DO LESS and Teach More Responsibility

My kids play competitive sports, and I love to see them improve with every game! We work hours every week developing skills outside of team practices and games so that they might develop. Something I’ve had to develop over time is the ability to pull away from the figurative microscope that we look through when developing those skills when it is actually time to play the game!

When my daughter steps up to the plate in a softball game, it isn’t the time to critique, point out nuances of the swing, or challenge her form. It’s time to let her shine or fail!

Screen Shot 2015 09 16 at 1.44.29 PM 300x172 DO LESS and Teach More ResponsibilitySomething similar happens to us parents when it comes to monitoring our kids’ school performance. Over the past several years, many school systems have started utilizing online grade books so that parents can monitor their student’s grades. This can be a blessing and a curse to parents who want the best for their children.

I find myself checking my kids’ grades often. When I would notice an assignment missing, or a low quiz score, I often times am able to discuss it with my child that VERY night! What an awesome tool, right?

Something I noticed was that my kids became very guarded and stressed out that I was keeping such a close watch. Can you imagine if that happened at your job? This does indeed happen to adults, and it’s miserable! Instead of living life with your child and letting him take ownership of his academics, we become a micro manager. This doesn’t make for an easy relationship with your teen.

Recently I had a conversation with my teen about her grades after I noticed a couple of assignments missing in the online grade book. She let me know she had it handled, and that it stressed her out that I was watching things so closely. We came up with the agreement that I would only check the grades once a week, and would only mention something if I saw a trend developing over time. That’s still a very close watch on her progress, but I am committed to giving her some breathing room.

Give yourself permission to pull back from the microscope. You aren’t being neglectful; you are empowering your teen to grow and take responsibility!

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Give us a call and learn some other small steps you can take to teach responsibility in your home.

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Emotional cycle of investing & parenting

Screen Shot 2014 12 10 at 12.41.59 PM Emotional cycle of investing & parentingAs I watched the price of oil plummet on the stock market today, it reminded me of some of the feelings I have had as a parent. For those who watch the stock market like I do, you might also be aware of the ’emotional cycle of investing.’ It is the wave of emotion that we feel as we follow the ebbs and flows of the stock market. When the market is going up we tend to be overly optimistic and can even become greedy, losing sight of the warning signs and the need to sell. At the height of our confidence, the market usually reverses and begins to head down. But we tend to be indifferent, believing that the market will right itself shortly. Of course, as we have seen lately in oil prices or with the banks in 2008, this sentiment can quickly turn from indifference to fear and despair. Many investors decide to sell at this very low point. Tired of losing money and angry with themselves for not selling sooner, they give up and get out of the market. At first, they are often relieved that they have taken action and are back in control. Of course, these feelings are short lived as the market capitulates and begins to head back up.

Life with teens can often feel like this emotional roller coaster. When things are going well, it is easy to become complacent and not notice new risky behaviors or to allow negative attitudes to slide. When things are hardest, it is easy to feel trapped and hopeless. This can be especially true for parents when their teen is away from home and in a therapeutic facility.  At first, there is great optimism. The placement of the teen feels like a major hurdle has been overcome and our hope as parents is sky high. This upward momentum lasts for various lengths of time, but I can guarantee after watching this cycle for the past twenty-four years, difficulty is coming. It’s impossible for stocks to only go up, just like it’s unrealistic to expect that people will grow in only one direction. Problems will occur in any setting, and while parents will often remain committed to the process at first and promise to be long-term investors, the crisis deepens and tests the resolve of even the strongest parents.

It is helpful to remember that your teen is also going through an emotional cycle. They are also working through emotions like denial, telling themselves that this is not going to happen to them. Proclaiming that this situation just can’t be true, and that they are not staying in a program. Maybe they are experiencing a need to bargain, or are confused, asking themselves, “Why did this happen to me? I am not so bad…my friends are worse.” This can lead to feelings of depression, being trapped, hopelessness or anger.

So, Mom and Dad, don’t sell your stock at its lowest price when things look the most desperate. Don’t panic and quit when the therapeutic program is reporting a lack of change in your teen. Markets take time to reverse and so do teens. When a teen is struggling the most and things seem the bleakest, this is often when they will finally capitulate and begin the process of positive growth. So try to be grateful in these moments of despair. Try to be calm when you might actually be very nervous. Lean more heavily into meditation and spiritual reflection to gain a proper perspective and peace.

Validating does not have to equal Agreement

Screen Shot 2014 12 15 at 3.56.41 PM 300x133 Validating does not have to equal AgreementHave you ever shared something that weighed heavily on your heart and had your partner respond with, “You shouldn’t feel that way”? How frustrating! We all want to be understood and having someone tell us they think we are wrong for feeling the way we do does not make us feel understood.  The skill I encourage in couples the most is validating one another.  In my last email, I explained how important it was to listen to understand.  Once you believe you understand how your partner feels, then it’s time to validate them.

Validation is an action completed by the listener with the goal of informing the speaker that he or she has been heard and understood.  If your partner has communicated that they are frustrated with how you treated them last night at the dinner party, validation would sound like this: “I understand that you feel hurt by how I treated you last night.”  After you say this you’ll need to wait a little bit.  Don’t go into your side of the story.  Goal #1 is for your partner to feel understood – now that has been achieved.  Going into the facts or your defense will only undermine your goal.  If you really want to explain what you were thinking or intending, you’ll have to wait until the dust has settled.

I often tell couples that after validating they need to wait until the concrete sets up.  After concrete is poured you don’t go stomping around on it unless you want to mess it up.  Let your validation setup before you go and present your side of the story.  You might not even need to tell your side of the story.  You could just say, “I am sorry I hurt you. I will make an effort to be more conscientious of how I treat you in that setting next time.” Don’t worry about the facts – be more concerned with resolution and moving forward.
Validating doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with or accept your partner’s point of view. When you validate them, you are simply letting the speaker know that what he or she has shared makes sense and that you understand them. It only has to be a few sentences (sometimes even less), but validation is a vital part of healthy communication.

Validating equals Understanding
Validating does not have to equal Agreement

Do you feel validated by your partner? If not, then lead by example.

When our partner does not validate us, we often feel misunderstood or rejected. Validation is the bridge that brings two people together. You might be track­ing your partner’s message in your head, but if you don’t give them some indication that you understand him or her, they will most likely feel distant, invalidated or unimportant.

When two people are engaged in a heated conversation, validation can be a difficult skill to keep in mind. How­ever, validation is one of the most important, if not the most important, skill to develop for healthy communica­tion within your relationship.

I encourage you to listen to understand your partner today and then validate them by letting them know that you understand what they are saying and feeling.  Connecting is as simple as that.

If you and your partner want more skills and want to make your marriage the best it can be I encourage you to invest in The Marriage Program.

You can do this!

Grace & Peace,

Joshua Emery (Former Shelterwood Therapist)
Program Director at Relationship Architecture

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.

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.