Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

We have people blaming teenagers and college students for not wearing masks, having big parties, such as pool parties, on the weekends and that college students are hanging out at bars and as a result of their behavior we blame them for Coronavirus rates increasing across the Country. College students and teenagers have been involved in a number of protests, such as Black Lives Matter, and we are saying the virus is increasing because of protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing too. Finally, we are looking at teenagers and college students across the Country having Coronavirus parties and this is another reason the virus is spreading. As of today, August 4, 2020, there have been 159,000 deaths in our Country due to the Coronavirus and we are averaging 1,000 more every day (CDC). There are a tremendous amount of people who have died in our Country and in my opinion we are being unfair blaming teenagers, college students and protestors.

If we look at the White House, what do we expect from teenagers? Today in an interview the President stated yes a 1,000 people are dying, but that is how it is. No empathy in his tone of voice and taking no responsibility. He has been holding press conferences about the Coronavirus and he has stated people can wear masks but he will not require it. Additionally, he has been going all over the Country and he does not wear a mask. He wore one only once. Therefore, what message is he sending to the Country and teenagers especially? Additionally at the President’s press conferences he continues to state that the malaria drug is a cure for the virus. However, numerous studies by our top medical experts have all shown that the drug is ineffective and can cause deadly side effects. Yet he stands in front of the Country and makes it a popularity contest by saying people like Dr. Fauci better. Again this is what teenagers do, if you confront them on a story that they cannot back up with facts, they say you don’t like me. How can we expect teenagers to be responsible about their actions, when the President cannot be reasonable about his actions?

The President has been pushing that all school children must return to school on time and in their school buildings. However, his son’s school has delayed the beginning of their school until October and they will be doing remote learning (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Again we have a message of do as I say not as I do. What are teenagers and college students going to think when it is clear the President is willing to gamble with their lives, but not his son’s life or his family’s life?

Let’s take a different look at this situation. If your teenage son was not doing well in school and he was in danger of not passing his classes and his response to you was, “it is what is.” How would you feel? If this same son spent every weekend hanging out with friends and not doing his homework or studying, what would you think? Furthermore, if your teen did see any reason to spend his weekend trying to repair his grades and he believed it was more important to hang out with friends because he needed a rest, what would you think? I don’t think you would approve of your son’s behavior. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the President spends his weekends golfing not addressing the pandemic. Today, 8/4/20, was the first time in six months that he attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Team (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Looking at the standard the President is setting for teenagers, I’m sure, as I stated above, you would be disappointed in your son’s behavior, but how can you say anything based on the President’s actions? How do you argue with your teenager to do his geometry homework, when the President is ignoring 159,000 Americans dying?

Parents you are faced with only one option in my opinion. You need to explain to your son that yes the President is not being responsible and ignoring his duties. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The President can choose to be irresponsible and he will have to face the American voters and may lose his job. Just like the President will be judged by the voters for his choices, you need to point out to your son that his teacher will judge his choices about studying by the grade he receives in the class. Additionally, you will be judging his choices about school based on the grades he receives in his classes. Finally, you need to point out and educate them on the fact that just because someone else chooses to ignore their responsibilities, even if he is the President, it does not give him the right to ignore his responsibilities. The final choice is up to him and he must face the consequences for his actions.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or listen to his podcast on Apple or Spotify.

Gratitude is A Daily Lesson for Teenagers

Gratitude is A Daily Lesson for Teenagers

We live in an area where most kids have more than they need. For example, most fifth graders have Smartphones, IPads and laptops. However, many parents worry are they providing their children with enough. Many parents are so worried about if the teen or child has enough that they often don’t realize how fortunate most children are in this area.

While parents are worrying about meeting the needs of their teens so they have they same amount of stuff as other kids, they often forget to teach their teens about gratitude. Yes it is very important to meet a child’s basic needs, but it is also important that teens are grateful for what they do have and the sacrifices their parents make for them.

Gratitude is an important lesson and gift for children. What some parents may want to do is instead of buying your child a large number of things is to teach their child about gratitude. In the United States, we have many children who are homeless and hungry. Yes, in the United States, we do have homeless children. We also have many children who have more toys than they need and are unaware that there are children who are homeless in our Country. Therefore, think about taking you and your family to the to buy children who cannot afford them back to school supplies. May be you and your family can donate some time at a homeless shelter or cleaning out your closets and donate items you are no longer using to the Salvation Army. While doing these things, teach your child about the fact that there are others in need and to appreciate what they have in their lives. Also that giving can be more important than receiving.

Furthermore, I read an article by Joshua Becker and he listed gifts that parents give to their children every day and that children usually do not forget these gifts. I think it is important for parents to remember the daily priceless gifts we give children daily. Especially when your teen tries to make you feel guilty because other parents give their teens more.

Here are some of Joshua Becker’s thoughts. I have countless memories. Very few childhood memories actually include the things I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget:

1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.

2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…

3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.

4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.

5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.

6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.

7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?

8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.

9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.

10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.

11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.

12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.

13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.

14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.

15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.

16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.

17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.

18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.

19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.

20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.

21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.

22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?

23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.

24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.

25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.

26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.

27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.

28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.

29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.

30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.

31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.

32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.

33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.

34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.

35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Respect is A Two Way Street

Respect is A Two Way Street

As an adolescent psychotherapist one of the major issues I deal with is respect. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and parents feel dissected by their teenagers. At this time of year with high school graduations and teenagers graduating from middle school, this issue becomes more intense especially regarding boundaries and plans for summer activities since there is no school.

Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you have graduated from middle school or high school doesn’t mean you are in charge of or that you are ready to handle all aspects of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There are still a number of life experiences for you to learn from and until you do, your parents are responsible for and probably need to help you.

A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 years old you can do as you like. This is the case if you are in a situation where you can financially support yourself and provide for all your needs. If you are still financially dependent on your parents, even though you are 18, your parents do have a right to set certain rules that you need to follow.

Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are legally responsible for the damage. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall. These are just a few examples that your parents have being your parent.

You may think that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do in life. Even if they give you permission to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18.

As I started off as a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis, doing your homework, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or drugs. For teenagers who have graduated high school you may feel the above guidelines do not apply to you. However, if you parents are assisting to pay for college, your living expenses and such things as your health insurance, the guidelines apply to you too. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.

Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.

Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because you graduated high school. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.

Parents while your teenagers have a lot to learn and do need to demonstrate they can handle responsibility, you need to give them opportunities to earn your respect. You have to have faith in your teenager and say yes sometimes even when you have doubts. Obviously you start by saying yes to the little request and allow them to earn your respect. Also if you have doubts or concerns talk to your teenager about high school or college. If you have open minded conversations with your teenager, they will respect and trust you. This provides a situation where you and your teen can have open, honest conversations in the good and bad times. It can help you develop a closer relationship with your teen and you can assist your teenager in becoming a responsible young adult you can be proud of.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating adolescents and children. To learn more about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

It Is Normal to be Stressed When You have A Teenager

It Is Normal to be Stressed When You have A Teenager

I often hear for the teenagers that I see for psychotherapy how stressful it is to be a teenager. I hear about difficulties with school and parents. However, being the parent of a teenager is stressful for parents too. Parents also have to deal with school issues and other teen issues.

One on the first concerns parents face when their teen is in high school is the fact that their child is going to have more exposure to alcohol, drugs and sex. Many parents I talk to are shocked at the drugs high school kids are using today. For example, Heroin is now common on high school campuses and parents are shocked. They are also shocked that middle schools are passing out condoms. They cannot believe how sexually active some teenagers are and how teens think oral sex is not sex.

So what should parents do? Parents need to educate themselves about drug and alcohol use on high school campuses and about sexual activity rates for teenagers. After educating themselves then parents need to talk with their teenagers. Explain the risks associated with alcohol, drugs and sex. Also explain how to protect themselves if they decide to engage in any of these activities. This is not giving your teen permission, but you cannot control their choices. Therefore, if they decide to use drugs or to be sexually active, you want them to be safe. Also explain your concerns about if the decide to engage in any of these activities. Also explain why you feel it is safer for them to wait until they are older. You do not want to preach, but it is important that your teenager is aware of your expectations. You cannot control their decisions, but you do not have to approve of their choices. This is something your teenager needs to understand. If they feel they are old enough to make these choices, then they are old enough to deal with your reactions.

Another major stress for parents is curfew. This is a common argument I hear in my office. Before high school starts it is a good idea to sit down with your teenager and agree on a curfew time, expectations for grades and consequences if they use poor judgement and make a mistake. Find out what time curfew is for your city. It is not asking too much that your teenager is home at a decent hour. For Freshman, 11pm really is a realistic time. When you discuss curfew I suggest a contract where you specify the time and consequences for breaking curfew. If you have it in writing, if there is a disagreement you can settle it easily by referring to your contract.

Another major concern for parents is driving. Parents worry about who will be driving and how well do the drive. The other concern is the driver driving drunk or high. Parents worry about getting a call in the middle of the night that there was a car accident and there child is in the Emergency Room or dead. With the recent changes in driving laws they decrease the chances of teen accidents. However, they do not stop teenage driving accidents. As parents you need to again sit down and discuss your concerns and agree on a contract. Agree about who they can drive with, who they cannot and keeping you informed. Again agree on consequences and write out a contract to decrease arguments.

Another major stressor for parents is money. Your teen wants to go out with friends and they need money for food, Starbucks or going to a movie. Parents also have to deal with the bills if a teen wants to play a sport or play an instrument or be a cheerleader. Parents have to pay for uniforms and a wide range of extras. Plus parents have to drive their teen to and from practices and games. For some sports such as football, there is practice daily.

These are only a few issues parents face when their child is in high school. They have to adjust to these issues and the fact that their child is getting older and is no longer a little kid. They are now young adults. We expect parents to adjust to all of these changes over night. Just like we need to give teenagers time to adjust to being in high school, we need to give parents time to adjust to having a child in high school. We also need to understand that parents will make mistakes during and after this adjustment period. It is also important to remember that being a parent is not a popularity contest. At times, you will need to make decisions your teenager does not like. However, as a parent sometimes you must make those unpopular decisions.

Parents you need to remember that you are going through a big adjustment just like your teenager. Also just like your teenager you need to allow yourself time to adjust and accept that you will make mistakes. You need to be patient and kind to yourself. Also if your teen is getting frustrated with you, do not be afraid to mention that you are going through an adjustment period too and they need to be patient with you. By being honest you are modeling this is a stressful time of life and hopefully your teen will open up to you when they are stressed and feeling overwhelmed.

Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with teenagers and their families for over 20 years. If you would like more information on Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Difference between Discipline and Punishment

The Difference between Discipline and Punishment

As a psychotherapist who works with children and adolescents, I often hear how their parents are too strict and unfair. Many children and adolescents feel their parents punishments are not appropriate and their parents are out of touch with today’s world. I also hear parents tell me no matter what rules or punishments they impose that their children refuse to follow the rules. Yes this is a common argument but let’s look at the situation closer.

From my experience, one of the major issues in this situation is the difference between discipline and punishment. Many people may feel there is no difference between the two concepts. However, there is a major difference between the two terms.

Discipline is used to teach a child or teenager about rules and life. Punishments are used to tell a child or teenager they did something wrong such as breaking a house rule. However, punishments often have no association to the broken rule and often make a child feel like they are bad and they often don’t know which rule they broke. Punishments do not teach they only make a child feel bad or angry. For example, if it was the child’s turn to take out the garbage and they forgot and went to a friend’s house instead. Discipline would be having them take out the garbage and clean the dinner table for a week. A punishment would be that they were grounded and had to stay in the house for two weeks. What connection does the grounding have to forgetting to take out the garbage?

Research has shown that discipline is a more effective way to teach children\teenagers about rules and appropriate behavior. The discipline needs to have some association with the rule that was broken. A punishment which tends to make a child think they are bad and has no association to the rule they broke typically teaches a child nothing. What it typically does is make a child feel like they are a bad person and they often don’t understand why they are being punished.

I had a fourth grader ask to come to therapy because they were tired of getting in trouble at home. They felt like they were a bad person and he had no idea why he was doing bad things at home on a regular basis. Therefore, the punishments taught him nothing except it did lower his self-esteem. Research also has shown that children and teenagers who feel they are bad people are more likely not to graduate high school and to get involved with drugs and alcohol. They feel they are bad so they feel they should be doing things associated with “bad kids.”

As I stated discipline has been shown to be more effective with children and teenagers. However, before a parent imposes discipline there are important steps for the parent to take:

1. First, the parent needs to let the child\teenager know that they love them and that the child\teen is not bad, but they made a mistake.

2. The parent needs to explain what mistake the child made and why it is a mistake.

3. Explain that they are imposing the discipline to help the child learn from their mistake and hopefully they won’t make the same mistake again.

4. Let the child know when the discipline starts and ends. Also do not make it too long or severe. It should be in proportion to the mistake. It should also needs to be age appropriate.

5. Finally, ask the child if they understand and if they have any questions.

One thing that makes disciplining a child or teenager easier is having a behavior contract. It is important if parents sit down with the child or teenager and develop a behavior contract and consequences if the child violates the contract. Therefore, if your child makes a mistake, the consequence is already known because it is in the contract. Therefore, it is less likely that the child will feel like a bad person or confused about the consequences because everyone in the family agreed to them.

I recommend contracts on a regular basis. The contracts help reinforce the discipline that choices have consequences. Therefore, the parent is teaching a child to think before they act. Thereby, significantly decreasing the odds that they will make a bad choice. It can also help a child deal with peer pressure because you have already discussed what you feel is appropriate. They also help to reduce arguments at home. If everyone agrees to the contract and a teenager violates the contract they cannot blame Mom and Dad for the consequences. Mom and Dad are only enforcing the agreed upon contract. The teenager needs to take responsibility for their choice.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page, www.Facebook.com\drrubino3.

Improving Communication with Your Teenager

Improving Communication with Your Teenager

As a psychotherapist works with teenagers and their parents, I have heard a common complaint from both teenagers and their parents. Both complain about difficulties with communication. Teenagers feel that their parents don’t understand them. And parents tell me they feel like they cannot communicate with their teenagers.

I have stated in prior articles that if parents want to have good communication with their children, they must work on the parent-child relationship early. The earlier the better. If you wait until your child in a teenager, it is very difficult due to the brain development during puberty. When children are born their brains are not fully developed. Their brains, reasoning and communication skills continue to develop as a child grows. Parents need to be prepared for these changes.

I recently read a blog by Dr. Denny Coats which deals with this issue. He breaks the issue down to thee points for parents to understand and work on. I think these three points make it easy for parents to understand what is occurring and what they need to do. So hear they are:

1. Improve your communication skills

You can get away with almost any way of communicating during early childhood; but once adolescence arrives, reacting in the typical way not only won’t get you the results you hope for, it will erode the relationship. In my opinion, five skills matter most.

Listening. If learning only one skill is all your busy life permits, this is the one you should focus on. Learn all you can about listening and set a goal of to continuously improve the way you listen for the rest of your life.

Encouraging your child to think – analyzing, evaluating, learning from experience, problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, planning, and organizing. Yes, you’re a lot smarter than your child and you can the thinking for them, just as you’ve done during early childhood. But these mental skills take time and quite a lot of repetition to master, and your child will need them to succeed in a career, life and relationships.

Giving effective feedback – both praise and constructive feedback. Your child will need it, but you need to offer it in a specific, positive way, so that it both guides and encourages.

Dialogue. When you have differences of opinion, arguing is the instinctive reaction. The problem is that it resolves nothing and tends to alienate the child. You can learn to share and probe each other’s thinking, instead.

Conflict resolution. When your child wants something that is unacceptable to you, it’s possible to explore other alternatives that satisfy both your needs and those of your child.

These are the skills you’ll need to deal with daily challenges and opportunities and to have the dozen or so “talks” every parent should have with their growing child. Search my blog for articles about these skills. The online self-paced Strong for Parenting program has videos, articles and tip sheets about these skills. Begin experimenting with one skill at a time and learn from your experiences using it with your family.

2. Get smart about the brain development that will happen during adolescence.

It will be invisible, slow, silent and relentless, with enormous consequences. So much depends on the kind of thinking your child exercises during the teen years, and there’s much you can do as a parent to optimize the result. I wrote the free ebook, The Race against Time, to help parents appreciate what’s going on and what they can do.

3. Acknowledge that during adolescence, you’ll be raising an adult, not a child.

Yes, prior to puberty, you are definitely dealing with a child. And after puberty, you won’t be dealing with an adult. Your kid will be a no-longer-a-child-but not-yet-an-adult, what we call an adolescent.

During those six or seven years before he or she leaves home to go to college, start a career, enter military service, or even start their own family, your child hopefully will construct the foundation for the mental skills that will be needed for adult life. And aside from academic learning, teenagers have plenty of social and life skills to learn. if you think of your child as an “apprentice adult,” you’ll deal with them on that level, expect more of them and give them opportunities to learn the skills and wisdom they’ll need. If you realize you’re helping your child become a successful, responsible, happy adult, you can get a lot done. And believe me, for too many teenagers much of this development is haphazard or nonexistent.

So start now. Start improving the communication skills that matter. Help your child practice the mental skills that will give them a superior mind. Start thinking of your tween as an “emerging adult,” so that month by month and year by year you can help them prepare for adult life.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. For more information regarding his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Steps towards using gentle parenting

Steps towards using gentle parenting

Six Steps To Work Towards Gentle Parenting

Woman reading book to young girl in bed smilingThe following six steps can help you to transition to more gentle parenting:
1) Resolve to respect your children
As adults we command respect from our children, and other adults, on a daily basis. We expect to be treated in a certain way, we expect others to take our thoughts, rights and beliefs into account in all dealings with us. If a child in particular shows us a lack of respect we are quick to pull them up on it (especially if they are tweens or teens!), yet do we afford our children the same priviledge?
If we respected our children we would listen when they woke crying in the middle of the night instead of returning them to bed with minimal eye contact or conversation. If we respected our children we would not force them to eat the untouched brocolli on their plate that they beg us to leave. If we respected our children we wouldn’t say “because I said so” or escalate into yelling at tweens and teens. If we respected our children we would not ignore their overwhelming emotions when they tantrum in public. If we respected our children we would never consciously hurt them emotionally or physically.
If we respected our children they would respect us and not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.

2) Resolve to empathise with your children
Children have bad days just like us, some days the world is overwhelming, some days they are scared, lonely, confused, anxious or angry. Some days they need duvet days, hugs and for us to listen to them. How would you feel if you were treated in the same way that you treat your child?
If we empathised with our children we would not leave them crying alone in their crib at night – even if it is for only 5 minute intervals. If we empathised with our children we would never make them sit on a naughty step or put them in ‘time out’. If we empathised with our children we wouldn’t yell at them and we would never intentionally hurt them. If we empathised with our children we would listen to them more and speak at them less.
If we empathised with our children they would grow to be empathic towards others, including their parents, and would not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.

3) Allow your children to have their own opinions and make their own choices.
For some reason many adults seem to believe that children are incapable of making their own good choices and need steering as much as possible, similarly we often punish a child who holds different opinions to us. We do however aspire to raise children who are thinkers, confident and assertive and questioning of the world – how do we expect them to be so if we take such control over their lives?
Children need to make mistakes, the best way for them to learn what is a good and what is a bad choice is to let them experience the natural consequences of their actions. The best way to raise a child who respects the opinions of others is to respect the child’s individual opinions ourselves. That also means allowing them to make age appropriate decisions as much as possible. If they are not of an age where they are capable of making a big decision about their lives – then we owe it to our children to not make that decision for them unless it threatens their physical health or psychological wellbeing.
If we allowed our children to make mistakes and valued their opinions they would grow to respect the opinions of others and know the value of good and bad choices at an age when they need to the most.

4) Reset your expectations to what is age appropriate and normal
Much parenting angst stems from our skewed perceptions of what is and isn’t normal when it comes to babies and children. From night waking to naps, eating to behaviour, our perception of what is normal and what is “a problem” is usually far from the truth.
It is normal for babies to wake regularly throughout the night well into their second year, it is normal for toddlers to bite, throw and hit, it is normal for preschoolers to not want to share, it is normal for a 5 year old to not understand – or care – how their actions can upset another and it is normal for a tween or teen to have uncontrollable bouts of anger that result in door slamming or wall punching. All of these behaviours are related to brain maturation (or rather the lack of), they are not behaviours that mean you are raising a monster they are just a relection of biology.
Make a resolution to understand the normal physiology and psychology of children, particularly the same age as yours and throw out any books or magazines that are ignorant to this knowledge and stop visiting parenting websites that are full of forums and advice article that promote otherwise.
When we reset our expectations of our children based on biological fact it is easier to be kind to ourselves as well as our children and will also result in more respect, empathy and allowance of control too.

5) Take time to nurture yourself
Parenting is really hard, particularly in the times that we live in. We are not meant to parent alone, we are meant to do it as part of a group – who provide emotional and physical support. We are not meant to parent and take a full time job, parenting is a full time job. We are not meant to worry about our physical appearance 3 weeks post partum.
As parents today we have so much added stress that we forget to see parenting for what it is – the most important job in the world. If you spend all day doing nothing but cradling a fractious newborn, bouncing a teething 6 month old or laying with a poorly toddler you haven’t “failed” or “done nothing” – you have done everything, and then some.
We get so frazzled as parents – with money worries, relationship issues and work concerns, we are exhausted dealing with all of the sleepless nights alone and our stress rises. We become so full of our own overwhelming emotions that we are unable to ‘hold’ any from our children. So we snap. We shout at them, we send them to their room when we know what we really should have done is talk. We leave babies to cry themselves to sleep because we just can’t face another night with no sleep. These problems though are ours, not those of our children. They don’t need fixing – we do.
Taking care of yourself as a parent is not a luxury or a bonus if you have a spare 5 minutes, it’s is a vital part of who you are and what you do. When you nurture yourself in body and soul you will have more patience, more respect, more empathy and more understanding of your children and your increased ability to deal with their issues as well as your own, will mean you will have far less of their issues to deal with.

6) Give them your attention.
Many ‘parenting experts’ comment that babies and toddlers only behave in a certain way in order to elicit the attention of their parents, like this is a bad thing. Parents are advised to ignore the attention seeking behaviour, when what they really need to do is to see it as a need that should be met.
Our lives are so busy, so full of screens and half hearted “in a minute honey” and “that’s nice dear” comments, so full of rushed bedtimes, meals on the run, clubs, classes and playdates. Our lives are so full of ‘stuff’ – toys, apps and equipment – that our children are growing up ‘stuff rich’ but ‘attention poor’.
If children persistently act in ways we do not like in order to get our attention – be that hitting, biting, throwing, crying, tantruming, door slamming or sulking – by far the easiest way to distinguish the unwanted behaviour is to give them our undivided attention. Not only does this have untold benefits for our children – but for us too, for it means we slow down and begin to see the wonder in the world once again.

Setting Limits for A Teenager

As your teen enters high school they are also starting to enter the adult world. This is now a time to start to take on new responsibilities and to consider the reputation they are creating. As parents your responsibilty is to help guide them, not tell them exactly what to do. It is important that the teen develop life skills on their own. You will not always be there as the parent.

The first step is for you to allow them to earn your respect. Explain that they are no longer little kids, that they are now young adults, and part of being an adult is earning people’s respect. You also have to be prepared to respect them and allow them to be young adults and not treat them like little children. This does not mean you are giving up control. Your teen still needs you for money, permission to do things at school and to sign the consent for the all important driver’s permit. So relax, you still have all the control you need.

The first place to start with respect is their rooms. Allow them to have their rooms as their own private space. Do not worry if it is dirty or if their are clothes all over, it is their space and they have the right to live in it how they choose. Set the limits that as long as you can close the door and there are no odors coming from their room, you will respect their privacy. If these agreements are broken, then you have the right to go in and clean as you like. You also have the right to inspect the room if there are obvious signs of drug use. As a parent you have to balance your teen’s right to privacy, but at the same time you need to ensure their health and safety.

Homework is another big area of concern. Make your life easy. Set a minimum GPA such as 3.0 or 2.0 based on your teen’s ability and then allow your teen to manage their homework. If they ask for help, obviously help them. If they do not, let them handle their homework until progress reports and grades come out. You need to have an agreement as to what will happen if they fail to maintain the minimum GPA set and they never ask for help. If they fail to maintaiun the minimum, then the consequences you agreed to are implemented. The consequences occur not because you are being mean, they occur because the teen failed to live up to their part of the agreement – they made the choice. This is important to reinforce so you are not labeled the bad guy and the teen learns a lesson in choices.

Finally, you and your teen need to sit down a draw up a contract concerning the house rules, school performance and your expectations regarding their behavior in general. If you have it in black and white and there is a conflict then all you need to do is refer back to the contract and the problem is resolved. It is very important that you abide by the contract too. So you cannot increase a consequence and if you agreed to something on the contract you must follow it. If you want your teen to be responsible, you must be responsible.

One last thing – no one is perfect. If you make a mistake, model appropriate behavior and apologize. If your teen makes a mistake and comes to you right away to apologize, thank them for their honesty and compliment them on their maturity. Remember, they want to know that they are important in the world. By treating them with respect and as maturing adults you are vaildating the fact that they are important and loved and you encourage them to try harder.

Obviously, it is not always that easy and there are various parenting situations. The above suggestions are a guideline to get started with as your teen enters high school.

Dr Michael Rubino has been working with teens and their parents for over 18 years and is recognized as an expert working with teens. For more information about Dr Michael Rubino’s practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com