Getting Past the Thought - My Teenager is Lazy

When my phone rings with a parent of a teenager, I often hear "my teen is so lazy.” Many parents think of therapy as the "teen fix-it shop." While therapy is very helpful when your teen's behavior has spiraled beyond your ability to handle, here are two tips that can make a huge difference with your teens behavior:

Teenager lies across bed during day texting.

1) Keep an open and respectful relationship with your teen

Don’t play against your teen, find a way to be on their team.  You can create more influence by working with your teen. Avoid the typical parental ploy of threats, manipulation, punishment - these get you nowhere, but even more importantly these can be detrimental and push your teen away. Keep feelings of fear, anxiety, and worry in check. While these are normal emotions to experience in the teen years, reacting to your teen out of these feeling will be ineffective.  

Remember, your teen is not a lazy good-for-nothing and they are not behaving this way on purpose to make your life miserable. If you start to get worked up and emotionally reactive, try to say to yourself “My teen is just not there yet, they need help figuring it out.” Our job as parents is to help them learn how to be responsible. When you resort to negativity or trying to make a “moral issue” out of your teens behavior,  the result may be a defiant teen.  Be your teen's cheerleader and see then participate on your team.

2) Incorporate "if then rule" – Grandma’s Principle (you get cookies when…)

As a young girl my grandma taught me this principle with my annual summer visits.  My grandma made the best ever oatmeal raisin peanut butter cookies (trust me, they are awesome). Grandma’s rule was – when you pull one patch of weeds in the back yard you can have some cookies.  This was an important life lesson of delayed gratification and work equals reward – something that is quickly fading with today’s teenagers and the instant access via social media. As adults we have learned – when we work hard we get a paycheck and maybe a raise at our annual review. We can teach this simple principle with everyday opportunities.  For example if your teen plays a sport encourage them, when you practice your game will improve. For example: practice shooting hoops every day, you increase your baskets. Other ways to incorporate this lesson is by saying things like “you can have 2 hours of computer use, when you finish your homework.” OR “When you are done studying you can go to the mall”.  OR “When your show me your book report is done, we can discuss what movie to see at the theater this weekend.” Enforce the “if this, then that” rule – be sure to stick to it!  Sticking to this rule teaches your teen perseverance and you are helping them learn how to do what their own brain is not yet equipped to do, which is to create the structure for success.

If you are faced with teen behavior issues and need professional help, seek a therapist with a specialization in working with adolescent behavior issues.

Photo by Tobias Quartey on Unsplash

5 Ways to Raise Capable Kids

I found myself flipping through daytime TV the other day and landed on an episode of Dr. Phil. What caught my attention was a mother and father begging Dr. Phil for advice on how to get their 37 year old adult son out of their home. Their son worked part time for a local pizza shop, and played video games the rest of the time. There were no extenuating circumstances, no disabilities, no necessary reason for their adult son to still be at home. These parents were at their wits end. This was the real-life version of the Matthew McConaughey movie "Failure to Launch." Unfortunately I was not able to finish the episode, but it got me thinking - Isn’t it obvious? Don’t they know where they went wrong? The more I thought, the more I realized the answer isn’t so obvious.

As parents all we want for our kids is the best. We want them to be happy, and have a life better than the one we had. Each day we do the best we can. Days turn into weeks, months into years, and suddenly we too could be like the couple on Dr. Phil wondering where we went wrong? Why didn’t our son become independent, successful, capable? The truth is, parenting is hard. It is. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes consistency. No one wants to be the “bad guy” and say “no you can’t go to a party, or no you can’t drive alone with your friend”- but giving in and saying “yes” all the time isn’t the answer either. Don’t fall into the trap of “I wish my parents would have given me X.” If there is something you wished your parents gave you, check-in with your kid to see if it is something they would like and if so create a way for them to earn it. For example, if do your weekly chores for the next month without my reminding, you can have that new X-Box game; or if you maintain a B+ average in school this semester you can get that new iPhone.

A mother, her daughters and grandson.

Here are 5 ways to help raise capable kids:

  1. Set Limits - When you tell your child, “no you may not have a cookie”- mean it.  Follow through.  Do not give in when the crying starts.  If you set a boundary by saying no, then stick to it.  This helps teach kids where the boundaries lie, and what the rules of the house are.  Rules and boundaries provide comfort, security, and help kids learn a sense of right and wrong.

  2. Help with Contributions - Some people call them chores, but I like to call them contributions. Contributions are ways of helping around the home. Children are active members of the house and need to participate in taking care of their world.  Of course this can be scaled to age appropriateness, but your teenager certainly can be setting and clearing a table, doing their own laundry, and cleaning their own room.  I like to have these household tasks not contingent to money or an allowance.  Kids need to learn to take care of their space because it’s the right thing to do- not because there is a reward at the end.  As adults they will take better pride in their home, school, and earth because helping is a good thing to do.

  3. Volunteer - In this media driven age, it’s so easy for all of us to get caught up in the hustle of life.  We can become egocentric and hyper focused on our life and not on the world around us.  Teenagers can easily become annoyed that their fancy coffee order is wrong, and miss out on the real struggles happening in the world.  While formal volunteer organizations like a Soup Kitchen or Hospital are great, you can start as simple as helping a neighbor rake leaves or mow their lawn.  Volunteering will help kids learn to put others needs before their own, and keep them humble to the blessing in their own life.

  4. Let Them Stumble - If you are always there to swoop in and solve their problems how will they learn to do it themselves? It is important to sometimes take a step back and let your child face the consequences of their actions.  Consequences can sometimes be small: they forgot their coat on a chilly day and had to go without it, or they forgot their backpack at school and have to take a lower grade because the work was not turned in on time.  Our own anxiety from watching our kids stumble makes us want to jump in and save them.  While it’s important to keep your kids safe from harm, allowing them to experience the natural consequences of life will greater prepare them to be responsible in the future.

  5. Start Early - Do not wait until your child is 37 years old to start setting limits, or contributing to your household.  You can begin as early as the toddler years.  Toddlers are great a testing limits, and you can get good practice setting boundaries just by keeping them safe. “No, you cannot play with that electrical cord”.  A “time-out” can also be used as a consequence for not following your limit.  You may be reading this panicked about your teenager- but never fear- it’s not too late to start. Keep your contributions and volunteer activities age appropriate- be creative.  Something as simple as making breakfast in bed for a child’s sibling can be a good start.  

If you are struggling with limit setting, or want to learn more about getting your child to help with contributions - Hope Therapy Center can help.  With specializations in children and teens, we are happy to help you navigate the difficult world of parenting and help you raise capable kids.

Photo by Sharon Mccutcheon

Anxiety in Children

I’d like you to take a minute to think of something that makes you anxious.  Public speaking? A creepy-crawly spider on the wall? Confronting a co-worker or spouse? What happens to you when you think of this scene? Elevated heart rate? Sickness in your stomach? Pressure in your chest and maybe heavy breathing? As an adult you have the ability to understand that an upcoming public speaking event may make you anxious.  You understand the symptoms associated with it, and may even have the skills to manage your anxiety and give a killer performance. 

Children with anxiety do not yet have these skills. An anxious child’s behavior may be seen as unacceptable and disruptive to others.  They may be labeled as “difficult”, “unruly”, “obnoxious”, or “too sensitive”.  In fact, they very well may be difficult to manage on a regular basis.  Let’s talk a little more about anxiety.

Parent comforts scared and anxious child on the beach.

What does anxiety look like in Children?

All children will be anxious at some point. Have you ever heard of separation anxiety or stranger anxiety? These two types of anxieties are present at typical growth development milestones.  Many times these types of anxiety are referred to as a “phase”.  For example, your child will temporarily experience crying when you leave them.  Then after a few weeks you will notice the crying will subside.  For children with anxiety disorders these symptoms last longer than a few weeks and will need extra care to help relieve their anxious feelings. .  For children, you most notice anxiety becoming a problem when they begin avoiding tasks or situations.  Here are some avoidance behaviors of a child experiencing anxiety:

  • Not wanting to eat in cafeteria

  • Not wanting to go to swimming lessons because of fear of putting face underwater

  • Not wanting to go to preschool or school because a parent is not there

  • Not wanting to raise hand in class or read out loud

  • Not wanting to sleep in your own bedroom

  • Not attending age-appropriate activities unless a parent is there.

  • Not wanting to be away from home unless they have a cell phone.

  • Not going out unless they have a complete change of clothes with them, in case they are sick.

Not All Anxiety is Bad

Anxiety is a very normal feeling that we all experience.  Many times anxiety is helpful and even keeps us safe.  You may experience anxiety when crossing the street. Being cautious before crossing may prevent you from being hit by a car.  Anxiety can also be motivating.  If you are anxious before a presentation at work or a big test coming up, anxiety can drive you to practice more frequently or study harder for the exam. 

When does Anxiety become a problem?

While anxiety can be motivating and protect us from danger, there comes a point when anxiety begins to interfere with every day life.  For children, it is when you begin to notice “the phase” not lifting.  For example:

  • It is healthy for a young child to be fearful and hesitant around strangers, but it is not healthy for your child to be fearful of “safe adults” (grandparents, teachers, babysitters) after a period of transition. 

  • It is normal for a child to be nervous the first day of school, but it is not healthy for a child to cry every day at school after the parent leaves. 

  • It is normal for your child to be nervous before a big test, but it is unhealthy for your child to throw up or want to call out sick the day of the test.

What can you do to help your child?

Anxiety in children is very treatable and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the number one treatment method, with overwhelming success.  CBT is a type of talk therapy designed to identify sources of anxiety, and create concrete usable solutions to manage the anxiety symptoms.  Teaching the child the concept FEAR, which stands for 1) feeling frightened 2) expecting bad things 3) attitude or actions that will help 4) results and rewards for effective coping. This process helps your child to challenge their negative thoughts (instead of allowing them to accept the belief as truth) and creates long lasting skill building. These skills allow children to safely face their fears, and break down their fear into smaller more manageable steps.  Over time, they will be able to use the skills they’ve learned in more broad situations.  Eventually these skills will help them adapt to an anxiety-provoking scenario more quickly. 

Hope Therapy Center specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the treatment of anxiety in children/young adults.  Contact us today to schedule your first session, and begin the process of helping your child cope with anxiety. 

Photo by Xavier Mouton

Coping with a Bipolar Family Member

When someone close to you is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, it can be very scary for them; but it can also affect you. Because you are not experiencing the symptoms of the disorder yourself, it can be very hard to deal with a diagnosed loved one as you don’t know what you can do to help. It can feel frustrating when all your efforts go to waste and do nothing but aggravate the situation. It can be difficult to cope with constant mood changes and disturbances in their patterns of behavior.

It’s important to remember, however, that your love and support can help and ease the treatment process. Here’s how you can help:

Therapist holds hand of patient coping with a bipolar family member.

Understand the Disorder

The first thing you have to do is tell yourself again and again, until it is ingrained in your mind, that this is an illness. Just because it is not physically manifested does not mean it does not exist.

Your loved one is not acting out or at fault; it is something that they cannot control. You would not blame someone for having cancer, and so, you cannot blame someone for being bipolar.

The next step is to learn everything you can about the disorder and research so that you know exactly what they are going through even if you cannot feel it yourself. This will help you empathize, and allow you to recognize when they are in a state of depression or mania. It will also help you distinguish between these episodes and normal moods. Bipolar people also experience anger, happiness, sadness, and excitement in completely healthy ways, and it can be frustrating when you associate their legitimate feelings with their disorder.

Ask for Help

If a family member needed surgery, you wouldn’t perform it yourself; you would take them to a hospital. Similarly, if your bipolar family member is in the midst of an episode and attempts something like suicide, you can’t deal with it alone. You need the help of a proper therapist or doctor. Don’t leave them alone in times like these and seek professional help. When your loved one is not in the midst of an episode, negotiate a strategy for when they are in one, and plan ahead to decide what steps you will take when needed; such as hiding away car keys and credit cards, or calling the police to ensure that they don’t hurt themselves or others around them. It’s important to keep calm in these times of crises, and having a plan always helps one remain practical. Don’t take their words or actions personally, and know that they are merely symptoms of a mental illness.

Stay Patient

The most important thing you can do to help a loved one is just be there and be patient. It’s not easy to get through something like this alone, and they will need you from time to time to remind them that you’re in this together. Bipolar disorder can sometimes be a lifelong challenge, but it can be managed. Stay patient and empathizing, but don’t let the disorder take over your relationship. It’s important to think about yourself sometimes too, and not feel guilty about having a life of your own. Being there for someone, both physically and emotionally, can be a huge help and can ease the treatment considerably. Remember that they are struggling much more than you can imagine, and let them have their way from time to time.

Just the fact that you want to help a family member who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder is an indicator of the fact that you’re already supporting them subconsciously. Work together and help them get through this difficulty, and if they relapse, just let them know you’ll always love and support them.

Need an experienced therapist helping those with Bipolar disorder? Contact Jennie Marie.

Reducing Disrespect From Your Teen

As a parent, you love unconditionally, and only want what’s best for your teenager. But sometimes, that love and affection can be misinterpreted, and leads to back-talk, disrespect and anger from your teen. This is a problem that almost every parent has faced at some point while raising a teenager; know that you are not alone. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame your teen; instead, try to understand why it is happening. Here’s what you can do to establish a better rapport between your adolescent and yourself: 

Disrespectful teenager with attitude sits on a dock.

Analyze the Situation

Try to get to the root of your child’s disrespectful behavior. Did they ask for permission, which you denied, evoking a snarky retort from them? Or did they roll their eyes at you because they asked you a question and you said something along the lines of, “because I said so”? Sometimes, an act of disrespect is actually your child’s frustration coming out. You are the parent, and mostly, it is your duty to mend relationships, because although they believe themselves to be the adult, in truth, you are. It is therefore important that you take the first step and communicate to them that you are open to what they have to say, and they don’t need to feel frustrated as long as they try to explain their perspective to you, and vice versa. Don’t expect this to work the first time, it will take time for your patterns of communication to change, but if you keep at it, both you and your teen will see the difference.

Give to Receive

Teenagers are stuck in this limbo between childhood and adulthood, and as nothing around them makes sense, they try create autonomy as some form of stability, helping them exert control over at least one aspect of their life. You can’t treat them like children, and can’t expect them to comply with rules without an explanation. If your daughter asks for an extended curfew, and you just say no, it may come across as lack of trust on your part. You have to gently explain your reasoning, and try saying something like, “I know you want to stay out a bit later, but we have to get up early tomorrow to go to a family function and we both know that when you don’t get enough sleep it is hard for you to get up”. Once you talk to them with respect, they will view you as someone deserving of their respect. Look for opportunities to increase their autonomy. At times find a comprise on their desire to extend curfew that you can see as reasonable and create a check-in time if you are feeling a little nervous about extending the curfew.  For example, “I am feeling a little worried letting you stay out to 1am, how about you call me at 11pm to let me know how everything is going and that you are being safe.” As much you hate it, the truth is they are growing up, and must be talked to as adolescents reaching adulthood.

Choose your Battles

Parents can be embarrassing to a teenager; it’s a general rule of life. You were probably at some point embarrassed by your parents, your parents were embarrassed of theirs, and it went on and on for generations before you, and will continue to go on till the end of time. When you say something goofy, your children will probably smirk at you, or roll their eyes, and sigh. They may even call you “weird” or other name. Don’t take these too personally or make a big deal out of them. Sometimes, you can even be amused by how much your cheesy behavior may affect their “cool status”. So don’t hold on and to every little sign of “disrespect” and punish them for it. If, however, you feel that their behavior is specifically directed to hurt you or others around you, you need to take action and call them out for it. If you nag constantly about every little thing, they will build up a tolerance to your words, and you will cease to affect them on an emotional level.

These interactions will take time before they show you results, but perseverance is key, and eventually, you will soon begin to see a transformation take place.

If you are struggling with communication or behavior issues with your teen, a psychotherapist that specializes in teen behavior issues can help.  Learn more by contacting Jennie Marie at www.Hope-Therapy-Center.com

Photo by Mikail Duran on Unsplash