around us. In my 20-plus years as a master life coach, I have found that fear has hardwired us toward judging others, especially people who are different from us. I think we have to fight a subconscious tendency toward judging and consciously choose to stretch the limits of our love and be empathetic.
Given that we are experiencing a decline in empathy, what can we do to strengthen our own empathy muscles and teach empathy to our children? Here are a few suggestions:
Pay more attention to other people's emotions. Notice people and what's going on with them. This requires you to be observant and get out of your own head and problems. It means putting the phones down and interacting with real people. Now, that we are coming out of a distanced and quarantined year, it's time to reconnect and pay more attention to the people around us.
Be a role model of empathy and compassion. Let kids see you caring about and speaking kindly about other people, especially those that are different from you. Make sure they see and hear you talk about these people with compassion, not judgment. If children hear you judge and gossip about others, they learn that it's OK to reject some people and see them as less than you. If you demonstrate a disregard for others, you teach children that other people don't matter. Make sure you are setting an example of compassion and caring toward all people.
Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. Let children hear you say "when you hit me, I feel unloved and it makes me sad," instead of "you shouldn't hit me." This helps them learn that actions affect other people and how they feel. Help them understand actions have consequences for others.
Listen better. Parents need to ask questions, listen and try to really understand what their child is feeling and experiencing, especially when they are upset or in trouble. If you aren't willing to take the time to care about their feelings and listen to them, you may be teaching them not to do this for other people. They might contribute to them growing up feeling they are less important themselves, in which case they will likely care less about others.
Help children understand that everyone has unchangeable value. It's important children learn the even though each person is different, sees the world differently, and makes different choices, other people have the same value as they do. Teach them that all humans, no matter the differences, have the same, intrinsic value and no one has more value or less value than anyone else. Teach them to see all humans as their equals, even though there are differences.
Help children recognize and name their own emotions as they experience them. If a child gets embarrassed at school, talk about what embarrassment feels like. Talk about how everyone experiences it sometimes and how they can now understand how others feel when they experience it. Help them understand that every experience gives you empathy to better understand other people. Every experience — even the negative ones — gives you knowledge that is a gift when it comes to understanding others.
Help children practice empathy. Show them how to think through what another person might be feeling and what they might need or appreciate right now. Look for opportunities to have the child put themselves in the shoes of the other person and imagine how they must feel. Ask questions like what would help you if you were in those shoes?
Help children find healthy ways to cope with their own uncomfortable emotions. Unfortunately, technology is how a lot of teens today cope with stress or emotions like anger, embarrassment or fear. They need to practice talking emotions through with an adult who is capable of listening and reflecting, without making it about themselves. They need you to model ways to process emotions through talking, exercise, journaling or meditation.
Teach your children to respect other people by modeling the behavior yourself. Show respect to everyone and stay in control of your emotions. Show children calm, compassionate ways to interact and solve conflict with others — even with people who are difficult. If you didn't learn these skills from your parents or another trusted adult, work with a coach or counselor and learn them yourself first.
Discuss situations that you see in TV shows. Ask your child if they relate to a person in the show. Talk about what they might be feeling and experiencing. Talk about these fictional people with compassion and understanding. Avoid judgment, criticism and talking down about people on TV, even if they aren't real.
Talk with your children about bullying. Most kids see or experience bullying at school. This is a topic you should bring up and talk about often. Ask questions about the kind of bullying your child sees both off and online. Ask how they feel about this and see if they can put themselves in the shoes of both the bully and the victim. What do you think is driving the behavior? Why is it a problem? What can we do about it? What kind of person do you want to be? These are great questions to start with.
Discuss often what it means to be a good friend. Ask your children questions like what kind of behaviors do you see in good friends. What does it mean to you when you are treated well? What does bad friend behavior look like? What kind of friend do you want to be?
Empathy is a skill and we can get better at it with commitment and practice. In today's world, it is easy to function from a place of judgment toward others and especially toward people who are different.
Increasing our own empathy and compassion means stretching and being willing to get out of our comfort zone. It means taking time to listen and show up instead of distracting ourselves with our phones. However, empathy is the rich and loving part of our connection with other human beings that make life worth living; it will be worth the effort.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
What should I do when my spouse gets mad at one of our kids, but becomes irrationally angry with yelling, arguing, and generally makes a "mountain out of a mole hill”. Should I support my spouse and whatever punishment and behavior they use with the kids, even though I don’t agree? Or should I tell my spouse to please walk away because they are losing it, and let me handle it (which will make them mad at me)? How can we have different parenting styles and not have conflict over them? I also worry that my kids like me more because I am more in control, and it’s made my spouse the bad guy. How are they not the bad guy, when they behave this badly?
So, what you are really asking is, “Is it more important to put up a united front in front of the kids or is it more important to stop my partner from parenting badly (with out of control emotion or anger) directed at our child?”
Obviously, both are important and doing both, at the same time, should be your goal, but if you have to choose one (in a tense moment), you should choose to protect your child, while never making your spouse feel small or bad. Below are some suggestions for handling these intervention moments with love and support.
Defuse the Situation:
You must learn how to defuse the situation in a respectful, loving, way towards your spouse, who is already upset and triggered. If you step into this situation from a position of anger, holier than though self-righteousness, or ego, you are going to create conflict and resentment. You must learn speak to your spouse as an equal, who is as equally flawed, because both of you are imperfect, struggling, scared, students in the classroom of life, who make mistakes. You cannot cast the first stone. You must speak to your spouse with love and compassion for their fears and pain in this moment. You must make them safe with you, while also making your child safe.
Create a time-out rule in your home:
Defusing the situation with love, means having careful, mutually validating, conversations (which I have outlined in previous articles) to pick a safe word or agree on a time out rule. This means both of you, will agree ahead of time, if either of you says that word or calls time out (which you will do if you feel the situation is being driven by fear not love), you both agree to stop talking and step away from the situation to cool down.
You both must agree to take some time and get your fear own triggers under control (your number one job as a human). You must learn how to choose trust in your infinite value and trust in the universe as your perfect classroom, to pull yourself together. Then, talk to each other about this situation and get on the same page before you talk to the child. Make sure both of you feel validated, heard, understood, honored, and respected for your feelings. Never talk down to your spouse or make them feel like the bad guy (you are equally as bad in other areas).
There will be times when you must act quickly though, and you don’t have time for all this communicating, so, in those situations, just use the safe word, as a clue to your spouse that they sound scared. You will use that safe word to love and support them, not to shame them.
Remember, their “out of control” parenting behavior is happening, because they are scared of failure or loss, not because they are a bad person or a bad parent. That is why you need a safe word. You need a word to remind each other that unsafe feelings and behavior are showing up and the real loving you may not come through. You both need to make sure it’s love, not fear, that is doing the parenting.
I highly recommend getting some coaching or counseling if reactive fear responses happen regularly. A good coach can help you figure out what your fear triggers are and teach you how to quiet them so you can parent at your best.
Dos and Don’ts in parenting:
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
What should I do when my spouse gets mad at one of our kids but becomes irrationally angry with yelling, arguing and generally makes a "mountain out of a molehill?" Should I support my spouse and whatever punishment and behavior they use with the kids, even though I don’t agree? Or should I tell my spouse to please walk away, because they are losing it, and let me handle it (which will make them mad at me)? How can we have different parenting styles and not have conflict over them? I also worry that my kids like me more because I am more in control, and it’s made my spouse the bad guy. How are they not the bad guy, when they behave this badly?
So, what you are really asking is: “Is it more important to put up a united front in front of the kids, or is it more important to stop my partner from parenting badly (with out-of-control emotion or anger) directed at our child?”
Obviously, both are important, and doing both at the same time should be your goal. But if you have to choose one (in a tense moment), you should choose to protect your child while never making your spouse feel small or bad. Below are some suggestions for handling these intervention moments with love and support.
Defuse the situation
You must learn how to defuse the situation in a respectful, loving way toward your spouse, who is already upset and triggered. If you step into this situation from a position of anger, holier-than-thou self-righteousness or ego, you are going to create conflict and resentment.
You must learn to speak to your spouse as an equal who is as equally flawed as you are — because both of you are imperfect, struggling, scared, students in the classroom of life, who make mistakes. You cannot cast the first stone. You must speak to your spouse with love and compassion for the fears and pain they are feeling in this moment. You must make them feel safe with you, while also making your child safe.
Create a time-out rule in your home
Defusing the situation with love means having careful, mutually validating conversations (which I have outlined in previous articles) to pick a safe word or agree on a time-out rule. This means both of you will agree, ahead of time, if either of you says that word or calls time-out (which you will do if you feel the situation is being driven by fear not love) you will stop talking and step away from the situation to cool down.
You both must agree to take some time and get your own fear triggers under control (your No. 1 job as a human). You must learn how to choose trust in your infinite value and trust in the universe as your perfect classroom to pull yourself together. Then, talk to each other about this situation and get on the same page before you talk to the child. Make sure both of you feel validated, heard, understood, honored, and respected for your feelings. Never talk down to your spouse or make them feel like the bad guy.
There will be times when you must act quickly, though, and you don’t have time for all this communicating. In those situations, just use the safe word as a clue to your spouse that they sound scared. You will use that safe word to love and support them, not to shame them.
Remember, their out-of-control parenting behavior is happening because they are scared of failure or loss, not because they are a bad person or a bad parent. That is why you need a safe word. You need a word to remind each other that unsafe feelings and behavior are showing up, and the real loving parent is not coming through. You both need to make sure it’s love, not fear, that is doing the parenting.
I highly recommend getting some coaching or counseling if reactive fear responses happen regularly. A good coach can help you figure out what your fear triggers are and teach you how to quiet them so you can parent at your best.
Do's and don'ts in parenting:
1. Don’t respond when you are out of control or angry. Take the time to step away and remind yourself you are not failing or losing your child. This experience is just part of your classroom to help you grow. Raising your voice on occasion is inevitable, but swearing, yelling, acting with hateful anger and violence are not acceptable, ever. If this behavior shows up often, you need to get some professional help to work on this.
2. Don't react in fear. When you react in fear, your response is always something that makes you feel safe. If you parent from love, it is not about you; instead, you are focused on what your child needs. You have to learn to quiet your fears of failure and loss so you can parent unselfishly.
3. Do work to earn your child's respect. Children respect parents who are emotionally intelligent. If you are out of control, overly emotional, inconsistent or immature in your reactions, your child will not respect you. You will feel this and it might make you even angrier, and this can become a vicious cycle. You must fix this by getting some help, apologizing for poor past behavior, and making changes.
4. Don't lecture. Lecturing a child for long periods of time, saying the same things over and over, creates resentment and disrespect more than it changes behavior. If you want influence with your child, you'll get it through connection and safety — not lecturing, yelling or punishing. Respectful conversations where you honor their thoughts and feelings create the connection you seek.
5. Do ask questions. A productive parenting conversation involves more listening (by you) than talking. Asking questions will help you truly understand your child and what drove his or her behavior. But you have to create a safe space for them or they won’t let you in and you will have little influence.
6. Don't try to control the situation. You can have control or connection, but rarely both. Control means your child will do what you say in front of you. Connection means you have influence in how they behave away from you.
7. Don’t ever compare your child with siblings or friends.
8. Don’t relish in being "the good parent" while casting your spouse as "the bad parent" (especially if you are divorced). Be a united front that has good communication so your child can love and respect both of you.
9. Don’t criticize your spouse in front of the kids. If you want to talk about bad behavior that bothers you, do it in private and be prepared to own your bad behavior too. Give your spouse room to ask you for behavioral changes — even ask for the feedback as often as you give some.
10. Do parent as a team. Every problem should be addressed as the two of you against the problem, not each of you against the other. Take time to listen, ask questions, validate, honor and respect your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, fears and concerns before you share yours. Apologize, sincerely, for your past bad behavior and own that you have work to do and things to learn. Make your marriage or partnership a place of personal growth and provide a safe place where you can both own your weaknesses without feeling judged.
11. Don’t be so soft on the kids that you force your spouse to be the bad guy. If you tend toward being too nice or lenient, that is just as bad as being too angry or strict. Own that you may need to do some work on the fear issues that drive your leniency.
I highly recommend the "Parenting with Love and Logic" books and "The Conscious Parent" by Shefali Tsbary. They are my go-to books for parenting ideas and help.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
We recently moved to Utah and love our new home, but my son is having trouble with the other children in our neighborhood. I have actually heard kids tell him they won’t or can’t play with him because he is not a member of the dominant Christian religion here. I have seen them run away when they see him coming. He is a sweet, friendly kid, so I know it’s not him. I also have felt awkward with women in the neighborhood, as they definitely treat me like an outsider. I don’t really care about their friendship, they can like me or not, but my son desperately wants to play with the kids near us. What can I do as a mother? How could I change this situation? I figure there isn’t an easy answer, but I wanted to see what you thought.
I am glad you asked this because it's not the first time I have heard about this happening here in Utah. Many find this hard to believe though because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches tolerance, love and acceptance of others. A song they teach their children to sing in primary says, “Jesus said love everyone. Treat them kindly too.” Church leaders also encourage missionary work and fellowshipping neighbors. But sometimes fear overpowers people's ability to love. Just know, not all Latter-day Saints are like this, and most don’t want this happening in their neighborhood either.
Here are some reasons religious discrimination might happen in your neighborhood and how to eliminate it:
1. Fear is likely the problem
The reason your neighbors are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with their church's beliefs could be that they are scared. They believe their choices could have serious eternal consequences. They may fear their children will be led away from their religion by friends who have different beliefs, and to some, that would be as bad as, or worse than, losing a child to death. They may be scared of you and what you represent, and might believe being around you and your kids will make them or their kids want to leave the church.
I want you to understand it could be fear-driven so you will understand it’s not about you or your kids. It’s about feeling safe. Having said that, it doesn’t make it OK.
2. Differences scare people
It is basic human nature to feel more comfortable with people who are just like you. We all choose friends with whom we have things in common. We do this because we have a subconscious tendency to compare ourselves with others, and differences of any kind inherently mean someone is better (or right) and someone is worse (or wrong). Because of our tendency to compare, it feels safer to stick with people who are more like us, where the risk of "better or worse" isn’t in play. This may be what is motivating your neighbors.
I believe there is a divine purpose in differences in the people around us. Differences stretch us and show us the limits of our love so we can work on them. We are very loving to most people right up to that limit line where fear takes over. Differences provide opportunities to grow and become more loving. We need to fear not growing and stretching (the real reason we are here) more than we fear differences and possibly being wrong.
3. They may fear some specific things in your home
Drinking coffee and alcohol may scare your neighbors or make them uncomfortable. So, if you have coffee or alcohol in your home where kids can see it, they might be scared to allow their children in your house. You might consider keeping it somewhere that cannot be seen or accessed by children (even restaurants in Utah have to keep bar areas separate from dining areas where children eat).
Using the Lord’s name in vain or swearing in general is another thing that could create discomfort.
Being aware of these differences gives you the opportunity to change some things that will make your neighbors more comfortable. You may or may not agree with their reasoning, but the reality is making some small changes could help your children make more friends.
4. Address the kids' parents directly
Learn how to have a mutually validating conversation and create a space where you can honor their beliefs, feelings and fears, and ask them to honor your beliefs, values and needs. This means having a loving conversation where both parties feel understood and not attacked. It might be tempting to let them have it, and either get confrontational or weepy with self-pity; they probably won’t respect either.
Start by asking questions about their beliefs and whether they feel uncomfortable with non-members. If you can ask it from a place of honestly wanting to understand — not accuse or put down — they might be open to talking about it.
After you have listened to them and their views, ask if they would be open to letting you share what your son is experiencing. Don’t use phrases like “you did this" and "your kids did that;" use “we” statements like "we have experienced," "we found," "it’s our observation," etc. Then ask if they would be open to figuring out a way their kids and yours can be friends — a way that would make you both feel more comfortable. Most people are totally open to working this out. They might like to be your friends and have just felt uncomfortable talking about it. Honor and respect their beliefs while also asking them to honor yours.
5. Talk to some of your other Latter-day Saint neighbors
Let other members of the church who live in your neighborhood know what is happening and see if they might be willing to ask others to make sure your children are included.
Good people everywhere, of every religion, believe in treating others as you would want to be treated. The only thing that gets in the way is fear for our own safety and well-being. If we are afraid, our fears make us subconsciously selfish. I am sure your neighbors didn’t intend to hurt your kids; they may just be scared of differences. They just need a little reassurance that you understand them, and you should be able to improve the relationship.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is the founder and president of Claritypointcoaching.com and www.12shapes.com. She has a podcast called "Explain People" on iTunes and you can read all her articles at coachkimgiles.com
This was first published on KSL.com
I am very frustrated with my mother and some of her answers to things. I find that she lies or tells me things she doesn’t mean all the time. I just want her to tell the truth, even if it’s not what I would like. I think she tells me what she thinks the right answer is, instead. Like when I ask if she is going to go to something, she says no probably not, then she ends up going. Or she says she will talk to my sister about something and then she doesn’t. I have asked her repeatedly to just be honest, but this keeps happening. How can I get her to be honest?
This might be happening because she doesn't feel safe enough with you to tell you the truth. Before I explain how to make her feel safer, I want you to understand some things about human beings. I believe, there are only two types of people on this planet:
1. Fear-of-failure dominant people
2. Fear-of-loss dominant people
All fear-of-failure dominant people are severely challenged at speaking their truth, they avoid confrontation, shy away from conflict, and prefer to keep everything and everyone peaceful, no matter the cost. Because of these tendencies, they are often doormats and their tendency to people please can cause a lot of relationship problems.
All fear-of-loss dominant people are very good at speaking their truth, they usually win in confrontation or conflict, and they don’t mind a good argument. Because of these tendencies, they scare the crap out of group one.
From your email, I am fairly confident you are the latter group and it might be hard for you to even imagine why speaking the truth is so hard. It’s always difficult to understand people who are vastly different from us. But fear of failure dominant have a strong subconscious program that says, “It is safer not to speak up.”
Here are two reasons some people lie:
1. They might want to avoid responsibility, trouble or punishment.
2. They don’t feel safe enough to tell you the truth because they are afraid of your reaction.
It sounds to me like your mother is a fear-of-failure dominant person who is terribly afraid to speak her truth to you about some of these issues. This might be because you have had a tendency in the past to react badly, react selfishly, question her motives, argue with her decisions, and otherwise dishonor her right to be where she is and want what she wants.
It is not your job to fix your mother's problems with fear, people-pleasing and lying. But you could do some things to improve the relationship and start making her feel safer with you.
You can do that by doing the following things. (These suggestions would also apply to any relationship where you want the other person to feel safe with you.)
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder of 12 Shapes Inc. and the host of a podcast Explain People on iTunes. She is a sought after coach, speaker and corporate people skills trainer.
This was first published on KSL.COM
My husband has a tendency to use sarcasm and teasing with our young children. Our daughter is not, in my opinion, thriving with the teasing and sarcasm because she takes what he says literally. If her dad says, “Clean up your toys, or I will throw them all away," then our daughter drops to the floor in tears and upset. She gets upset because she doesn’t know the difference between sarcasm and reality, and it causes her a lot distress. When this happens I come to her defense and get bothered with my husband’s behavior and we end up fighting about it. Do you agree this behavior is a problem? How can I explain to my husband why he needs to change how he talks to her? I worry about his relationship with our kids and I appreciate any advice.
The dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark." Obviously, this isn’t positive.
Sarcastic comments — though oftentimes humorous — can also be passive-aggressive, mean, cutting and often uncomfortable to the people receiving them. Sarcasm can be the “wit that wounds” and children can’t see the humor in it or understand it until they're older.
In an article for Psychology Today, Signe Whitson writes, “Sarcasm relies on a type of subtlety that most children under the age of 8 do not pick up on. While the majority of adult communication occurs non-verbally through gestures, body languages and tone of voice, children are much more apt to interpret words literally and to miss or disregard non-verbal cues.”
Whitson says sarcasm, when used repeatedly, is a form of verbal abuse.
“It is a passive aggressive behavior in which the speaker expresses covert hostilities in sugarcoated, 'humorous' ways,” she said.
Many kids don’t have the maturity or confidence to handle sarcasm or teasing well. It is critical that we think about a child’s comprehension level and their emotional needs before we use sarcasm or tease them. You may have to communicate differently with each of your children and mindfully choose words that validate, educate and encourage them.
Think about each child in your home and ask yourself the following questions:
You can be funny all you want, but if you do it at the expense of other people, they may not feel safe with you and may end up not liking you. This would be unfortunate with your kids.
My best advice is to slow down and pause before saying anything. Think about why you want to say what you are about to say. Is it love-motivated? Does it really need to be said? Does it meet this specific child’s needs? Take the time to figure out what each of your children need from you and decide how you should change the way you communicate to accomplish this.
If you are living with a sarcastic person, here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with them:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of www.claritypointcoaching.com and you can take her free Clarity Assessment on her website. It is the first step to understanding human behavior and becoming your best self.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — This article is for parents. It's when they discover their teenager is sneaking out, is sexually active, is taking drugs or participating in any other scary, bad behavior.
How you react to this news or discovery matters. If you react badly, with an emotional, scared, selfish, angry, overblown in panicked reaction, you could push them further away from you and end up with less influence in their lives. If you respond right, you can strengthen your connection, build trust and gain more influence.
1. Don’t freak out
This discovery may feel like the end of the world; it isn’t. You must choose to trust the universe knows what it’s doing. This is the perfect classroom journey experience, showing up for you and your child, and to provide the lessons you both apparently need. Trust that your teen has signed themselves up for this lesson, because it’s the one they need, and you are going to become stronger, wiser and more loving through this too.
2. Don’t shame or berate them
We all make mistakes, have bad judgment, and try things we know are bad for us. We are human and making mistakes is a vital part of our classroom journey. So, you must not ever shame, humiliate, judge or berate your child for being a human being in process. This is the biggest mistake parents make. They approach their child from a position of above — better, more righteous and perfect — and talk down to their teen, who they view as stupid, bad and wrong. Our egos love this behavior, but it ruins relationships.
Get off your high horse and remember you aren’t perfect either, you have character flaws and you have made mistakes. Get down on their level and see both of you as the same, struggling scared students in the classroom of life, who both have a lot more to learn. Tell them you are a student in the classroom with them and apparently you both get to learn something here. Admit you have made tons of mistakes and there is no shame or judgment coming from you. Your only desire is to be here, help them sort it all out and figure out what they want. You are here to listen and no matter what, be on their side. This approach makes it you and your teen together against a problem, not against each other.
3. Don’t lecture, just listen
When you start lecturing, they tune you out. They do this because it’s all about you and not about them at all. When you lecture, you are saying things that make you feel better and safer. You are not saying things that actually help your teen.
So zip it and get ready for a long conversation where you say very little. It is time to ask questions and get to know your child at a deeper level. You will not believe how much you will learn about your child, if you ask questions and listen more than you talk. If your teen won’t talk to you (because you have not listened very well in the past, you may have to apologize for that and promise this time will be different). If they still won’t trust or talk to you, you might have to find another adult they can be honest with.
Tell your teen you just want to understand where they are, how they feel, what they want in life, and figure out how you can support them. Ask them to be honest with you and you can handle the truth without freaking out (and mean it). If you can’t handle the truth and stay out of judgment, fear and anger, then you won’t earn this place in their life. You may need to find another adult, a counselor, coach or leader, who they will talk to, while you work on building trust again.
If they will talk, ask questions, which help you understand what drives their behavior. The main drivers of behavior are what they fear most and what they value most. So, ask questions that explore these. Ask them to tell you what matters most to them from these four things:
Then, ask them if they can see how their behavior might be about meeting that need. Ask if they would be open to finding some healthier solutions or sources to meet that need. Ask them to tell you what might be healthier ways. Ask them about their goals, wants, and dreams in life, and explain your role, as their parent, is to support and help them to create the life they want and feel good about themselves. (Notice this is all done by asking not telling).
4. Ask permission to share
If you feel you must tell a story, give advice or make rules, ask them if they would be open to letting you go here. “Would you be willing to let me share my beliefs and values and how I feel about this with you?” If you have spent enough time listening first, you will have earned the right to go here now.
Asking permission is a powerful way to show your teen you respect and honor them, and the more you do this, the more they will respect you back. If they say no, say I respect that and move onto the part about creating rules together.
5. Don’t make unrealistic rules
Your teen is going to find a way to do whatever they want to do, no matter what your rules are. So, your cracking down and trying to control their life doesn’t really work and forbidding them from ever seeing their boyfriend or their friends again isn’t realistic.
It makes more sense to help them set some new boundaries and rules to help them create the life they want, but you must include the teen in figuring out what these new rules should be. These should be rules that help them protect themselves, from their own tendency to get into trouble. Decide on curfews, routine drug tests, access to tech, the car, etc.
Help them figure out why making better choices is the right thing for them, so they will want to make these good choices on their own when you aren’t there to control them. You want a smarter teen who makes good choices for themselves. This is much safer than control is. Also, remember you can have control or connection, and the later gives you more influence.
Your teen may keep making bad choices though, and if this happens, you may need to seek out some professional help (sooner than later). This is hard for parents though. You don’t want to see them make painful, costly decisions, but it is their journey and you will suffer less when you respect that. Focus on unconditional love, good boundaries and limits, and staying out of judgment and shaming. Keep choosing love over fear and listen to your intuition, as you are entitled to know what's right for your child.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the human behavior expert who solves people problems at home and work. Check out her new app at 12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com
SALT LAKE CITY — I get many questions submitted these days from concerned parents who are struggling to connect and have influence with their teens. Kids today have access to friends and information on every subject 24/7. Parents are finding it more difficult than ever to maintain real influence to guide their teens.
In order to have real influence you must have real connection and mutual respect. Below are eight ways parents sometimes behave that can erode their relationships, create disconnection and cause them to lose influence:
1. Have emotional and immature reactions, in anger, self-pity or fear
When parents are emotionally immature, reactive, or lose control, teens lose respect. They want you to be the adult, see situations clearly, and respond with wisdom and love. When you aren’t able to do that and respond immaturely they lose respect for you as an adult.
If you struggle with emotional immaturity and often blow your top, go to a self-pity or drama place, or use ridiculous threats, there are resources to help you deal with your emotions. If the problem continues, you may want to seek out some professional help to change that behavior.
The best thing a parent could do for their child is to work on their own self-worth and relationship skills. Learn how to process emotions in a healthy way and get control of your temper.
2. Try to force them and be controlling
Oppressed people always rebel. It’s just human nature. Have you ever tried to drag someone in one direction? What do they automatically do? They pull the other way. No one likes to be forced (even if they want to go the way you are pulling, they will always resist being forced).
It would be wiser to spend time asking questions and helping teens figure out which options create the best results in their lives and encourage them to make good choices on their own, for themselves. This way they make good choices even when you aren’t around.
3. Engage in power struggles
Parents who try to demand obedience and make teens obey soon find out they really have no control. There are very few things you can force another person to do. You can make them sit at a table to study, but you can’t force them to read or understand what they are reading. You can demand a bedtime, but you can’t force them to sleep. These kinds of power struggles erode connection and drive children away from you.
When you engage in force, you are making yourself the enemy. It makes more sense to stay on their team, not fight against them. You both want the same thing in the end, a happy, healthy, productive adult. Approach every issue as the two of you against the problem, never against each other.
4. Tell them the same thing over and over
Lectures are rarely effective and when you say the same thing, in different ways over and again in one sitting, your teen stops listening. This is not the way to gain influence or connection with your child. Teens also get offended when you insult their intelligence and assume they aren’t getting what you’re saying. Trust me, they heard you.
What you are feeling is their resistance to how it’s being communicated. It’s not a conversation you are having, it is a one-way lecture and there is no connection involved. If you want to have a conversation about an issue with your teen it requires you to ask questions, listen and really hear their thoughts and feelings too.
If you need to be a dictator and give a speech, just expect eye rolls and disrespect, because respect has to be a two-way street. It also has to be earned through mature, calm, intelligent and validating communication.
5. Be hypocritical (say one thing yet do the other)
You lose all credibility when you don’t practice what you preach, and I guarantee your kids notice. They are learning much more from watching you than from anything you say. They may be learning how they don’t want to behave in the future or how to not treat their children.
Fortunately, your value as a human being isn’t affected by your performance, so you still have the same value as the rest of us. But it is your job to keep working on yourself and own it if you make mistakes. Never underestimate the power of being vulnerable and admitting when you are wrong — there are few better ways to connect with your kids.
6. Be disrespectful and talk down to them
You earn their respect by treating them with respect. Imagine how you would handle the conversation about their messy room if it was a friend staying with you. How would you speak to the friend about the mess? Try speaking to your own kids with that level of respect and you will get what I mean. When you talk down to teens, they can get offended and pull away from you. Any discipline, counsel or correction can be delivered with respect.
7. Talk more than you listen
Nothing shows a teenager that it’s all about you faster than this. Make sure in every conversation you are asking questions and listening to their views as much or more than you are talking. You will be amazed by what you learn.
Smart parents can ask the right questions and get a teen to figure out what they were going to say, without saying a word. That is real learning that lasts, too.
8. Spoil them or make their life too easy
This creates entitled teens who don’t listen and just demand and expect to have what they want. Make sure they learn young to earn what they have.
Your job is to prepare them for the real world, where phone plans cost money and get turned off if aren’t paid for. Let them fail often and learn these lessons now, in your home, when the lessons are less expensive.
If you have a hard time saying no or pulling back on privileges because they are used to being spoiled, seek out some professional help to show you how to do this in a loving, firm way.
Some people may think I am putting all the blame for a relationship problem on the parents. It does take two to create the mess you might be in, and your teen's bad behavior is obviously half the problem — but you are the adult.
It is your job to be accountable for your half. If you don’t have the skills and tools to handle parenting in a mature, wise, loving way, it is your job to seek them out. When you decided to have children, you accepted the responsibility of the parent role. You must take the role seriously and study, learn and grow in it.
The more you learn and grow, you will be able to model better behavior for your kids, and they will be better prepared to work on their side.
You can do this.
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/
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional 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.