What is due Respect from Your Teenager?

While disrespect from a teenager can be demeaning and confusing to parents, it actually brings more harm to the child by tearing at the very fabric of their future. It may be rooted in an authority figure showing disrespect to the child. Or, the child could be imitating the disrespect they see exhibited by their peers or other family members – including their parents.

I’d never say that you can force your child to respect you. But treating someone respectfully is altogether different. It is a controllable choice regardless of one’s opinion of that person. In other words, I may not agree with someone who holds a high office, or has an idea that I don’t like, but I can still treat them respectfully. Yes, it is easier and better for your teen to treat you respectfully if they actually feel respect for you. But, in fact, showing respect should have nothing to do with how they feel about you at the moment.

Often, disrespect flows from a demanding attitude for the parents’ time, money, privacy, feelings or property, and it usually starts out in insignificant ways. But even small expressions of disrespect are never acceptable. If a parent doesn’t intervene when the issues are small, disrespect can become part of your child’s permanent mindset, with behavior that gets worse over time.

Why is respect so important? It’s because respect is the cornerstone for discipline and relationships in the home. All else fails or gets short-circuited in teaching a child about maturity and responsibility when they don’t understand the concept of respect. When parents require respectful behavior, it helps the teen to be more respectful of others, and that’s a cornerstone for success in his/her life.

The longer a parent waits to address disrespect in their teenager, the more entrenched the problem becomes. If your teen is disrespectful to you, one good place to begin is to communicate that it is time for things in your home to change; “Honey, I love you – nothing you do or don’t do will ever take away my love for you– but we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Tell your teenager that even if they don’t have feelings of respect for you personally, or even when they are mad at you, they will still treat you with all due respect in the way they act, speak, and engage with you and your possessions.

Respect is a pivotal expectation in your home, so make it clear to your children that you are serious about it by backing up your words with stiff consequences for any form of disrespect. Then, be sure to follow through on those consequences, since they will undoubtedly be tested.

Written by Lisa Smith

Make the Holidays Great Again

The holidays are here again and I think we need to revisit last years newsletter about this topic and see how we are doing. Are you stressed out? Worried about family gatherings? Fretting about how much money you are spending? Are family members pressuring you? This is not the holiday spirit. Maybe some of this can be avoided.

Let’s be proactive, parents and couples can avoid some of these pitfalls by pre-planning and communicating. As a couple each of you might have different expectations and this can be challenging so talking about what is to come can avoid the conflict. This needs to be done in a way that is nonjudgmental so your partner does not feel attacked and get defensive. Remember there are a lot of emotions tied up in the holidays. Here are some areas that should be discussed.

Family: How are we going to handle family? Where will we be on the holiday? Who will talk to the family and tell mother or mother-in-law that we may not be able to make it this year? Make sure that you listen to each other and come to a solution that you can both live with, remember you are on the same team and there needs to be compromise. And what about your immediate family, your children, will they get to celebrate at home? Are they the focus? Hopefully they are not seeing the holidays as a time of stress and anger.

Making it special: Talk about how to make it special for your family. You may want to start your own special traditions. What makes the holiday time unique for your family? It can be a magical time for children, you may want to look at lights or pick out your own tree. Make a special meal or dessert. What ever your special thing is you can make it your own.

Finances: What about the money? How much can we spend? It is easy to get carried away but it isn’t worth the stress and strife that comes in January. Can we make some baked goods or something more personal to lesson the cost and avoid the mall? Talking about this ahead of time and sticking to the plan can avoid conflict.

Busyness: There are so many events to go to. Holiday parties of friends or at work. The children might be in a school performance, church activities, so many things to do that we get overwhelmed. You and your family need to decide what you will agree to and what you will say “No” to. It is alright to say “No”.

It is better to experience this time of year as a team, united and in agreement. Taking the pressure off and knowing your partner is with you. Talking about what you want and expect ahead of time can avoid conflict and stress this holiday. Let’s get back to the true spirit of the season and make the holidays great again.

By Lisa Strong

Who is the enemy? It may be your past.

When in a relationship you may find at some point that either you or your partner has some event in their past that is effecting how you interact and communicate with each other. The way we behave and react to current life events is effected by our past events. Were we raised in a stable home or did we grow up in a tumultuous home or the foster system? Were we exposed to a traumatic event like a rape or military service? Did we grow up in a home with an alcoholic or drug addict or an abusive parent? We may have survived all these events but now we are in a relationship with another person and the way we respond to them may not be a healthy response and you are both struggling with how to fix this conflict.

You may have learned that the best way to deal with a conflict is to avoid it, shut down, don’t address it but this is not working in your adult relationship. Or you may have learned to put up an emotional wall, don’t even acknowledge the feelings. Or you choose to fight anything that appears to interfere with the plan that you have. The past events which are now affecting your behavior were no fault of your own but now you are an adult and you are responsible for the choices you are making.

If the history and behavior is yours you may not understand why your partner is unhappy with you and you can’t make them happy. They say you are not listening or you have to always have things your way or you are too quick to anger. I know this can be very frustrating to both parties. But I hope that if you have made a commitment to the relationship then it is time to work together to find more healthy solutions.

This is not time to go to war with each other, to shut yourself off from each other or to resent each other. This is time to pull together and fight the enemy as teammates. The enemy is the dysfunctional childhood, the trauma of rape or war, or the unhealthy people that taught these unhealthy coping styles. Those are the enemy not the person you love. Those things were not their fault but now as an adult this is when it is time to look at how the history is playing out today. It will take effort to learn new skills and communicate in a healthy way. To learn to listen to your partner, to communicate in a way that doesn’t feel like an attack to the other person. To understand that how you communicate now is not working.

This is all possible but we need to understand who our enemy is. It is not your partner who went through the trauma. If you both are ready to acknowledge that what was learned or experienced is affecting your relationship and it is not healthy to continue to respond to current life in a way that may have worked before but is not working now. Then team up with your partner and fight together to change for a healthy future.

Written by Lisa Strong

Does your life reflect what you say you value?

Most people would say that the people in their life, spouse, close friends and family members are very important to them. That they really value these relationships. But what I often see is that little energy and time is being put into the healthy preservation of these relationships. Where do we invest our time and what does that focus tell others?

Social media and social pressures are a huge enemy of the family. It is a distraction. Sometimes we use distractions as a coping mechanism for the stress in our lives. Why are we avoiding the real interactions with the ones we say we care about? Why are we allowing this distraction to pull us away from family? We must get something from it, something that feels more comfortable and validating than a true human interaction.

Real interactions can be uncomfortable, we sometimes don’t know how to respond or what to do and especially with the people we say are most important to us. The interactions can be stressful. Even time with our children playing a game may seem stressful and more demanding than what we get from social media. We can even use social media to avoid being alone with our thoughts, this social media distraction is much more comfortable.

What do the people in your life see you valuing. You may say that your relationship is important but do you take the time to talk about your day and to listen to them share there lives with you? Do you show concern? Do you take time to go on a “date” and spend time focusing on this person who you say you value?

What do your kids see? Do your kids get more than 30 min. in the evening with you? Do you spend more time scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching cute puppy videos on Youtube than you do with your own child. And when you are with your child are you so busy taking pictures of them and posting them that the child is not getting your full attention?
Your child wants to be important to you, not the social media world, they want your attention. Can you spend time playing a board game with them, or cheering them on at their activity and not have them see you checking your phone.

If you say that you value your family or those people in your life that you call family then show them. People watch what you do not just what you say. Children are looking at your actions. Let’s show them that you value them by giving them a call, spending time, making these people a priority and this will be the first step to Save Your Family. Don’t wait for the crisis where your spouse feels like you don’t care or your child is rebellious, depressed or overwhelmed with stress . This is what we see each day in our business. Take care of the things you value. Save Your Family Today and we won’t have to be called tomorrow.

Written by Lisa Strong

Is Suicide an Option?

There are 121 suicides per day.  Per day!  Many wouldn’t consider suicide as an option but clearly some do.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the States.  One in 25 suicide attempts results in death.  This means 3, 025 people a day attempt suicide. Due to these alarming numbers the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has deemed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  

As a professional in the mental health industry and having lost my cousin to suicide four years ago I know first hand that suicide is an option to some and the rest of us need to inform ourselves on how to help.
Here are some warning signs and practical ways to support.

Warning signs 
If a person talks about:
• Being a burden to others
• Feeling trapped or stuck
• Experiencing unbearable pain or overwhelming emotions
• Having no reason to live or believing they have no hopeful future
• Killing themselves
If behaviors include:
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
• Experimenting with ways to kill themselves
• Acting recklessly
• Withdrawing from activities
• Not planning for the future
• Isolating from family and friends
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Giving away prized possessions or sentimental gifts
• Previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide attempt

If a person exhibits:
• Depression
• Loss of interest
• Rage
• Irritability
• Humiliation
• Anxiety
What you can do:
• Take suicidal comments seriously
• Validate the person’s feelings by acknowledging and accepting their feelings instead of rationalizing them away
• Be compassionate and gentle as the person is already feeling extremely sensitive and is trusting you by being vulnerable
• Let the person know you are concerned
• Remove all means of self harm
• If the person appears to be an immediate risk to hurting themselves do not leave them alone and if necessary call 911 for help
• If they are not already doing so, encourage the person to talk to others about their feelings and to see a professional
• Be available to talk, to listen, to comfort and, when appropriate, to “distract” them by doing something together that may give them a sense of peace
*above information from National Institute for Mental Health and
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Two Things to Keep In Mind:
• Most people who are depressed and suffering want things to change and to be better even more than you do.  If it’s difficult for you, imagine how difficult it is for them.
• If a person attempts suicide but isn’t able to complete the act be careful not to minimize the severity of the attempt. Be sure to take the attempt seriously.
There is no single cause or “cure” for depression and suicidal ideation.  It’s different for everyone.  Chronic illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, living with a mental illness, experiencing prolonged stress are all risk factors.  But with support a person can overcome, learn to cope, survive and even thrive.  

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness month.  Spread the information!

The Four Things Your Child Needs

School is not only about academics, there is much more to learn. It’s no longer the 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Parenting expert Dr. Bob Barns talks about a different set of R’s, the 4 R’s including Recreation, Routine, Responsibility and Relationships. Teaching these areas will help a parent guide their child to be a more well balanced person.
Recreation may be thought of as a sport like soccer or baseball and these are healthy for the body as well as teaching teamwork and how to win or loose. All are good lessons but there are other recreations that might also be considered like music, art, model airplanes, cooking, these other activities that may be more appealing to your child. These activities can help a child learn to use their free time in ways that challenge and entertain. We can teach them how to fill the void with things other than computer games, T.V. or social media.
Routine refers to teaching our children time management. Children may not seem to appreciate a routine but it does give them structure and security as well as teaching them self discipline. There is a time to get up in the morning and go to bed, a time to get homework done or do chores. You tell them what is expected and then make sure you follow through and enforce the routine. As they take on more of the responsibility on their own then you can become more flexible.
Responsibility includes school assignments but there are also responsibilities at home. We have dumbed down our children and do not require much of them in the home. The family is a team and we need to all work together so the home runs smoothly. That means giving each child an age appropriate responsibility in helping. It is for the sake of the family and the child. It is a training opportunity.  Don’t forget to celebrate the victories, the affirmations will encourage and support the idea.
Relationships include the family and others. But in terms of the family we need to be proactive and schedule time with each of our children and our spouse. If this is not done then these important times get pushed to the side. Some parents tell me they don’t know what to talk about alone with their child so I suggest providing  a distraction, meet over a meal, do a puzzle or build something. This provides an opportunity for conversation and we need to listen. Doing this allows us to disconnect from the pressures of our world and social media and allows an opportunity to relate to each other.
The 4 R’s will create a family that works together and can enjoy each other. This is something worth the effort.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Ensure Back to School Success

We made it through summer and the school year is upon us!  For some this is a welcomed change but for others it brings up new challenges.  Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on the right path and to help you stay on it.

First, have a discussion (a two way conversation) about what you and your child want for this school year.  What things do you want repeated and what things would you like to see change?  The best way to approach this is for you to ask that question and let your child answer, uninterrupted.  Then you can share your thoughts in response.  Write these things down… not as a list of rules to be governed by but as a way to solidify the conversation.

Next, talk about expectations.  The following topics seem to be the biggest challenges and areas of conflict so address them up front.

Grades: ask your child what they think is a reasonable grade or mark for each subject.  They may think they can ace Spanish class but feel that math will be more of a challenge.  Write down the grade or mark you both agree on for each subject.

Electronics: with the school year starting will their be different expectations for screen time, games and electronics than there was for the summer?  Have a discussion about what seems reasonable regarding how much screen time they can have on a week day, weekend, what time screens need to be turned off and turned in at night and how you will monitor this.  Hint: the simpler the better.

Curfew/Social Events: it is important that kids at any age learn how to manage their time, their stress and their work load.  With school starting there are often sports and other extracurricular activities that are demanding on everyone’s schedule.  Some families limit the amount of sleep overs in a month (as these tend to exhaust kids because they get little sleep but spend so much energy socializing).  Some families require a set amount of “down time” for their child meaning they have to be home resting, vegging, connecting with the family on a relaxed level and taking care of their overall mental health.  Curfews are necessary and need to be clearly articulated ahead of time.

Remember, this is a discussion.  You can not lay out all the expectations and walk away.  Invite them in to the conversation and encourage their participation.  Make compromises where possible.  Most importantly, keep this as simple as possible and absolutely be sure you can enforce any agreed about terms.  Without enforcement or monitoring there is no point in doing this.

To maintain success and build communication, revisit this conversation on a monthly bases.  What is working, what isn’t?  Be flexible if necessary.  Ask your kids how you can support them and what they need from you to succeed.  It’s a new year… let’s start off with clarity and hope.

Written by Lisa Smith

Teaching Children to Look Out, Not In

Teaching our children the value of caring and serving others is a responsibility of parenting. A healthy family cares for more than themselves. One of the things we need to teach our children is that the world does not revolve around them. In this age of social media we are continually taking pictures of ourselves, posting what we are eating or doing, putting our thoughts online for all to see and glorifying every aspect of our lives. Really people, we are not that important. We need to show our family that although we love and value each other, there are other people that our lives can reach and touch and we can have an impact.

We can teach our children to reach out to more than each other. How can we do this? The ways to do this are many and they change as the child grows. When a child is young we can remind them of the needs of others and role model service. Involve them in making  a meal or a card for someone in need. For example if you learn that your neighbor just had surgery or lost a loved one then bring them dinner and have your child make a card. Then deliver this together. Look for opportunities to serve those around you.

Another possible project is going through your child’s clothes or toys and then take them and donate to an organization in your community. Try to show them where their donation is going and how it is helping. As the child gets older then they can do more to help, possibly volunteering for a service day to clean up the beach or clean the house of someone in need.

This is not something that you can just require of your child but it needs to be a way of life for the whole family. Something you all consider and do. You are the first example of this for them. They hear that you are putting value on this and so they will learn this too. As they get older there will probably be push back where they would rather sleep in than go to serve. But this is not optional in your family. If you can show them that this is a way of life for your family then they will learn to see that life does not only revolve around them, there are others with needs and serving others can put life in perspective.

There is value in teaching children to be sensitive to the needs of others and exposing them to a larger world. They will learn of the struggles and needs of others. They will meet different types of people, they will learn to consider others and take the focus off themselves.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Deadliest Mindset of All and the Cure

It’s the worst disease a human being or an entire society can catch. It’s a disease that rips the soul out of a person yet leaves the heart still beating. It leaves people alive physically but broken mentally. It leaves weakness instead of strength. It leaves dependent individuals instead of independent ones. It results in playing a game of “pass the blame” when things don’t go as planned. It’s a disease I would not wish on anyone. It’s called “entitlement mentality.”

The online definition states, “An entitlement mentality is a state of mind in which an individual comes to believe that privileges are instead rights, and that they are to be expected as a matter of course.”

It just sucks the initiative, the self-determination and self-esteem right out of a person!  I have seen it in many of the thousands of families I have worked with.  And it just kills me!

A hardworking, self-made person pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. They work hard. They never give up. They fail many times before they succeed. They have a family. And, often driven by love, blinded by love, these parents desire to ensure that “my kids don’t go through what I had to go through.” They seek to shield their kids from the pains they had to endure.

But what many parents fail to realize is that by depriving children of hardship, we deprive them of the very experiences and learnings that shaped the parents! If a child grows up getting everything they want, having every sharp corner in life covered by Mommy and Daddy, then suddenly this is how life really is in their belief system. A good life is no longer a privilege, but a God-given right. They shouldn’t have to work for it. Living in luxury is an expectation. And there is anger if one doesn’t get it, and get it easily.

So what is the vaccine for this deadly entitlement mindset? Adversity. Many people who suffer from entitlement simply don’t understand reality — the reality of how the world lives. That life is about largely suffering and overcoming that suffering. That life’s greatest moments are in the achievement of something that took effort. There is no lasting joy in getting everything in life handed to you.

The role of adversity in developing a person’s full potential has been well documented. Renowned blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer (the only blind man to summit Everest) even wrote a book on it called The Adversity Advantage.

So, what’s my point?  Let your kids suffer!  Allow them to feel pain, disappointment and even regret.  (Don’t confuse this with inflicting suffering or pain, the world and life do enough of that.)  Remember that need is the greatest motivator of all.  If they need something, get out of the way and let them figure out how to get it.  Don’t give it to them.  Raising happy kids is not the goal!  This leads to entitlement.  Raising resilient, content, responsible kids is the goal and by default they will be happy in life because they will be happy with themselves.

Written by Lisa Smith

How do I Handle my Child’s Emotions?

Your home is an internship for your children to learn to handle their emotions and themselves socially when they are challenged. To learn to communicate feelings, resolve conflict and show care in a loving relationship. Your child should not feel like they have to fight you and justify their feeling. That is a good way to send them over the edge. Then what do we do when our child is dealing with a strong emotion, either sadness, anger, frustration or fear for example? We want to help them through these emotions in a healthy way. Giving them tools to understand and deal with the emotions.

Here are some dos and don’ts for how to handle an emotional child.

Don’t demand that they be immediately rational, they are at that moment being emotional which is opposite of using our rational brain. If they are hysterical or throwing a tantrum then leave them alone for a time until they can be calm enough to talk to you.

Do show the child empathy. Talk to them about what they are feeling. Are they scared or frustrated? As they become calmer ask them to explain what upset them and listen to their story.

Don’t tell them that there is nothing to be upset about. They are upset already so there must be something upsetting them.

Do let them tell their story, help them by asking questions about what happened. This may be hard at first but when the child realizes you are there for support and that you are calm this will give them security.

Don’t do all the talking, be more of a listener.

Don’t argue and deny their emotions. Let them know it is OK to have strong emotions.

Don’t add the word “but”  Saying, “I see you’re disappointed but…” erases everything you just said.

Do reflect back what they have told you, this will validate their feelings.

After the child has calmed down and feels like you have listened to them then you can teach them an appropriate response to the frustration. Tell them what is acceptable and what isn’t. Now that they feel heard and know that you have shown care and respect for their feelings they will be more likely to listen to your guidance. This is when you parent and teach them what the boundaries are.

Written by Lisa Strong