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Parenting Teens with Loving Authority

Let’s face it, as parents we all struggle to balance authority and love. When our kids are being respectful and obedient, it’s much easier for us to be kind, patient, and giving. When our teenagers are argumentative, rude, and ungrateful, we find ourselves wanting to exercise our authority. Watch this quick video to learn a little bit how you can balance the two for maximum effect. HINT: It’s all about going slowly.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Thankfulness

Be thankful for your kids, they are a gift from God. Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be thankful for your kids, they are a gift from God.
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have so much to be grateful for.  It is incredible that we can live in a country with so much freedom.  God truly blessed each and every one of us in ways we take for granted every single day.  Even having clean water and enough to eat is not a given in many parts of the world.

 

The reason I remind you of this is because if you’re reading my blog it means you’re probably hurting.  It means your teenager is behaving in some way that scares you.  It means you’re feeling overwhelmed as a parent and you aren’t sure what to do to help your child.  That is the most helpless feeling in the world.

 

It does us a lot of good to count our blessings.  This is especially true when it comes to your teenager.  I realize things are tough right now, but there are a lot of things going right too.  It’s very easy to become very focused on resolving one problem.  When you do this, you forget to see all the other things that aren’t problems.

 

I have a few clients in my therapy practice who struggle with body image.  Their focus on their body image is so intense that it often dominates the teen’s whole life.  It’s difficult for the parents of these teens because they worry about whether their child is eating enough, exercising too much, or just loathing their appearance.  The parents of these children have found it helpful to refocus on what is going right with their kids.  In some of the cases, these teens still maintain good grades and do not use any substances.  They are still loving and engaged with the family.  These parents try and keep perspective that there is a lot going well even though there is also a problem.

 

Life is like that, isn’t it?  We see problems run parallel with blessings all the time.  We shouldn’t ignore the problems, but we shouldn’t ignore the blessings either.  In fact, if you think back over your whole life, I bet you can hardly identify a time when things were all good or all bad.

 

Raising kids is about maintaining the perspective that things could always be better and always be worse.  Tell them constantly what you’re thankful for about them.  Work with them on improving what they can do better, but don’t make that the only thing you talk about- that would come across as critical.  You want them to know all the reasons you think they’re great too.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MFT

Clarifying Morals for your Teenager

“So I totally think it’s fine to steal from Target because they’re a big corporation. I mean, who is it really hurting? They make tons of profits and they’re just greedy anyways.” This is something I heard straight from the mouth of a teenage client a few weeks ago. The parents don’t believe stealing is appropriate in any circumstance. They definitely aren’t training their kids to be envious, which is the sinful character flaw that leads to the belief, “You have too much so I deserve to take it from you.” Envy is much more destructive than jealousy.

The problem is this child’s parents aren’t paying any attention. Their teenager is learning from Tik Tok videos, Instagram, and whatever other corner of the internet they’ve found. The kid didn’t even realize what she was saying because she has not been provided enough moral training to recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was a big wake-up call for the family that they have to put more time and effort into moral training.

We grew up in a time when not stealing was a given. Society did a lot of the moral training for us. It’s not the case anymore. Your child can wind up in the company of people (via the internet) who continue to perpetuate bad ideas because social media helps us find like-minded people. We no longer have to rub shoulders with people who think differently than we do. While we may be more comfortable this way, we definitely don’t grow as humans. Like it or not, it’s just the way it is now.

This means you as parents have to be EXTREMELY intentional about training your kids up in what is right and wrong. You cannot let the current trends or dictates of society make that determination for them. History shows us how incredibly wrong many trends end up being. Of course this means some of what is popular to believe today will not pan out to be good.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Connecting With Teens Instead of Only Disciplining

I am enrolled in an 8 week class on how to help parents of adopted children connect better as they bring the new child into their home. While I don’t have any adopted children (hats off to those of you who do- what a loving and selfless act), I have gleaned some very helpful information. I tried one of the techniques on my obstinate 5 year old this week and it helped me feel compassion rather than frustration when he lashed out in anger. I will take compassion towards my children over frustration any day!

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Catch Your Teen Being Good

Catch your kid being good instead of only when they do wrong. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Catch your kid being good in order to improve the relationship.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was an intern my supervisor used to tell me one of her favorite pieces of advice to give parents was to, “Catch your kid being good.”  She’d say that so often by the time a parent brings their child into counseling, they are at their wits end with their child.  She’d say exasperated parents make impatient parents; impatient parents make parents who are overly focused on the negative; parents who are overly focused on the negative make critical parents; critical parents make irritable children.

I see this in my counseling office on a pretty regular basis.  It’s not that the parents who are coming in are bad parents, or are unloving to their teenagers.  Most of the time they love their teens tremendously, but are just overwhelmed with how to help them stay on track.  Some resort to the tactic of trying to correct things as they see them.  This is fine when the relationship is in a good place.  However, if the relationship is strained then it doesn’t tend to work very well.

If you are wondering whether you might be in this cycle with your adolescent, try something different for a week and see if it helps.  As my former supervisor, Leslie Gustafson used to say, “Catch your kid being good.”

What does that mean?  We are quick to comment on, and punish our kids for doing bad.  If they score a low grade on a test, tell a lie, sneak, sass, etc., we feel we must do something about it.  When our kids are respectful, do their chores on time, are honest, etc. we think that should be status quo.  We tend to say nothing much about it because we think that’s how it should be anyway.  We save the praise for A’s on tests, going above and beyond around the house, or when our kids randomly show us extra appreciation.

For this week, try making affirming comments when you see your child just doing the status quo.  When you notice your teenager doing anything small that is the “right” thing to do, praise them.  Maybe you came home from work and noticed they had started their homework on their own.  Instead of saying, “See, isn’t it easier when you start your homework early?” which comes across as a little condescending, say, “That’s awesome that you take initiative to get your work done!”  If your teenager clears their dish after dinner, thank them.  Try to resist the urge to then remind them they also need to wipe down the table.

You have the power to change the interaction with your teenager, and the power to influence their attitude.  All it takes is a few words of praise when they are doing the small things right.  You will be kinder to them because chances are, there are parts of them that are a really good kid.  There’s also a good chance they will enjoy the praise, and want to keep doing that thing you commented on in order to get more praise from you.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

5 Things That Raise Your Teen’s Anxiety

Being too busy is overwhelming and causes anxiety. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stress is overwhelming for teens.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

These are in random order:

1. The news:  Your teenagers are susceptible to the scare tactics used by the media just as much as everyone else.  What I mean by scare tactics is that bad news and anxiety cause people to  continue watching the news.  In my office I have worked with many a terrified teenager after they read about a school shooting thousands of miles away, or the war on terror, etc.  The 24 hour news cycle about COVID-19 is sending many of your kids into panic.

2. Problems with friends:  Friends are your teenager’s world.  As a parent you likely have enough perspective to realize things will iron out.  However, for your adolescent, when things are off balance with friends their whole world seems upside down.

3. Pressure to get good grades:  This is a constant source of anxiety for just about every teenager I see in my office.  Most teenagers feel they need to do better than they are doing, even when they have a 3.5 or 4.0 GPA.  Help your teen set reasonable goals and then be satisfied when these are reached.  Help them remember there’s only one valedictorian each year.

4. Parents expressing disappointment:  Your teenager might act as though he or she doesn’t care that you are disappointed in something they did.  This couldn’t be father from the truth.  Every teenager I’ve ever worked with wants their parents to approve of him or her.  However, if they don’t know how to get this approval, or if they perceive you as being regularly critical, they are more stressed.

5. Dating:  Navigating the world of dating and sexuality is very challenging for a teenager.  Whether they are painfully shy and hardly allow themselves to have a crush, or are dating constantly and sexually active, this causes stress for adolescents.  It’s really important to help your teen make wise dating choices during their adolescence.  Keep in mind that if they aren’t getting help from you, they’re getting it from other teenagers.  Who is more likely to give good advice?  So, please don’t put your head in the sand and please don’t forbid dating.  That only causes your teenagers to sneak.  Instead put good boundaries around dating and monitor it as best you can.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT