Thursday, September 20, 2018

Setting Limits Is Definitely Not Fun!

Recently I was at one of my Ask the Expert Parties (think Tupperware for parenting) where I start by asking the small group of parents assembled what their biggest parenting challenge is in that moment. A dad sitting next to me, said that his biggest challenge with his 15 year old daughter was that one minute she was loving, sweet, conversant, but then the next second when he had to set a limit about something, or reprimand her for something she turns into "Atilla the hun"(my words not his) All ten parents nodded their heads in agreement, and as we went around the circle this issue emerged as the most prominent one. For some parents it makes setting limits so hard, because they know that the aftermath will be horrendous with yelling, screaming, slammed doors, and shouts of "you are the worst parent ever." And at that moment that is just how parents feel.

OK give yourselves a break here. To expect that after you have said NO to one of your teen's impulsive, emotional, can I's, that your teen will look with love in their eyes and say: thanks mom and dad, that was a really smart parenting call, thank you so much for keeping me safe is completely and utterly ridiculous. And I know you know that. But in that moment when you said your No means NO, you would just like once for your teen not to explode in your face. And unfortunately, most parents when put on the defensive for their parenting decision will fall back on the : Well if you don't like it, go live with another family defense.

Here is something you can do instead. Next time you say NO to something because it is unsafe or unreasonable, instead of getting defensive when your teen strikes back you can use an "I get it" statement. In a calm and supportive voice you can say: " Hey honey, I get that wasn't the answer you were looking for, and I know you're disappointed, and are really pissed at me. I know it's hard to watch your friends be able to do something that we don't think is safe, and it feels really unfair. But you know we love you, and though it feels smothering sometime our first priority is to keep you safe."



And then, that's it. Don't go on and on like a broken record, don't try to re-explain for the billionth time why you said no. Honestly they don't care, they stopped listening at NO. At least using the above strategy you don't make a hard situation harder, with the potential of all parties getting way out of control. You are not in any way apologizing for your decision, but your are understanding how this decision affects them. Understanding is so much better than being right or being angry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Teens and Danger!

On Sept 8th a young man aged 21 was out with his friends enjoying a late summer evening boat ride on one of Boston's weekend booze cruises!! Oh to be young again, wind in your hair, cocktail in your hand, music in your ears....PERFECTION!! Except when it isn't.  This young man thought it would be awesome to climb up onto the back of the boat.  I'm sure he was feeding off friend frenzy to be bold and daring, boosted with the confidence that a few drinks in can give you. Paying no head to signed warnings not to climb on rails, this young man jumped up and and then with the bounce of a wave fell off. There is no happy ending to this story. This guy died.

Kids do stupid and dangerous things, and take life threatening risks all in the name of 'awesomeness." Their teenage brain still living impulsively in the emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, fends off the rationality of the thinking brain, the frontal cortex. Most times, despite themselves, kids come home safe and sound. And sometimes they don't. Please read this article with you kids. Plant the seed of alcohol and drug fueled risk taking that can turn deadly. Always always ask them what their plan for safety is every time they leave your house for an evening out with friends. Remind them over and over and over and over again that alcohol and drugs wreak havoc with a teenage brain build for speed. Encourage them to rotate a designated person who can see when they can't, that they are in danger! It could save someone's life!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/09/08/coast-guard-responds-report-man-overboard-boston-harbor/ZI4pRFIOhavEkhTLcUD3hO/story.html

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Tale Of Two Brains

Are there some days you feel like you and your teen speak different languages? You say something simple and maybe even nice to your teen (at least you think it's nice) but the response you get is completely incomprehensible. Let me explain how that might happen.

The first disconnect is that adults live in a thinking brain, and teens live in a feeling brain. And I mean that literally. Brain research has shown that when teens and adults are shown the exact same photo of a human face expressing an emotion, their brains respond in very different ways. An adult brain uses the frontal cortex (the thinking brain) to interpret the emotion, and the the teen brain uses the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) to interpret emotion. This is a set-up for constant miscommunication between teens and parents. Teens literally see things in the human face that adults don't see, and hear things in human voices that adults don't hear. It's kind of like dogs that hear the high pitch sounds that no human can hear. Dogs...teens..

I am sure you have had the experience of saying something to your teen in a neutral voice and with a neutral expression. It may be something very inconsequential. But the reaction you get from your teen is crazy! Maybe something like "are you mad at me? They have heard something in your voice or saw something in your face that no one else apparently can see or hear...just like the dog.

A compounding problem is that teens carry every teeny tiny emotional experience that has happened to them over the course of their day in that amygdala of theirs. Perhaps they said something embarrassing in class and their fellow students laughed at them. Park it! Maybe they tripped in the hallway at school and felt like everyone saw it. Park it! Maybe they saw their crush talk to another boy/girl and feel dejected. A thousand things may have happened that day, or in the morning between when they woke up and you pass each other in the kitchen before school. Basically their parking lot of a brain is always full. You know how frustrated you get when there is no place to park. Times that by a hundred, and that is your teen.

So when you get a response to a simple question or comment that seems crazy and completely incomprehensible, assume that their parking lot is full. Probably best to just walk away with a let's talk later. This is one of those times that it just isn't about you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Like I've Said: Yelling Doesn't Work!

If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, yelling doesn't work. Here's an excerpt from a recent research project that explains why:



"The study followed 976 Pennsylvania 13- and 14-year-olds and their parents for the 7th and 8th grade years, and found that the depression or poor behavior increased in the children who were exposed to harsh verbal discipline. Instead of serving to remedy the issue, verbal discipline tactics seemed to provoke the unwanted behavior."
"Adolescence is a very sensitive period when [kids] are trying to develop their self-identities," study leader Ming-Te Wang told the Wall Street Journal. "When you yell, it hurts their self image. It makes them feel they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless."
I get it, we all lose it sometimes, and yelling becomes the default reaction when our frustration button has been pressed one too many times. This research is not really talking about the "I can't take it anymore" moments. Some parents are control-freaks. There, I said it. And if you are a control freak than Adolescence will be a huge challenge for you. Because teens are biologically driven during this stage to also be major control-freaks. They are planting those feet firmly on the ground and letting you know that they want to take control over their own lives. Control can be shared, and should be shared. How else does one prepare a teen for the real world when they will be faced with multiple decisions on a daily basis. 
Yelling as a default parenting style may give you the illusion of control, but in fact it is the absence of control. Not only that, but it makes your teens feel bad. And when teens feel bad, they take those feelings out of your house and into their lives. The findings of this study are powerful explanations for some of the acting out and aggressive behavior, depression. anxiety seen in many teens.

When your teens were younger yelling may have worked. They were afraid of you, wanted to please you, and didn't know yet that it will be fun to do just the opposite of what their parents want.  It is the process of defining who they are and how they are different from you. This can sometimes feel disrespectful, and hurtful. Reframe it to normal, and it will feel alot better.

If you want your teen to stop being disrespectful and bratty, you have to blink first! Your teen has learned how to bait you, and being a well-trained seal, you jump for the bait. When you get that pit in your stomach after you have asked your teen to do something, get something and say something, and their response is surly, disrespectful or he/she completely ignores you, don't jump for the fish. Yelling here will not not not not not not not not........ get them to do whatever it is you want!!!!!! GET IT!! Look them straight in the eye, give them a head shake and a shoulder shrug and WALK....A....WAY. Done! When they come to you for a ride, money, help with homework, laundry for school the next day, you give them that same head shake, shoulder shrug, and walk away, with a "I would have, cause I love to do things for you, but we don't seem to be on the same page today about helping each other." And that is it. Do not say another word. Don't get sarcastic, don't have a "tone" in your voice. Stay neutral. Now this doesn't mean you don't speak to your teen for the rest of the day. It just means that the favor-doing, ride-giving, laundress is off-duty for the rest of the day. Just that day. Every day is a new day. And who knows, maybe tomorrow will be a better one.!

FYI:
I am offering a new coaching service: A Quick Question. Sometimes you don't need a full hour of parent coaching, just a few minutes will do the trick. With A Quick Question you can bank 60 minutes worth of help and use it however and whenever you want. Contact me at joani@joanigeltman.com for more information.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Don't Forget...Will My Teen Ever Remember???

Now that school has started, your teen has a lot to remember; books, homework, lunch, sports equipment, phone, laptop, iPad, etc etc.How many times have your said to your teen: Don't forget your math book, sports equipment, lunch, house keys, etc., etc., etc. You may have even done the reminding just before your teen walks out the door, and you are responded to with a " I WON"T!" And so you leave it at that!

Then the phone call comes in from your teen, not a text, but a real honest to goodness human voice: "Hiiiii, it's me....... how's your day going?" Said in the sappiest, sweetest tone your teen your kid can muster. And then the: "I forgot my _________________, can you bring it to school?" And you grimace, and groan, and say: " how many times did I ask you and remind you to make sure you had that to bring to school? "And you start in on the lecture; "If you only did like I told you to get your school stuff ready the night before this would never happen........" And then you cave and interrupt whatever it is your doing and bring the damn_______________ to school. Because you know that if you don't, the teacher will give your teen a "0" for class that day, and that too many zero's can add up to a grade drop for the term, and if the term grade isn't high enough, it will effect their chance of an honor's class or grade point cum or any other consequence that might in some way affect your teen's college chances and therefore the rest of their life.

That train of thinking is called sequential thinking, and that is the kind of thinking that your teen does not do very well. When you did that final yell up the stairs in the morning, your teen heard you, and really did think, oh yeah, gotta remember that book. But then a second later he/she got a text from a friend who asked a really important question like "what are wearing today? or Wassup. And this very important question took them away from the remembering.

If you really want your teen to remember the things they always forget, than you have to help them come up with a strategy for remembering that works for them. Remember that you and your teen are not the same person, you do not have the same brain, and therefore what works for you in the remembering department like making a list for example, may not work for them.

So don't start off this conversation with the "you know what works for me?" Instead you can say; "You know honey, I know it's hard to keep track of what you need to do and remember, you have alot on your mind. (And they do) and I get it's easy to forget things when in that moment you have a ton of other things that take up space in that brain of yours. So here's the thing. I get that just saying "don't forget" does not work. I also am not willing anymore to interrupt my day to take you what you need, or letting "I forgot" being an excuse for not following through on something, like keeping in touch with us when you are out with your friends. Instead, we have to come up with strategy to help you remember."

And here is the real work. TOGETHER you brain storm some ideas. Perhaps if your teen is attached to his phone, he/she can set an alarm just before leaving for school that reminds them to remember such and such. Or maybe you text them just before they leave, even if you are sitting in the same room, or perhaps you have color coded post it notes on the door out to the garage that match up with what they need for the day. Be creative. Look at who your kid is and how their brain works. Thinking through a strategy is giving them a life skill that they can use the rest of their life, saying don't forget lasts only a second.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Messages From Your Not So Perfect Teen

With a new school year ahead of you, here is some advice directly from the mouths of teens. It might help you to shape how you start a new year of school and expectations and screw-ups! Here are the 60 14-18 year olds  I surveyed, with some ideas to help you out when they screw up!


WHEN I SCREWED UP. I WISH MY PARENT (S) HAD:

·      Talked to me about it and not acted like I was the worst thing in the world.
·      Just given me more time to prove myself, and over time show them I’m responsible.
·      Worked together instead of having Dad do everything
·      Talked to me in a calm tone instead of yelling at me.
·      Just said that they knew I could do better, and then let it be for me to fix myself.
·      Just asked instead of jumping to conclusion.
·      Heard me out, and thought of themselves when they were teenagers.
·      Not yelled at me so much.
·      Forgiven me sooner than later.
·      Just asked me what happened instead of just punishing me.
·      Understand that teen’s make mistakes like that.
·      Talked to me like I was 16 not like I was 9
·      Been more understanding and had taken the time to hear my side of the story.
·      Supported me a lot more than they did.
·      Actually talked to me, not yelled or hit me
·      Know how much I wish I didn’t do it.
·      little more control of themselves, and didn’t get so mad with me
·      Accept my point of view and accept my apology and don’t think of me wrong even though they still do.
·      Not yelled at me but talked to me about it, and not make me feel like a failure.
·      Seen where I was coming from and why I said what I said.
·      Not yell at me, but just talked with me and didn’t accuse me of something that’s not true.
·      Helped me a little more rather than punish me after every offense.