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Contracts Do They Work?

Contracts Do They Work?

Contracts Do They Work?

by Jeff Schadt

I am surprised by the growing popularity of contracts between parents and kids to address certain behaviors and issues.  While it surprises me maybe it shouldn't given the pace of life that leaves so little time for genuine relationships and the resulting distance I see in so many families we work with at YTN.

Contracts were originally a tool for kids who exited treatment programs.  Today they are appearing in social media and some parenting programs as a great tool to use with our kids, but are they?

Early in our country’s history trades, barter and agreements were often conducted with a handshake. Then something changed. Tightly knit communities began to grow and trust began to disappear ushering in simple written agreements that were then replaced by elaborate contracts written and arbitrated by attorneys and the legal system.  This is why the thought of contracts and kids seems so foreign to me.  Contracts are used with people we do not know or trust to assure that our interests are protected.

What this tells me is that the breakdown of relationships and trust in our families is worse than I have thought.  In a way the breakdown makes sense because of the divorce rate and other factors that leave us fearful and seeking to protect ourselves. We need to ask ourselves if we believe that a lack of trust and protecting ourselves will lead to the close, kind and cooperative family we desire.

After interacting with thousands of kids I know how establishing a business relationship with them wounds them deep within.  One 14 year old girl told me, "My dad is not my dad, we have a business relationship.” The pain and anger this girl carried within related to this topic was working its way out in self-destructive tendencies. In a way she was seeking attention and trying to get even with her family, which she believed was focused solely on her performance. The deep love and concern that her parents truly had for her was obscured to the point that this girl was considering suicide.

Although our kids may not appear to be processing everything we say, they are to a much greater extent than my generation ever did.  They are more relationally focused and community based which means that they take in all we do and say. In  discussions with the kids I am coaching, I find that far too much of what we are doing as parents today communicates a lack of belief and trust which pushes this generation of kids away.

It is for this reason that I am ardently against contracts even for kids coming out of treatment programs.  While they may make us feel like we have more control or can protect ourselves from their outbursts, what are they really saying to them? How do kids feel and perceive the use of contracts with their parents with whom they once felt close and wish they could be close to again?  If my time with so many kids is any indication, I believe they are acting out and blowing up in their homes because they are hurt and feel like they have no way to address this hurt with their family.  They want to make it work, but do not how. 

Kids agree to contracts because they have to, and it leaves them feeling like they are trapped.  Contracts hurt them and leave them feeling hopeless because they cannot be perfect.  They are left feeling like a sledgehammer is hanging over their heads, waiting to be dropped.  They think their parents do not understand, trust or love them.

When trust breaks down in a marriage, what happens?  The same happens when our kids feel we do not trust them.  They cannot divorce us physically, but they can divorce us emotionally which leads to all sorts of behavioral issues.

As a coach I have helped many families escape from this position and the answer has always been found in mending the relationship, not contracts and control.  This is the secret behind Influential Parenting, which offers parents hope and a totally different way to lead their kids.  It results in closer relationships, more open communication, more fun, less conflict and far more cooperation!

Learn how to be an influential parent by joining the site or securing the DVDs today.






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Is Social Media Social?

Is Social Media Social?

Is Social Media Social?

By Jeff Schadt

Social media is one of the more challenging issues parents face as it seems to take our kids away from us and often leads to conflict.  Recently I read an article that gives us all pause to reconsider our dependence upon social media.  The title says it all, "Yes, using Facebook may be making you more lonely."

The article opens by saying, "You may think using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is bringing you closer with your friends, but a new study suggests the opposite may be true."

You can read the article by clicking this link. Pass the article on to your kids and empower them to reevaluate their own social media use.

Parents often ask me questions about limiting social media use, rather than the deeper questions regarding the reasons their kids are so engrossed with it. It is in these questions where we find lasting answers.  If we understand what drives our kids’ use of social media, we will discover numerous ways to address and alter the outcome without conflict.

The growing challenge this issue represents was driven home to me this summer when at a restaurant in the very remote town of Silverton, Colorado, the waitress said, "I know I am not supposed to do this, but I just have to comment how nice it is to see a family interacting and talking instead of viewing or texting on their phones. 

We were surprised by the comment, said thank you, and then looked around the restaurant.  At all the tables around us we saw either a young couple, retired couple or family engaged with their phones rather than with each other.

My research and coaching with families points to three common reasons for the excessive use of social media:

1) Weak family dynamics/communication leads us to avoid each other through a seemingly innocent act of using our phones.  In the restaurant that day I would venture to guess that this was driving nearly half of the engagement with phones rather than people.

2)  Unaddressed negative core values cause kids to use social media to distract themselves from the negativity they are feeling within when unoccupied or bored.

3) The breakdown in the parent child relationship leads our kids to try to fill the void with other relationships.

No matter what the reason, if our kids are using their cell phone to avoid themselves or avoid difficult interactions with us, will attempting to limit their use really solve the problem?

The answer may be as simple as adopting a culture of open communication in our homes.  This requires setting some boundaries that protect everyone in the family from the type of interactions that cause hurt and result in hiding from each other.

When communication is replaced with activity and cell phone use, it is a good bet that it’s time to stop and take note.  If you find yourself in this place, odds are that open communication has broken down and everyone is holding on to some offenses or hurts that are short-circuiting the relationships in your home.   

Instead of targeting the kid's use of social media, target the breakdown in relationships and communication. Most of the kids I talk with do not prefer social media; they prefer face-to-face interaction.  However, this is limited by busy schedules, a culture that says it is not safe to let your kids hang out with their peers, and the breakdown of relationships in their families and especially with their parents.

Too often I find kids’ using social media and gaming to avoid boredom, loneliness and as an escape from their feelings about themselves and their families.  If you are looking for help with communication and your family culture, consider the Secrets of Influential Parenting, which will improve all the relationships in your family or engage Jeff for a coaching call by visiting

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Catch More Flies with Honey!

Catch More Flies with Honey!

Catch More Flies with Honey!

We say that we will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but is that how we function?  Even after all the years of running YTN, I have to stop and ask myself this question,  "Am I giving my kids honey or vinegar?"  Even a dad like me who focuses on a completely different approach to parenting has to be honest with himself and admit that there are times when I am better with the vinegar than honey. 

This tends to happen when I am concerned or seeing a pattern of behavior that is troubling.  Instead of taking time to dig deeper and identify the root, I slip back to pushing Paul my oldest son or allowing negative thoughts to come through in what I say to him.  If we are honest, we avoid people who are negative about us. It should not surprise us if our kids avoid us, tune us out or become negative about us when we are dispensing vinegar.  The problem is that negativity can build up in us over time and keep us from accurately hearing what our kids are saying.

Honey comes in the form of genuine positivity.  Focusing on who they are and their potential rather than their shortcomings.  Believing the best even when there are failures goes a long way.  Our kids do not like failing. They need us to understand and believe that as well as believe in them because they too want to do better.

Honey also comes in the form of positive messages and actions that communicate our love, care, and support even if they are struggling.  When we dispense honey it draws our kids closer and makes it more likely that they will ask for our input, ideas and help.  My personality type naturally wants to focus and deal with the negatives, but in my kid's life and in my coaching of many others, I have found building vision and hope is critical.  Communicating that they can succeed and will make good decisions has had far more impact than targeting the negatives.

We need to regularly check ourselves.  Ask, “Am I dispensing significantly more honey than vinegar? “ If our kids are filled with vinegar from us, it is likely they are operating on a shortage of honey.

This week think about sending a positive message everyday to your kids.  These messages need to be sincere.  If you are struggling to find the positives, think about: who they are inside and the reasons you believe in their future.  Focus on the natural strengths they had when they were little but may have lost along the way and your undying belief in and love for them.  Mix up how you deliver these messages: in person, by text or a note.  Sharing them in different contexts will help communicate your sincerity and help them see how much you care.   

Our kids are more likely to involve us in their lives and listen to our thoughts and ideas when they are receiving honey rather than vinegar. 



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It Is Safer Today?

It Is Safer Today?

It Is Safer Today?

It is safer today!  As a young father of two girls the fear I had was a powerful motivator to protect them.  As I train and coach families across the country I find higher levels of fear than when we started our parenting journey 20 years ago.  My fear caused me to make some major mistakes with my oldest daughter. It took several years to overcome them in our relationship and longer for her to begin to develop self-confidence in her amazing gifts, abilities, and potential.

There are obvious reasons for our fear.  Stories of crime among children receive a great deal of attention as do all the other pitfalls that can snare them as they grow older. Fear alters us more than we realize.

Recently I was talking to a mom, whom I am coaching, who is seeking to reconnect with her teenage sons.  She spoke vividly about her fear of her 16 year-old son having freedom and of trusting him in a dating relationship.  Later in our session she said that her son made good decisions when choosing friends and described a kid with a natural gift of discernment.  As we talked I helped her see that because of her fear, she did not trust him and his natural gift. 

Imagine if your mom did not trust you to make good decisions even though you did and she knew that you had the gift of discernment.   Is that a mom you would remain close to, listen to and with whom you would share openly?

Fear causes us to believe that we must protect our kids, and that most often converts into control.  We control what they can and cannot do so they do not get hurt.  If we look at it objectively, do we like being controlled?  Does control draw us closer to the person controlling and make us more cooperative and compliant? 

Control is at the root of so many issues between parents and adolescents today.  Unfortunately my research with 3,500 kids confirmed what we intuitively understand.  People do not like being controlled and when in a controlling situation they are often very creative in finding ways to subvert the control.  This was on full display in my research as kids shared the many ways they got around their parents’ control and entered into the very things their parents were seeking to keep them from.

So is our fear justified?  It certainly seems like it is with all the stories we read or see in the news: drugs, sex trafficking, social media, and all the many ways kids can end up off track.  It seems like a day does not go by that we don’t hear about some horrible thing that happened to a child or teen.  Recently there was a string of five female teachers caught having sexual relations with young men between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. 

When we hear these stories our fear naturally increases for our kids but there are always two things we need to consider before letting our emotions determine our actions.

  1. Is it really more dangerous today for kids?
  2. Will my action work?

1.  While it seems unlikely, crime statistics against children and teens do not support the seemingly dramatic increase in danger for today’s kids.  In fact Department of Justice Statistics show a 30% decrease in crime against kids today versus the 70s and 80s.  Some try to attribute this to the increased control of parents, but given the percentage of kids leading dual lives that our research uncovered, this does not seem to be the case.  If anything, with 70 to 90 percent of kids leading dark dual lives, one would expect an increase in these numbers.  Simply put, society today is much more sensitive to crimes against kids and places a huge stigma on them which has led to a real decrease in the number of these crimes.  One exception is living in a high gang activity area where the rates remain about the same or a bit higher due to gang violence and drug related issues.

2.  While it seems like we should be able to prevent all harm from coming to our kids, we cannot.  Just take the case of these female teachers grooming these boys to end up in sexual relationship with them or a male teacher doing the same with our daughters.  There is no way to control everything that might happen to our kids. In fact controlling our kids may make them more vulnerable. When they are frustrated with us and become distant, a hole is created in their lives that they need to fill with someone who thinks they are special and a good kid.

So what is the answer?  In our home and many other parents’ homes, who have taken Influential Parenting, it simply is not giving into fear. Fear is almost always:

  • False
  • Evidence
  • Appearing
  • Real

The person who is most able to protect your kid from harm is your kid himself or herself.  Kids do not want to be hurt.  In fact every kid we talked with wanted to succeed.  Far too often our research found that they were making bad decisions due to the lack of relationship, closeness, trust and belief of their parents. 

The answer is a relationship that grants us access to talk deeply and candidly with our kids.  When asked the right questions to engage their brain and given information like they are adults, kids consistently make better decisions and reach better conclusions than parents expect.  It is fun to hear parents come back to me and say, “You were right.” Now that I am trusting and talking with my kids instead of telling, lecturing and controlling them, I am finding they are much smarter, more capable and are making better decisions than I ever thought possible!

So the answer is not to allow fear to take over how we view and approach our kids.  When we give into fear and rely on control, our kids are more not less vulnerable. They can and will protect themselves if we make them aware and help them understand what to look for.  Then they will come to us and share their thoughts and feelings especially when they feel something is not right.  Too many kids I have worked with had those feelings, but were not in a relationship with their parents where they felt free to share their concerns.  Many charged ahead in spite of uncomfortable feelings as they tried to fill the void left by parents with whom they once felt close.

If we help our kids remain close and equip them to protect themselves, we are much more likely to prevent harm.


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Transparency Leads to Closer Families

Transparency Leads to Closer Families

Transparency Leads to Closer Families

by Jeff Schadt

One of the more powerful concepts I have found through coaching numerous families is transparency.  While not high on the priority list in our culture, it is vital within our homes. 

Depending on our background and personality, transparency can either be easier or harder for us.  For those who have a hard time saying no to our family members, transparency is an incredibly freeing tool.  For those who really depend more on right and wrong and telling the truth, transparency helps those around us understand and draw closer to us.

Why is transparency so important? It gets below the surface, creates a deeper level of understanding, and gives us a healthier perspective.

Far too often I find that kids fear sharing their real feelings about their families, especially with their own parents.  At the same time I often find parents feeling compelled to say yes when inside they know their answer should be no. 

Here is a real life example.  A daughter is struggling, trying to keep herself busy and not be alone because she has grown very negative about herself.  She regularly asks her mom to take her places to be with her friends.  She is trying to stop the tide of negative feelings and thoughts from overtaking her but does not share this with her mom.

The mom, due to her background, often feels compelled to say yes to prove her love. This can be termed enabling. Mom has been saying yes for weeks but is growing tired, does not understand her daughter’s need, and is beginning to feel used and or manipulated. She does not share her feelings with her daughter because she would not be doing all she needs to be that elusive super mom.  If she said no she would feel bad about herself, partly due to some of her past baggage.  Transparency rather than no is the answer to her dilemma.

The lack of understanding and transparency has set the stage for the perfect storm.  One afternoon the daughter texts her mom, "Can you, my friend and I go to Cheese Cake Factory tonight?”  It's Friday and mom is tired and feeling used, but responds, "We will work it out." The daughter hears “yes” and tells her friend they are going to the Cheese Cake Factory.  Later the very excited girls say to this tired, frustrated mom. “Let’s go to the Cheese Cake Factory.”   To avoid feeling like a bad mom for saying no, mom tosses out some weak reason why she cannot go.  The daughter erupts, mom tries to keep her cool, but her frustration eventually boils over as her daughter pushes to get what she thought had been approved earlier in the day.  She is very upset and thinks she is letting her friend down.

This real life story was set in motion by the lack of transparency on both sides. 

In this scenario the daughter was not fully aware of why she was so compelled to be out and about so much.  She did not realize she was avoiding her own feelings.  She needed her mother to ask her questions to help her figure it out rather than assume she was being selfish and having to have her own way.  Had the daughter been encouraged to share what was going on inside and if the mother understood, she would have seen her daughter’s behavior in a totally different light.  She would not have drawn negative conclusions about her daughter. Her response only added to her daughter’s negative feelings about herself and led to her pushing harder to get out and about.

Mom’s saying yes to everything left her feeling used which truly is not the daughter’s responsibility.  Yet her feelings reinforced her negative conclusion about her daughter.  It became harder and harder for her to say yes and built some resentment within.

Along came the fateful evening and what should have been a great mother, daughter, friend bonding time created hurt on all sides instead.   If the mom had responded transparently when her daughter asked about going to Cheese Cake Factory, the eruption could have been avoided in spite of any other misunderstandings going on.

Had mom said. “Its been a long week and I am really tired. I just want to veg tonight,” the daughter, being an adolescent and operating more emotionally, would have connected to her mom’s feelings and understood in their text communications earlier in the day.  The lack of transparency about her feelings and situation set the stage for a melt down because mom felt compelled to be super mom and say yes rather than being a real life mom.

Creating a culture of transparency in our homes is crucial if we want to remain close to our kids as they grow older.  Saying no to our kids may work when they are toddlers, but soon they begin to ask why.  Instead of excuses or fabricated reasons, try transparency instead.  It connects with our more emotional kids and helps them listen, understand and relate to us.

For parents who are more focused on right and wrong and seek to deal with truth, how they deliver their truth is vital.  Lectures about right and wrong and the associated commands that often go with them lead our kids to stop talking with us as well as shutting down their transparency.  Like in the story above, this can cause a complete misunderstanding of our kid’s behavior. I frequently find kids are hurt and negative about themselves because their parents have pointed out the negative truth so often.  Transparency regarding the feelings we have underneath our right and wrong can make a huge difference in how our kids hear and understand our truth.

Encouraging open sharing of feelings and thoughts requires parents to establish a safe place where yelling is replaced by sharing and defensiveness is replaced by listening, love, and seeking to understand each other.   So many of the issues I see in my coaching stem from a lack of understanding of each other’s thoughts, feelings and perspectives which leads to errant conclusions about each other. The end result is more distance, frustration, and eruptions. 

Take the time to help your kids share their feelings about you and your family and where they are struggling, rather than dealing with their behavior. Avoid jumping to negative conclusions about your kids. Open the door for transparency, real understanding and closer relationships.   When this happens in the families I coach, parents are shocked at how far off their conclusions about their kids were.  Kids once again feel close to their parents, which helps them listen and process what their parents say and results in better behavior and decisions.

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Asking Strategic Questions

Asking Strategic Questions

Asking Strategic Questions 

by Jeff Schadt

As parents we all want to help our kids so that they do not make the same mistakes we did.  We often tell them what is right or wrong and try to make them do the right thing, which leads to lectures. Last week we looked at the reasons lecturing and repeating things does not get through to our kids. Questions are far more effective and often the best way for me to teach my kids.

Why it this true?  Because when we ask a question, our kids must stop and think.  They cannot just put it on autopilot and respond with their habitual answers or reactions.  I found with our fourth child, Eric, that this even works well with three year olds.  He was strong willed and independent minded even as a toddler, wanting to dress himself at 20 months old.  Stopping and asking him questions about what and why he wanted something or how his behavior was impacting his family members worked way better than telling him what he was doing was wrong.  It helped him think and consider others’ feelings, which made it clear why his behavior was wrong.

Questions are more important when working with adolescents because of the development going on in their brains.  Their brain development actually lowers emotional regulation causing them to show their frustration and be more oppositional with us when we communicate in ways that make them feel not heard or cared for, understood, believed in, or trusted. Their opposition seems like bad behavior, but most often it is a symptom that something we are doing is bothering them.  We need to stop and ask question like in last week’s article.

Many parents find questions difficult to formulate.  Asking questions is an art; it takes some thought, foresight and creativity.  While it seams easier to simply tell them what we believe, when it leads to conflict, it actually takes more time. If repeated conflict leads to emotional distance with our kids and causes them to tune us out, we need to make the effort to learn how to ask questions.

Asking questions is healthier for our kids from another vital perspective.  Telling them what is right and making them comply does not teach them to think things through and consider how their actions will impact their relationships and future.  When we take the time to guide our kids by asking questions, they think, reconsider their positions and make far better decisions than if they are frustrated and pushing back against us. Asking strategic questions literally helps them learn to think things through for themselves! This is a vital skill that will help them avoid many mistakes  when they leave our homes.

1) The first step to asking great questions is to slow down.  Do not try to deal with everything the second it occurs.  You do not need to correct every little mistake and attempt to try to turn every interaction with your kids into a teaching moment. This only leads to their tuning you out or feeling like they cannot do anything right.  It is better to save your bullets.  Consider what the central concern or issues is and formulate questions to help them think it through.

2) With this extra time think about what you want to tell them concerning the situation.  Let’s say your son wants to get his driver’s license, but you have concerns about his attitude and anger issues that could impact his safety behind the wheel. Instead of telling him what he needs to change in order to get his license, formulate questions around those concerns.  Telling him what he needs to do will seem like you do not believe in him or are accusing him of not being able to handle driving which leads to defensiveness, frustration and pushback. 

  • If you are in a bad mood and have gotten angry, do you think it is wise to get in the car and drive?
  • How should we handle scheduling conflicts with the car?  What should take priority?
  • How should we handle it if you get angry when you cannot have the car?

Questions force them to consider things they would not naturally think about.

3) Asking questions makes them think, respond and gives you a window into their thought process.  It enables them to communicate their thoughts and will show you if they look at the situation responsibly.  Many parents are surprised at what they discover when they begin to hear from their kids. While telling and expecting is the norm, it does not allow kids to display their responsibility.

4) Consider their answers.  When parents take this approach they find that their kids’ responses are far more responsible than they expected.   This opens up discussions and enables them to consider their kids’ perspective.  If there are differing perspectives allow time to for both sides to reflect before coming to a final conclusion.  Often kids need time to process the questions, formulate responses and consider their parent’s perceptive before being able to come to the best decision.

In the end asking strategic questions requires considering the things you want to tell your kids.  Once the topics are identified, turn those topics into open-ended questions that will short circuit their typical response patterns and force them to think it through. You can come alongside them much like a mentor and serve as a sounding board.  Your kids want to succeed and do much better if they are not pushing back against your approach and control. 


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Avoiding Push Back by Asking Strategic Questions

Avoiding Push Back by Asking Strategic Questions

Avoiding Push Back by Asking Strategic Questions

by Jeff Scahdt

As the founder of YTN, the father of four and coach to numerous families I have found that the best way to avoid push back, as well as teach our kids, is through asking questions.  Wait a minute.  Teach through asking questions??? Yes, that is what I have discovered.

One of the primary reasons parents get push back and encounter conflict is rooted in their approach to communicating with their kids.  Whether at age three or fifteen, strategic questions are a vital tool that is largely absent in our parenting culture.  We will ask them how their day was, what homework they have to do and if they have done what we asked them to do.  But, when it really counts, we fail to leverage the power of strategic questions.

One of the primary things that interfere with kids’ willingness to listen and hang out with their families is the tendency of parents to lecture.  Recently I was talking with a 14 year old who said to me, "I am constantly being lectured. They must think I am stupid and a really bad person."  The sad thing is that I found this adolescent to be quite bright, capable, and even responsible though the parents would likely argue with the latter.

So what went wrong?   Lectures are a one-way form of communication that we use when we are frustrated, do not believe our kid is performing or when they cross the line.  We use lectures because we feel like our kids are not getting it or are not listening to us, which is humorous if we stop and think about it.   Who wants to listen to a lecture???   Not me.

When lectured, kids feel like their side is never heard or understood so they attempt to be heard by pushing back, which parents often see as disobedience.  In talking with kids who feel lectured they conclude two things, I am a bad person and my parents think I am stupid.  Why? Because, when parents repeat things over and over, their kids are saying to themselves, “I have heard this all before.  Do they think I am stupid?”  Parents, on the other side are thinking, “Why can't they get this and just do what I say?”

Neither side is happy with the other and the relationship is strained.   When your relationship is strained with your spouse or co-worker, are you more or less likely to listen to them, help them and do what they say?

What if our kids attitude, lack of follow through, and response to us are not simply bad behavior but a sign that the relationship is on the rocks and they are losing any desire to please their parents?

This is when questions can come to the rescue.  As opposed to believing your kids do not listen, do not understand, and are unwilling to help, believe the opposite!   I talk to kids and I find they are most often hearing you, but are frustrated and hurt. 

What if instead of a lecture, we had a discussion that went like this.

  • Karen have we talked about this before?  (Yes)
  • Do you remember what I said.? (Yes, or a word for word recount of what has been said)
  • Is there a reason you do not want to help me?  (Yes)
  • Please tell me, I will listen if something is damaging your desire to help around the house.

Be prepared for an answer like, "You are mean."  Do not react, but ask another question, “What am I doing that communicates to you that I am mean?” If they refuse to answer, ask some diagnostic questions.

  • Do you feel like I listen to you?
  • Do you feel like I am positive or negative about you?
  • Do these things make you want to avoid me?

Questions are vital!  They are the best way to revive your relationships with your kids.

Questions are also the best way to teach kids, even at young ages.  They become crucial when our kids approach and enter adolescence.   When we ask questions, it is proven that we hijack the other person's brain as they must stop and think about an answer.  Questions force our kids to switch off autopilot, their habitual response patterns, and think.  When they think, I have found they tend to process things well and make better decisions because they are forced to think rather then just go with what feels good or seems right in the moment.

Next week we will talk specifically about how to formulate good questions that help our kids learn, make our relationships more fun, and cuts down on push back and the conflicts that cause us to want to lecture our kids!







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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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