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Kids' Emotions: Fear of Sharing Feelings and Addressing Issues

Kids' Emotions: Fear of Sharing Feelings and Addressing Issues

Written by Jeff Schadt

Nine out of ten kids, whom I have had the privilege of coaching, feared sharing their feelings or attempting to bring up issues/hurts with their parents.  This inability to address feelings, hurts and issues contributed heavily to their hiding out in their rooms and also their explosiveness with their parents, as they grew older.

I recently witnessed this cycle with my 14 year old son who is struggling with negative core values and had some unresolved hurts with us.  Paul was given the freedom to share those hurts one evening and more poured out than I anticipated even though I teach this day in and day out.  Apologies were issued, which helped diffuse some of the emotional storm that was churning within him.  His dyslexia, recent suicides of friends, and other issues led to his being even more sensitive than usual to things my wife and I had said to him.

When our kids fear that we will not listen or understand, and that we will minimize their perspective or worse be defensive with their feelings, hurts or issues, they bottle them up.   This can cause them to hide in their rooms as they seek to avoid more issues and hurts.  As their feelings gather, a storm builds within.  It is much like an actual storm front that begins with a temperature change that produces clouds that thicken, darken and expand until a brilliant flash of lightening and rolling clap of thunder explodes onto the scene.

Some of us may have felt a temperature change with our kids and even asked some questions, but their fears often prevent kids from opening up and being completely honest.  I have found that their hurts often stem from messages we sent trying to help, encourage, or prevent them from making bad decisions, that they interpret very differently than we intended. 

Unfortunately the traditional approach to parenting which works so well with little kids, if not intentionally altered and discussed with our kids, leads to seven to eighteen year olds to hide their feelings and not bring up the issues they have with their parents.  When this occurs the issues build within until they are unable to handle more resulting in shut down, defensiveness or eruptions.  My research concluded that it is this reality that frequently leads to a breakdown in parent child relationship that our society has deemed inevitable with adolescents.  This breakdown is avoidable!

When we alter our approach prior to adolescence, open the lines of communication and learn to respect our kids' perspectives, feelings and issues, we can avoid the buildup within our kids that results in behavior and motivation issues that cause so much frustration for parents in the adolescent years.  In far too many families this stormy season lasts until their kids are out of the house and are able to experience some distance to break the cycle, grow and begin to interact with us, their parents, on a more peer-to-peer level. 

Adolescence does not have to be a stormy time.  It can be an amazing time where we talk openly and learn from each other, building deeper, stronger relationships with our kids that will pay huge dividends in their lives as they leave our homes, enter relationships and seek to build their own families.  To learn how to change your approach as your kids turn six and move into the preteen and teen years, join YTN's parent support system and watch the Secrets of Influential Parenting today.

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Kids Emotions : An Inability to Discern Their Feelings

Kids Emotions : An Inability to Discern Their Feelings

Written by Jeff Schadt Founder ( YTN )

One of the reasons our kids' emotions can be like the Fourth of July stems from something I see a great deal in coaching, an inability to discern their feelings.

When strong emotions hit that are not identified and communicated, kids quickly learn to cope by shutting them down or venting in anger.  As I talk with them, they are unable to tell me what feelings they were experiencing when specific events occurred.  They tend to answer, "it does not matter" (the shutdown) or I was angry. 

If we want to help our kids understand themselves, it is important for us to move past taking personally the things are kids are saying and doing as well as curb our frustrations. By reacting, scolding or lecturing our kids we increase the likelihood that they will begin to tune us out, shutdown or blow up.  We miss the opportunity to help them develop vital skills for deep relationships. 

Helping our kids understand and communicate their feelings honestly and in a manner that the other person can accept, understand and respond to is a crucial skill. In my coaching I have found that skill is lacking in many marriages because our parents did not help us learn to discern and share our feelings in a productive manner.

When I am working with kids who cannot discern their feelings I find it helps when I list multiple potential feelings they could have felt given the situation we are discussing. I share a short list of potential feelings like hurt, alone, misunderstood or not believed.  This often helps them begin to share a feeling or two that pertains to that situation.

As parents we can do the same.  When we see our kid retreating, shutting down or becoming frustrated, we need to let them know it is ok.  It is part of growing up. Share with them that it is important for them to begin to understand and share their feelings because it will help you better understand them. It will also enable them to sort out their feelings and often find a solution. 

If they struggle at identifying and sharing their feelings with you, ask them why?  They may believe from past interactions that they will not be heard, understood or that their feelings will be denied.   Read the Wisdom vs. Perspective blog for more insights.  Assure them that you want to handle things differently and that you will listen and not correct their feelings.  Then ask if you can share some possible feelings they may be experiencing to help them begin to discern the difference between hurt, pain, sadness, anger and more subtle things that can lead to anger like feeling dismissed, not trusted or valued.  This skill will pay huge dividends in our homes and help them identify and make better decisions with friends and relationships they enter in the future.

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Kid’s Emotions Can Be Like The 4th of July

Kid’s Emotions Can Be Like The 4th of July

Written by Jeff Schadt, Founder the Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

Kid’s emotions can be like July Forth, a period of calm followed by a spectacular display of frustration, sadness, tears or anger.  Many times the things that set them off seem small or insignificant leaving us confused and concerned.  Recently Paul my 14 year son got very upset and stormed off when he came upstairs and found that his older sister and brother were playing Mario's Winter Olympics.  They were laughing and having a good time and he came in and tried to get one of them to let him play immediately.  When that did not happen, he was upset,  said a few things to communicate his anger and stormed off. 

Emotional outbursts can occur around mistakes, school, friends, homework and chores.  They seem to appear out of the calm blue of night just like fireworks.  For some of us these displays happen far too often and leave us concerned about our kid.  Over the past 13 years of working with kids and families I have found such eruptions to stem from one or more of five main underlying causes.

1.  An inability to discern their feelings

2.  A fear of addressing issues/sharing their feelings

3.  Unresolved Issues

4.  The reality of the adolescent brain

5.  Negative core values

Understanding my son well and knowing that Paul is struggling with several of the causes above, I gave him some time to cool down before attempting to address his “Fireworks display.”  When I approached him I did not come down on him but asked him how he was doing.  He said not well and then tears began to flow.  I asked why and his negative core values that we have been discussing and working on came flowing out.  These negative beliefs about himself have developed because of his dyslexia and difficulty in making lasting friendships, as well as the fact that two of his friends committed suicide.  The bottom line was he felt left out and that triggered his belief that no one wants to be his friend. Paul's true mistake was not his anger, but not sharing how he was feeling when he found them playing the game without him.  Had he done so rather than trying to force his way into the game, things would have turned out differently.

Paul’s eruption stemmed from reasons 1, 2, 4 and 5 above.  By sitting down and helping him explore how he was doing, what he was feeling, and what he could have done differently, we were able to have a great conversation rather than a confrontation.  It resulted in further self -awareness and understanding that led to openness and a return of his gentle spirit. He voluntarily apologized and shared his real feelings with his brother. Had I addressed his anger in my former traditional manner, I would have immediately jumped on Paul for his anger, a battle would have ensued, and in his mind he would have moved even further from his family.

Over the next five weeks I will use stories to demonstrate how each of these factors impacts our kid’s emotions and may lead to periods of calm before a storm and then share how we can move beyond the storm to help our kids learn and grow.

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Earn My Trust vs. Believe the Best!  ( Part two of

Earn My Trust vs. Believe the Best! ( Part two of "Earn My Trust?" )

Written by Jeff Schadt: Founder, Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

If trust must be earned we are all in trouble, since we are all far from perfect.  We all make mistakes, forget things, say the wrong thing and let each other down, especially in our families.  As parents we let our kids a down and they let us down. 

Given this reality an "Earn My Trust" mentality would result in is everyone in the family needing to earn trust back from each other.  While parents may not realize it, I find in coaching families that kids are adopting the "Earn My Trust" mentality with their parents.  They begin to measure and keep score of what their parents say and do and conclude they cannot trust them and so they pull away, react and share less with their parents.

Earn my trust leaves us needing to be close to perfect with each other and leads to a horrible family culture focused on the shortcomings, hurts and lets downs to determine if we can trust each other.

I have found that a "Believe the Best" mind set leads to a far better outcome then earn my trust in our home.  I believe my kids want to please me, love me and are doing their best.  When something comes along and one of my kids falls short or is struggling this makes it easier to "interact, instead of react" and it makes them more openwith me.  This allows us to move past the right and wrong arguments and dig into the feelings, miscommunications and misconceptions that I find plague most parent child relationships.  These things lead to all kinds of communication, motivation and behavior issues because kids carry these frustrations and hurts around inside them ready to spill out when they get bumped.

When we adopt a Believe the Best Culture" in our homes it opens up lines of communication and draws us closer to each other.

So how does this work when our kids fall short and fail?  It's fun and I have so many different stories to share.  You can watch me share this story on our site bout Paul and the knife for another example.  LINK

Recently, Eric pretended to be sick and instead of making him go to school I talked with him about making good versus bead decisions and how that leads to a successful life. In spite of this, Eric chose to stay home, but agreed to get some other work done right away.  As he did that work the truth became evident and he started acting fine.  When I saw this I choose to believe the best in my son and instead of jumping on him for lying I jokingly said Pinocchio and he smirked and got a sheepish look on his face.  I said you feel ok don't you and he said yes.

We then discussed that life is about making good versus bad decisions and I asked if he liked doing the school work more at school with other kids then at home alone; like he would have to do if he missed school that day.  He said he liked doing the work more at school with other kids. 

As we talked it came out that he wanted to stay home because his older brother had been sick for a couple of days and he missed him and did not have him to ride home on the bus with him. 

He then made the decision to go to school late.  As we headed to school, I asked him if he had he lied and he admitted it and apologized.   I also asked him if he wanted to be trusted and discussed that when we lie that it makes it hard to believe other things we say that are true.  I asked if he knew what it felt like to not be trusted.  He understood this at the age 7 clearly and does not like it when he is not believed and trusted.  I asked him if he had learned anything and he shared what he learned.  I then told him that I believe in him and trust him in spite of the failure that morning.  He lit up and was so glad.  There were no harsh words and no argument just open honest discussion.

I also asked him if he needed to do anything else to make this right and he said, "apologize to my teacher?"  I said "yes."  We discussed why and what to say. You should have seen him when he walked into the teacher to admit to his lie to avoid coming to her class.  He looked like a cold, wet and tired puppy dog even though we had, just been laughing in the car. He struggled to get the words out.  She did not know what to say, as it seemed like this was the first time this had ever happened in her teaching career.

A "Believethe Best" rather than and "Earn My Trust" culture leads to less conflict, more listening, better discussion and true understanding in our homes.  It is a lot more fun then trying to earn back your families trust!

 

 

 

 

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You Need to Earn My Trust ???

You Need to Earn My Trust ???

Written by Jeff Schadt Youth Transition Network (YTN)

On it's surface the statement "you need to earn my trust" is believed and considered sound.  But how does it work in practicality?

I subscribed to this philosophy in all my relationships, including those with my kids.  Then I sat and talked with over 3,000 kids and began to understand their point of view.  Through my research and coaching of parents and adolescents I found that the phrase "you need to earn my trust" was negatively impacting the parent child relationship.

I have come to see trust as the bed rock of love.  Trust and love go hand in hand.  If trust breaks down in a marriage, the love relationshipis in big trouble.  I found this equally true in the parent child relationship. Put succinctly, when our kids do not feel trusted, they begin to question if they are loved.

When kids hear the phrase "you need to earn my trust" they lose hope because they understand that it means they cannot "mess up" for an extended period of time.  Given the nature of childhood, learning and especially the adolescent brain, it seems virtually impossible to them.  When they reach this conclusion, their relationship with their parents begins to die. They pull away emotionally making it more likely they will fail to earn their parents’ trust because they fill the relational void with social media, friends or other escapes.  

Since love and trust our inexplicably linked in a child’s mind, they often adopt a performance-based view of love.  They begin to believe they are loved only when they aregood, perfect or worthy of trust. This leads to hurt that they do not express and greater distance from their parents. 

While I understand the phrase "earn my trust" has merit outside the home, I find it to be destructive within the home and in family relationships. Here is the reason.  The person who is told they need to earn trust then must perform to the standard set by parents for a period of time.   When neither of these factors is defined, it leaves kids wondering if it is possible to earn their parents’ trust again.

Just for fun lets try to define these terms. If we specified that to earn trust you need to do your chores, not lie, get upset or talk back for a month, one can easily see how kids would fall into the belief that love is based on their performance.

This is why I began to communicate to my kids my belief and trust in them even after they failed.  It seems to have worked.  Next blog I will share how I approach failure discussions that strike at trust and some examples that have kept my kids close and resulted in deeper learning and better internally motivated decisions on their part.

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Forgiveness and our Families

Forgiveness and our Families

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a challenging topic because it touches so many different situations.  While coaching families I have found that the lack of a resolution process and the resulting lack of forgiveness has three negative impacts:

1.  Leads to family units that are emotionally disconnected, functioning together as needed, but essentially living as individuals under one roof.

2.  Results in kids who are good at "acting the part" they need to keep their parents happy, but carry with them un-forgiven hurts that lead to distance, hiding in their rooms and often escape behaviors from gaming, to social media and sexting to the relationship mill.

3.  A defensive and reactive culture with in the home.

Forgiveness is defined by Google as:

for·give·nessˌfərˈɡivnəs/ noun

noun: forgiveness; plural noun: forgivenesses

•  the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.

•  "she is quick to ask forgiveness when she has over stepped the line"

Not veryhelpful.  I find it is amazing how many definitions use the word they are attempting to describe to define the term, which to me indicates how little we truly understand the word.  A more helpful definition is found in the word exoneration which is defined as:

ex·on·er·a·tion  iɡˌzänəˈrāSH(ə)n/ noun: exoneration; plural noun: exonerations

1. 
the action of officially absolving someone from blame; vindication."the defendants' eventual exoneration"





2. 
the release of someone from a duty or obligation.

This is more helpful because it releases another person from blame there by removing the offense from them.  True forgiveness would then be the offended party releasing or exonerating the offender of the blame so that their anger and hurt within does not remain and fester spilling over into other areas of their lives and relationships.

The challenge many people have with forgiveness is that releasing the offense opens us to the potential that the offending party may not alter their ways and may continue to hurt us in similar ways. 

To forgive we need to realize that the pain we feel is real.  Offenses, attacks, control and manipulation cause pain; sometimes our self-protective instincts or pride can lead to denial. When enough unresolved hurts pile up, they can cause an internal shut down and to a "who cares attitude" in kids, teens and adults.  This leads to thoughts like “you do not mean anything to me” or “I will prevent you from hurting me,” which can take over our lives.  These thoughts are a self-defense or coping mechanism that attempts to protect us from the very real pain we can carry within.  If we do not process and grieve these hurts, they become toxic to our hearts and we can grow cold, callous or angry.  They can also lead to bitterness, which can impact our perspective in every area of our lives and affect every relationship as we seek to prevent anyone else from hurting us.

Denying the pain keeps us from grieving, healing and from moving on to forgiveness. Emotional pain while very intense will not kill us and allowing ourselves to go through the pain and grieve will bring resolution, healing and make it easier to forgive.

This requires the offended person to work through feelings of responsibility.

When we are hurt, we need to identify the sources and determine who is responsible. Too often people enable and find fault in themselves due to negative beliefs they carry about themselves that lead them to draw the wrong conclusions related to responsibility.

This is especially true for children, who have a very small world and tend to believe their world is all encompassing. When traumatic events occur, kids automatically believe it's their fault. They think things like, "if I did not make mom so angry, she would not have gotten sick” or “my parents would not have gotten a divorce.”

As a parent and coach for other families I have found that we collectively have a weakness as parents.  Rarely do we circle with our kids to see how they perceived our communication or message and how they are processing a conflict or what we said.  As a result many carry far more unresolved hurts than we parents can even imagine.  This can lead to emotional distance, defensiveness and out of proportion reactions to seemingly small things because the hurts we unwittingly inflicted were never brought up, addressed. Therefore they could not be forgiven and released by our kids. 

Helping our kids process hurts, allowing them to grieve and helping them determine responsibility, is vital to preventing bitterness, anger and shutdown.  In this process we as parents often have to own how our verbal and nonverbal communication was actually received by our kids and apologize.  This frees them to forgive and not retain the hurts to bounce around inside them waiting to be triggered by something small we say or do.

Once we're clear as to who's responsible for what, the next step is to discover why the offender hurt us. This keeps us from dwelling single-mindedly on how we were hurt or how we wish to see the other person punished.

Allow grieving to begin as one encounters pain can lead to tears, confusion and even anger for a period of time.  All these emotions are ok and are part of dealing with pain in a healthy manner.  Find a safe person to share these feelings with and let them out.  Repressing pain prevents healing and ultimately our ability to forgive.

Sometimes it is hard to forgive because we believe we are giving the other person a free pass both on that offense and to hurt us again.  We think it means they get to go about their lives free and clear, while we attempt to recover from their actions. We also may think it requires us to go back to the old relationship causing us to avoid forgiving.

To over come this we need to understand forgiveness better. It is important to realize that forgiving someone is not giving them a free pass.  We still need to hold others accountable for theiractions or lack of action going forward. Accountability does not mean angry responses, but rather clearly holding an emotional boundary that you will not be treated this way anymore.  One way to handle this is to end aconversation when an issue recurs. 

Taking a break holds the other person accountable for the action without a fight ensuing and more damage coming into the relationship.  Discuss and agree with the person that if they repeat specific behaviors that you have permission and authority to end the conversation to allow the offending party to consider the situation, and hopefully come to sound conclusions, apologize and approach the situation differently.   It is not the responsibility of the one forgiving to keep taking the hurt in order to help the other person learn the same lesson repeatedly.  Establishing healthy boundaries frees the heart to be able to forgive.  Forgiveness is not allowing the same thing to occur repeatedly. 

We should not keep ourselves open to harsh, cruel or angry behavior that opens old wounds and creates scars.  Emotional abuse is real and has been proven to have long-term effects on people who experience it.  Establishing emotional boundaries with the other person, if possible, and holding to them is important.

Sometimes it is not possible for forgiveness to lead toreconciliation.  There are times we may need to forgive and let go of the offense because reconciliation is not possible due to death or mental health.  This also holds true when the offending party has severe baggage that does not allow them to accept true responsibility and make needed changes for a healthy relationship to ensue. God did not command us to reconcile, but rather to forgive when a brother repents. Whenever possible, forgiveness should not be done from a distance.  The goal of forgiveness is a reconciled relationship, but sometimes we must forgive without a return to the old relationship.

Forgiveness should stem from discussion of the issue and offense which should lead to a mutual understanding of the situation bringing about apologies.  When this uncomfortable step is taken we often find miscommunication or other factors that we were not aware of were happening.  We may discover and that the situation was not a deliberate attempt to hurt us which makes it much easier to forgive.

If we find ourselves needing to repeatedly forgive someone for the same things, we might need to take a look at the situation to determine if we have healthy emotional boundaries.  We may need to speak to whether they are truly owning the damage and behavior they are repeating.  We should not and God does not require us to allow another person to repeatedly wound us.  We should not allow ourselves to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused which can develop a victim mentality within us.

If God is a just God and makes judgments in eternity, we need to release our desire for revenge and punishment to his infinite wisdom and insight.  God knows each individual, his heart and his baggage better than we do and can see beyond the offense to make a much more fair and sound judgment than we are able to make.

Forgiveness is a process.

It might take some time to work through our emotional hurts before we can truly forgive. Sometimes this requires several discussions with the other person and giving ourselves the time to grieve the situation and begin to heal before we can truly forgive.

People will hurt us throughout our lives. We can either keep a defensive, hard heart towards others due to past hurts or we can begin to see the brokenness in others.  We can learn not to take every offense personally thereby allowing them  to roll off of us.   This is far easier when we have grieved past hurts and healed within ourselves.  If we are carrying unresolved and un-grieved hurts we are far more sensitive and easily hurt by others.  Healing allows our attitudes and perspective to change regarding other people.

Sometimes we may not forgive in order to not feel weak or vulnerable and to give us some perceived control over the situation. We canfeel powerful if we hold forgiveness over the other person in an attempt to punish them or make them feel guilty.  We may fear that we will again feel powerless if we forgive. All relationships will deteriorate over time without discussion, mutual understanding, and apologies that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.  If we cannot forgive no matter what the reason, we will end up lonely people.

Forgiveness should help release the pain we are carrying and free us from a focus on the offender. In the midst of the turmoil we can seek a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women and even men may want to rush the process and to forgive too quickly so the pain will end.  Sometimes this is done to maintain a relationship with the other person.  Kids are often expected to forgive their parents immediately short circuiting the release of pain that should occur with forgiveness and allowing it to build up within them over time. 

If we believe we are required to forgive just so others will still like us, or not think badly of us, it's not true forgiveness.  Keep your healthy boundaries, have the needed conversations and allow the time necessary to allow true forgiveness to develop within you.  Let the other person know you are working on grieving so you can truly forgive and reconcile with them.   Forgiveness is notcompletely forgetting the situation, as this would prevent us from remembering and holding our boundaries in place.  It is normal for memories to be triggeredin situations tied to past hurts.  The question is how do we react and respond to these memories.   If we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we need to remember that this is not the same situation and that the person admitted their fault to us.  

We also need to determine if memories bring back pain that causes us to react.  If so we need to take time and separate those feelings of pain from the present situation to be able to have a good discussion with the person who triggered the memory.  

When pain floods in from the past tothe present due to a triggered memory it is a good indication that we have not grieved, resolved or forgiven that past situation. Therefore we need to go back and revisit that situation and time frame in our lives to bring about healing and to stop allowing the past to impact the present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wisdom vs Perspective Paradox

Wisdom vs Perspective Paradox

The Wisdom vs. Perspective Paradox (Understanding our Kid’sPerspective)

The gap I find between parents and their kid’s perspectives never ceases to amaze me. Parents often believe everything is fine and that their kids are close to them, while their kids share with me feelings of frustration, loneliness, distance and hurt. I found this to be the case with my kids, when I really began to seek their insight and input.

Coaching families across the country, I believe the problem stems from the Wisdom vs. Perspective Paradox.  Given our age and experience we can look at our kids, the paths they are on and the things they are doing and see the flaws, issues and elements they are missing.  As a result, we often see ourselves as right and minimize our kid’s thoughts ideas and perspective.  Given this, we seek to impart our wisdom and insights to our kids in order to protect and help them.

In this process we may correct them, or tell what to do.  When it does not seem they are accepting ourwisdom, we become frustrated, lecture or trigger an argument because we think that we have the wisdom they need and should apply to their lives.

What is missed in this is the kid’s perspective.  In my coaching, I find that the well meaning,wisdom based messages we send are often perceived very differently by our kids.  Where we believe we are helping them, they hear something very different.  

Far too often I hear from kids that the wisdom their parentsare imparting to them is perceived like they are falling short, are always wrong, and are sometimes deeply hurt by our messaging.  While we deliver our wisdom in what seems to be reasonable ways, and our kids appear on the surface to go along with us, they do not show or share how the message impacted them emotionally. Then our kids end up stuffing the frustration and hurt with us and our message, in spite of our best intentions.

Given our position and wisdom we may say things like:

When I was a kid I thought the same thing.

You will understand when you are a parent.

Trust me you do not want to do that.

You need to do this because

While true, these comments leave our kids feeling like they are viewed as less than or incapable.   Unfortunately, I find in coaching families that this frequently leads to kids that feel like they do not measure up, are not good enough or are the problem in their family.  They say things like, "If I could just be better the whole family would be better,” which is too much pressure for any kid to carry. 

As a result, I find kids carrying around hurt in the relationship with their parents, which the parents have no idea exist.  This builds an emotional wall between them and leads to kids that get defensive, exaggerate and overreact as little things we say trigger the unresolved issues they are carrying hidden on the inside.

Recently, a 14 year old shared in a coaching session with her parents that their messages and lectures around being responsible, making good decisions, left her believing/feeling that everything was her fault, that she was not good enough and was a failure, in spite of being a straight A student.

Unfortunately, our ability to understand and see all the issues in our kid’s lives, thinking or decisions, leaves us in a position of talking down to, rather than with our kids.

We want to impart our wisdom and have them implement it in their lives because we are older and have the life experience.  We end up telling and lecturing, rather than discussing adopting an, “I am right you are wrong,” mentality which bleeds through in the things we say and especially in our non-verbal communication.

As a result, we do not consider asking them questions like:

How do you view the situation?

What are you considering as you approach this situation?

What outcome are you seeking to achieve?

Can I share some insights with you?

Has this conversation helped?

Such questions help our kids feel understood, valued and capable.  They also help them develop the ability to think through situations, as they explain it: variables and desired potential outcomes will result.   In the end, this develops our kids' wisdom: leading to more mature, capable kids that can make better decisions.

When we fail to ask these questions we also miss an amazing opportunity to understand our kid’s thought process.  Often I find that kids age 9 to 16 are thinking things through on a much higher level than we believe they are.  Missing these insights we are limited and do not alter our view of our kids' abilities and therefore do not develop confidence in them.

Given the Wisdom vs. Perspective paradox we can fail to ask some of the most important questions after we share wisdom or correction with our kids.  These questions seek to understand how are kids are receiving wisdom and correction.

What did you hear me say about you?

Has this conversation been helpful to you?

Has this conversation hurt or frustrated you in any way?

How do you feel about yourself given our conversation?

These questions will help you avoid the break down we are seeing in so many homes.  You quickly come to know if they are taking your wisdom in a manner that leads them to feel more or less capable and closer or more distant from you.  This feedback is vital if we want to remain close to our kids leading into and throughout adolescence and avoid the unintentional baggage we can create within our kids.

If your kid will not answer these questions they are probably fearful of sharing their true feelings, frustration and hurts with you.  This is in part natural and in part a function of past communication, where we may have unintentionally dismissed their feelings, thoughts, ideas and or opinions.

If this is the case we need to reassure them that we willlisten, not argue and that we really want to understand their perspective.  If this will not open them up you may need to consider past conversations where they have been hurt or felt dismissed and apologize for them. 

Sometimes reopening communication requires getting a parent adolescent coach who can help your kid share their frustration and hurts with past messages leading to resolution and a new openness in your communication.

 If you have any questions please e-mail me atjschadt@ytn,org and we can set a time to talk.  Written by Jeff Schadt, YTN

 

 

 

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I Try to Encourage My Kids,

I Try to Encourage My Kids, "Why do they reject my encouragement?"

Written by Jeff Schadt, Founder Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

Encouragement is vital, if we want to develop kids that will achieve their true potential.  Today the shifting sands of social media brings instability, slights and a level of comparison that we did not have to deal with when we were kids.

Apart from the information overload, streaks and uncertainty social media added to our kid’s lives as adolescents, a majority of us struggled to feel like we belonged, with negative feelings about ourselves.    The addition of social media has not helped with a sense of belonging and studies have linked social media to a greater sense of loneliness.

This is the reason encouragement is more important than ever for 9 to 18 year olds. Encouragement draws our kids closer to us and lessens their need to make connections elsewhere.

In my work with YTN, I found that the kids whom were happier, motivated and moving in positive directions had better relationships with their parents than is typically believed possible with adolescents today.  These parents somehow figured out that a positive, supportive and encouraging relationship was the best deterrent to their kids going off track resulting in less conflict, more openness and kids that actually sought their advice.

For encouragement to be accepted, it needs to be thoughtful, meaningful and relevant. During events and coaching sessions with families I often hear parents comment, “I try to encourage them, but my kid either does not hear or accept the encouragement I offer.”  This stems from two possible sources:

1:  The way we seek to encourage does not align with what is important to them.

2:  Our kids' negativity about themselves causes them to reject the positive things we point out in them.

1: Sometimes the positive comments/encouragement parents extend come across to adolescents, as either superficial, clueless or containing what they perceive to be expectations.  

Superficial comments are those that focus more on ‘what’, rather than ‘who’ they are!  Post-modern adolescents are looking for validation of who they are, of their thought process and nature more so than even their performance.   When we issue more surface compliments, they need to align with the reality they experience.  Saying you are beautiful is more ‘what’ rather than ‘who’ and if it is not readily validated by other’s view of them, may be seen as false or clueless and thus be dismissed.

I have found cases where parents are saying things like you are going to be more successful than me or you are going to be such a better person then me, that kids take as an expectation by their parents.  Often these types of comments become more of a negative to them, than encouraging, as the adolescent brain becomes very sensitive to expectations.  As a result, they hear, you should be or need to be more successful than me, which ads pressure and often kicks off the self-doubt they carry. They feel like this is unlikely or an impossible goal for them given how they see themselves.

Great encouragement is found when we see them making a good decision, or having a sensitive heart towards a friend, brother or sister.  When they work hard at something and you let them know how proud you are of how hard they worked and who they are becoming in the character trait you observed.  These speak deeply to the emotional nature of the adolescent brain.

2:  When kids reject positive comments and encouragement from parents as well as others it is a sign that they have developed negative beliefs about themselves.  When this occurs, they do not hear, acknowledge or accept positive things about themselves, because it is not consistent with what they have concluded deep within.

The problem this creates is that they accept negative comments and things said about them because they align with their beliefs.   As a result, by the teen years it is not uncommon for kids to grow to be so negative about themselves they either adopt a numb I do not care attitude or a defensive posture, as they attempt to block negative things from impacting them.  They have reached a threshold where they can not take anymore.

If your kid has adopted a set of negative self-beliefs, it requires time, self-control, open ears and an open heart to help them untangle the mess within.  To accomplish this it means we must look past the negative behavior that can stem from the negative internal beliefs of our kids.  More negative will only add to the problem and result in conflict, which kids tell me confirms even more deeply that there must be something wrong with them, because they cannot seem to get along with their family anymore.

This is where learning to ask open ended self-reflective question is so important.  Questions get them talking and hearing themselves.  Questions force them to access the front lobe of their brains and evaluate what they are thinking much more so than statements we make.

Questions like:

1.    What do I believe about you?  (If you get a bunch of negative, evaluate if those messages have been sent and apologize if they have been).

2.    Have you ever made good decisions? What? When?

3.    Do you do nice things for friends and or family? Like what?

4.    What have you succeeded at in your life?

5.    When you hear yourself say those things about yourself, does it bother you or make you mad?  Why?

6.    What lead you to believe --------.  A specific negative thing they say aboutthemselves.

It is important that you do not take their answers and draw conclusions for them, like say, you are better than you realize.  Even more important is not getting defensive if they answer questions like #6 with things you have done or said.  Those things are real to them and need to be pondered and likely apologized for rather than supported or defended.

Obviously asking one set of questions will not counteract a lifetime of conclusions they have made, but as the door opens be ready with creative questions that will help them assess the reality of the conclusions they have come to.

For this to work, negative comments and frustration with their behavior needs to drop to being very rare and encouragement needs to be frequent.  We need to dig to find the small decisions and positive things they do and ask them about them and encourage them in those decisions, actions and attitudes to a fault as we continue to help them identify the negative things they believe and their source.

Today the discouragement I find in kids age 9 to 18 isimmense.  Few have positive beliefs about themselves and as a result very few are internally motivated and energized to try new things and make a difference.

Learning to encourage our adolescents is vital of we are going to have kids whom achieve their potential!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preparing for Adolescence

Preparing for Adolescence

 Jeff Schadt Founder of YTN the Youth Transition Network   Preparing for adolescence, while crucial is often over looked today.

Preparing for adolescence is important given the very real changes that occur in the adolescent brain that lead to more emotional, more forgetful and more oppositional kids. When parents do not anticipate these changes it can lead to distance, conflict and stress that affects everyone in the family.

Preparing requires:

1.    Altering expectations

2.    Reworking communication

3.    Viewing our kids differently

1.  Given that our kids' emotional regulation wanes, as a result of the development occurring in the back lobes of the brain our kid's behavior will change 18 months prior to puberty.  The highs will be higher, their lows will be lower and they will become upset more easily.  This occurs not because they are becoming rebellious, do not like us or respect us, but because of the changes in electrical activity in their brains.

If we anticipate these changes and alter our expectations it makes it easier not to react and take theses changes personally. To prepare for these changes it is helpful to recognize not just the physical growth of our kids but their mental growth and increased abilities.  While it may not appear that way, this is often because we do not recognize it and alter our communication patterns, as a result, they keep responding like children. This is the reason it is important to reflect upon and adjust to the increased mental abilities our kids have. 

At this juncture they are developing synapses between different parts of the brain. If we continue to view their mental abilities like they are kids and communicate with them accordingly we set ourselves up for a bumpy road.  As these synapses are created our kids are able to combine and evaluate different areas of thought and experience, which often leads to them questioning information and conclusions they once held as true.  This is why they also begin to question and even challenge our thoughts, directions and decisions that we are in the habit of making for them.  This is a natural part of their development not a behavior problem we need to fix.

2. Given the changes coming for our kids around age 8 or 9 we need to begin to alter our communication pattern with them as early as age 5 or 6.  This means asking more questions about a situation, understanding their feelings and thoughts.  Often with our four kids, we found that they had thought through things more than we believed or even thought they were capable of.   We also asked them questions that helped them evaluate the decision for themselves and allowed them time to process.  Virtually every time we found they made the right decision.  When they did make the best decision due to of the discussion we had before hand, it was easy to get them to reevaluate and see the error in their decision.  In this approach, we found they learned more and repeated the same mistakes less than under our old top down paradigm.

This type of communication is vital during adolescence because of the oppositional nature of the adolescent brain.  Simply put a top down, tell them what to do communication style triggers the oppositional nature so they push back, leading to stress, frustration, conflict and in this state they may even do the opposite of what we direct them to do.  I find that they often do not even know why they do these things, as they do not understand the adolescent brain.  They are frustrated with themselves, because their oppositional response oppositional leads to pain of some form or another. 

In coaching adolescents, I find that if this cycle develops between parents and adolescents the kids often come to believe there is something wrong with them leading to escape behaviors that parents fear.

3.  To make such a communication change we need to view them less like the little children they behave like, and begin to see them on the verge of being young adults.  In 1945, 3.5 million 14 to 18 year olds worked in factories and were valued trusted employees.  In 1909 a survey of 500, 10 to 14 year olds working in factories in Chicago found that these kids preferred working than school because they felt valuable and valued.  Many reported things like I can buy shoes for the baby!

In short, we need to believe our kids can respond more like adults and communicate with them more in this manner.  If we continue to approach them like they are little kids and communicate with them in a manner that worked when they were 3, 4 and 5 it is no wonder they get frustrated, begin to tune us out and keep responding like they are children as they have had little ability to, or practice at responding more like adults.

While preparing for adolescence, as a parent is not a frequent topic today, it is a vital one if we desire to have close relationships, less conflict and better communication that will lead to more mature capable kids.

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Help Your Kids Grieve

Help Your Kids Grieve

Written by Jeff Schadt, Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

Grieving is vital if our kids are to grow into happy healthy teens and adults.

To support grieving, means providing a safe place for our kids.  A safe place recognizes that bad days and emotions are part of the human experience.  Too often I find that the kids I coach feel like they have to be perfect around their parents.  These kids are fearful of being honest about their lives, let alone their feelings with their parents.  When this is the case a safe place does not exist for grieving. 

Grieving requires sad, confused, closed and even mad periods of time.  Encouraging this as a parent is important, but challenging given our society’s expectations and the pace of life.  It is made even more difficult by the fact that as parents we began with babies and experienced the terrible two’s and three’s, where we begin to view bad moods and attitudes as bad behavior, which must be addressed, rather than a symptom of something deeper that needs to be explored.

Healthy grieving prevents sudden changes and painful events from being bottled up inside our kids, which adversely impacts their view of themselves and people in general.  Left unprocessed and unevaluated these things can haunt our kids as they move forward in life in a broad range of ways from anger issues, to motivation issues, to relationship issues and depression.

As parents, it is easy to minimize the impact of seemingly small things to us, that are much more significant to our kids because their worlds are much more compact and less stressed than our own.  Grieving may be needed after that first crush fails, after a relative says something damaging that rests on our kid’s heart, following a huge family fight that left fear and pain or larger traumatic events like a divorce, being rejected or made fun of at school.

Recently, I helped a family write a safe place document for their daughter because this teen believed that if she let herself grieve and exposed those emotions, they would be misunderstood, misinterpreted and lead to further conflict with her parents.  Simply put, she did not feel the freedom to have a bad day, to cry and be angry at things that happened in her life.  As a result, she had bottled up so much by saying things like its no big deal, it does not matter, and I will get past it, to herself.  This bottling led to negative self-perceptions that she was a problem, not good enough and even deserved to be in pain.   Now she is a teen and because she did not let herself cry, or grieve all the unresolved emotional baggage is coming out in other more destructive ways.

Teaching our kids about grieving and giving them permission to grieve is vital for their long run emotional health and motivation.  Sometimes this means allowing them to take a day off from school to process their feelings. Other times it means taking them to the batting cage, driving range or other activity where they can let out their frustration and anger at the situation. 

Being a safe place for grieving means we allow our kids, the space and freedom to grieve; to have hard days without us jumping in with answers, ideas and or correction.  Letting them know we are there to listen and allowing them to come to us when they are ready to share.  When they share, it is more about asking open-ended questions to draw out their deeper feelings, listening and caring then trying to fix the problem or tell them what to do.  In this process they hear themselves and will ask us questions when they want our perspective or thoughts.

Grieving is a messy process and never linear thus, we need to refrain from providing advice that sounds like, this is not that big a deal or easy to get over.  This will shut them down.  Listening and reflecting what they are saying will pay huge dividends in the relationship and with their moving forward in a healthy manner. 

 

 

 

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Teach Your Kids to Grieve!

Teach Your Kids to Grieve!

Written by Jeff Schadt: Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

The more I coach families, the more I see the necessity of teaching our kids to grieve.

Too often I am talking to kids age 12 to 16 who are numb, have given up or adopted an I don’t' care attitude.  As I dig into the reason for their emotional shutdown, I find past hurts that have not been processed. 

Grieving is an essential part of healing from the hurts we encounter.  When we do not allow our self the emotional freedom to experience the grieving cycle these hurts can leave internal road rash that can damage our self-perception and ability have healthy relationships. 

As an adult, the divorce of my parents and the accusations my father felt he had to make against my mom, sister and myself to justify his leaving left deep wounds.  Well meaning people around me wanted me to be ok with it, to forgive my dad immediately and to not encounter the deep and negative emotions true grieving requires.

Given the expectations of others and the desire to keep up the appearance of a professional adult, I did not allow myself to grieve.  I stuffed or internalized the attacks he made and the hurt, which damaged my self-perspective and left me with internal road rash.  The road rash made it difficult to be in real relationships and impossible to listen to advice from older men.  The unhealed hurt resulted in defensiveness and left me closed to people other than my family, as I unconscientiously put up walls to protect myself. 

This resulted in me appearing hard, distant and even arrogant to others even though I was a mess inside.  It was not until a counselor taught me about grieving, gave me permission to and frankly assigned me to take the first step of grieving that healing began.  Unfortunately, the years of delay in the process and the resulting hurts that can be attributed to my defense barrier extended the healing process significantly.

Having been through this difficult journey myself I cannot over emphasize how important it is to teach and allow our kids to grieve.  Three teenage girls I have worked with reached the point of being unable to cry, because they had left so many things unhealed within.  Tears are a vital and the healthy outlet for pain and hurt.  

Examine the grieving cycle graph above and you find true healing and grieving includes sadness, but also anger, something we as parents often shut down quickly, but is an essential part of the healing process. 

The need to grieve can be triggered by the death of a relative, divorce of parents, a deep hurt in a close relationship, a betrayal by a respected adult, emotional, physical or sexual abuse and even the loss of that dramatic first love.  When our kids are taught, encouraged and supported in the grieving process, they do not accumulate the internal doubts and road rash that can hold them back in so many ways as they move toward into and beyond adolescence.

We will cover specifics related to supporting grieving in our next blog.

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Kids Follow Shepherds.  Just Like Sheep!

Kids Follow Shepherds. Just Like Sheep!

Written by Jeff Schadt, Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

During YTN's research, I identified rare sets of kids that followed and listened to their parents because they wanted to, not because they had to.  Like the sheep in the photograph above who choose to follow their shepherds, we found the same was possible with kids. 

Sheep grant their shepherd the influence in their lives.  Shepherds who fail to develop a relationship with their sheep, need dogs and multiple helpers when they move their sheep to ensure none get lost.

The difference was the nature of the relationship.  While most of kids we talked with knew their parents loved them, they found it difficult to feel close to their parents as they grew older. 

We found that the kids who listened to and followed their parents did so, just like sheep, given the nature of the relationship.  These kids remained emotionally close to their parents even as they got older and entered adolescence.

What made the difference for the kids who followed their parents through adolescence?

1) The parents began with a caring communication style, when their kids were young.  They had a communication pattern where frustration and anger rarely entered into the relationship, even when things were spilled and their kids did not listen.  

More important, these parents changed their communication pattern as their kids got older.  They moved past the top down one-way communication that naturally develops when our kids are toddlers.  They recognized that they could converse with their kids even at young ages (4 to 6).  They could ask them questions and help them begin to make their own decisions, which served these parents well when their kids reached the oppositional nature that comes with adolescence.

2) These parents discovered that their kids wanted to succeed and please them so they extended belief, trust and encouragement rather than a long list of expectations and boundaries.  This is in contrast to what most of the kids expressed in our research. They felt controlled and like they fell short of pleasing their parents.  This approach led to frustration and emotional distance.

3) These parents came alongside their kids to help them see and believe in their potential, resulting in a more positive relationship and approach to handling short comings in their kids’ lives.  They encouraged their kids even when they fell short, drawing their kids closer to them.  

Kids who had this type of support at home granted the influence in their lives to their parents because they believed in their parents more than anyone outside the home.  They choose to follow their parents given the nature of the relationship.  It was in these homes where kids found closeness, support and encouragement.  As a result, they were close to their patents, rather than, feeling disconnected and alone like so many of the kids age 9 to 18 we talked with.  This is the reason they talked with, listened to and used their parents as sounding boards when they faced academic, social and life decisions.

These kids excelled and made better decisions than the kids who were emotionally disconnected from their parents and were seeking to fill the void that their parents used to fill.  Become a shepherd today by leveraging YTN's series "The Secrets of Influential Parenting."

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Encourage Failure!

Encourage Failure!

Written By Jeff Schadt, Founder Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

Encouragement in the face of failure, while counterintuitive, yields amazing results.

Just like we hate failing, so do our kids.  In my time with 3,000 kids, there was not a single kid who set out to fail and none that desired to keep on failing.  In coaching adolescents, I find that our kids internalize their failure leading them to draw negative conclusions about themselves.   

This negativity impacts them the next time they face an obstacle.  Given repeated negative experiences with failure, they begin to forecast that they will fail.  When this occurs they may avoid trying new or difficult things, give up when things get hard or worse yet, stop making an effort because it will be worse if they actually try and fail again.  Thisis why encouragement is so important when our kids fail. 

This week a mom called me, from a family that has been changing the way they approach their kids based upon YTN's Secrets of Influential Parenting series.  This is the story she told me.

After a game her son got a slushy, climbed into the car and spilled the entire drink on the seat and floor of the car.  In the past, they would have become upset, made him clean it up and taken something away from him for his careless behavior. 

This time she and her husband did not get upset.  In spite of this their nine-year-old son forecast their negative response and began a meltdown, as if they had come down on him.  This time, instead of coming down on him she said, "It is ok, we all make mistakes.  Let's work together as a team to clean this up."  After some coaxing he came out of his meltdown, and they cleaned the drink up together.  In that process she said, that their son said this about himself, "I am so awkward," revealing one of his negative beliefs about himself, which they would have never heard had they come down on him. 

This sense of being awkward is impacting their son at school, with friends and in with sports teams.  His belief that he is awkward causes him to compensate when out of his home.  In trying so hard to not be awkward, it is leading to some of the very things that leave him on the outside looking in. Now that he has revealed this belief they have a window into his world and can begin helping him address it.

After the drink was cleaned up he wanted another drink.  Instead of babying him like in the past, she suggested to her nine year old that he go into the store, tell them what happened and see if they would refill it.  He did and came back out with a full cup, feeling more believed in, responsible and capable!   A far cry from where their son would have been on the car ride home if they had come down on him, like in the past.

Everyone hates failure. I find it is the people who meet other’s failure with a sense of humor, encouragement and caring advice that get heard, gain respect and produce more effort than those who let them down going forward!  Begin encouraging failure today!  We learn more from our failures then our success, if we are encouraged to do so!

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Identify Angers Source

Identify Angers Source

Written by Jeff Schadt Founder YTN ( Youth Transition Network )

As I coach families around the country, anger is a topic that comes up regularly. Anger has a range of manifestations from irritation, frustration and being upset, to yelling.  

Anger is not always wrong and there are times where anger is justified.  Yet, for many of us it happens too easily.  Even in situations where anger is justified, how it is handled and addressed can either lead to understanding and resolution or have negative impacts on our families and relationships. 

When coaching families, I see the emotional distance that develops when parents and or kids have anger issues.  It is natural that those around family members with anger issues do not feel safe.  They describe themselves as walking on egg shells or just waiting for some unexpected event to trigger an outburst of frustration, yelling or a tantrum.  Often I find that kids with anger issues have seen it modeled by a parent or highly involved relative.

One of the common weaknesses is our inability to identify the source of our anger.  In my own life and in those I coach struggling with anger often we have developed a habitual response, when we were young, to strong emotions.  When we feel strong emotions we jump straight to anger.  This habitual response can be rooted in many potential sources.  One example is that we use anger to protect ourselves.

Anger frequently masks other feelings. Underneath anger in kids and adults are often a group of two, three or four other feelings that are not perceived in the moment that result in anger.  I attribute this to the predominant parenting paradigm used in our country that does not facilitate and encourage the exploration and sharing of feelings, when we handle behavior and motivation issues.  As a result, kids do not develop emotional awareness.  Thus, when strong feelings hit it is easy for kids to jump past this discernment process and just be frustrated, upset or angry.

Whether for ourselves as parents or for our kids, learning to identify the emotional source of anger is critical to breaking the cycle.  Identifying the source of anger requires personal reflection and the ability to ask emotionally based questions of our kids.  We need to become adept at discerning the feelings that lead to anger and help our kids do the same.

Apart from developing healthy communication patterns, it is difficult to reverse the impact of anger in our families and to restore emotional connection.

Emotional connection is crucial, especially with adolescents, given the changes that occur in their brain which leaves them more emotional and processing their lives and decisions through an emotional grid.  If they cannot discern and communicate their own emotions and we do not help them, or their emotional nature frustrates or angers their parents, they will lose emotional connection with their parents.  When this occurs they will form emotional connections elsewhere to fill the void. Given their emotional nature, the people they form emotional connection with outside the home end up with more influence in their lives and their decisions.

When I am coaching kids, underneath their frustration/anger, I find feelings like not being heard, understood, or listened to, as well as feeling like they are never good enough, believed in or are the problem in the family.   Identifying the feelings that lead to anger is the first step in short circuiting the anger response.

Few of us had parents who would ask us why we were angry, or taught us to understand our feelings and how they impact our behavior and relationships.  This is why so many adults and our kids struggle with anger.

We were not asked emotionally focused questions growing uplike:

What feelings are going on inside right now?

What feelings led you to get angry?

Did you feel like I heard you?

Do you feel like I believe in you?

To identify the source of anger we need to begin to process the feelings that underlie our anger.  Once they are identified, as these feelings arise in interaction with family members we need to begin to share those feelings in non-accusatory ways like:

Right now I am not feeling appreciated.

When I am not listened to I do not feel loved.

Sharing these feelings prevents us from stuffing them, and keeps us from releasing the pressure like an uncorked bottle when something bumps us down the road.

When a family begins to: 

1.    Discern their inner feelings

2.    Can safely share those feelings with each other

3.    Come to a point of understanding of what leadsto those underlying feelings

4.    Adjust communications patterns and respond toeach others feelings

The reactive culture that can develop will disappear, people will begin to listen, hear and understand each other; which leads to closer relationships, more joy and better decisions by parents and kids alike.

If you need help in altering the culture of your family, join YTN's parent support community and watch the Secrets of Influential Parenting and then follow the Implementation Process.  Change is possible, and YTN is here to support the changes you want to make if you run into issues with a coaching process that brings about understanding, new perspectives and cooperation.

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Three Questions We Need to Ask Our Six to Sixteen Year Olds.

Three Questions We Need to Ask Our Six to Sixteen Year Olds.

Written by Jeff Schadt Founder of YTN ( Youth Transition Network )

When our kids reach adolescents, they become more emotional as a result of the changes occurring within their brain development.  Kids age nine to eighteen become more sensitive to the things we say and do.  This is the reason I recommend that parents begin to ask emotionally focused questions with their kids beginning at age six, in order to establish this level of communication before brain development begins to change.

Here are three questions I recommend parents ask their kids periodically leading up to and revisit throughout adolescence, especially when parents notice changes in their routine and or volatility.

1.    How are you doing on the inside?

2.    How do you feel about yourself?

3.    Are there things we have said, are saying or doing that bother or hurt you?

Often in my coaching of parents and adolescents, I find adolescents carrying things from the past, negative beliefs about themselves and or hurt from messages we communicate that were well meaning and seemed harmless to us.  I find that these emotional hairballs fester under the surface, which can damage our kids' outlook, motivation and behavior.

Here is an example of a message I sent to my daughter that was received completely differently than intended.  This message festered within my daughter for a year resulting in a-typical meltdowns. 

Heather was 15 years old when we noticed her becoming more and more reactive much like when she was 9 years old.  Little things could result in disproportionate emotional responses, that were frequently directed at my wife Deedee.  Given the changes we had made in our approach as parents this was out of the ordinary and caught us by surprise.  In these instances, I was able to come alongside and see a peaceful resolution come about quickly. 

One evening when I attempted to step in, Heather turned and exploded on me.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  Her cutting words hurt and instead of approaching the things in the manner YTN teaches, Heather and I went to war and it got messy.  After the damage was done we stormed away from each other.    

About an hour later, I asked her to talk and we both began apologizing repeatedly to each other.  After the apologies I asked her what was going on that lead to the recent eruptions. Her initial response was, "I don't know."  I reminded her given all the changes we had made that "I do not know" was an opportunity to reflect (PRAY) and figure out what is goingon inside.  After a couple minutes of reflection, she said, "I am just under so much pressure." 

When I asked her what pressure, she said with a fair amount of emotion, "I have to get straight A's!"  When I asked her, "What makes you think you have to get straight A's?  She said, "You told me I did," which surprised me given what we teach parents.  Instead of saying, "No I didn't," which was my first confused thought, I asked, "When did I tell you that?"  She said,

"Remember when I brought my first report card home from school?"  I said, "Yah you had all A's and one B, and I said great job, didn't I." She said, "Yes, but you also said I had the capability of being the class Valedictorian."

She had taken that statement as an expectation, not an encouragement as intended. This misunderstanding combined with the fact that 80 colleges contacted her in her sophomore year of high school, due to the results of her PSAT's and we did not have the financial ability to help her, she concluded she had to get scholarships.  As a result, Heather had become a leader in three clubs and was taking AP classes. Under this strain the pressure and belief I expected her to get straight A's led to her increased sensitivity and emotional outbursts when she felt pressure or negativity from us.

After talking through the issues and helping her know she was not expected to get straight A's we had our daughter back and her outbursts ceased.

Prior to understanding this, I rarely communicated on an emotional level with my kids.  Instead I focused on giving them information and telling them things as I tried to motivate them to behave well and make good decisions.  When I learned to communicate on an emotional level, below surface behavior, attitudes and decisions I found a better way to connect with and influence my kids and our relationships got much stronger.

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Five Reasons Kids Lie to Their Parents

Five Reasons Kids Lie to Their Parents

Written by Jeff Schadt Founder, YTN ( Youth Transition Network )

When coaching families I frequently interact with kids, age 8 to 16, around the reasons they lie to their parents.  When digging into this topic I find that few of them have considered the reasons underneath their decision to lie.   I find that most of our kids' lies are told in the spur of the moment, absent for thought.   When discussing lying with them I help them pause, reflect and consider, often for the first time, the reasons they choose to lie. 

Many of the reasons kids lie will surprise you, just as they did me.  Below is a list of five of the most common reasons I unearthed in coaching sessions with kids. 

1.    Their desire to please their parents

2.    They do not want to disappoint/hurt their parents

3.    They fear their parents' response and or consequences

4.    They need to portray positive to their parents because they have become so negative about themselves.

5.    They have emotionally divorced their parents and are leading a dual life

Let's unpack these so that we can better assess the reasons our kids may be lying to us.

1.    Their desire to please their parents.

Unexpected as it was, I find that many kids, especially at younger ages, lie when caught because they have an inherent desire to please their parents and do not want their parents to be unhappy with them.  Thus unconsciously when caught they tell their parents the right answer without understanding the reason behind their impulse to lie.

2.   They do not want to disappoint/hurt their parents. 

I find this to be the case with older kids, age 12 to 18.  Rarely have they thought this trough, prior to our conversation. As we discuss the situation and feelings that lead to the lie this is what emerges. In the heat of the moment they decide to try to cover up their mistake to protect their parent/family. Inherently they understand that the mistake they made could reflect badly upon their parents or family and do not want to hurt them so they attempt to cover it up.  Surprisingly these kids understand that their bad decisions could lead to negative consequences for their parents and are more concerned about that outcome then anything else.

3.   They fear their parents' response or consequences.

As kids get older, age 9 to 13, they begin to actively associate their mistakes with their parents’ likely response. As this comes together they actively conclude that being honest about their mistakes leads to a negative outcomes, conflict and or consequences. As a result, some consciously and other unconsciously begin to lie when asked questions or make errors in judgment to avoid the pain they have come to associate with failing in their homes.

4.    They need to portray positive to their parents because they have become so negative about themselves.

Less prevalent but very powerful is the situation kids in this position face that can lead to chronic lying/defensiveness.  These kids develop a need to portray positive to their parents because they have become so negative about themselves. Underneath the lying is often a collapse of internal belief in ones-self, in their ability to succeed and to please their parents. The result is a collapse of their internal confidence.  This collapse can manifest itself in denial, defensiveness or even angry eruptions at the suggestion that they are falling short again.   While counter productive kids that have become this negative about themselves put forward stories and duck responsibility to avert confronting yet another mistake they made.  They so want someone to see them in a positive light they attempt to adopt a positive image without the internal awareness to see or understand what is driving their behavior and the resulting downward cycle.

If this cycle is not perceived, understood and addressed the potential for a life long pattern of denial and pain to develop is high.  In these cases I often find that their lying began with trying to please their parents, but their falling short on a regular basis lead to pain.  As they sought to avoid the outcome and reaction of their parents it lead to more lies.  As parents ratcheted up their displeasure with the ongoing lies the cycle intensifies.

In the end this cycle leaves kids so negative about themselvesthey can not take any more negative resulting in blame shifting, defensiveness and lying.  This deception can move beyond deception of ones parent to deception of ones self as they attempt to avoid the sense of failure that pervades them, until the next explosion tars them down further.

5.  They have emotionally divorced their parents and are leading a dual life

The emotional disconnect is found most often in kids age 12 to 18.   The emotional divorce is unilateral being solely on the kids' side of the ledger.   To accomplish this kids become adept at acting the part that pleases their patents, often leaving parents clueless to the emotional disconnect.

Along the way conflict around behavior and other issues have left many kids hurt by things their parent have said or done.  Rarely do our kids feel they have the ability or platform to safely bring these hurts up with their parents.  Virtually every student I talk with fears bringing anything up with their parents because their parents will not listen, understand or will get upset. 

Over time these issues build up leading to emotional distance and that can bring students to the point of emotionally divorcing their parents.   When this happens they unwittingly seek to fill the void left by their parents with other things leading to a dual life.  The dual life can take on many different forms.  Once in this position our kids must cover up their activity to prevent detection.  This results in kids avoiding communication, hiding in their rooms, burying themselves in social media, gaming or relationships to avoid lying when ever possible.

Conclusion:

Interacting with kids around the topic of lying has been an eye opening experience.   I find that a vast majority of kids would prefer to be open with their parents.  They desire to discuss situations, issues and even mistakes with their parents, but only if they feel safe.  Our kids must believe they will be listened to, believed in, and coached rather than controlled in order for them to use us rather then friends as their sounding boards and coaches. When parents enable their kids to comminute, listen, then coach and allow their kids to process for themselves we have seen remarkable turnarounds in the decisions made by kids age 10 to 18.

 While our ability to react and inflict consequences produces fear.  I found that this fear does not help them avoid mistakes in the future, as we might expect.  Rather it leaves them in the position of not talking with their parents.  Absent a sounding board they often make decisions emotionally and without for thought leading to mistakes.  I find that our kids often regret their poor decisions, but hide them from their parents because they are fearful of our response.  A better plan is to interact with our kids about their mistakes.  By asking open ended questions that get them considering the reasons they made the decision and the outcome of those decisionsI find my kids learn, grow, mature and make much better decision then their contemporaries, as a result.

If we create a culture where our kids know we are on their team, helping them to make their own decisions in order to navigate their lives successfully, things go well.  Every kid we talked with wants to succeed.  If we trust this and draw upon our kids their internal desire to succeed we found they make good decisions for themselves.  In this position they feel closer to their parents and do not feel the need to thwart their control like so many of the kids we talked to in the research.

Explore this approach to parenting more thoroughly by watching the Secrets of Influential Parenting!

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Three Things to Understand About Your Adolescent

Three Things to Understand About Your Adolescent

Three Things To Understand About Your Adolescent Written by Jeff Schadt, Founder Youth Transition Network ( YTN )

1.    Their reactions are not necessarily a bad attitude, manipulation or rebellion.

2.    It is likely they are really forgetting their homework and chores

3.    They are as confused by their behavior as you are

The onset of adolescence occurs 18 months prior to puberty or as early as age 8 or 9.  When the hormones that lead to puberty are released, the adolescent brain enters a development phase that decreases activity in the front lobe of the brain. When this occurs parents will see changes in their kids. These behavior changes in are often misunderstood.  Here are three things to understand about your adolescent.

 

1.    Their reactions are not necessarily a bad attitude, manipulation or rebellion

Emotional regulation happens in the front lobe of the brain.  Given the decrease in activity, our kids will become more sensitive, especially to things that have bothered them in the past, but have not been addressed by them with their parents.  As a result, any minor thing we say or do may result in a major reaction and a period of brooding that can lead us to the conclusion that our kid is selfish, has a bad attitude or has become rebellious.  Rather than jumping to these conclusions, an overreaction presents a great opportunity to get below the surface with adolescents to explore what is going on the inside.  This requires a relationship and level of trust between us and our kids so that they will answer these deeper questions and allow us access to the emotional caldron that I find exists within the majority of adolescents. 

 

2.    It is likely they are forgetting

Given that short-term memory resides in the front lobe of the brain, when our kids forget the things we told them minutes before, it is likely not a dodge.  This is the reason so many kids struggle to remember homework and the things we ask them to do.  Instead of becoming frustrated and saying things that damage the relationship or punishing them because they keep forgetting, try to understand as they probably did forget. 

Here are some ways to help cement the things we ask into their changing brains.  First, do not simply tell them what to do.  Ask them what they heard you say, so that they repeat it back to you.  The act of repeating it helps anchor the thought in the brain. 

Second help them establish a routine where they record their own schedule and review and revise it daily.  While schools provide planners for kids, few students use them, nor have the basic skills to use them effectively. Having worked for Franklin Covey and taught time management workshops, here is a thought that helps young people engage with using a planner, "Parking your mental traffic." Explain that school can be like a highway at rush hour.  All these cars, the assignments, activities and things they need to do enter the highway and get tangled up.  When we keep these thoughts running around in our heads it causes congestion, and produces stress and anxiety.  When we write things down it removes that item from the traffic jam in our heads.  It is far easier to write things down and look at the planner twice a day and update it, then to have all this traffic running around in our heads 24/7.

We need to help our kids understand the reality of the adolescent brain and come alongside them to help them develop a way to succeed instead of becoming frustrated or taking their phone to try to get kids to perform.  When we make this change things will improve, our kids will learn new skills that will help them compensate today and succeed in the future.

 

3.    They are as confused about their behavior as you are. 

Often when parents do not understand the adolescent brain changes, they become worried and frustrated by the changes in their kids’ behavior.  These changes result from the drop in activity in the front lobe of the brain. In discussions with the parents and adolescents that I coach, I find when parents push on these issues it creates a sense of negativity in adolescents about themselves.  In my coaching sessions I find that our kids are as concerned about the behavior changes as their parents are, but parents rarely stop to ask questions and come to understand how their kids are feeling about their lapses.  As result, many kids have concluded that there is something wrong with them, because they do not understand why they are reacting, arguing and forgetting things either.  When I share the reality of the adolescent brain they are relieved.  Many openly share that they were convinced something was wrong with them that would last the rest of their lives.

Conclusion

As our kids approach adolescence, we need to understand the changes occurring in their brains and adjust our approach to parenting.  We need to have a relationship with our kids that allow us access to come alongside our kids, have deeper discussions and the platform to help them develop strategies to compensate for the change.  YTN has developed a program for parents of 6 to 18 year olds that is making a world of difference for parents and their kids called the Secrets of Influential Parenting.  Watch the first two sessions for free today!

                                                                                                        

 

 

 

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A Resolution Process is Vital

A Resolution Process is Vital

Written By Jeff Schadt Founder YTN ( Youth Transition Network )

Resolving issues is one of the more challenging things for parents and kids to do.  It is challenging because we form communication patterns and habits when we have little kids age 1 to 4 and then forget to adjust our view and communication strategies as they advance in age.

The result, kids age 8 to 10 tell me they are afraid to be honest with their parents.  This fear stems from four primary sources.  

1.    The one-way communication we learned and became a habit when our kids were little.

2.    The fact that we often do not allow our kids to have a different perspective than us.

3.    That we get upset with them in their eyes, over little things.

4.    We punish them to reinforce their mistakes and failures, so they will not do it again.  This creates a fear of being honest and forthright about their failures and the hurts they may have with us.

These things can cause kids to fear being honest with their parents.   They are convinced that we will NOT listen, hear or take time to understand their perspective, so why even try.  They say to me, "It will just end up with my parent being upset with me or telling me I am wrong." 

When coaching parents and adolescents, I frequently find unresolved issues clouding how parents see their kids and how kids view their parents.  The impact of this on our kid's attitudes, behavior and motivation should not be underestimated.

Often the behavior parents see like a lack of respect, not listening and even laziness is the symptom rather than the problem.  Yet, we are trained to address these things head on.  When parents do not understand they are seeing a symptom and attempt to address it from a traditional parenting perspective, they miss targeting the underlying disease often a break in the relationship.  While our kid may appear to be fine in the relationship they often are stuffing their real feelings or acting the part they feel they need to in order to please us.  The result is kids that become more sensitive, defensive, overreact, hide in their rooms or become angry.  I have witnessed first hand the downhill spiral that can result from parents addressing the surface symptoms and drawing conclusions based upon those indicators alone.

Parents see the defensiveness, reactions, lack of listening and respect and target it leaving the kid more distant, frustrated and feeling like they are always wrong.  Often the kids do not even understand why they are so defensive and reacting because they have become to good at stuffing their feelings. The result, kids feel even more frustrated distant and hurt.  In turn, they lose the sense they can please their parent and their motivation wanes in numerous ways.

This is the reason developing a resolution process, which leads to sharing, listening, understanding each other’s feelings is so critical.  Beginning around age five and definitely as our kids approach the beginning of adolescence around age 8 is vital to have a two way resolution process in place.  A healthy resolution process allows both sides of a situation to share their perspective and feelings.

Often it is hard for parents to encourage their kids to share their real feelings associated with the well-intentioned messages we send, but are taken very differently by our kids. Our parents did not model this type of interaction, which led to some of our frustration and hurt as kids, and likely resulted in some if not many poor decisions that we made as youth.

As we look at components of a resolution process it involves more listening, less telling and more discovery and self-discovery for our kids.

·     Reassuring them we will listen and seek to understand their perspective.

·     If mistakes have been made already in terms of anger or harsh words, start with an apology, this will often result in one being offered to us.

·     Asking questions of our kids related to the situation we are concerned with.

·     Listening to their thought process and asking how the decision, situation or failure could impact them, their motivation or future.

·     Asking how they think we feel about it and why?

·     Allowing them to process and come back with a plan or answer.

When I take the time to understand our kids' thought process and reasoning I often find that it is sound and more realistic than I expect. When we stay in a one-way communication model where we tell and they do, we are locked into a system developed when our kids are age 2 to 4.  This one-way approach conditions our kids to not think for themselves, wait for us to push them or make them do things and leads to frustration.  Frustration almost guarantees mistakes in communication that lead to hurt.  If we do not help our kids express this hurt with us, they will grow distant and their attitude towards the family and us will sour.

Digging around in our kids to uncover and resolve this hurt takes, relationship, patience, trust, open communication and an understanding ear.  It is important if we believe our kid is carrying unresolved hurt, frustration or anger with us that we do our very best to place ourselves in their shoes and see things through their eyes.  To do this we need to cast off the conclusions we have reached, that they do not listen, do not understand, are lazy or disrespectful.  If we continue to believe these things we will interpret what they share with us through this grid, distorting our ability to truly understand our kids, their frustration and hurt. 

When we really begin to listen to our kids we may find that the reason they are not listening to us is that we have not been listening to and understanding them.

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Where Does Potential Come From?

Where Does Potential Come From?

Written By Jeff Schadt, Founder YTN

As we thinking about raising our children we need ask ourselves a vital question. Where does our kids' potential come from?   

Today with the focus on test scores, activities and community service for college entrance there is more pressure on parents and their kids to perform than ever before. 

This naturally moves parents toward pushing their kids to achieve.  Yet, in our parent adolescent coaching engagements, we find that external pressure exerted by parents often backfires given the reality of the adolescent brain.  As parents we apply external pressure when we see our kids potential and believe they are not realizing it in their lives and school. 

This brings us back to the question at hand, where does potential come from?  Does our potential come from our parents, our kids or our spouse?  Or is potential something resident within each of us; rooted in our personality type, giftedness, interests, passions and experience?

If like me, you conclude that our potential comes from within, we must recognize this reality with our kids.  If our kids' potential comes from within and not our strategies and tactics that seek to externally move them to achieve, we face a bold new horizon in our relationship and approach with our kids.

When I realized this with my own kids it helped me see a new dimension of parenting.  A dimension that looked at my kid's potential and caused me to ask question like:

·     What gets in the way of their motivation and potential?

·     What is the issue underneath their apparent disinterest or "laziness?" (EG lack confidence, past failure, fear of failure.)

·     Is what we are doing motivating our kids or is it having the opposite affect?

·     What would draw out their internal belief in themselves and fuel their internal desire to achieve?

Too often I became trapped on the surface with my kids; I saw their behavior and used external tactics to modify it, in order to get them to do what they needed to do.  Once I began to see my kids through the grid of their internal potential and desire to achieve I discovered by talking with my kids and through research with thousands of other kids that much of what I was led to believe was the right way to parent was actually frustrating, hurting and causing my kid to not want to listen to me.

As I shifted away from traditional parenting, my kids became more open.  They were more willing to talk about what was going on inside related to their lives, motivation and decisions.  Too often I found that the messages I had delivered were taken very differently than intended, often denting my kids’ belief in themselves and motivation.

When we realize that our kids’ potential lies within, our role becomes one of drawing out that potential which requires relationship, time, openness, transparency and asking questions that draw out their internal desire to achieve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are We Raising Helpless Kids? (Part 6 of 6) Three Questions We Should Ask Ourselves

Are We Raising Helpless Kids? (Part 6 of 6) Three Questions We Should Ask Ourselves

Three Questions To Ask Ourselves written by Jeff Schadt Founder YTN

As a result of the redefinition of childhood, the shifting view of parents’ roles and the research from UCLA, Ohio State and YTN that concluded that our kids are less prepared then ever before for life on their own, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. 

1) Am I Micro-Managing My Kid?  

If you have worked for a micro manager you know how you felt: not believed in, frustrated and less motivated. YTN found our kids feel the same.

Recently, I worked with a family who was having significant conflict with their son around basic chores like cleaning his room.  As I explored the interaction between parents and their kids several things emerged.  The parents were managing their kids' lives by telling them what to do, when to do it, and sometimes even how to do it. In response the kids felt controlled, not believed in and frustrated with their parents telling them the same things over and over like they were stupid.  This day in day out interaction led to their kids tuning their parents out leading the parents to push harder and inflict consequences.  This resulted in the kids pushing back against their parents' constant reminders and consequences.

As the parents started listening to YTN's parent content, "The Secrets of Influential Parenting," I would receive texts from the father who was driving and listening to the content.  These texts were short and to the point, "This is brutal," "You are making me mad," and why does this have to make so much sense?"  

While this is not what YTN's recommends parents do, this father set off on what he called the "YTN Experiment." This father, a former Marine, swung the pendulum to the opposite side of the tracks in what appeared to be an effort to disprove what he was learning. He stopped nagging, reminding and using consequences to get the kids to do their chores cold turkey with no discussion or warning.

Two weeks into the YTN experiment, the entire family was in the family room and their son let out a loud sigh.  Previously a sigh like this meant he was about to go off on something, so they braced for it.  To their shock he said I think I am going to go upstairs and clean my room.  You could have heard a pin drop according to this father as they sat in disbelief, and their son headed upstairs to clean his room with out being asked, reminded, nagged or threatened with consequences.  Room cleaning had previously been the number one source of conflict and resentment with this son.

Here are some questions to help you assess whether you are moving towards micro-managing your kids:

·      Are we riding them to get their homework done every day?

·      When they walk in the door are we after them to do their chores?

·      When we they get in the car are we asking, "Do you have homework to do?"

·      Can your kids get themselves up without you?

·      Do they know the day and time of their activities?

·      Do our kids' accomplish things with out reminding, nagging or pushing them?

Our research with kids indicates that our constant reminders and pushing them conditions them to wait for and even need our pressure to respond, in affect creating procrastinators.  Inthis response pattern, they become conditioned to wait for us to intervene before doing anything, leaving us in charge of much, if not all of the details of their lives.  This leads tofrustration on our part and more and more oppositional responses from our kids leading to a break down in the relationship and our kids looking for freedom from us.

2) Do My Kids Manage Key Elements of Their Own Lives?

YTN, UCLA, and Ohio States research indicates our kids are not prepared for life on their own. As parents we often facilitate so much of our kids lives, they are often devoid of vital self-management skills when they leave our homes.

Ask yourself the question what elements of my kid's life are they accomplishing on their own?  What do they need to be managing on their own before they leave home?  How does my approach to parenting eitherfacilitate or get in the way of my kids managing key elements of their life today?

If our kids are not managing their homework, social lives and priorities well in our homes can we expect them to develop the ability to do so overnight when they head to college?  If our desire to protect them today keeps them from learning vital skills are we helping them or handicapping them in the future?

3) Do My Kids Make Good Decisions Apart from Me?

In my coaching of parents and adolescents, I find two things that concern me. Parents are fearful of the decisions their kids make apart from them, motivating them to try to make decisions for them.  In response a majority of kids are looking for freedom from their parents motivating them to do the opposite of what their parents desire.

In our college transition research with high school seniors and college freshmen, we found a direct correlation between their desire for freedom and the decisions and struggles they encountered in their first semester on campus. 

Today, parents are told they must use boundaries and consequences to help their kids make good decisions.  Is this as effective as we have been led to believe? If so why are parents fearful of their kids making bad decisions apart from their intervention?

Here are some questions to consider:

·      Would our kidsmake good decisions apart from our boundaries

·      Did our parents'boundaries keep us from making poor decisions

·      Do boundaries andconsequences lead to a closer relationship & more influence

·      Do boundaries andconsequences motivate our kids to hide things from us

·      When they leavehome will our kids be ready to make good decisions apart from our Boundaries

YTN as found that the kids who made the best and most productive decisions with their lives in middle school, high school and college did so because of their own vision fortheir future and associated goals. Students who knew where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do avoided many of the academic and social pitfalls because they had a plan and did not want to mess it up. 

Conclusion:

Jumping in to "protect and help our kids succeed today" seems helpful, safe and seems to be the definition of a good parent today.  While we are comfortable in this position, if our approach keeps our kids from developing vital self-management skills and developing intrinsic motivation and reasons for making good decisions are we helping or harming our kids in the long run?

Raising capable adults requires a different thought process,relationship and approach. I often talk to kids and parents that said our relationship got so much better once they left home.  Once out of the home parents can no longer protect or control their kids in the same manner.  This allows several things to occur.

1) Parents alter their communication with their young adult so that they will call and interact with them.

2) Kids have the space to begin to think learn without parents dropping into the tell them how or what to do mode which.

3) Parents step back from attempting to force their kids to do what they want which kicks off the oppositional nature of their adolescents and leads to conflict.

4) The decreased intervention and conflict allows adolescents to begin to see their parents differently and their desire for their input and to please their parents slowly begins to return.

This results in more open and in depth communication.  YTN's research found that this shift canoccur when kids approach adolescence ages 8 to 10 avoiding most of the frustration, distance and battles. We ( Jeff and Deedee) began using the principles and skills taught in Influential Parenting as young as age 3 with their forth child Eric and were amazed at how much better this worked then the more traditional approach they took with their first three kids when they were age 3 to 8.

Join YTN today and begin viewing the Secrets of Influential Parenting Series by visiting https://store.ytn.org/membership.

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