Tag Archive for boundaries

Parents, Don’t Give In to These Self-Defeating Thoughts

How a parent thinks will influence how they parent. Here are six statements I hear from parents that interfere with effective parenting.

  1. “I know my kids better than they know themselves.” Good parents do know their children well. They learn when their children need to rest. They can tell when their children are hungry or need to go to the bathroom. They learn the nuances of their children’s moods. However, assuming we know more about our children than they know about themselves sets us up for conflict and disaster. After all, children change. They don’t like peanut butter today but love it tomorrow. Sue was her best friend yesterday but her antagonist today. And, who can really know another person’s emotion, intent, or motivation? With that in mind, we need to check our assumptions and not let them prejudice our responses. Instead, ask your children about their feelings, their motivations, and their intent. Watch and observe them in action. Let them tell you about themselves through their words and actions as you learn about them every day. You might be surprised what you learn.
  2. “I have to worry. It’s a parent’s job.” It is true. Parents worry and, chances are, parents will continue to worry. However, a parent’s worry doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t keep children safe. A parent’s worry does not protect children. In fact, if worry takes over it can actually harm children by preventing them from becoming involved in healthy activities that might worry their parents. A better job description for parent involves concern, not worry.  A parent’s concern allows them to teach their children how to remain safe. Concern allows the opportunity for children to learn from the consequences of their own mistakes when the stakes are low. Concern allows for discussion about various activities and discussion allows for teaching.  Let’s change a parent’s job description from “worry” to “concern.” Parent and child will benefit!
  3. “My kids are my life.” Children are an important part of a parent’s life. But, if you’re a parent who say’s “my kids are my life,” your teen will likely offer the best advice when they say, “Get a life!” (More parenting advice from teens in Parenting Advice to Parents of Teens…From Teens)When children become the sole purpose of our lives, our lives suffer. Marriages suffer. Health suffers. We don’t take care of ourselves. Our children need us to model self-care so they learn the importance of taking care of ourselves. If they see us constantly caring for them and running ourselves ragged to meet their needs they might incorporate an unhealthy message about adulthood. “It’s no fun as an adult. Who wants to become an adult when all they do is what everyone else wants? I’ll never grow up.” Give children a sweet spot in your life and heart, but don’t make them the sole purpose of your every waking hour. Get a hobby. Make some friends. Enjoy some adult activities. Get a life.
  4. “I love my kids too much.” I hear this from parents who are afraid to discipline. They love their children “too much” and fear their children will learn to hate them for discipline received. Truth be told, our children want structure. They actually long for discipline. They may not admit it in the moment (or even realize it in their younger years) but they will appreciate it as they mature. Discipline provides a measure of predictability, safety, and security our children need to thrive. It lets our children know we love them enough to teach them and keep them safe. Discipline establishes a baseline of limits and values our children can internalize as they mature. These limits and boundaries will promote success as they engage the world independently. Limits, boundaries, and values also teach our children that “you can’t always get what you want…you get what you need.” It allows them to learn how to manage the frustrations that accompany not getting what you want. So, do your children a favor. Love them enough to discipline.
  5. “We need more discipline in this house.” As George Banks so aptly said in Mary Poppins, “Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools. Without them-disorder! Catastrophe! Anarchy! In short, we have a ghastly mess!” Discipline and structure are an important part of a healthy home, but not the foundation or the only part. Discipline alone leads to fear. Fear of not doing good enough. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of failure. People who live in a home in which discipline forms the foundation tend to struggle with self-confidence. And, when they taste the freedom of less discipline, they rebel. Children who grow up in a home with tight structure, discipline, and schedule do not learn how to manage their time. When they leave home, they still do not know how to manage time. As you can see, unlike George Banks’ beliefs, it is too much discipline that leads to catastrophe, anarchy, a ghastly mess! Instead, balance discipline with connection, structure with relationship, limits with love.
  6. “Kids will be kids” or “boys will be boys.” This is true…to a point. I hear these statements used too often as an excuse for low expectations. Yes, “kids will be kids” but parents must teach them responsibility. Yes, “boys will be boys” but they need to learn respect and self-control. Rather than simply say “kids will be kids,” say “kids will be kids and kids can learn.” In fact, kids love to learn. Take the time to teach them responsibility, respect, honor, and self-control.

An Ounce of Prevention

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s a wise saying for many areas of life, including parenting. It is much more satisfying to prevent the crisis rather than deal with a problem after it arises; to look ahead and avoid the trouble rather than deal with the aftermath of troubling behavior.

With that in mind, here are a few preventative steps to take with your children.

  • If you want your children to eat healthy foods, eat regular family meals in which you serve healthy food.
  • Remove TV’s and game systems from your children’s bedrooms to prevent your children from spending all their time in their bedroom.
  • Buy fruits and healthy snacks to keep in your house instead of junk food if you want your children to limit the amount of junk food they eat.
  • If you want to limit how much time your children spend playing video games, get them involved in community activities with your family and as individuals (like sports, dance, music, youth group, etc.).
  • Build strong relationships with your children by showing interest in their activities, having regular family meals, and engaging in open communications with them to decrease the chances of your children becoming involved in drug use.
  • Model enjoyment of reading, read with your children, and share books with your children to raise children who read.
  • Involve your children in significant household chores and do the chores together if you want your children to become hard workers.
  • Each day spend time with your children identifying things for which you are grateful to help prevent children who develop a sense of entitlement.
  • Model kindness to others and to your family in order to prevent your children from becoming rude.
  • If you want your children to become creative and learn to have fun, get toys that require imagination— like dolls, action figures, and empty boxes.
  • If you want your house to be the house where all the kids come and so allow you to keep an eye on what they’re doing, keep lots of food in the house and build positive relationships with your children’s friends.
  • Teach your children an emotional vocabulary as they experience various emotions in order to prevent future meltdowns.
  • Apologize when you are wrong to prevent irresponsibility in your children.

Each of these preventive steps will lead to healthier children and a happier home.  Benjamin Franklin was right. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Family Rules: The Guardrails of Safety

From the time my children could walk (and even before), my family has enjoyed walking along the ridge of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh, PA. Our daughters often ran ahead of us and darted out onto the overlooks. They would run right to the edge of the overlook and MtWash3peer through the fence at the panoramic view of Pittsburgh and the three rivers. We enjoyed those walks. Others did too. We saw high school couples taking prom pictures with the city of Pittsburgh as a backdrop. We even watched one romantic wedding proposal (she answered “yes”). We looked forward to walking, running, and skipping across the ridge of Mt. Washington; and, we never worried about our children’s safety. We simply enjoyed our family while looking over the ridge at the three rivers of Pittsburgh. Know why we never worried? Guardrails! Guardrails lined the ridge and each overlook. They kept us (and our children) from “going too far” and falling over the edge. They protected us. They added to our safety and allowed us to simply focus on enjoying one another in the moment.

Loving rules act as guardrails in families. They clearly delineate the limits and keep family members from “going too far.” They protect family members from hurting themselves or one another. They add a measure of safety to our lives and allow family members to enjoy one another more freely. All families benefit from clear, concise rules that create security. Establishing effective rules can prove a challenge. In fact, the rules may vary according to family, ages, places, or times. But, if you keep these five principles in mind when establishing family rules, you will enjoy the benefits of a healthy security and growing intimacy.

  • MtWash2Keep rules to a minimum. Too many rules become a burden and take the focus away from enjoying the relationship. Besides, you don’t need a rule for every situation. Some things are simply taught during daily interactions and don’t require a formal rule. Rather than making a rule for every situation, focus on rules that promote safety and respectful interactions. (Read Lincoln on the Parental Tyrant)
  • Establish reasonable rules. Rules are most effective when they make sense, when they have a logical foundation. When children ask about the reason for a certain rule, give them a clear and concise age appropriate reason. If the only reason for a rule is “because I said so,” you might want to reconsider that rule. (Read Because I Said So to learn more)
  • Make sure the rule is enforceable…and that you are willing to enforce it. Nothing undermines a good rule like lack of follow through. Enforceable rules focus on actions and behaviors—not attitudes, feelings, or thoughts. We cannot enforce an attitude, feeling, or way of thinking. However, we can enforce appropriate behaviors reflective of those attitudes, feelings, or thoughts. Effective rules focus on those behaviors. They define specific behavioral expectations and the realistic consequences related to them.
  • Effective consequences match the behavior. In other words, make sure the punishment fits the crime. A four-year-old who neglects to brush their teeth requires a very different response than a sixteen-year-old caught drinking. The rules and the consequences need to fit the situation and the child. (Parenting Advice from Horton the Elephant offers more)
  • Effective rules are undergirded by loving relationships. Vague, ambiguous rules result in too much slack and free reign to children who do not have the experience or wisdom to make some of those choices. Too many rules and rules based on “absolute black and white thinking” result in a lack of needed flexibility. They create a rigidity that prevents children from internalizing the “spirit of the law” and making it their own. The balance between these two extremes, between permissiveness and rigidity, is found in rules that flow from loving relationships. (Read Relationships Rule for more)

These five principles will help you establish loving, clear, effective rules that will protect your family from “going too far” and allow you to more fully enjoy your family.

5 Ways to Check the Teen Attitude at the Door

If you have a pre-teen or teen, you have probably encountered “the attitude.” I can imagine all those who have a teen nodding their head in agreement as you recall the condescending stare, rolling eyes, exasperating sigh, impatient shifting of weight, and sarcastic tone of voice. If you are like me, just thinking about it raises your blood pressure. As hard as it is to believe, this new “attitude” does mean that your child is reaching a new level of maturity and independence…and that’s a positive thing. The “teen attitude” is often an attempt to assert some independence from the parental control they experienced and needed as a child. However, their brains are still not fully developed. The emotional networks of their brain are more developed than the planning networks of their brain. As a result, their words come out laced with sarcasm and anger while revealing little forethought into whether this helps or hinders them reaching their goal. Sarcasm, by the way, also shows growing mental ability. They have matured to the level of knowing that tone impacts the subtle meaning of what is said, expressing a “double meaning.” They have not learned how to plan ahead in using that new understanding, but…. (Sarcasm, a new mental skill…woohoo, let’s celebrate.)

In their growing desire to become “their own person,” our teens want to know how everything will affect them. They have also learned how to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Combine perspective taking (a fairly new ability for pre-teens), wanting to know how everything affects me, a well-developed emotional brain, and an underdeveloped planning brain…and you get a teen overly concerned with every little blemish or misplaced hair.  This translates into “attitude,” complaining about appearance, getting overly upset about seemingly small issues, thinking the world revolves around their schedule…you know the drill.

Even though a teen attitude is a normal part of their development, we still want to help them grow beyond that attitude. We still want to help them learn to use their planning brain, to shift concern from themselves to others, and to speak respectfully. Understanding some of the origins of their “attitude” merely helps us not take it personal, remain calm (rather than throttle them as they roll their eyes), and discipline with love. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to help your teen mature, in spite of their attitude.

1.   Talk to your teen when they show their “attitude.” Don’t get an attitude back. Take a deep breath and respond with love. Ask them what is going on in their life. Sometimes an attitude flows out of frustration over problems at school, hurt feelings in peer relationships, or fear about some future event. Sometimes all we need to do to lose the attitude is listen…listen well.

2.   When possible, ignore the attitude…especially when your teen still follows through with your requests and rules. Realize that some attitude is normal and even beneficial in helping your teen establish healthy independence. Knowing this, don’t respond to them when they approach you with an attitude. As you ignore the attitude, your teen will learn that they do not get what they want when they ask with “attitude.” ignore the evil eye, the rolling eye, the exasperated sigh…realize that these too shall pass.  

3.   If your teen’s attitude turns to name-calling, defiance, or disrespect, discipline. Attitude is fleeting, disrespect needs adjusting. Be prepared to discipline. Know the natural consequences and calmly discipline in response to disrespect and defiance. Stand strong to say, “No, I don’t want to lend my car to someone who treats me so disrespectfully.” Or, “No, I won’t give you money for the movie because you didn’t do the chores you said you would do.”

4.   Point out sarcasm when it occurs and explain how sarcasm affects the person hearing it…like you. Encourage them to say what they feel and want directly, politely, and without sarcasm. Even if they don’t get what they want, the discussion will still prove more satisfying for both parties involved. Oh…and watch your own sarcasm. It is hard to end sarcasm in your teen if they hear it from you all the time!

5.   Avoid being all things to your teen. You do not have to serve as cook, chauffer, bank, tutor, clothes washer, secretary, water bottle washer, alarm clock, and schedule manager for your teen. Sure, you will help in all these areas, but teach your teen to do these tasks independently as well. Doing so will strengthen that planning brain. Put them in charge of some meaningful household chores to teach them that they have a role in keeping “our home” running smoothly.

5 tips to help deal with the teen attitude. If you’d like more information on the teen brain, check out
A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain. And, keep reading our blog for more ideas.

Mom Was Right…Again!

It looks like Mom was right…again. (Don’t you hate having to admit that?) All this time I thought she was just torturing me by setting bedtime at 8 pm when I was little—even in the summer when the sun was still out! But, somehow Mom knew even before the researchers figured it out. Now, I don’t want this to go to your head Mom, but…you were right.


A study published on July 12, 2013, supports Mom’s bedtime and shows that children benefit from a regular bedtime. In this study, researchers met with over 10,000 children and their families. They completed home visits that included interviews with the family when the children were 3-, 5-, and 7-years-old.  The home visit also included a cognitive assessment of the 7-year-olds. The results of this data suggested that not having a regular bedtime at 3 years of age was associated with lower scores in reading, math, and spatial relations for both genders when they reached 7-years of age. Not having a regular bedtime at 5-years of age was associated with lower scores in reading for 7-year-old girls and lower scores in math for 7-year-old boys. Even more disturbing, not having a regular bedtime throughout the preschool and early elementary years had a cumulative effect, lowering scores even more. (Read More on MedPage Today)


I know, you might think that not having a regular bedtime reveals a less structured and more chaotic family life; and, that lack of structure and the resulting chaos produced the lower test scores…that was my first thought as well. But, after carefully reading the study, I discovered that the researchers had accounted for that chaos and lack of structure. Not having a regular bedtime lowered scores in math, reading, and spatial relations for 7-year-olds independent of the structure in the home!


I learned two important lessons from this study. One, if you want your children to excel in school and develop strong skills in reading, math, and spatial relations, establish a reasonable bedtime for them early in life. Sure, this regular bedtime will change with age, but keeping a regular bedtime provides a necessary ingredient to healthy cognitive development.

Two, Mom was right. Thank-you for sticking with a regular bedtime…even when I pitched a fit about the sun being up…even when I pleaded…even when I threw out my many creative attempts to postpone bedtime. Thank-you for knowing the best thing to do for your kids…even before the researchers caught up with your smarts! 

Whose Problem Is That?!

Joey approached his mom at ten o’clock last night and said, “Mom, I need a poster board to do my school project. It’s due tomorrow. You need to go to Wal-Mart and get me the poster board?” He had never mentioned this project to his mother before last night. Whose problem is that?  


Susie, on the other hand, loves to practice her violin. She practices for hours every day. Unfortunately, she likes to practice in the family room. When she does, her mother cannot watch TV, work on the computer, or get her work done in the family room. Whose problem is that?


Two scenarios and two problems. Whose problems were they? That is a good question to answer before delving into a solution. The person who discovers their needs are unmet or finds themselves unhappy, frustrated, or in trouble owns the problem. And, the person who owns the problem is the one to fix it.


In the first scenario, Joey has a problem and it will not help him if his mother fixes it for him. He will not learn responsibility and planning ahead. In the second scenario, Susie’s mother has a problem. It will only lead to frustration on her part if she assumes Susie will figure it out and fix it. Instead, the person who owns the problem needs to take the responsibility to fix it.


Loving parents hate to see their children uncomfortable and, as a result, often have the desire to fix their children’s problems for them…and all children, like all adults, encounter problems. In an effort to ease their children’s discomfort, parents often try to fix it. This robs their children of the opportunity to develop effective problem-solving skills. It keeps their children dependent on them. It also prevents parents from observing their child’s amazing potential to find creative solutions to various problems.


So, when a problem comes up, step back and consider…”whose problem is that?” If you find your own needs unmet…or you find yourself frustrated or unhappy…or you discover something interfering with getting a genuine need met, suck it up, own the problem, and fix it. If, on the other hand, you discover your child has encountered a frustration, an unmet need, or a consequence, let them own the problem and fix it. Give your child a gift—the opportunity to learn responsibility and creative problem-solving skills. 

Are You Manipulated or Accepting of Your Child’s Emotion?

“No, you can’t have a cookie. We’re eating supper soon.” As soon as the word “no” came out of my mouth, my daughter’s eyes watered, her lower lip protruded, her chin began to quiver and a tear gently rolled down her cheek. I watched…my heart went out to her…what should I do? 
“Give me your cell phone. We told you not to text past 11 pm and you did. Now you’ve lost your phone for the weekend!” My daughter heard the words and gave me the death glare. “Fine,” she barked before throwing her phone onto the table, turning away and stomping up the stairs. “I guess I’ll never talk to my friends again.” Her anger was palpable. What is the best response?
Each scenario brings the parent to a decision point…how do I respond to my child and their emotion? We hate to see our children suffer. We do not like to see them cry, miss out on something they really want, or hurt because of unfulfilled desires. We dread the times when our children become angry with us. We don’t want their anger to jeopardize our relationship. We just want “everyone to get along.” We long for close relationships filled with joy and untouched by moments of anger or disappointment. Unfortunately, emotions happen, and not just happy ones. We will experience our children’s sadness, anger, disappointment, hurt…. The question is: how do we respond when those negative emotions arise? Do we allow those emotions to control us? Manipulate us? When our children poke out their lower lip and fill their eyes with tears, do we give in and let them have what they want so we don’t have to watch their hurt and disappointment? If so, we have allowed their emotion to manipulate our actions. Do we yell after our children, filled with anger because they reacted to our discipline in anger and stomped away? If so, their anger has manipulated our response. When we allow our children’s emotions to manipulate our response, we teach them that we are more concerned about their “feeling good” than we are about their character and integrity. We teach them that their emotions are more powerful than us. We teach them that their emotions are more powerful than truth and discipline.
Or, do we accept their negative emotions? Do we acknowledge their emotions, empathizing with them while still upholding our limit? When our children pout and cry, we can accept their disappointment and hurt by simply saying, “Yes, I know it’s disappointing not to get your cookie now; but you still have to wait until after supper.” When our children throw down the phone and stomp up the stairs, we can accept their anger. Let them be angry and realize that they have still complied with the limit by giving you the phone. Later, after they have calmed down, you can talk to them. You can acknowledge their anger, empathize with the frustration of losing privileges when rules are broken…and explain that a natural result of breaking the rules is losing privilege. As we accept our children’s negative emotions we allow them to learn how to manage those emotions. We teach them that there are uncomfortable, even painful, consequences to misbehavior. We teach them that the truth, their good character, and our love are all stronger and more important than “feeling good” or “getting my way all the time.”
So, which do you do? Do you allow your children’s emotions to manipulate you? Or, do you accept their emotions—acknowledge and empathize with their negative emotions while still holding the line and responding in love? Acceptance may be the harder route, perhaps even the gracious path, but it produces the priceless fruit of a self-disciplined, maturing child.

How To Discipline Your Little Einstein

Children are smart. I may be preaching to the choir, but I have to say it again, “Children are really smart!” They are like little scientists, observing everything and figuring out what makes it tick. They study the properties of objects by banging, shaking, throwing, and squeezing them in order to discover what is hard or soft. Children study flight properties by hurling objects through space and laughing with glee at the one that goes the furthest. They are keen observers of people…little sociologists that watch the reactions of people around them and shape their own behavior in response. Case in point: my baby nephew. My wife held him while I hid behind her head. At “just the right moment” I would peak around my wife’s head and say, “Boo.” My nephew giggled each time my face appeared and I sounded the battle-cry of “boo.” We had a fun time. Little did I know how carefully he was observing my every action, soaking it in and remembering my face. The next day, we went to a Chinese buffet. I sat at one end of the table, my nephew, in his high chair, sat at the other end. Between us sat his mother and my wife. I turned to speak to my wife at one point during dinner and saw his little head at the other end of the table peaking around his mother. As soon as I made eye contact, he ducked behind his mother…and laughed. Moments later, his head appeared again and, with the same stealth, quickly disappeared amidst a giggle. My nephew remembered the game we had played the day before. He could not say my name yet, but he had studied me and the game we had played. A day later, he used that game to get my attention.
Our children study our every move. Realizing this truth will impact how you teach and discipline your children. My nephew remembered to play that game with me after only one playful interaction. When it comes to discipline, children learn quickly, too. They learn how many times you will repeat yourself before they really “have to” listen. They study you to determine how long they can hold your attention while you refuse something time and time again. Their keen observations quickly lead to accurate conclusions about when your “no” really means “no” and when it simply means “keep asking and I’ll finally give in.” When a parent does “give in” to a nagging child after 4 or 5 repetitive questions, that child learns to continue nagging in the future. If a parent says “no” but then gives in to stop a child’s temper tantrum, the little scientist will reach his conclusions about the benefit of temper tantrums. Children are geniuses when it comes to figuring us out. So, even in the midst of discipline, realize that your little Einstein is studying your every move and basing his next plan of attack on your response. Knowing the genius of your children, keep these tips in mind:
     ·         Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Do not change your answer simply because your children nag, persist, persuade, or cajole. Let them learn that your word is good! If you are unsure of whether to offer a “yes” or a “no,” tell them you have to think about it before making a decision. Just be sure to get back to them and give them an answer. Teach them that your word is good!

·         When your children misbehave and a consequence is appropriate, act immediately. When you act immediately to discipline misbehavior, the consequence becomes linked to the misbehavior and will help your children think twice the next time.

·         On the other hand, when your children behave well, let them know right away. Link the consequence of attention, acknowledgement, and validation to positive behavior by responding immediately and specifically to good effort and behavior.

Disciplining children can prove challenging. By acting quickly, remaining consistent, and responding in a way that promotes positive behavior, your little scientist will learn that good behavior gets them want they want more often than not…and with that knowledge they will behavior more often, too.

Parenting the Curious Explorer

Children…curiosity…exploration…constant questioning. These words seem almost synonymous, don’t they? In fact, children love to explore. They have an incessant curiosity that leads them to actively investigate everything around them. They explore things with their eyes, ears, hands, and even mouth. Like miniature scientists they study the world around them to discover “how” and “why” things happen the way they do.
In the midst of all this curiosity and exploration, do you know what interests children most? You do! They want to know everything about you, their parent–what interests you, what holds your attention, what arouses your emotions. That’s why your infant wants to play with the cell phone you spend so much time looking at or the pots and pans you spend the hour before dinner using. A child’s curiosity also leads him to ask you unending questioning–“What are you doing?” “What’s that?” “How’s that work?” “What’s that do?” “Why?” Sometimes this curious desire to know leads them to engage in somewhat irritating behaviors like flipping the light switch on and off to learn about cause and effect, or, throwing their spoon on the ground to see how much they can get you to do. As they get older, their curiosity encourages them to chase after ants with a magnifying glass to look at their magnified image and learn about nature. Even a teen’s curiosity leads to behavior we sometimes questions, like “doing donuts” in a snowy parking lot or setting a firecracker off in a model car. They want to know about everything…especially those things that interest you. This incessant desire to learn about the world may even lead to behavior you don’t particularly like. I remember learning how to make a “washtub bass guitar.” I loved music and the excitement of making my own instrument overwhelmed me. Curiosity and excitement led me to drill a hole in the bottom of my parents’ only washtub basin, cut off the whisk-end of the broom, and connect them with a string. The resulting music sounded good to me…my parents disagreed. I ended up playing the blues in my room for a time.
All kidding aside, curiosity helps children learn. More importantly, a child finds the most pleasure in exploring when they can share that exploration with a parent. As a parent responds with supportive comments and shared excitement, their child gains pleasure, finds that learning is fun, and grows more confident in their ability to meet and conquer challenges. I love this table developed by Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry, MD, PhD, that shows curiosity ultimately leads to greater confidence and more exploration. Limit their curiosity and you ultimately limit their mastery, confidence, and even sense of security.
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
results in
New Skills
New Skills
results in
results in
Self Esteem
Self Esteem
results in
Sense of Security
results in
More Exploration
Children are curious, but they are also immature and inexperienced. As family shepherds, we have to watch them and protect them while encouraging appropriate exploration. That demands that we accept their curiosity and their immaturity as natural. We need not yell and scream at them for immaturity. No, immaturity calls us to teach them. Their immaturity invites us to be present with them in their curiosity, invest our time in their exploration, and share in the excitement of their discovery. By remaining present with them in their curiosity, we can address any concerns that might arise. When they become disruptive, our presence will teach them how to explore in a more appropriate manner. Investing our time in their exploration allows us to help channel that exploration in appropriate venues. We can teach them that the library is not the place to explore sound, but the music room is…late at night is not the best time to practice rock riffs on the electric guitar, but early evening is…the house is not the best place to explore the properties of flying water, but the yard is. By sharing in their excitement we teach them that exploration is valuable, learning is fun, and discovery is good. A parent who shares in the excitement of their child’s discovery will find ways to promote exploration and curiosity rather than saying “don’t touch,” “don’t climb,” “don’t take that apart,” “don’t get dirty.” That may mean setting some boundaries around the curiosity. For instance, letting your child know that playing in the mud may be fun, but they have to change clothes before stomping through the living room…playing with the condensation on the window is interesting, but they will need to help clean the fingerprints off the window when all is said and done. And, while they help you clean up, you have the opportunity to talk about the exciting discoveries made during play.
Enjoy your children’s curiosity. Nurture and participate in their exploration. Celebrate their discoveries. They will grow in wisdom and confidence. Most importantly, you will both enjoy a deeper and more intimate connection as you explore your child’s curiosity together.

Help! My Teen Lies to Me!

Yes, it is true. Teens lie. Teens argue. Teens often want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be given the freedom of independence while relying on their parents’ supportive cash for gas money and money to go out with friends. It is a very confusing time—for teens and parents. As parents, we want what is best for our teens. We hope they will accept the wisdom of our experience as they navigate the transition into adulthood. Unfortunately, they do not always heed our words…at least not to our faces. So, when it comes to dealing with teens, here are a couple helpful ideas.
The most common reason teens give for not telling the truth or for withholding the truth from parents is to “protect my relationship with my parents.” In other words, they fear that the truth will cause distance in the parent-child relationship. They do not want to hurt us. Some parents believe that being more permissive will result in more truth-telling. It does not. Teens who have permissive parents actually lie more! They believe that their permissive parent really does not care if they engage in various behaviors and will not do anything in response anyway, so why tell? Why hurt their feelings? Just don’t mention it…or, if forced to, lie.
Families with the least amount of deception, on the other hand, have clear, concise rules accompanied by reasonable and consistent consequences. Teens in these families know the rules and the consequences. Families that experience the least deception also have one more ingredient: parents who listen and make sure their teen feels heard before offering small concessions and compromises. “Wait…what? Did you say concessions and compromises? But I am the parent…my rules go in this house!” Remember, our teens are becoming adults. They have to learn how to manage their own behavior. As we honor them with our listening ears and show them the grace of small compromises and concessions, they grow in their ability to recognize potential consequences and make wise decisions independently. A little bit of flexibility will go a long way in decreasing teen deception and increasing teen maturity. So, teens who lie the least have parents who set clear rules, consistently enforce those rules, and also find opportunities to make some compromises with their maturing teen.
Using this style of parenting does have some side effects (stated in the soothing voice of one announcing medication side effects on various TV commercials). Having clear rules that are consistently enforced may result in increased arguing and complaining. In fact, those families with the least amount of deception often had a higher rate of arguing and complaining. That is great! No really, it is great. A moderate amount of arguing between parent and teens (emphasize the word moderate) results in better adjustment than no arguing or frequent arguing. Arguing allows the teen to see their parent in a new light, to hear the argument for the rules clearly articulated and “reasoned out.” In the teens’ effort to become independent and take on “their own values,” they can listen to their parents articulate the rules they have grown up with before internalizing them as their own. In a sense, the teen who complains and argues is saying, “I know you have always kept this rule; but now I want to know why. Do you really believe it? What makes it such a good rule?” In the midst of this argument, teens assert their growing independence while exploring the values they have grown up with.
One last secret (don’t tell your teens). I often meet with parents who are at their wit’s end because they feel like their teen is not listening. I listen as they tell me what they have told their teen. I empathize with their frustration as they explain that their teen does not take their words of wisdom into account. Then I meet with the teen. In the midst of our discussion, their teen will often tell me exactly what their parents have said…and they say it as though it is their own idea. They have heard it. They even believe it; and, they are in the process of making it their own. They just can’t tell their parents about this and carve out their own independence at the same time. So, keep on listening. Keep on patiently enforcing the rules. Keep on discussing the rational of the rules and struggling to make appropriate concessions. Trust that your teen hears you. They are listening. And, hold on for the ride of your life on the teenage roller coaster. Your work will pay off…when the ride ends and your teen becomes an adult!
« Older Entries