Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘chart progress’ Category

Guest Blogger: Fern Weis’s Top 5 Parenting Tips

Posted by Marcia on March 24, 2011

Our guest blogger today is Fern Weis, and she provides tips and some insight into her own family. She is a certified coach, middle school teacher, wife, and parent of two wonderful young adults. She specializes in supporting and educating parents of teens and young adults through individual and group coaching, as well as educational workshops. Fern continues to volunteer as a facilitator of family weekends at Hyde School. She is committed to strengthening American families, one family at a time. Learn more about her work at www.familymatterscoach.com. You can also contact her at fgweis@gmail.com. And now…here’s Fern.

In a recent blog post, Marcia Stein posed some serious questions about the downward spiral of Charlie Sheen. She also asked readers to share their own experiences. I am pleased to be able to share part of my life with you and what I learned along the way.

In our family, it was our son spiraling into a pit as a teen (and taking us down there with him). What was so painful was that somewhere in this out-of-control teen was a kind and loving person who didn’t know how to come back to us. When he was having a good day, we would hope against hope that this was a sign he was turning around. We were not facing reality. When we could no longer deny it, and accepted what was happening and that we had no control, we pulled him out of high school. First step, a one-month wilderness program to separate him from his community and from us. Second step, two years at an amazing boarding school called Hyde School, a program of family-based character development.

The deciding factor in choosing Hyde was the intensive parent program. While we considered ourselves good people, and understood that he made dangerous choices, we knew that we needed to change, too. We couldn’t ask the school to ‘fix’ him, and then have him come home to the same parents. We had to do things differently, see ourselves differently.

I learned that I taught my children so much about how to see themselves and life, not only by my words, but by my actions, reactions and responses to people and events in my life. It’s frightening how much our children learn from us that we are not aware of.

I learned that you cannot stand by. It hurts to take difficult steps, but it hurts more to watch your child self-destruct. Change is hard, but not changing takes you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. So…

1) Do the hard thing. Don’t worry about your ‘relationship’ with your child. He has lots of friends, but only one set of parents to teach him how to get through life. Children need us to set limits. They don’t have the self-control to do it for themselves. If you don’t do it, who will? Whether it’s saying ‘no’, or having a serious intervention, do it!

2) Understand that parenting is more about YOU than your children. Step up! You know all those qualities you want to see in your children? You want them to be truthful, persistent, courageous, compassionate, generous, thoughtful, curious and optimistic. Make sure you are the best role model you can be (for your own benefit, as well as theirs). Have you given up on a dream? Have you ever been less than honest? Do you tell them to be more assertive, and then avoid saying what you need to say to others? Do you expect more from them than you do from yourself?

As they get older, you have decreasing control over the choices your children make, the actions they take. They are counting on you (even though they will deny it) to show them how it’s done, and to be their guide.

3) Ask others for their insights about you (this includes your kids). I can sense some of you mentally walking away from this one. But we are often the last ones to see our own inconsistencies. It’s the inconsistencies that prevent us from moving from struggle to confidence. The mixed messages make parenting, decision-making and personal growth more difficult.

Ask the people who love you most (spouse/partner, kids, trusted friends and family) for their input. You don’t want them to sugarcoat it, and you don’t want them to be cruel, either. You are looking for helpful feedback so you can be a great example for your children and enjoy life more.

3) Listen, listen, listen! Your kids want to be heard. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with them or not. Listen and become the trusted adult they turn to when there’s something really important to talk about. This is not the time for judgment, criticism, or fixing it for them. After they have vented is the time to help them with coping and problem-solving strategies.

4) Be a teacher, guide and mentor… but don’t be ‘the fixer’. Too many young people are not prepared to launch themselves into independence. When we give them the answers and solve problems for them, they are not learning the skills.

Step back. Guide and teach without doing it for them. And if you are not always the right person to teach the skill or lesson, you have options. Ask for help in being a better teacher. Consider who might be more effective in helping your child work through challenges. There is no shame. It really does take a community to raise children.

5) Share your struggles with your children. What was challenging for you growing up? What did you fail at? How did you deal with it? Our kids see us as adults who mostly seem to be in control and know what we’re doing. As confused, hormone-ridden teens, they can’t imagine being competent and self-assured. They need to know that it does get better, that we were once like them and we, mostly, successfully muddled our way through, too.

You already know how important this job is. And while you weren’t given a user manual for your children, it doesn’t always have to be difficult. Learn when to step in and when to step aside. Listen as least as much as you speak, if not more. Ask for help when you need it. Inspire your children by sharing your own difficult experiences. Your children need this from you, now.

P.S. My son graduated high school and college, and is employed in his chosen profession. The child we thought we had lost is a motivated and generous young man who gives me bear hugs, tells me about his work day, and dances me around the kitchen. His sister, who prefers not to be highlighted in my writing, is an amazing young woman and daughter, and friend to all who know her. Life is good.

Posted in changing parent behavior, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, confidence, enabler, entitled, family difficulties, Fern Weis, forgiveness, listen to family problems, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, wilderness program, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dore Frances’ Radio Show 8/30/10

Posted by Marcia on August 26, 2010

I’ll be on Dore Frances’ “Family Solutions Today” live radio show on Monday. You can listen live (call-in to talk) or download from iTunes later.

Details and a link are on her press release. http://tinyurl.com/29v3qxv

Posted in adopted kids, alcoholic father, author, book talk, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, juvenile hall, kid on meth, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Speaking at Campbell Library 5/13, 7 pm

Posted by Marcia on May 12, 2010

I’ll be speaking at the library Thursday night and I’ve really been looking forward to this opportunity. A PDF flier about the event can be viewed here.

The last time I spoke, we had around 20 people in the room. Most of the people had a son or daughter who going through a terrible time, and the adults were worried about how to handle the situation.

I can’t provide the answers, just some experiences from my life and the interviews from my book. I also mention some of the calls and emails I’ve received. There’s some comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this situation, and it’s helpful to know many kids grow out of that terrible stage and that there is help.

If you’re in the Silicon Valley, I hope you can come to this event. If you know of another venue interested in this topic, please contact me.

Posted in adopted kids, author, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, confidence, defiant adopted kids, entitled, estranged, family difficulties, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Catching Problems When Children Are Young

Posted by Marcia on March 3, 2010

Here’s a note from a woman who just read my book.

“I like to read different parenting books, and you mentioned your book at a workshop so I bought a copy. My kids are small and they’re pretty good with minor issues, but I worry about the future. I am also curious about what other parents go through. I wasn’t a very easy teenager and wondered about the parent’s point of view. I had a lot of reasons to buy the book.

I expected to find more information about right when they are teens, and I did find that, but I did not expect to have a better look at when things start to go wrong and how fast things went bad in the families. I was surprised and glad to find something about the younger years.

I have started to see some small problems with my older child, and I thought I could let some of it ride, but now I see I have to start now before it gets worse. I really liked the chapter where the person talked about how she stopped nagging her child as she had done to her older kids, and how their home is more peaceful and her son is more cooperative.

I have more insight about what I put my parents through and am sending them a copy of the book. We had a good discussion about it and this was the first time we talked about those years. I had some apologizing to do. Reading about the professionals was really helpful, too.

Thanks for your book and all of the resources you provided there and on your website.”

I love this kind of feedback! It’s always good to know the information is useful, and I hope this parent can avoid some of the problems other parents have experienced. It was interesting to hear that she has a little more insight into her own life and the impact it had on her parents.

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, confidence, family difficulties, nagging the kids, out of control teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Did the Self Esteem Movement Create an Entitled Generation?

Posted by Marcia on November 7, 2009

I’ve mulled over a lot of things I’ve experienced as a parent and a lot of things I’ve read, and would honestly say that I did do some things well and there are some things that I would absolutely change.

I have some serious concerns about the self-esteem movement and what the effects are on our kids.

Self-esteem is the way you think about yourself and this impacts the way you feel.  If you think you’re a good painter, you feel good about that skill and your confidence.  If you have a poor image of yourself and your abilities, it manifests in low self confidence and underachievement.

The self-esteem movement was a good idea run amok.  The idea of encouraging children to think well of themselves sounds like a good idea, but, like many things in life, it has to be earned to be appreciated.

Our son “J” was born in 1988, and I took him to Mommy and Me and toddler classes. I guess others were reading books I hadn’t read, but I remember the teacher and other moms saying “good job” whenever a child did anything. It didn’t matter what the child did, but the rewarding phrase was said. Kid finishes a project, eats his food, plays a game: “Good job.”

At home, if J picked up his toys, I said “thank you” or “that looks nice”. I felt that if I said “good job” to everything, then when he’d really do a good job of something, then what would I say and how would I make that meaningful?

We noticed that when he participated in team sports, even if their team lost, everyone got ribbons and sometimes trophies.  I guess the theory was that they wanted all the kids to feel like winners and therefore, it’d magically give them self-esteem and confidence, but I think that backfired.

If the ultimate goal of parenting is to raise a child who can operate in this world, overpraising for simply existing isn’t going to help. After all, how many managers stand around waiting to tell people they did a good job?  I can tell you from an HR perspective that some do but most expect you to do a good job, and if you do an extraordinary job, then maybe you’ll be noticed.  There are expectations that you’ll perform as you should, that poor work will be adversely noted and good work will be rewarded.

Young people steeped in the self-esteem movement resent not being continually verbally rewarded and when they simply complete a project.

I believe that good self-esteem and confidence result from completing projects, overcoming obstacles, leaping over barriers to success.  It can’t come as a result of continuous praise from others: you have to know it, to feel that accomplishment.

What are your thoughts?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, entitled, nagging the kids, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Rewarding Kids’ Good Behavior

Posted by Marcia on October 31, 2009

My last post discussed consistency in parenting and I focused on punishment.  Linda, a friend I’ve known since our kids were small, responded to that post with some interesting thoughts.  I had intended to talk this week about rewarding good behavior and how important that is, and Linda’s responses gave me a lot to think about.

Linda pointed out that sometimes you have to look really hard for some way to compliment your child, to comment on something good he or she is doing.  Kids can get into streaks of behavior where all you see are things that are driving you nuts, that you worry about or are outright dangerous.  It’s so easy to slip into criticism and forget to say anything nice.

I’ve been guilty of that at times.  I hate to admit it, but that’s the case.

When I wrote the book, I interviewed a woman who had some interesting things to say about managing behavior, both her own and her son’s.  Sue has two grown children from a previous marriage and their relationship is cordial.  She was eager to share what she had learned and some of the changes she’s made in her parenting style with her young son.  I’ve edited Sue’s remarks for this blog to share a bit of what she said.

“Charles is seven, and in the last year, I recognized that what I was doing wasn’t working.  With Tom it wasn’t working, but I wasn’t fully cognizant and I wasn’t willing to change it, so with Charles, I try more to understand what might be causing his misbehavior.  I studied some of Alfred Adler’s work, he is a psychologist in Austria, and he says that all people have two basic needs: to have significance and to feel like they belong.  All behavior is motivated by those two things.  When a child is misbehaving, it is in a mistaken attempt to get that significance and belonging, so if I can figure out what is going on for Charles, I can work with him.   I have a chart and it is based on how I’m feeling about his behavior.  If he is annoying me or irritating me, more than likely he wants attention.  Then I spend time with him or assure him I will give him special time. 

I might need to finish what I’m doing.  But it goes back to how can I help him see his significance and belonging, so that he doesn’t have to misbehave?

Parents are constantly nagging the kids. With Tom and Alan, it was just the constant nagging, and micromanaging, and me getting more and more upset, wondering why don’t they just do it? What I have learned is to have Charles create a morning routine and make a chart for it, and he is responsible for the chart.

When you involve people in decisions that affect their lives, they are more likely to go along with it, and you are more likely to get the behavior you want if they had a say in it.  I try as much as possible to let him make the decisions about when he will do things and how, because I really care about the end product, and how he gets there is his decision.   He is a unique person so whatever works for him.”

Do you have some tips you can share or some thoughts on the matter?

Posted in changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, nagging the kids, Parents and teens, rewarding good behavior, Troubled teens | Leave a Comment »

 
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