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How to deal with “lying” and create a larger circle of support for your kids

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Lying is a common problem that comes up for parents. The thing that’s really soooo bad about lying is that it destroys trust. We lose the ability to trust what they tell us. It also undermines the “moral” character that we are trying to instill.

So why do our kids lie to us? Most commonly it is because they are afraid to tell the truth because they are afraid they will get in trouble (and they will get lectured or lose privilege) or that we will freak out…or both.

One of the things that I love about working with groups is that some parents have brilliant and inspired strategies. Before I share their stories, I want to challenge you to examine a few ideas about your relationship with your kids.

1. “Mistakes” and “bad decisions” are some of the greatest opportunities we have to learn.

2. When was the last time you got punished for making a mistake or a bad decision? What did you learn from being punished?

3. What does your child learn from punishment? (Frequently they learn to “get sneakier” or to “lie better”.)

4. Would it be more beneficial for them to learn to deal with the problem they have created?  (I am, in no way, suggesting that they shouldn’t have consequences.)

5. Do you really need to know EVERYTHING that your teenager does?

6. Do you need to be “the one” that your kid talks to OR can you encourage them to have a relationship with another adult ~ hopefully one who will be available to offer them guidance and support?

7. Do you want your child to tell you the truth so that you have information about the guidance and skills they need or so that you can “catch them” doing bad things?

Stories from the front lines:

This courageous woman is a “New mother”. Her first child is a 14 year old girl whom she is adopting. When she was first confronted with lying she told her daughter why she didn’t want her to lie and what she did want: “I want to trust you and believe you.” Then she offered her alternatives: “If you think I can’t handle the truth, tell me so. Say, “I can’t tell you because I think you’ll freak out.” OR “Can I tell you now but not talk about it until you calm down?” OR “I can’t talk to you about this so I talked to my auntie about it instead.” or even, “I can’t tell you the truth because I am afraid to.” After offering alternatives she requested, “Just…don’t lie to me.”

Another mom offered her daughter a six month “statute of limitations”. “If you did something more than six months ago and I didn’t catch you, you can talk to me about it now and not get into trouble for it.” When she did this, her daughter began sharing some of the things that she had done. Mom was able to keep her word and it opened the door to be able to offer her daughter guidance, information, problem solving skills, and support in making better choices in the future.

We WANT to hear the good stuff. We NEED to hear the hard stuff. If we want to trust our children to tell us the truth, they need to be able to trust that we can handle it in a positive way…or hook them up with someone who can.

Looking for more hints and tips on parenting teens? Check out “Upcoming Workshops”.

Eat Your Vegetables!!!

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When my youngest son was about 15 he announced to me, “Jason and I have been talking and I know we’re right because we both agree. The only vegetables that aren’t disgusting are raw carrots…and maybe raw celery.” I thought, “Great. The closed reality of a couple of teenagers.”

Two years later he was a vegetarian. Amazingly, he didn’t starve. Now there are no vegetables (that I know of) that he doesn’t like. Hang in there, their tastes will change as they get older.

And in the meantime, what about their vegetables?

  1. Serve foods they like…most of the time. You might want to cook a bit differently when your kids are young. You can avoid adding “objectionable” foods ~ the ones you know they don’t like ~ mushrooms for example ~ and still have a good meal. (Serve the mushrooms on the side.)
  2. It is important for kids to continue to try new foods so I suggest the “No-thank-you-bite”…which really is a “bite”. It’s not a small spoonful or 5 green beans. It is one bite. You just want them to taste it before they say “No.” Don’t get caught in the power struggle over how big the bite is. If they say “No thank you”…
  3. …Consider allowing kids to prepare their own vegetables if they don’t like the vegetable du jour and have tried their no thank you bite. Remember the goal: you want them to eat SOME veggies…ANY veggies…even if they aren’t the ones you chose.
  4. Get creative. My brothers used to come home and snack on frozen peas…then were exempt from the dinner veggie.
  5. In an unofficial Facebook poll,  people reported liking the following vegetables as kids: cucumber, green beans, tomatoes, peas, and carrots. You might want to try these with your kids. And the following, to avoid, were rated “disgusting”: okra, eggplant, mushrooms, and beets.

3 final notes on food.

1. In Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “What the Dog Saw” he has a discussion about ketchup and notes that by the age of 2 or 3 children “shrink from new tastes”. They frequently want to use ketchup as a way to make “strange” foods taste familiar. Knowing this may help you understand “why?” when your kid doesn’t like the delicious meal that you have slaved to make for your family….or dumps ketchup all over it. Don’t take it personally. Remember. Their food is their food. And…don’t criticize them for it. Hey. At least they’re eating it, right?

2. Cooking with kids (of any age) is a great way to spend some quality one on one time with them. Many kids are more interested in (and proud of) eating a meal they have helped prepare. It’s also a great opportunity for them to learn a valuable life skill.

3. Let kids cook with you— has a series of recipes on video that are “fast,      tasty, cheap and easy. Most meals can be made in under 12 minutes (prep time) for less than $12. They are fast…but they go beyond the standard Beans and Weenies. (Hence, the name).”

Subscribe to this blog post to get regular updates. Want more hints and tips? Check out upcoming workshops page for times and dates.

Sidestep the Power Struggle

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Power struggles with kids. You see them everywhere. Frustrated parents. Out of control kids. Yikes!the family tug of war

One of the first things I tell parents is, “Any control you have over your child, is an illusion.” Most parents of teenagers know this…but try to control their kids anyway. One of the next things is, “Do not engage in a power struggle with your kids because you will never win”…not that we want to have a win/lose relationship with our kids. The harder you try to control your teen, the more they will resist and the more their behavior will escalate.

What to do?

1. Get really clear about your boundaries. Know when you need to take a stand…and when you can let it go.

2. Remember that the only person that you have control over is you.

3. Stay calm and rational. When you “lose it” you can’t help your kids “find it”.

4. Tell them what they are doing. You do not want to shame or embarrass them. You only want to help them be aware of what they are doing. “Do you realize that you are yelling (swearing, being disrespectful)?”  Have you ever noticed that when YOU get upset you begin to raise your voice…sometimes without even noticing?

5. Tell them what YOU will/won’t do. This is NOT a threat or ultimatum. This is not a power play on your part. This is you letting them know (stating…”just the facts ma’am”) where you stand. The key here is your tone of voice. Let them know, “I will not be in conversation with you when you are yelling (swearing, being disrespectful) at me. This conversation is over for now.”

6. Give them a way back. Always let them know what you want from them and how they can re-gain connection. “We can talk when you are ready to have respectful conversation.”

7. Re-engage ASAP. This means that if they are immediately ready to have respectful conversation, you are too. The more quickly you are willing to re-engage/re-connect with them, the more effective this is. The message is “I love you. What you have to say is important to me. I want respectful interaction with you.” If you get angry, upset, or decide to “teach them a lesson” and make them wait, you turn this into a “punishment” instead of a “discipline” (opportunity to learn.) As a discipline, your kids will learn to self-correct.

respectful conversation

8. Move forward. Don’t go back or ask, “Are you finally going to be respectful?” Never say, “I told you so”, or “Now isn’t that better”, or “If you had been respectful in the first place…” Unless your goal is to elicit eye-rolling.

9. Acknowledge ~ briefly. Always let kids know what you like, but don’t go overboard. Be sincere. “Thanks. I enjoyed our conversation.”

10. Always treat kids with the same respect you want to be treated with.

11. The shortcut. If this is a chronic problem, after the first few times, go straight to step #5 and proceed from there.

For more helpful tips and strategies, check out “Upcoming Workshops”.

Stop Trying to Control Your Teen

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Our children go through many stages while growing up, but as parents, there are three distinct roles that parents have during this time.

• From birth until about age 7 (when our kids go from learning to read, to reading to learn) our role is to be their “teacher”. We teach them to talk and walk, read and write, and we teach them how to live in our society.

• From then until they hit puberty, our role shifts to become their “manager”. We manage their schedule ~ appointments, activities, school work ~ we oversee their lives. For many parents, this is their favorite time. They get to be in charge and their kids still like them.

• When most kids hit puberty, they fire their manager and they become “unmanageable”. This is the time when our role as parent changes again. At this age, our children are ready to begin the arduous journey of learning to become adults. Our job is to help them learn how to do this. Now we get to become a resource for them. We get to be their “mentor” (read: “Learn how to become your teenagers ‘life coach’”).

Sounds simple right? Why doesn’t it happen that way? Why do teenager’s have a reputation for being so darn difficult? When you were a teen, did you have someone who mentored you into adulthood? For most of us, the answer to that is a resounding “NO”. Parents have a tendency to “parent the way we were parented” so how would we know that a shift in our role is even possible? Most of us do what our parents did ~ try harder to control our kids. But…the harder we try to control them, the more they resist…the more unmanageable they become. They become “difficult” to deal with and pretty soon, they have even stopped talking to us and roll their eyes, grunt, sigh, or show some other sign of disgust whenever we try to talk to them.

In the coming weeks we will explore some ways to begin to shift this relationship as you move into your changing role as your teenager’s mentor and life coach. In the meantime, here are some ideas (that will be expanded on in the next post) to consider:

Kids learn respect by being treated with respect. Treat them with the kind of respect that you want to be treated with. You set the standard (and the example) that you expect them to comply to.

Pay attention to the way you talk to/treat your kid. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone talked to/treated me this way?” If your answer is, “I wouldn’t like it,” chances are, your kid doesn’t like it either.

NEVER engage in a power struggle with your teenager (most parents don’t even win power struggles with their 2 year olds). We’ll talk about how to get out of power struggles next week.

Want more practical tips and techniques? My next workshop starts May 24, 2011. Get the details and register on my Upcoming Workshops page.

End the “Food Fight” with your kids (part two)

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There are a few “Old Fashioned Values” that I ascribe to. One of them is eating dinner together at the table. Food is life sustenance and should be celebrated with our family. It is an opportunity to connect with one another at the end of the day, to share the events of our lives, and to enjoy and “get to know each other”. It is also an opportunity to “teach” our children table manners and food etiquette. If you can’t get your family to the table every night, select a few nights each week to designate as “family meal nights”. Your children may resist this at first but will probably learn to love it and make it a priority to show up if you make mealtime pleasant.

Dinnertime conversation is the basis of a pleasant meal. Have you noticed that kids tend to get monosyllabic as they get older? All of your questions are met with answers like, “Nothing” or “Fine”. Here’s how to get some conversation started:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. “What was the best thing that happened in your day today?” If this doesn’t elicit more than a one word response, share the best thing from your day. Share a story about anything that happened that might be of interest. Share a joke. When the focus is OFF of them, they begin to think of things that they would like to share with you.
  2. Don’t take it personally if your kid seems uninterested in what you are saying. Don’t try too hard. Keep it casual and friendly.
  3. Inspire laughter.
  4. Be patient. Most kids will join in eventually. (They really do want connection with you.) When they do talk to you, listen to them. Be interested in what they have to say. Ask the kind of questions that show them that you are listening and that you care.

The practicalities of manners and etiquette:

  1. Model good manners. If you use good manners they (eventually) will too.
  2. State what you want (“It is polite to say/do…”) rather than what you don’t want (“It is rude to say/do…”).
  3. Take the time to teach. Always “teach” in a way that is non-shaming. (No one learns well if they feel they are being shamed.) My parents taught us “public manners”. We were allowed to be more lax at home as long as we knew what would be expected if we were eating at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. So that we (and they) would not be embarrassed.

Remember ~ Laughter aids digestion. Food is the way we nourish our bodies. Relationships are how we nourish our soul. Keep mealtime conversation and interactions as pleasant as possible. Enjoy the food. Focus on the relationship.

Want more practical tips and techniques? My next workshop starts May 24, 2011. Get the details and register on my Upcoming Workshops page.

End the “Food Fight” with your kids (part one)

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We’re having WHAT for dinner?

I recently went to Portland to visit my son and his family. While we were talking, he shared with me the frustrations at dinnertime that he has with his 10-year-old stepson. My son is an excellent cook and an adventurous eater. His stepson, not so much…his tastes are a bit more limited, as with most kids his age. Dinner times are becoming…a “food fight”. A time of frustration, hurt feelings, and power struggles. It’s not easy to step into the role of a “step” parent…or to be the “step” kid. I asked my son for permission before sharing a few strategies.

  1. If you are dishing out the food, start with age appropriate portions, and the minimum of each food that you expect your child to eat before having seconds or dessert. Too much food on a child’s plate can be overwhelming to them. Also, in this day and age of “supersize” everything, it is important for them (and us too) to know what a “portion” size is. Here’s a good visual of portion sizes.
  2. Once the food is served, it is your child’s food. STAY OUT OF IT!  Do not beg, bargain (“Just eat 3 more bites of this…and you can have more of that…”) or try to control what or how much they eat. The way to stay out of this is: Have an understood rule that they can have more of what they want when they have eaten what is on their plate.
  3. Always talk about what they CAN have, not what they CAN’T have. “You can have more meatloaf when you have eaten what is on your plate.” vs “You can’t have more meatloaf until you eat your peas.” When you phrase it in the positive, it puts your child at choice and allows you to step out of the power struggle.
  4. Then…(and this is the hardest part) shut up and let them choose. Do NOT say, “You know the rule about having more.” If they choose not to finish what is on their plate, don’t get to have seconds, and would rather go hungry than eat their peas, don’t feel guilty. Respect their choice. They will not starve before the next meal. And never say, “I told you you’d be hungry later.” If they don’t already know this, it’s time they figured it out. Like I said….”The hardest part”…
  5. When they do eat their meal, don’t make a big deal out of that either. Children don’t need to be praised for eating. Focus on the quality of relationship that you now enjoy during the meal since you have stopped battling about food with your kids.
  6. When the meal is over, it’s over. Don’t hold the food for the next meal. Don’t talk about how “last night you chose not to eat…” Each meal starts fresh with new food, same rule.

Remember ~ Laughter aids digestion. Food is the way we nourish our bodies. Relationships are how we nourish our soul. Keep mealtime conversation and interactions as pleasant as possible. Enjoy the food. Focus on the relationship.

Want more practical tips and techniques? My next workshop starts May 24, 2011. Get the details and register on my Upcoming Workshops page.