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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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