Ideas to earn influence with your teen

When your child was young, connecting was easy. They relied on you for even the simple things, like getting dressed and eating meals. Now that your child is a teenager, however, your help is not as needed. In fact, they may want to distance themselves from you as much as possible (especially in front of their peers!).

As your teen establishes their own identity, remember that they still need you, just in a different way. Your unconditional love as their parent is invaluable and irreplaceable. As they shift, you can shift how you connect with them. Here are four tips to earn trust and earn influence with your teen:

1) Schedule one-on-one time

One-on-one time with your teen is a valuable way to connect. Be curious about their interests. Ask your teen what they want to do. You might plan a nice meal at their favorite restaurant or a day trip to a museum. Whatever the activity, make sure it is meaningful to your teen. Also, follow up. Make your time together a routine. For example, if your teen loves movies, make it monthly movie time.

2) Cook together

Homework, chores and other expectations may drive your teen to isolate themselves while they are home. To get them more involved with the family, ask your teen if they would like to cook or bake together. Teach them how to make that recipe they always devour. Or, perhaps they have a sweet tooth and you can try a new cookie recipe together. Let your teen own the cooking; let them select what they want to make.

3) Get to know your teen’s friends

Friendships are vital to teenagers. Take the time to get to know your teen’s friends. Care about their friends’ families and their activities. Make your home a space where your teen and their friends want to be. Let your teen host movie night or a game tournament at your house. Buy pizza for them. Give them breathing room to have fun together.

4) Listen to your teen

Your teen has a lot going on. Take the time to listen to their needs and frustrations. Ask questions at appropriate times. Avoid jumping to solutions. Give them space to come to you and navigate their own thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, your teen wants to be known. Listening to them allows you to get to the root of the issue and love them in meaningful ways.

If you are still struggling to connect with your teen, consider Shelterwood. At Shelterwood, we are driven to see the lives of teens transformed. We surround teens with a community of people committed to their growth, including dozens of dynamic young adult staff. Contact us to begin your journey to family restoration.

Emotional Decisions

Don’t let emotions screw up your decisions

Think about a time when you were weighing an important decision at work or at home. Such decisions are inherently complex, and no matter how much experience you have making them – working through the pros and cons of each choice can be overwhelming.

Your emotional reactions to these choices may help direct your attention and energy toward what you feel are the most important aspects of the decision. Yet intense emotions may lead you to make misguided or out-right disasters decisions.

Imagine, for instance, that you hit heavy traffic while driving home from work and are forced to miss dinner and your son’s basketball game. Frustrated and tired from work, you sit down on the couch only to be confronted with an important decision. Your daughter is asking to stay out late with her irresponsible boyfriend.

Even though the request is a separate issue and we all assume we have pushed our earlier frustration aside, Francesca Gino (Harvard Business Professor) has found that we are often unable to separate our emotions. His research emphasizes that emotions triggered by an event completely unrelated to a new situation often influence our thinking and decisions in that situation. In related research, Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California, and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University, found that anger triggered by something unrelated to the decision also affects how we evaluate the ideas of others.

They found that those who were induced to feel angry were less interested in evaluating others’ high-quality ideas. Anger appears to increase the appeal of criticizing others and their ideas. Our feelings can offer relevant and important feedback about the decision, but irrelevant emotions triggered by a completely unrelated event can take us off track.

The next time you get slammed with an unexpected workload or have an argument at work, consider how your emotional reactions could linger as you enter into the important task of parenting. Fortunately, we often can choose when to perform each of the many tasks required of us at home. This should allow us to evaluate ideas from others when we believe we are most capable of doing so objectively and thoroughly.

Parenting without Tears

Is parenting without tears even healthy? Find out why it is important to have a soft heart.

Have you ever been told that becoming a Christian would make your life better? I have, and I am still waiting for that truth.  When my daughter was struggling with depression and anxiety, it was the most painful time in my life, filled with distress and lots and lots of tears.

praying dad copy 206x300 Parenting without TearsIn church this week, our pastor spoke about ‘lamenting’ and what it means to ‘sow your tears.’  In Psalms 126, David talks about reaping a harvest of joy after tears have been sown. It seems paradoxical, but the pastor gave such a meaningful explanation of grief and suffering that made it seem, well, much more positive and hopeful.  In the book of Ezekiel, God talks about taking hearts of stone from his people and replacing them with hearts of flesh. So, when we become followers of Jesus, our pain actually increases as our hearts are made softer than they were before.

Often our daughter would tell us, “Other parents don’t care if their kids drink, stay out, have sex… so why do you care?”  Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much, but my relationship with Jesus has actually softened my heart so much that I can’t help but notice and care.  The world tells us to “let go.”  Even counselors will sometimes suggest that your authority and power is limited and so if we can’t stop certain behaviors, we should just accept them.  After all, “they are just teens” and we should just “expect certain behaviors.”  This idea to care less is difficult for a soft heart that recognizes the eternal nature of our humanity.  I am not sure that what we are walking through with our teens as parents should just be endured or ignored.  Maybe instead we should open ourselves up and allow ourselves to feel this pain more deeply and sow our tears…let ourselves feel the full brunt of sorrow.  Throughout the Bible, grief and deep sorrow is one of the first steps in how believers grow and this might be key to how we become better leaders in our homes.

So, what are we supposed to do with all this pain? How do we plant our tears in order to reap joy?  Some of us are really good at trying to overcome our pain, or we minimize it, stuff it down and just hope it goes away. Our culture of individualism even teaches us to ignore pain, have a stiff upper lip, and resolve issues with our own strength. This is destructive because it is not in our nature to ‘hold’ pain and if we don’t recognize our pain we will transmit it to others.  The way to sow our tears is to bring our sorrow, suffering and pain to the God who knows what it feels like. No other god in this world was a sufferer…not one of them was ever weak, vulnerable or in pain. Jesus was. His heart of flesh was perfect, which is why we read that he cried so many times in the stories of His life. He is One who relates to pain, has felt sorrow in the deepest places of His heart and was able to pray and worship His way through those times. Don’t be afraid to lament…to lay down those ugly feelings and get real with Jesus. When we sow these tears, not only does He collect them, but He also plants them into our lives and then brings a harvest of joy out of the dry ground. Try reading through some of the Psalms of lament and use them as your prayers during difficult times. You might be surprised what you reap.

 

Teachable Moments

Screen Shot 2015 03 24 at 7.12.13 PM 300x139 Teachable MomentsI’m a morning person and can’t wait to get the day going. In the morning I feel like a corvette peeling down the highway! However, my teenage son is NOT a morning person. Hence, we have found ourselves in consistent conflict when my cheerful, “Good morning!” is met with a grunt or mumbled, “Morning.” As soon as I feel his lack of energy I often think and occasionally say, “What’s your problem?” And the corvette goes crashing into the slow-moving VW bug.

It’s easy to get offended when your friendly overture to your teenager is met with ambivalence, if not passive hostility. It’s also easy to get frustrated when you are a schedule-oriented, goal-driven parent with a teenager who can’t seem to locate his schoolbooks because the floor is covered with clothes, and who comes within seconds from missing the bus every morning.

What I am learning, or trying to learn, is to breathe and then look for the teachable moments to instruct on matters of disagreement or frustration, rather than reacting at the moment of escalation. Knowing my child is not a morning person helps me make a wise mental “note to self” to discuss the matter later in the day when our discussion will be more effective.

Each summer we take Shelterwood students on hiking trips in Canada and sometimes run across bears. Of course, we encourage our students to literally never ‘poke the bear’ as it escalates the bear’s anger very quickly. And this is a good reminder for parents. Why poke your teenage bear in the morning? More research might need to be done, but I am sure there is significant science behind the idea that teens usually struggle in the morning for a number of developmental reasons. So why would I choose to poke my son in the morning before he’s ready to interact? So I am trying to tone down my morning ‘songbird routine’ when I am around him, and yes, he is still expected to respect me as his dad, but timing is critical when it comes to dealing with conflict.

It isn’t easy but I am really trying to be a proactive parent. It takes discipline, patience, and grace to not react to my son’s attitude and behaviors. Being observant enough to notice and patient enough to wait for the teachable moments takes practice.

Greg Stone
Long Time Shelterwood Staff & Father of Teens

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.

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.

Book Reviews

couch reading sm 300x196 Book ReviewsHere are a few book reviews of various titles that I have read recently.  Some of them are better than others but each of them have something to offer.  Even if you don’t agree with a particular author, reading at least makes you think and take account of your own approach to parenting.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart  – Tedd Tripp

Dr. Tripp has written a great book for parents of young children struggling to find a framework through which to view their child.  With a distinctively Christian worldview, he tries to establish a foundation for Biblical childrearing.  Tripp highlights the often forgotten notion that behavior is an outflow of the heart.  Readers are challenged to look beyond behavior and focus on heart change and connecting with their children at a deeper level.  At times, however,  it appears overly simplistic and fails to provide clear real world direction for captivating the hearts of teens lost in our current culture of computers, drugs, and sexual temptations.

Connecting: Healing For Ourselves and Our Relationships.  – Larry Crabb

Dr. Crabb is a well-established Christian author.  In his recent writings he has worked hard to uncover the power and authority of the Christian community to bring healing to the deep pain of individuals.  While the rest of the world is focused on identifying psychological disorders and providing treatment strategies, Dr. Crabb is resurrecting the power of connection and the value of relationships.  He wants to empower each of us to invest in the lives of others.  He, unlike so many others in his profession, wants us to recognize that we don’t need professional training to connect with the deep soul wounds of others and in fact it is simply the connection that can bring healing.

Dr. Crabb believes that we can experience the healing power of God through others and that connecting plays a powerful role in addressing the core issues that lie beneath all of our personal, emotional, and psychological problems.  His work is a powerful paradigm shift from the current ‘how to’ manuals on the selves today and may unintentionally serve as a blue print for many of the Christian programs that work with teens.

Loving Your Child Too Much  – Dr. Tim Clinton & Dr. Gary Sibcy

Clinton and Sibcy highlight three common ways that parents show their children love: overindulging, overprotecting, and over controlling.  While love is an obvious requirement of parenting, it is often difficult to find balance in parenting styles.  My wife and I enjoyed discussing the various pitfalls of undisciplined love and it helped us recalibrate our own expression of love to our kids.  While it might seem simplistic, the truths are profound and Biblically based.

She’s Gonna BLOW! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger  – Julie Ann Barnhill

Okay, I admit it. I have an anger problem. I have no idea where it came from, but it is undeniably here. And truth be told, the problem reared its ugly head only after I had kids. Go figure. Kids have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in all of us and my worst was ugly…not abusive, but ugly. Even though I don’t consider myself a “yeller,” my facial expressions and body language frequently seem aggressive, even when I don’t mean them to. I know that I have high expectations of myself and everyone around me, but when I started to transfer this message to my kids, I knew I needed some kind of help and advice. That’s where this book comes in. This is a book for any mom who has ever “blown it” and yelled at her kids only to feel guilty and defeated once again…and again…and again. Julie courageously shares a lot of her own personal failures and successes as a mom and encourages those of us who want to stop the hollering and negative interactions (and the subsequent damage) in our homes. The book helps us understand where the anger may be coming from, our personal warning signs, possible unresolved issues, and provides a Biblical basis for change and practical tools to build a more peaceful home. Her sense of humor, honesty and conviction that mom’s can change make this book an amazingly easy read. The practical advice and Biblical truths presented in such an honest way made me feel empowered and resolved to make some changes. We highly recommend this book for any mom who knows that SHE is the one, not her kids, who needs a TIME OUT.

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle  – Shannon Ethridge

It happened almost overnight. My usually kind, loving, sweet daughter had turned into a moody, weepy, hard-to-get-along-with stranger. It struck me that her hormones must be beginning that decade-long rage that I thought was still a ways off. Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge helped me to understand that my daughter was not weird and I was not imagining things; she was a sponge, soaking up from me and her environment what it means to be a woman. Her getting social cues from me is scary in itself, but her getting them from the media, etc. is terrifying.

This book is set up in two parts. The first one is for moms (or dads) to read alone. It gives insight into how to handle sex education with your daughter and stresses the importance of doing so before it’s too late. Ethridge covers everything from pornography to menstruation to homosexuality, subjects which I had no idea how to bring up. The second half of the book is read with your daughter. We have enjoyed reading together about the changes that are just around the corner and other basic things about sexuality. Ethridge includes some really creative activities to do together that give the child a tangible lesson on the ideas covered. What I appreciated most about this book is that it stresses how a girl should expect to be treated by boys. The “princess” and purity concepts come out loud and clear and I can tell that my daughter feels special when we read it together.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has a daughter ages 10-13. It takes the embarrassment and the awkwardness out of the “the talk” and makes your daughter feel like the special child of God that she is.

The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife  – Stormie Omartian

Both of these books have been sitting on my bedside table for years now. I need them. Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for my kids or my husband. These books have so many ideas that no matter what my children are facing, I can find a chapter, a prayer and some Biblical promises to comfort me. Whether my husband is having trouble at work, with finances, fatherhood, or (and this rarely happens), problems with his marriage, I can open Stormie’s book and get some direction, help, and the occasional challenge. She likens not praying for your family to sending them out into a battlefield without armor, something none of us would ever do. And yet, when we don’t pray for them, we leave them vulnerable to pain, attacks, and failure.

The books are divided into 30 chapters, one for each day of the month if you so choose. Each chapter gives insight into Stormie’s journey as a wife or mother, tells what she learned from that experience, suggests a beautiful prayer that includes much Scripture and ends with some verses or promises that she refers to as “power tools.” These books are a great asset to anyone who recognizes the power of prayer, but is not always sure what to pray for.