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Hiding Out or Hanging Out?

Hiding Out or Hanging Out?

Hiding Out or Hanging Out?

By Jeff Schadt

One of the things that drive parents crazy is when their kids hide out in their rooms.  They come home say “good” to the question about their day and head to their rooms to watch YouTube, hit social media or game. A kid’s obsession with the phone and or tablet can leave parents feeling cut off, frustrated and not appreciated.  With this mindset, they see the phone, the tablet or X-Box One as the problem.  Much of the advice in parenting circles is to set limits, rules and use as a consequence hoping kids will see that life is better without the device in question. 

As many parents have discovered, such consequences rarely solve the problem.  They lead to more arguments and seem to cause kids to be more set on using the device. I have even seen cases where kids, through friends, have second phones to use when theirs has been removed that their parents do not know about.

If our limits and rules makes them more set on having or using the device it points to another perspective and questions we need to consider.  Are our kids using or addicted to the device because of the device or for some other reason?  Are they hiding out in their room to be on social media and to game or are they hiding out to avoid us?  The simple conclusion is to be on their device, but in all my coaching and research with kids, I have found that they are avoiding their parents.  One 11-year-old girl said to me, “I do YouTube and social media to stave off boredom, but I am in my room behind a closed door to hide from my parents.”

If we think back we will likely find that many of us hid from our parents in our adolescent years. Something had changed in our relationship; we did not know what, but it got more difficult.  Many of us older parents hid by hanging out with friends or getting out of the house which made our parents feel better about what we were doing than parents today who are dealing with Snap Chat, YouTube and Gaming.

If our kids are hiding from us, taking the phone away will not solve the problem but increase it because they see our consequences as another issue. A bigger rift occurs in our relationship, which leads to their increased desire to hide from us so more issues do not arise and result in their device being limited more or taken away again. 

If our goal is to have our kids out of their rooms eating meals and hanging out with their families, we need to look at the situation through our kids’ eyes.  Is there more of an incentive to hide out from us than to hang out with us?  If they are frequently letting us down, being lectured, in conflict or having consequences handed their way, they will logically conclude that avoiding their parents prevents issues.

A great step in the right direction is to assess the nature of the relationship.  Is it positive or negative, encouraging or disparaging, fun or fights?  Do they feel we are disappointed with them, like they have behavior issues or are falling short of our expectations?  If they do they will hide out rather than hang out.  If you see a relational issue, it’s time to sit down with your kid and ask them:

  1. When did you see our relationship change?
  2. What do we do that pushes them away?
  3. How do they feel about us and our relationship?

While we may not enjoy the answers, this conversation is vital as kids who hide out often begin to lead dual lives that draw them into the very things we fear and attempt to prevent.  If your kids will not answer these questions, it’s time to consider making a significant change in your family culture. More than ever before, a different approach to parenting is vital today.

If you are looking to change your approach, check out the Secrets of Influential Parenting online or on DVD in our store.








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What Triggers Our Kids

What Triggers Our Kids

What Triggers Our Kids?

Written by Jeff Schadt

What distinguishes between normal childhood push back and what I call triggers. Every kid has normal responses like, “Do I have to do it now?” Triggers are the out of proportion reactions to relatively small things.  When we encounter them, it is difficult to not take them personally, feel hurt and react ourselves, but it is vital. 

When our kids trigger, it is a sign that they have a sensitive spot.  These soft spots can be a result of things happening at school, with friends or an area of sensitivity that stems from things we have done or said in the past with them.

Identifying and discussing these things is vital to our kids’ development and success in life.  As adults we too often carry similar sensitivities into our marriages and families.  

When I seek to identify triggers with my kids, the first thing I need to do is make sure that I am not hurt, frustrated or drawing conclusions about my kid’s behavior before starting a conversation.  Our conversations often happen some time after the event allowing both my kid and myself to step back from the situation and emotions.

The goal of such conversations is to help our kids understand themselves. This requires us to put aside our assumptions and ask open-ended questions. As we begin the conversation it is important to let them know that you have noticed they have become more sensitive lately and you are wondering why. You will likely get the typical, “ I don’t know.”   Often a question like, “Do you like it when you react?” will help them open up.  When they say, “No,” we can come alongside them by saying let’s try to figure it out together.

Asking them how what we said made them feel may provide a clue.  I felt stupid.  From here we can ask questions about school, things people may have said at school or things we may have said in the past that may have left them sensitive to their thought about being stupid.  Listening and then clarifying is important.

It is also important to ask them if what they felt is true. If you get an “I do not know,” ask them “Is that what your best friend believes about you?”  You can also ask if that is what you and other key people in their lives believe about them. Then be certain to reinforce what you do believe about them. 

On the heels of that, you will have the ability to help them assess whether they should give credence to things that are said when they are not true.  Helping our kids understand themselves, their sensitive spots and how they create reactions will enable them to begin to share their thoughts and feelings rather than erupting.  This is a valuable skill that will help with any relationship they have in the future.


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Talking Back & Back Talk: Bad Behavior or an Opportunity? Talking Back & Back Talk: Bad Behavior or an Opportunity?

Talking Back & Back Talk: Bad Behavior or an Opportunity?

Talking Back & Back Talk: Bad Behavior or an Opportunity?

Written by Jeff Schadt

As parents we all deal with back talk and want this behavior to stop. As the head of YTN I have come to see back talk in a new light.  Is back talk just bad behavior or is it also a cry for help?

When our kids reach the age of two and three, they are finally able to communicate with us. Parents begin to encounter push back in what they term the terrible twos or traumatic threes.  Why is it traumatic? Our little ones tend to push back at the most inopportune times in front of family or in public places so we quickly quash this behavior!  When we seek to quell back talk with toddlers, kids or even teens, are we making things better or missing an amazing opportunity?

When our kids turn two and three and begin to talk back, we need to stop and consider the reality of the situation and the affect down the line. Are they bad kids or is something else going on?  I wish I could go back and do this with my first three children.  Eric our fourth was the lucky one.

Kids, when they first begin to talk, do not know how to communicate their deeper thoughts and feelings so they pile up and often spill out at inopportune moments.  When back talk erupts, it is a sign that there is something going on within them that needs to come out. It is an opportunity to better understand and get to know them. Rather than quashing it, find joy in stopping and asking questions like:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What is bothering you?
  3. Is there something mom or I did that hurt you? 

Back talk is often brought on by hurt or frustration that our kids either do not know how to bring up or fear bringing up with us.  Frustration can build up until it comes out in ways that appear to be bad behavior. Quashing our kids’ innocent back talk turns the relationship into a one-way street. It communicates that we do not care, understand or want to listen to their feelings or side of the equation.  Great relationships are a two-way proposition.

This is why so many kids I work with are deathly afraid of sharing their true thoughts, hurts and frustrations with their parents.  It is also why, as they age, they continue to pop off from time to time when things build up so much it takes a small nudge to set them off.  Even in these situations, not taking it personally and seeing it as an opportunity to help them discern their feelings and hurts that lie underneath their back talk pays huge dividends.  Often it comes at the cost of having to see, admit and apologize for some of the things we have said or done that have adversely impacted our kids.

If we are to have great relationships with our kids there needs to be two way communication that leads to listening, hearing, and greater understanding.  Quashing the bad behavior of back talk may cause them to believe they are heading the wrong direction and are on a one-way street with us. What they really need is for us to help them discern and communicate their thoughts, feelings and frustrations with us.  When this happens, they begin to see us in a new light and draw closer.  Moreover, their friends will wish we were their parents!

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Kids that Morph

Kids that Morph

By Jeff Schadt

Kids that morph, alter who they are in their relationships to be accepted.  One simple example would be a young man or lady who alters what she likes, does or thinks to be accepted by the person they are dating.  As I coach families I am finding many parents who look back and say, "I morphed," some with painful outcomes.

When we change ourselves to enter relationships it sets the relationship up to fail because eventually we will move back towards whom we truly are and what we like because it is consistent with how we are wired. When this occurs, the person the significant other fell in love with gradually disappears leaving the real relationship on shaky ground.  If both parties are morphing to make a relationship work, they may wake up one day and feel like they do not really know the person they are with.

This is why it is critical to raise kids who know who they are, what they are passionate about and what they believe.  They need to be confident enough in themselves to present who they are so they move towards a career that fits and a person who will love them for who they really are.  While it is natural to be our best in the beginning of a relationship morphing and not showing someone who we really are for fear of rejection sets us up to be rejected in the end.

As I coach adolescents around the country I have identified three things that contribute to their morphing.

1.  Operating in an expectation driven paradigm

As I get the lists of expectations from kids age 8 to 18, I find many that are full of things that require them to bend to what parents want, desire or need.  They adopt a mindset of meeting others’ expectations, which may but does not always lead to morphing.  Far too many kids feel like they are constantly falling short of their parents’ expectations.  They believe they are failing or are not good enough given the effort they have made in the past.  When this occurs some give up trying.

We are far better served by helping our kids understand themselves and their gifts talents and passions.  We must help them establish their own goals.    They need to be able to make internally motivated decisions rather than work to fulfill external expectations that frustrate them and often trigger the oppositional nature of their adolescent brain which unintentionally leads them in the opposite direction we desire.

2.  Kids’ buying into Performance Based Love

While it is never a parent’s desire or objective to have their kids feel they are only loved when they perform, many kids today end up feeling and believing that to be true. This is driven by our traditional parenting paradigm and the way short-comings and failure are handled.  When parents handle shortcomings in a way that leaves kids hurt, frustrated or doubting our unconditional love for them, they, over time, begin to believe (whether true or not) that they are loved only when they perform or are basically perfect in their parents’ eyes. 

This sets them up to perform or morph to be loved rather than being confident in who they are and where they want to go. When parents and their kids truly come to hear and understand each other and kids set their own goals, parents can relax and kids start to make far better decisions. In this they are far less likely to morph for others. Our research indicates that this is a huge problem today given that a vast majority of kids lead dual lives that parents have little or no knowledge about.

3.  Negative core values

When our kids draw negative internal conclusions about themselves, they lose confidence and begin to morph in a futile effort to somehow find and get positive input.  It is futile because positive feedback does not align with what they truly believe about themselves deep within, resulting in positive messages being minimized or dismissed.   This contributes significantly to kids who choose to live in the artificial world of gaming and social media where they feel successful and can put on a positive front.  Dealing with core values is a much longer discussion and is covered in videos on our parent support community.

When kids have negative internal conclusions about themselves they fear presenting whom they really are and are virtually forced to morph for those around them. This can lead to poor decisions as they seek approval.  From my interaction with thousands of kids, I have concluded that both of the factors above contribute to the development of negative core values..

It is vital in today’s youth culture that we come alongside our kids to help them understand themselves, their gifts, and abilities in order to help them both believe in themselves and that they are lovable for who they truly are.




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Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place!

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place!

Wrtitten by Jeff Schadt Founder ( YTN )

Stuck Between a Rock & a Hard Place!

Often parents feel like they are between a rock and a hard place.  Parents see their kids’ potential, issues and decisions, but struggle to get their kids to accept their wisdom, direction and decisions. 

After talking with thousands of kids, I believe a significant majority of kids feel like they are constantly falling short and unable to please their parents. They too feel like they are between a rock and a hard place as they try, but seem to fall short no matter what they do.  When they fall short, they face frustration, negative reactions, lectures or consequences, which cause them to tune out and distance themselves from their parents.

It seems like there is no way out either for parents or kids.  Both are stuck between “A Rock and a Hard Place!”

The hours I have spent with kids and families shed light on this labyrinth, its causes and effects.  A majority of kids find themselves stuck between parents’ expectations and how they respond to their failure.  A much smaller group experiences little or no input or direction from their parents leaving them feeling not cared for and alone. Neither produces positive outcomes for kids, their lives and how they feel about themselves.

The perceived pressure on parents today to make their kids succeed may be at the root of both outcomes.  We as parents may respond either by working very hard to ensure our kids’ success or retreat from a sense of falling short much like kids who shrink from parents' expectations.

I have seen the negative impact of expectations within my own home especially with my two dyslexic kids.  Our expectations combined with the school performance tests and pressure to catch up led them to believe they were falling short.  They began to believe they were stupid which both adversely impacted their motivation and compounded the situation.

When we allow external or our own internal pressure to have successful kids drive our interactions with them, we will try to make their success happen.  With this mindset, we begin to apply even greater pressure and expectations.  We also may make more decisions for them to keep them from making what we view as bad decisions.

This places our kids between a rock and a hard place.  Kids perceive expectations, lectures, and consequences as hard and they quickly learn to either silently become hard internally towards their parents or loudly push back.  When this occurs it leads parents to apply greater pressure and/or consequences, a downward spiral has begun.

The way out of  “A Rock and a Hard Place" is counterintuitive.  When our kids fail they need us to believe that they hate failing rather than our attempting to drive home any bad decision they may have made. What they need deep within is encouragement and our belief in them and their future, which will reinforce their internal, positive desire to succeed.  When they receive this, they draw closer to us and hope is built which motivates them to make better decisions in the future.  As kids respond and draw closer to their parents, they no longer feel they are in a lose/lose scenario. They are no longer between a rock and a hard place, but have the support they need and desire.

To learn more how to make these changes a reality in your home, check out the Secrets of Influential parenting online, audio CD or DVD.  Then follow the implementation guide provided.  It will give you the steps to rebuild, refocus and reconnect with your kids allowing both you and your kids to escape being stuck between “A Rock and a Hard Place.”

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Kids Emotions: The Impact of Negative Core Values

Kids Emotions: The Impact of Negative Core Values

Written by Jeff Schadt Founder ( YTN )

Kids with negative core values have heightened emotional reactions.  When this is the case, what appear to be minor events or things we say can result in strong reactions such as fits, tears, anger and withdrawal.

When coaching families across the country, I find negative core values play a significant role in virtually every family.  While the term core value is used in several ways, I am referring to the deeply held beliefs we adopt about ourselves in our childhood.  These beliefs can be:

  • Positive: we believe more positive things about ourselves deep within than negative. 
  • Negative: we believe more negative things about ourselves deep within than positive.

Today I find very few kids who have positive core values and the impact on our kids should not be underestimated.  I did not discover how deeply my negative core values impacted my perspective, reactions and decisions until my early forties and wish someone had helped me see them when I was in middle school or high school.

When negative core beliefs are out of balance with positive beliefs, they can alter how we perceive situations, things that are said to us as well as lead us to make wrong decisions.  This occurs when situations strike one or more of our deeply held negative beliefs triggering a sense of inadequacy, fear, defensiveness or quiet panic within.

The following short list of common negative core values I hear from kids age 8 to 18 will help to explain this concept.

  • There is something wrong with me
  • Nothing I do is good enough
  • I am a failure
  • I am unlovable
  • I am the problem in my family
  • I am stupid
  • I do not fit in

Our kids can carry a list of negative beliefs even if they appear to have friends, are doing well in school, seem normal for their age, and even appear to be happy.  In spite of these surface indications I find many kids are silently and even somewhat unconsciously struggle within as they seek to suppress these negative beliefs/feelings about themselves through social media, gamming, relationships, and even academics or sports.  Far too many kids I interact with have only three or four positive beliefs versus eight to ten negative beliefs about themselves.  This imbalance means that they will minimize, alter or dismiss the positive things that happen or are said about them because they are inconsistent with what they truly believe about themselves. 

Their internal pool of negativity grows until small comments can trigger extreme feelings of failure, stupidity, awkwardness, loneliness and even more feelings, which result in fits, tears, anger or shutting down.  This is why kids who seem like they are well liked and have friends can reach a point of being suicidal without anyone realizing what is going on inside them.   Our focus on behavior can lead to our kids’ behaving the way they believe they need to act to be appreciated, belong, and keep the peace. However, they may be bleeding to death within because of the beliefs they have adopted about themselves in childhood and have been reinforced along the way.

Looking past behavior and to the inside of our kids is vital in our society. Today genuine relationships are under assault by technology, time is scarce due to busyness and broken families lead to uncertainty in our kids.  Moreover social media can reinforce our kids’ sense of inadequacy and negativity.

Today, nothing is more important than a genuine relationship that leads to deep conversations with our kids!  I have worked with far too many parents who found out the hard way that there is far more going on inside their kids than they realized.  They discovered that their focus on behavior failed them and their kids and wish they could go back and start again when their kids were 7 and seven years old.

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Kids' Emotions: The Reality of the Adolescent Brain Kids' Emotions: The Reality of the Adolescent Brain

Kids' Emotions: The Reality of the Adolescent Brain

Written by Jeff Schadt, Founder

Kids emotions may seem even more like the 4th of July as they approach and enter adolescence.  By age nine many of our kids will be in the midst of this change, like my son Eric.  Adolescence actually begins eighteen months prior to puberty.

When this occurs the hormones that lead to puberty are released resulting in further brain development in the back lobes of our kids’ brains.  As a result, the electrical activity actually decreases in the front lobe of the brain where emotional regulation resides.

Kids that seemed fairly well balanced become more sensitive and small things result in large emotional responses.  This is the reason our kids become more oppositional and can argue with us even when they know they are wrong intellectually.   Their emotions can trump reason.

If they were already negative about themselves, struggling with motivation or carrying hurt inside even small things that touch those feelings can lead to disproportionate and often angry responses.  When these things occur it is natural for us to:

  • Tell them their behavior is wrong
  • Push back against the unreasonable reaction
  • Attempt to make this ridiculous behavior stop by inflicting consequences
  • Use logic to show them that their reaction is disproportionate to the situation

Given my time coaching adolescents I find that these responses leave kids’ feeling like they are not understood or listened to and that their feelings are wrong.  The outcome of these tactics is twofold, growing distance in their relationships and kids who believe there is something wrong with them.  There is nothing wrong with them, it is a natural outcome of the development occurring in their brains. The problem is that they do not know this and often feel powerless to change the negative outcomes their responses and behavior cause with their parents. They doubt themselves and store more hurt inside.

This is why the traditional approach to parenting breaks down.  Consequences will not alter the reality of brain development.  They do not help them understand or believe in themselves but have the opposite affect.

So what are we to do?  According to all the research kids learn better through independence in this time frame.  It makes sense when we understand that they will push back against us when their emotions are triggered even if they know we are right.  Consequences will lead to even greater distance and push back!

While difficult and counter intuitive, we need to hold our tongues and answers concerning their behavior and give them time to calm down when their emotions ar triggered. Then we need to ask them a progression of questions that help them feel heard and understood before moving into self-reflective questions. 

Questions like:

  • What has you so frustrated or upset with me?
  • What/how are you feeling inside?
  • Are there other things going on that have you hurt or frustrated?
  • Are you struggling to .........?
  • How do you feel about yourself?
  • What do you think you should do in this situation?

Why does this approach work?  It allows their feelings to come out without judgment or correction and therefore does not add to the pile of emotions that trigger their oppositional nature.

When using this approach with my own kids and the kids that I coach, I find that they almost always come to the correct conclusion because questions help them vent the emotion and access the front lobe of the their brain where decision making and consequence evaluation reside.

For them to share their emotions they need to believe you will listen and not lecture or correct their feelings.  Their feelings are real and there is no sense in taking them on.  The key is getting them through the emotions so that they can process them and make decisions that are not dictated by their emotions or their oppositional responses that cause them to move in the opposite direction we desire.





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Kids Emotions: Unresolved Issues

Kids Emotions: Unresolved Issues

Written by Jeff Schadt, Founder of ( YTN )

Unresolved issues are one of the leading factors that cause kids to react like the Fourth of July; a period of calm is followed by a spectacular reaction triggered by what seems to be very small sparks.

When we see such explosive behavior in our kids, it is natural for us to think that they are just trying to get their way, doing something they should not be doing or are being ridiculous because what was said or done is so minor in comparison to their response.

After 12 years of talking with kids about their lives, decisions and direction, one thing is crystal clear, a vast majority of kids fear bringing up their frustrations, issues or hurts with their parents.  They are convinced their parents will be defensive, overreact or dismiss their perspective altogether.

As a result many kids carry with in them a growing list of issues/hurts with their parents.  As they build within, each area of hurt develops into figurative fireworks just waiting to be ignited.  When our kids are in this position, it does not take much to light their fuse.

What has been surprising for me as I coach families is how often the messages we send as parents, that seem beneficial to us, are misunderstood by our kids and lead to frustration, hurt and distance in the relationship.  This leaves parents confused and believing the issue is entirely their kid’s problem because there appears to be no valid reason for such overreactions.

As a coach one of my first challenges is to get kids to open up about their real lives, situation and relationship with their parents.  Most, contrary to popular belief, do not want to talk negatively about their parents, because they too have come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with them because they cannot control their reactions that result in conflict and pain.  When this belief germinates within them, I have found that they become even more sensitive and volatile which confirms this painful belief.   A contributing factor is adolescent brain development which I will discuss in next week's blog.

As I help kids share how the messages their parents sent impacted them, parents are often shocked and moved to tears as they come to see and understand their kids’ perspective for the first time. 

If you have a kid that is overreacting to small things you say or do, it is a good bet that they are carrying unresolved issues within them.  If this is the case no matter how hard we come down on them to stop this crazy behavior, we are likely to just add to the load.  Under these circumstances I find that kids’ reactions will either intensify or they will seek out escape behaviors that allow them to shove the pain into the background.

Given this we need to alter our approach to our kids reactions.  Part of this is establishing a family Easy Button or time out policy that allows anyone to stop a conversation when emotions trigger and anger takes over.   Continuing at this point will only lead to further harm for both parties involved.

The understanding that must be established around using time outs is that family members will stop talking and go reflect on the reason they are hurt/angry in order to make a plan to bring it up nicely. Then when we come back together later the same or following day, we will listen and work to understand each other’s feelings and perceptions.

I find that it is often difficult for our kids to discern their feelings so when we reconvene we may need to ask questions and even propose possible feelings for them to respond to as they learn to discern them for themselves.  Asking, “Are you feeling unloved, dismissed or not believed in?” often helps them identify the feelings they need to share.

When we implement such a strategy it begins to develop a safe place for everyone in the family, which leads to more open, honest and deeper communication. Over time this helps our kids begin to trust us to listen, remain calm and be reasonable in our responses.  This is when they will begin to feel safe enough to address the issues that they may have been carrying around since they were six or seven years old and did not think they could share.  Creating a safe place can defuse the fireworks.

If this makes sense, but you are unclear how it integrates with other facets of parenting, watch session one of my Secrets of Influential Parenting Series today and consider joining our parent support community.

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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 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

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

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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