Let’s all just take a break

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 12.17.20 PM 300x204 Lets all just take a breakWho doesn’t have a busy schedule these days?  There has certainly been an increase in the pace of the American family! If family life used to cruise at 50 mph, it is now traveling at 100 mph. Certainly fueled by the acceleration of electronics, what was fast 20 years ago is not acceptable today. 120 years ago, if someone missed the stagecoach, they unpacked their bags and planned to catch another coach the next month. Today, if the plane is delayed a few minutes, the crowd freaks out.

Certainly, cell phones and computers have increased organization and productivity, but in the family, they have also increased the stress level. Today’s teenagers live at a frantic pace so different from my teenage years of the 70’s. I recall afternoons coming home from school, grabbing a snack from the kitchen and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. I played sports and during those seasons, we had practices every afternoon, but only during the seasons. Summers were spent at camp and just “hanging out” with my family and friends.

Today, year-round sports mean the domination of athletics 365 days a year. A friend told me the other day that his son’s football coach was reluctantly giving his players a week off in the summer. Crazy. Year-round schooling and academic pressures demand that teens spend more time than ever in the books. The increase in “electronics” means that text messages, email, and phone calls are accessible all the time.

As parents, we need to help dictate the pace of the family. I’m not suggesting we live like the Jews of old who wouldn’t even walk more than 8 steps on the Sabbath. We don’t need to pull our kids out of sports or take away their cell phones. But I am suggesting that parents prayerfully step into the pace of the family. Kids and teenagers (and adults) all need down time. And the “down” is different for all of us. Today, as I was praying with Jeanie, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for a restful day.” Jeanie asked me later “was today really restful? You mowed the yard and cleaned out gutters.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was restful because I chose what I wanted to do.” Stress ensues when our schedules are dictated for us. Sure, ultimately our time is God’s time and we yield to His will, but we make loving choices everyday to make wise choices in setting our schedules.

Parents, step up and in and help your teenager set boundaries. Help them establish “gaps” in their busy schedule and find a little down time. Every hour doesn’t have to be filled with an activity. Don’t dictate to them but teach them. Of course, it’s easier to teach what we practice, so take inventory of your own pace first. We all need down time to just chill and read, exercise, watch TV, mow grass and most importantly, spend time with family and with God.

Make down time a priority for your family. Unplug the electronics and enjoy the time of Sabbath.

Why is it so hard to let go of our kids?

Letting go of fear and responsibility for your teen will be part of the therapeutic process that you will go through while in Shelterwood.  Take a moment to read through some of the common internal dialogues that we often go through as parents when we have a fear of change.

1. Fear of the unknown

Parent:  If I can’t change my child’s behavior, how can someone else?  Will Shelterwood staff be manipulated?  What if he gets sick or she is mistreated?  Who else is going to be in the program?

Teen:  Can I contact my friends?  Do my parents care about me?  Whom can I trust?  Only losers are sent to residential group homes.

We are most at ease when we are completely familiar with our surroundings and sure of what the future holds for us.

2. Fear of failure

Parent: What if I spend all of this money and they don’t change?

Teen:  What if I can’t change?  Is this who I really am?

People expect to get everything right the first time instead of taking time to work things out and getting them right at some time.

3. Fear of commitment

Parent:  What if we give everything to this process and our child remains angry and distant?

Teen:  I don’t feel confident that I can achieve what I really want in life.  If I focus on what I want and then fail where does that leave me?  I think I might be better off not trying.  I don’t want to feel trapped by high expectations and responsibility.

People should be honest with themselves and commit to a few simple goals.

4. Fear of disapproval

Parent:  What if my teen never forgives me for this decision?  What will my parents, friends, siblings think of my parenting if I need to place my teen in a program?

Teen: What if I commit myself to my goals and my parents still disapprove? If I change, are my friends going to dislike me?

You will learn very quickly who your false friends are and who is truly on the side of your self-esteem.

Parents Share Lessons Learned

Every day parents share amazing insights with us as a staff and we are always eager to pass along their wisdom to other struggling families.

1.  Letting your child struggle is OK.  A parent once told me that the most significant thing she learned while at Shelterwood was the value of letting her child struggle and experience discomfort.  Up to that point, she had believed the lie that “good parents do everything they can to keep their children from suffering any type of pain.”

2.  Don’t “major” on minor issues.  There are choices that each child makes that are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life!   Compared to all the self-destructive choices in the world, I learned at Shelterwood that my child’s choice to have long hair or a tattoo is not a reason to despair. It may even be a healthy way for them to assert their identity.

3.  Progress is happening even when I can’t see it.   I learned to embrace the absolute necessity for my child to make mistakes in order to grow. Every unwise choice is an opportunity, not a failure.  It may be one more step toward my child growing tired of his life and thereby letting go of patterns and choices that don’t work for him.

4.  Shelterwood has impacted my life as well.  God used this time for my own individual change that ultimately contributed greatly toward the progress and unity in my family.

5.  I needed others.  Prayer, dependency on God and healthy dependency on others was invaluable during this process.  We are not meant to have all the answers and to do it all on our own.  Reach-out, receive the comfort God has available to you from others and through Him.

How do I get my teen off the couch?

Getting your teen off your couch is often says more about your parenting skills than it does about the teen.  We all need a little Parent Training because we tend to lack the courage to follow through on our directives.  If it is time to take back your home this short Parent Training might be for you.

1. No problem for you.

    • When we rescue the teenagers in our lives from difficulties THAT THEY COULD manage, we teach them two valuable lessons.  One, they can get others to do their work.  This produces entitlement and in working in mental health for a decade, I can say nobody who is entitled is happy.  No one.
    • Teenagers won’t do work that somebody else is willing to do for them.  You were that way when you were a teenager.  I was too.  And I was good at it!
    • Parents should believe enough in the teenagers who are in their lives to empower them through serving in a consultant role.

2. Offer choices.

    • As you are listening, encouraging, consider offering some choices if the teenager is stuck.
    • Remember your presentation of possible choices is YOUR job.  Choosing and enacting them is theirs.
    • Caregivers need to remember that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball.

3. Consequences only.

    • Consequences are the teacher.  Enjoyable consequences and not so enjoyable consequences.
    • Many folks who support teenagers, including me, are incessantly tempted to REMIND students of what they learned.  I can then become construed fairly as condescending and the teenager then works to prove to me that they didn’t learn anything.
    • Remember, none of us like other peoples’ ideas as much as we like our own!  So we can smile, listen, love, consult, hug, then leave.

4. Don’t warn or remind.

  • With regard to warnings and reminders, I have learned two things from the teenagers God places in my life.  One, they teach others to not own what the adult intends the teenager to own.
  • If I remind a teenager 5 times to get off the Wii, then I’ve just taught that teenager that he doesn’t have to listen to me until the 5th time.
  • The real world doesn’t usually offer reminders.

5. Don’t justify or defend.

  • When we justify our authority, it’s because WE don’t feel you have enough of it; that’s about us not them.

 

Parent Training reminds caregivers that a teenager can only score a goal if the teenager possesses the ball. Call to find out more parenting tips

5 Tips to Communicate Accountability

These are five great ways to develop accountability within your relationship with your teen.  These steps look simple but they do take some practice…. we dare you to give them an honest shot.

1. Wait until calm.

    • We don’t do good work when we’re angry.
    • The 93% of a message that’s communicated non verbally doesn’t lie.
    • When we engage while angry, teenager focuses on our anger not there misbehavior

2. Stop talking sooner.

    • Teenagers don’t especially enjoy or appreciate adult speeches.
    • People don’t appreciate lectures and generally don’t like the ideas of others.
    • Famous communicator, Dale Carnegie, reminds us that people like their own ideas not those of others.
    • Actively listen, reflect, and promote exploration of THOSE (their ideas)

3. Lock-in empathy.

    • This is the cornerstone of both Love and Logic and proficient interpersonal relations.
    • This cannot be faked; especially with teenagers who are walking, living, breathing, polygraph machines.
    • For example, explore the Fruit of the Spirit Paul writes in Galatians chapter 5.  We can’t fake those.

4. Listen and confirm

    • Teenagers don’t always need to have their way, they do always need to have their way listened to.
    • We all crave a listening ear more than we do an open hand.
    • Teenagers don’t need us to do everything for them.
    • Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development.  Folks 13-18. Identity versus role confusion. Learn it.  It will bless you.
    • Listen and validate their feelings (not necessarily their behavior: Proverbs 15: 1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

5. Problem for teenager.

    • When we consistently rescue teenagers from the low to no risk challenges in their lives, we actually rob them of learning opportunities they need to develop feelings of agency over their lives.
    • Often, we as caregivers for teenagers, want SO much to reduce our perceptions of their struggles, we rescue them.  This sends a potent, damaging, and unspoken message that the teenager is incapable.  Who wants to teach the teenager in their lives THAT?  Adolescents learn from two vehicles only:  Experience and Example.
    • We focus on supporting teenagers through loving and empowering accountability.

Find out why you parent like your parents

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” -1 Cor. 9:24

Muscle memory is the ability of our muscles to remember. When a movement is repeated over time, muscle memory is created for that task allowing it to be repeated without conscious effort. It’s a great thing for athletics and has led to the concept of “practice” where we repeat a certain activity so as to be repeated come game time. That’s what the coach so eloquently meant when he said (or yelled), “we’re going to keep running that play ‘till you knuckle-heads get it right!” We learn early as athletes to be focused, intense and competitive. That works well for sports but sometimes not so well in parenting.

245 200x300 Find out why you parent like your parentsYears ago, some friends asked me to come play soccer with them. There was a group of adults and teens that played soccer every Sunday afternoon at the local park. Lots of fun, but the competitive soccer world is not “fun.” Soccer is a super competitive, intense sport with no time outs, few goals, and no pads (unless you count shin guards, which weren’t required when I played). I was hesitant to go play. I’d played for so many years and it just seemed odd to go, though I’m not sure why. But I decided to play. It really was fun, until the second half. One of the teenagers on the other team was making a run down the field and my “muscle memory” kicked in. I ran him down and made a good “legal” tackle to prevent a goal. But I did not prevent embarrassment. The teen was ticked and, once I came out of my intense daze, I must have apologized a million times. I should not have made that hard play on him. This was just a fun game. But something “unconscious” kicked in. I, in essence, lost control and a billion hours of practice kicked in.

Muscle memory in parenting is a combination of past experience, including how we were raised by our parents and of how we parent day-to-day. How often do you catch yourself reacting the same way your parents reacted towards you? And you swore you wouldn’t be like your parents!

Parenting really can be fun. It doesn’t have to be a super intense exercise of winning at all costs. It seems to be about perspective. Your son calls and has a flat tire north of town. He needs your help. You have a choice. You could get grouchy and frustrated, drive to where he is, and be impatient and irritable because your dad was like that. The world is like that. After all, you’re missing your favorite show on the Weather Channel! Or, you can say a quick prayer, take a deep breath and take this as an opportunity to love your son.

Be sure you’re repeating those attitudes and values in your life that are worth repeating. Silver Dollar City in Branson has, as it’s mission statement, “we are creating memories worth repeating.” Make that your motto as a parent, to create a parenting style worth repeating. Certainly, model all the wonderful ways your parents raised you, but be willing to break the mold in weak areas.

Pray for open eyes and an open heart to needed change and improvement in parenting. It doesn’t have to be as intense as a soccer match. There are time outs and the victory is a growing relationship with your son or daughter. It’s not always easy, but the muscle memory of loving is always the best goal.

What Do I Value?

soup girl Medium 257x300 What Do I Value?A group of university alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit an old professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests something to drink, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups — porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite — telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself, adds no quality to the coffee in most cases, just more expense and in some cases, it even hides what we drink.  What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups … and then began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Family life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of the lives we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.  Maybe it is time to spend a little more time and effort on the parts of our life that have meaning and connect us to those we love.

The Influence of Siblings is Powerful

iStock 000012507492Medium 300x200 The Influence of Siblings is PowerfulIs your troubled teen an influence of siblings?

University of Washington Sociologist Dr. Abby Fagan found that children who have older brothers or sisters who smoke and drink are three to five times more likely to use tobacco and alcohol, because siblings are a more powerful role model than friends or parents.

  • 10 percent of younger siblings with non-smoking older siblings used tobacco, compared to 40 percent of those whose older siblings smoked.
  • Younger sibling alcohol use increased from 25 to 53 percent when older brothers and sisters reported drinking.

If siblings are more powerful role models than parents, than siblings and their potential influences on each other should be a primary focus of intervention.  The influence of siblings highlights the value of residential placement and the removal of the influential teen from the home.

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Hear how Shelterwood impacted these families.

If your older teen is a negative influence in the home and more of an influence of siblings than you originally thought, give us a call and let us help.

There is Freedom in Parenting

iStock 000013112749Medium 300x199 There is Freedom in ParentingWe’ve made it to March! I love the weather this time of year. Though winter can be stubborn, the first signs of Spring emerge, as they do every year about this time in the Ozarks. Some plants begin to show signs of blooming while others are still dormant, waiting for warmer days to emerge. Plants are a lot like teenagers. They grow and bloom in their own time, at their own pace. All the pushing on our parts as parents won’t change their pace of growth. Every plant and every child is different.

When I was a new parent, Darnell White handed me this article one day.  It’s an excerpt from a book written nearly 60 years ago by R.W. White titled “Lives of progress:”

“Raising plants is one of mankind’s most successful activities.  Perhaps success comes from the fact that the husbandman does not try to thrust impossible patterns on his plants. He respects their peculiarities, tries to provide suitable conditions, protects them from more serious kinds of injury, but he lets the plants do the growing. He does not try to poke at the seed in order to make it sprout more quickly, nor does he seize the shoot when it breaks ground and try to pull open the first leaves by hand. Neither does he trim the leaves of different kinds of plants in order to have them all look alike. The attitude of the husbandman is appropriate in dealing with children. It is the children who must do the growing – and only through the push of their own budding interest.”

As parents, there is such freedom in the letting go and letting our kids grow at their pace and in their timing. Perhaps you’re a frustrated planter these days. No doubt, growing kids is a tough job. We just have to remember that we’re there to protect, respect and provide for our precious plants, not force them to grow at the pace we desire. Let God do the growing and relax in God’s timing. We can trust that even when the budding seems a bit late, that in the difficulty, a plant is emerging that’s better able to withstand life’s storms. God, after all, is the Master Gardener. If I correctly focus on my own growth, a beautiful garden will emerge.

Eliminate Fighting

Tired of the fighting?

Are you struggling to connect with your teen?  Tired of the fighting or the silent treatment and ready to eliminate fighting?

Learn how to take the energy of their anger and resistance and redirect it into change with these 5 simple steps.

Step 1 – Take a time out

Just like with a frantic team, a wise coach sometimes needs to call a time-out. The time out is for you as a parent to gain perspective – change the momentum of the debate – and reduce the tension in the game.

We have found that successful families have parents that take time out to assess their approach to parenting.

So ask yourself…
-what type of parent do I want to be?  
-how do I want to be remembered when my teen grows up?
-What fears & insecurities do I have about being a parent and how are they affecting my teen?

Step 2 – Reflect on your role

Identify which one of these three methods your teen is employing as their defense against your requests.

Rebellion

Distance

Compliance

The rebellious angry teen is so busy fighting against other people’s goals that they are unable to set their own and are thereby still being controlled by someone else.  Of course to be successful the rebel needs someone to rebel against. Unfortunately, it is easy for us as parents to fall into this role, playing the challenger and telling the rebel what to do. The more you catch mistakes and confront, the more defensive they will become. 

Other teens deal with demands by leaving either physically or emotionally.  This can be as subtle as turning on the television, tuning out of a conversation, or as dramatic as running away.  Those who distance themselves usually do so because they feel powerless and they don’t see any way to be themselves in a close relationship with the one they perceive as having all the power. These teens can appear to be very independent, but like the rebels, it is only a facade to protect their insecurity.

A compliant teens’ technique is much more subtle.  They are willing to maintain peace at any price because the fear of conflict is just too great. It might seem strange to suggest that obedience is a technique to gain freedom within the home, but often teens are willing to conform outwardly while holding different beliefs internally. The freedom that they gain is a freedom within the heart and mind. If there is ‘acting out’ it will be secretive or delayed until they are out of their parents’ view.

Step 3 – Simply listen

Now that you have identified your own fears as a parent and determined how your teen is masking their true struggle – it is time for the third step in your dynamic move.  And it is to simply listen.  Recognize your teen is in a difficult spot but don’t try to convince them of anything.  Confrontations will always lead to some form of resistance.  Your teen is busy trying to establish their independence and prove to you that they are capable.  So let go of the rope – it should not be a tug of war – the battle should not be with you.

Step 4 – Ask open-ended questions 

Your questions should help them consider their current choices with the future in mind and stimulate elaboration like, “How do you see this happening?” or “What do you think you will do?”

Even if they are hostile or confused, affirm their passion to find a solution to the problem.

Remember that you are trying to build a relationship with them.  It isn’t about getting them to do what you want.  Or proving you are right.

Step 5 – Provide motivation

Like a coach motivating their team your teen will need to be encouraged and cheered on. Teens often feel very alone and are trying to negotiate a lot of instability that they feel exists in their lives.  One of the best ways to create movement is through shared goals. Find simple goals you can agree on and work together towards those.

Believe in their abilities. Build on their strengths.

Teens don’t typically want to fail in life, but they get in binds and find it hard to escape. As a leader in your home, look for ways to release your teen by focusing on where they want to go – their hopes and aspirations – not their mistakes and past failures.