Posted tagged ‘parenting teenagers’

Make a New Year’s resolution to practice encouragement

December 27, 2010

When I realized my parenting skills were making my children’s behavior worse instead of better, I made a commitment to learn a positive approach based on encouragement.

First, I had to admit that yelling, time-outs, punishment, spanking [yes, I have spanked and regretted it] reward and praise were bankrupt techniques to get my three children under age  4, to behave better.

My family environment changed when I learned how to use the art of encouragement. I discovered the four most powerful words in the English language- You can do it.

My children began responding differently to me. They began making better decisions. The need to yell, punish or praise, faded away.

Encouragement is different from its evil cousin of praise, which is extrinsically focused. Encouragement is intrinsically focused — on how the child thinks/does/feels, versus how the authority figure thinks and feels. 

Praise can only be used after success. I’ve never heard a parent say, “Meg, I’m so proud of you for coming in last place in the swimming race!” Instead, say, “Your stroke looked stronger. Did you improve your time?”

Notice that encouragement can be used after effort. “You have put away one truck. Can you pick up all the red trucks now?”

Or, on a test the teen failed, “You answered question 3 right, that’s a start.”

To the child responsible to empty the dishwasher, “You put away the silverware. What’s next? The plates?”

Encouragement focuses on the deed, not the doer. Encouragement is low-key. Praise is always high energy. Encouragement requires a parent to be specific and look at what the child has done. “Nice combination of colors in that painting, Mike.” Praise is general and often inflated. “I’m so proud of you! You’re going to be another Picasso!”

Make a resolution this year to practice the enjoyable art of encouragement. It’s especially useful with children who misbehave. “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child,” according to Rudolf Dreikurs, MD.

“A child needs encouragement like a plan needs water.” Alfred Adler, MD.

My third child was my most difficult child — I loved him while not liking his behavior much of the time. He was only 2 years old and could really annoy me and his older brother and sister. By learning how to encourage him and see the positive in what he did, set limits and spend a small amount of time with him daily, our relationship totally changed.

You can learn the art of encouragement in 2011 one step at a time. Start by encouraging yourself and noticing effort made. Make one encouraging statement to your difficult child each day. Make sure it’s specific, about the deed or effort and how they feel/think about it, not about how you think or feel.

I guarantee results. There’s a tip sheet here and a chapter on it in my book. Practicing is the best way to learn it.


Set them loose: college students and substance abuse

July 29, 2010
John Belushi is the ultimate example of drug abuse gone wrong, both on the screen and personally. TEenagers and drug abuse are a huge risk. Teens can make good decisions. Good parenting can keep teens out of trouble. spend time together as a family. have family dinner  to prevent drug abuse among tweens & teens. Family dinner is one of the best ways to prevent drug abuse.

John Belushi is the ultimate icon and personal example of drug abuse and excessive behavior. Photo by

Parents, rest assured, every college is a party school. Every first-year college student will have access to alcohol and other drugs.

In installment #3 on drug abuse & children, questions precede  the rules, because college students act and think independently. This is when parents find out if they’ve taught children to make good decisions when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour.

During family dinner ask college students the following questions. See how much they know. Let them tell you what they know because you know how little parents know 🙂

1. Do you need to do drugs, drink alcohol in order to have fun? If so, you might have a drinking/drug abuse problem. There are places to get help.

2. Do you know about alcohol poisoning? How much does it take? Tell me about the side effects, such as accidental death and injury, rape, and oxygen deprivation.

3. Do you know about date rape drugs? I know a young woman who was given a date rape drug by an upper-class male during her first week of school at an exclusive college. She woke up the next day bleeding from her vagina. His punishment? A one semester suspension. What is your plan to avoid date rape?

4. Do you know it is illegal to buy liquor for and to serve liquor to minors? When someone does that for you, she/he is breaking the law.

5. Do you know any young people who have abused substances and died, been disabled and/or are in rehab? Make it a practice to notice such events in the news.

The rules. Say these to your college students before they leave home.

1. “You are going to school to learn and to earn a college degree, not for a 24/7 party. We (your parents) will ONLY pay college bills and support you when you achieve a grade point average of 3.0 or better. We expect you to finish your education in four years and will only pay for four years.”

2. “If you ever get into a jam, do not hesitate to call me,” even if you are thousands of miles from the college. Parents are aware of many more resources than young people.

3. “You will have access to drugs and alcohol. I am trusting you to make good decisions, practice moderation and get help when you need it. Be responsible. Your live will depend on it.”

It’s okay if they respond with, “Oh, mom!” or “Oh, dad!” You’ve done your parental duty.

Messy bedrooms are not fatal. They’re just messy.

June 15, 2010

The condition of my daughter’s bedroom is shocking. I have mastered the arts of tolerance, shutting the door, and minding my own business.

There are greater battles to fight. We have an agreement that when she goes back to school for the semester she will leave it very neat.

Radical idea for family meetings

May 5, 2010

This tip for family meetings comes from

“I know of several families who hold their meetings at places that cater to their favorite hobbies. For instance, one family conducts their meeting at a bowling alley. Once the meeting is over, they enjoy bowling together. Another family combines their gathering with their love of books, by meeting at a café in their favorite bookstore. And yet another family I know holds their weekly meeting after a joyful round of put-put golf. This option combines family communication and fun.”

I love it. It adds spice to family meetings and gives everyone something to look forward to. It builds family fun into the meeting. Having a family meeting somewhere fun is like an off-site business meeting that puts everyone into a jovial mood.

Where would you have your ideal family meeting?

Where are you going to schedule your next family meeting?

Teen party gone awry

March 25, 2010
Imagine coming home from a dream vacation in Paris and finding flour in toilets, urine on beds, blood on the floor, holes punched through walls and ceilings, computers, jewelry  and video games stolen — some $45,000 in damages.
Parents in East Bridgewater, Mass. faced this scenario in February.
Even worse, the teen who hosted the party told police the names of the uninvited guests, who responded on Facebook  with cyber-bullying, mocking the destruction.
Situations like this give teens a bad reputation and incite fear in the hearts of parents of children of all ages.
The quote that really got me was this: “There are no consequences, and that’s why they keep doing what they’re doing.”
One of the ringleaders has a string of charges against him, but no criminal record. His parents have repeatedly bailed him so he can continue his rampage, including intimidating the host of the party who is now afraid to go to school or the prom.
The party host said he didn’t call police when the uninvited guests showed up because he feared getting beaten up.
My advice to parents is to “Prepare, don’t despair for the teenage years.”
What does prepare look like?
1. Start with having family meetings to divvy up chores. Cleaning toilets and picking up dog manure from the lawn teach a child self-discipline, humility and a work ethic.
2. Have family dinner at least three nights a week. This cuts in half the time between after school and bedtime for them to get into trouble. It is a touchstone to you and your values.
3. Don’t buy your child’s way out of every problem. If a youth is charged with larceny, shoplifting and malicious destruction of property, make him earn money to pay restitution. Do not let him pass go, do not give him $200 until he complies.
This party-turned-nightmare shows that buffering a young person from problems he creates, the behavior will escalate.
I volunteer in prisons and meet men and women sentenced as teenagers because they were caught up in the wrong crowd and made bad decisions as teenagers.
Parents can teach young people  to make good decisions.

The payoff of chores

February 15, 2010
This young man is learning his contribution to the household counts. He is developing self esteem because he can feel good about himself helping his family. He is learning self discipline and how to wash dishes. Childhood chores teach individual skills and benefit the family. They are part of a positive parenting plan.

What he's learning from washing dishes will last a lifetime. Credit: Manchester Evening News, UK

Childhood chores are making a renaissance. We started the century using children as vital contributors to farms, factories and cottage industries. We finished the century treating children like consumer and performers.

The boy at left doing dishes is learning more than just how to do dishes. Life-lessons are being absorbed, such as: his contribution is important; his family depends upon him; he needs to show up whether he feels like it or not [AKA self-discipline]; he’s small and mighty — what else is he capable of doing?

Many children live an entitled life of activity-mania  their main role is to  perform and make their parents proud.

Personally, doing dishes is a lot more beneficial than earning trophies for participation on travel soccer. A few activities are acceptable, but many families are constantly on the go, with no time for chores or the other traditional family centering habit of family dinner.

A survey of 564 people from ages 11-90 I took showed that a remarkable 87 percent had or have childhood chores. They reported that family dinner and family chores often go together. I would add a third leg to that chair: family meetings.

Democratic family meetings are useful to make decisions, divide up the housework, plan the week’s schedule, compliment each other, enjoy a healthy snack and have some simple fun together at the end. Family meetings offer children a voice and a choice. Family dinner is the glue that holds a family together. And chores are an integral part to both because children can be involved in the preparation and clean up of family dinners.

The Boston Globe West published a story on chores and cited many children today who do laundry, help care for siblings and mow the lawn and more — without getting paid by the chore. The story cited the research of Wellesley College Professor Markella Rutherford who researched chores. Rutherford found that in the last 15 years chores have made a comeback. Hurray!

The article cited my upcoming book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.” It’s being edited and will be out soon. It offers many ideas on how to have a more harmonious home and get children involved in doing their parts.

Routines provide a backbone to family life

January 11, 2010

CHildren and routines, children help cook, children like jobs, chores and children

Children enjoy routines around mealtime, school and bedtime.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to follow a daily work routine. Distractions often tempt me in my home office. A routine provides a structure that gives me focused work and play time. Routines help me feel better and accomplish more.

Children and teens thrive upon a routine. They like to know what is happening next. It helps them make sense of the chaotic world we live in. Even if the routine isn’t followed 100 percent of the time, it is a backbone that can bend, twist and support daily tasks.

My friend Ned is newly separated from his wife. The family is establishing a new routine in which the teenagers are learning how to manage living at Dad’s house part-time. “My son has adjusted, but my daughter doesn’t always want to come and visit me. She finds it hard to come to my house for the weekend,” Ned said.

Ned has established a place for his daughter at his place. Adhering to regular visitation and creating a system to track belongings can help his daughter feel more secure. A milk crate or basket kept near the door can hold her belongings that must be transported to both homes. It’s all about developing new routines.

Children are constantly evolving and their routines evolve with them. A toddler’s morning routine to get them ready for the day is different from a teen’s morning habits. The younger the child, the more the parents are involved in setting and maintaining the routine. Children like structure at home and at school/day care because it gives them a sense of control.

What are the routines in your family? How can they be tweaked? What situation at your home could benefit from a routine?

Start with a family meeting to discuss the situation and ask the children for ideas on how to solve it and implement the solution. I like the idea of a “30-day free money back guarantee” for new ideas to make the family run more smoothly. When the children suggest a strategy at a family meeting, give it a try. It may work and implementing it will develop your child’s self-esteem.