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Parents

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    The Power of a Parent's Words

    Plenty of parents have been at their wits’ end when words rolled off their tongue that they later wished had remained unspoken. In fact, at some point you've probably even told yourself, “You’re an idiot,” or “How stupid can you be?” Have you ever thought about how impactful your words really are?

    “Our words create our world,” says Dr. Justin Coulson, father of six and best-selling author of 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know and 9 Ways to a Resilient Child.

    “Whatever direction your words lead, your mind and body will follow. We believe what we tell ourselves. Language is powerful. Words don’t just affect us and the way we see ourselves. They affect the way we see our children.”

    When Coulson asked a frustrated mother to describe her teenage daughter, the mother said things like, “She’s disrespectful, She’s wasteful. She treats our house like a hotel.” But when Coulson asked about her daughter’s strengths, the mom talked about how caring and generous her daughter was and the fact that she was a great sister. It was almost like she was describing two different people.

    “The language we use about one another, and towards each other, impacts how we see one another,” Coulson shares. Coulson suggests that sometimes we say things in a way that is not helpful and may possibly be harmful. 

    Here are some phrases Coulson encourages parents not to use, along with better ways to express the same sentiment:

    • Don’t say: “Calm down.” Say: “You are so upset.” Telling someone to calm down actually has the opposite effect. It’s dismissive and it denies emotions. Instead, focus on labeling the emotion. If you can name it, you can tame it.

    • Don’t say: “You’re so clever.” Ask: “How did you feel when…” Research indicates that praise leads to inferences of low ability. The best thing you can do is turn it back on the person/child. For instance, you could say, “Hey, you seem really happy with that outcome. Tell me what you did to get it.”

    • Don’t say: “Ugh, you’re just like your mother.” Say: “Wow, this is really challenging for you.” Avoid comparisons. Highlight what you are observing. Maybe you could say, “In these situations, you seem to struggle with…” Then offer to help.

    • Don’t say: “Because I said so.” Instead, say: “Let me tell you why this matters.” When people have a rationale for the requests we are making they are far more likely to be compliant.

    • Don’t say: “I was lousy at that.” Perhaps you could offer this:  “It’s amazing what we can do when we try.” We can promote a growth mindset (Carol Dweck has research on this) by highlighting what happens when we have a go at it, put some effort into it and work hard at something. Can’t yet doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t ever.

    • Don’t say: “Don’t be so stupid.” Say nothing. Simply pause and walk away. We don’t motivate others by making them feel lousy about themselves. If they are doing something stupid, ask them to stop. Stupid to us may not seem stupid to them. Be curious, not cranky. There is always a reason for challenging behavior.

    “Saying horrible things to others is every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse,” according to Coulson. “It affects cognitive function. Things will come out of our mouths that will hurt. The trick is to say fewer of those things and to build our children up.”

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    How You Can Make Visitation Count

    Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or perhaps one parent’s home is like a vacation spot.

    Occasionally, parents refuse to work together for the good of the children out of spite for each other. This sets up an environment of competition, guilt and resentment, according to stepfamily expert, Elizabeth Einstein.

    How can you work together for the best interest of your child?

    First, you must put your issues aside. It is helpful if both of you:

    • Complete a joint-parenting plan and agree on expectations and limits so that your child can’t manipulate you;

    • Work as a team to provide consistency for the children;

    • Agree not to degrade or talk negatively about each other even though you might still have unresolved issues and anger;

    • Allow the children to talk about their feelings while listening and comforting them, as they also are going through a very difficult time; and

    • Try to make home as normal a place as possible.

    Each of you should have a plan in place for how to spend your time with the children.

    • Remember to make sure it is not necessarily all fun and games, but give them the freedom to learn and get to know you better, just as they would if they lived with you all the time. It is important that the parent-child relationship does not only become one of playmate, peer or buddy when visitation time comes, but one of bonding.

    • Mentally prepare yourself for the visitation, and do not expect your kids to be cheerful and happy all the time. They are going through adjustments that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    • Remember, no one is perfect. Do the best you know how to do. Work with your children to establish new traditions. Stick to the agreements in the joint-parenting plan, and above all, be consistent during the special times you have with your children.

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    Tips for Raising Kids in a "Me" Generation

    We’ve all been there. We watch parents cave to a child's demands and think, “I would never let that happen with my child. I have no intention of raising an entitled kid.” 

    Oh wait - that’s not at all how it actually goes!

    But how many times have I been “that” parent, who after a long day, just wants to get home? Even after being so proud of myself for saying no, I eventually give because I just want it to be over. I beat myself up a bit and tell myself I'll do better next time.

    Honestly, most parents don’t set out to raise self-centered children. However, as we try to give our kids what we didn’t have or to ensure their success, we spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and brainpower focused on them. Unfortunately, this leads our kids to believe they are and should be the center of attention everywhere.

    In my head, I know this is not a good thing. My professional training shows me this is not conducive to good outcomes for young adults. And research tells me this kind of parenting is not ultimately helpful to my child or any other child. BUT, how do we as parents put the brakes on and change our ways? And why would we want to stop doing things that we believe will ultimately make our children successful adults?

    It's helpful to begin with the end in mind. I don’t know about you, but outside of extenuating circumstances, I am not interested in having my child dependent on her parents for the rest of her life. I want to see her spread her wings and realize all she can do without our direct assistance.

    What does it take to raise a child who isn’t entitled?

    • Avoid leading your child to believe he/she is the center of your universe. In real life, your child will not always be the center of attention. Avoid putting this belief in his head - don't make him the focal point in your home.

    • Teach your child what it means to be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior. While this one can be painful, it is super-powerful and important. Instead of saving the day when your child encounters a difficult person or a problem, allow your child to problem-solve, figure something out and actually deal with it. This will help build self-confidence. When parents take responsibility for a child's behavior and removes the consequences (good or bad), kids miss opportunities to learn and grow.

    • Help them understand that just because you want something badly doesn’t mean you automatically get it. People tend to be less appreciative when they get things without earning them. Teach your children that anything worth having is worth working for. It's a lesson that will serve them well throughout their life. Also, avoid the trap of believing it’s about the stuff.

    • Teach them the importance of giving. Whether helping with chores (without getting paid) or serving in the community, teach children how to be givers. Giving can help guard against a sense of entitlement.

    In an interview about hiring practices, Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger, shared that he intentionally takes interviewees out for a meal. He always arrives early and requests that the wait staff intentionally mess up the person’s order. Why? Because he wants to see how they will handle the situation. Through the years he has learned that a person’s heart and their character matter as much - if not more than - what’s in their head.

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    7 Benefits of a Summer Job

    If you're a parent, you're probably bracing yourself for the summer with your teen. There are so many things to consider: everything from what time your teenager needs to be out of the bed in the morning, how much time they should spend gaming, expectations around the house and curfew, just to name a few. And typically, the teen’s perspective is vastly different from your point of view.

    Obviously, the school year can be very taxing and it’s nice to have less stress during the summer. But experts encourage you to avoid throwing structure out the window as your kids rest up for the next school year.

    One way to keep your teen constructively involved is to strongly encourage them to find a summer job. While 13 or 14 may be too young for employment, they do have other options. It isn’t too young to do yard work, babysit, clean houses, or some other type of work.

    Teens can learn so much from a job experience. In fact, it can help prepare them for life. Actually going through the interview process is a serious accomplishment, as many young people struggle with conversations that don’t involve texting. Learning how to look someone in the eyes and answer questions about yourself is huge.

    Once they have secured a job, they typically have the chance to learn a few things, like how to:

    • Get along with a diverse team of people,

    • Manage their time,

    • Deal with authority figures other than their parents,

    • Engage with people who are rude and difficult,

    • Build relationships with kind and encouraging people,

    • Develop an understanding of a work ethic, and

    • Handle the money they earn.

    One teenager accepted an 8-week job as a summer camp counselor. The job was not glamorous and many of her co-workers were challenging, so the teen frequently talked with her parents about the difficulties she was experiencing. Halfway into her commitment, she told her parents that four other camp counselors had just quit. The parents felt like the teen was looking for a way out as well.

    Both parents strongly advised her not to quit, reminding her of the commitment she made. She stayed, and to this day has never forgotten the lessons she learned about how to treat people, what respect looks like and that she had it in her to overcome adversity and finish what she started. She also learned a lot about herself that summer, and while she wouldn’t want to repeat it, she would not trade those valuable lessons. 

    Summer jobs can teach the life lessons most parents want to instill in their children as they prepare for independent living. If you're wondering where to start, First Things First is offering Success Ready on May 31 and June 1 at Chattanooga State. It’s a 2-day networking experience for teens ages 16-18 who are interested in summer employment.

    Day one consists of communication skills, going over the basics of a job application, how to prepare for and what to wear for an interview, managing conflict and keeping drama to a minimum. Day two will feature a job fair with a number of employers who are ready to hire for summer jobs. You and your teen can find more information about Success Ready here.

    Your teen may simply want to build their resume for college or prepare to learn a vocation. Either way, securing a summer job can be just the character-building experience they need to give them that extra boost. It will certainly teach them lessons that will serve them wherever life takes them.

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    Parenting Teens

    “Raising kids through the adolescent years is like guiding your family in a raft through whitewater rapids,” says Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Running the Rapids: Guiding Teenagers through the Turbulent Waters of Adolescence.

    Like going down the river trying to navigate rapids, rocks and other hidden dangers, there is definite risk in experiencing the adolescent years. In fact, it can be potentially destructive for parents, teens and the entire family. Leman believes that how you choose to travel the river makes all the difference for you and your teen. Some people believe that the teen years are the most difficult, but Leman would argue they are the best years.

    “The teenage years are a wild ride, with good reason,” Leman says. “I encourage parents to talk with their kids before they become teenagers about some of the things that will happen or that they are likely to experience - including the idea that the day is coming when you are going to think your parents are really strange and don’t know anything.”

    According to Leman, the goal during adolescence is not for parents to be their teen’s best friend. It is to be a smart parent. There are three elements parents need to pay attention to as they guide their teen through adolescence:

    • Major on the majors. Not everything is worthy of concern and debate. During his teen years, Leman’s son came to the dinner table and announced he was getting an earring. His mother was frantic waiting for Leman to handle this situation. Leman did not say a word. Three days later, Leman showed up at the dinner table with an earring. Several minutes passed by before his son noticed. Kevin squinted and looked at his father with disgust and said, “You look ridiculous.” To which Leman responded, “Really? Your mother likes it.” End of discussion.

    • Learn to say positive things to your kids. Children are a gift. Make an effort to affirm your teen when he/she makes good choices.

    • Find something your adolescent can do well. Emphasize this strength and help your teen feel accepted and special.

    “My friend Stephen Covey tells people to start with the end in mind,” Leman says. “That is exactly what I encourage parents to do. What kind of young adult do you want to see emerge at the end of adolescence? The decisions you make and the decisions your teen makes during the adolescent years will make all the difference in the outcome. I know many parents who choose to put their teen in the raft without a guide, but I believe if you are interested in the best outcome for your teenager, you will put him/her in the raft with you as their guide.”

    As you navigate the whitewaters of adolescence, here are some additional thoughts on how to be a great raft guide for your teen:

    • Give your teenager freedom, but hold him/her accountable.

    • Sometimes parents are too quick to bail their teen out of trouble.

    • Are you raising your teen in a home or a hotel?

    • Mutual respect is the cornerstone of all relationships.

    • Everybody’s thoughts and feelings have value.

    • Watch your tone of voice. Rude behavior is not acceptable from anyone.

    • Use nonthreatening communication.

    • Laugh at everything you can and find reasons to have fun.

    “In spite of what you might hear from the culture at large, parents DO make a difference in the lives of their children. They watch every move you make and how you live your life. Recently, I received a note from my 32-year-old daughter that said, ‘Dad, thanks for teaching me that people are more important than things and living that out in your life. Love, Holly.’

    “Even if you are uncertain about your parenting skills, don’t be afraid to get in the raft and guide your teen through the rapids,” Leman says. “I have learned more from what I did wrong than all the things I did right.”

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  • Post Featured Image

    The Power of a Parent's Words

    Plenty of parents have been at their wits’ end when words rolled off their tongue that they later wished had remained unspoken. In fact, at some point you've probably even told yourself, “You’re an idiot,” or “How stupid can you be?” Have you ever thought about how impactful your words really are?

    “Our words create our world,” says Dr. Justin Coulson, father of six and best-selling author of 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know and 9 Ways to a Resilient Child.

    “Whatever direction your words lead, your mind and body will follow. We believe what we tell ourselves. Language is powerful. Words don’t just affect us and the way we see ourselves. They affect the way we see our children.”

    When Coulson asked a frustrated mother to describe her teenage daughter, the mother said things like, “She’s disrespectful, She’s wasteful. She treats our house like a hotel.” But when Coulson asked about her daughter’s strengths, the mom talked about how caring and generous her daughter was and the fact that she was a great sister. It was almost like she was describing two different people.

    “The language we use about one another, and towards each other, impacts how we see one another,” Coulson shares. Coulson suggests that sometimes we say things in a way that is not helpful and may possibly be harmful. 

    Here are some phrases Coulson encourages parents not to use, along with better ways to express the same sentiment:

    • Don’t say: “Calm down.” Say: “You are so upset.” Telling someone to calm down actually has the opposite effect. It’s dismissive and it denies emotions. Instead, focus on labeling the emotion. If you can name it, you can tame it.

    • Don’t say: “You’re so clever.” Ask: “How did you feel when…” Research indicates that praise leads to inferences of low ability. The best thing you can do is turn it back on the person/child. For instance, you could say, “Hey, you seem really happy with that outcome. Tell me what you did to get it.”

    • Don’t say: “Ugh, you’re just like your mother.” Say: “Wow, this is really challenging for you.” Avoid comparisons. Highlight what you are observing. Maybe you could say, “In these situations, you seem to struggle with…” Then offer to help.

    • Don’t say: “Because I said so.” Instead, say: “Let me tell you why this matters.” When people have a rationale for the requests we are making they are far more likely to be compliant.

    • Don’t say: “I was lousy at that.” Perhaps you could offer this:  “It’s amazing what we can do when we try.” We can promote a growth mindset (Carol Dweck has research on this) by highlighting what happens when we have a go at it, put some effort into it and work hard at something. Can’t yet doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t ever.

    • Don’t say: “Don’t be so stupid.” Say nothing. Simply pause and walk away. We don’t motivate others by making them feel lousy about themselves. If they are doing something stupid, ask them to stop. Stupid to us may not seem stupid to them. Be curious, not cranky. There is always a reason for challenging behavior.

    “Saying horrible things to others is every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse,” according to Coulson. “It affects cognitive function. Things will come out of our mouths that will hurt. The trick is to say fewer of those things and to build our children up.”

  • Post Featured Image

    How You Can Make Visitation Count

    Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or perhaps one parent’s home is like a vacation spot.

    Occasionally, parents refuse to work together for the good of the children out of spite for each other. This sets up an environment of competition, guilt and resentment, according to stepfamily expert, Elizabeth Einstein.

    How can you work together for the best interest of your child?

    First, you must put your issues aside. It is helpful if both of you:

    • Complete a joint-parenting plan and agree on expectations and limits so that your child can’t manipulate you;

    • Work as a team to provide consistency for the children;

    • Agree not to degrade or talk negatively about each other even though you might still have unresolved issues and anger;

    • Allow the children to talk about their feelings while listening and comforting them, as they also are going through a very difficult time; and

    • Try to make home as normal a place as possible.

    Each of you should have a plan in place for how to spend your time with the children.

    • Remember to make sure it is not necessarily all fun and games, but give them the freedom to learn and get to know you better, just as they would if they lived with you all the time. It is important that the parent-child relationship does not only become one of playmate, peer or buddy when visitation time comes, but one of bonding.

    • Mentally prepare yourself for the visitation, and do not expect your kids to be cheerful and happy all the time. They are going through adjustments that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

    • Remember, no one is perfect. Do the best you know how to do. Work with your children to establish new traditions. Stick to the agreements in the joint-parenting plan, and above all, be consistent during the special times you have with your children.

  • Post Featured Image

    Keys to a Smokin' Hot Marriage

    You found your “soul mate,” dated and fell madly in love. Before long you were fantasizing about what your wedding and wedding night would be like. The honeymoon was wonderful, and so were the weeks and months that followed.

    As you slowly get down to the business of marriage, tasks, opportunities, decisions and real life can hit you square in the face.

    After a couple of years, your home and roles in married life are down to a routine. Looking to the future, you suddenly realize that your romantic life has become as routine as the household chores.

    Since the routine doesn’t have the magic it once had, you wonder, "Did I really marry my soul mate?"

    “This is an all-too-familiar story for many people,” says Dr. Pat Love, author, speaker and educator. "People find this very disconcerting. They know couples who are talking divorce which makes the lack of passion in their own marriage a bit more concerning. Couples have the baby, the recession, responsibilities, job insecurity, and so many irons in the fire that the fire has gone out of the bedroom. Their commitment is strong, yet there is this gnawing worry that maybe they should be doing something to flame the embers and get the fire going again.”

    During the first two years of marriage, couples get a free dopamine ride. Everything is new and exciting and they have an elevated sex drive. But dopamine levels drop around the two-year mark, and spouses begin to wonder what is wrong. To make matters worse, they rarely talk about what is happening in their relationship.

    “These disconcerting thoughts can lead to arguments about things that don’t have anything to do with the real issue at hand – what has happened to us. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage," Love says. "If you can’t talk about it in a healthy productive way, both spouses are likely to be dissatisfied. This quickly moves to discontentment which can lead to the dissolution of a perfectly good marriage.”

    Perhaps the passion in your marriage has fizzled. If you want to make sure it stays alive, you can still fan the flames.

    Believe it or not, there are classes and events for couples on topics just like this. In a safe and fun environment, you can consider what makes you feel close to each other. You can also learn how to talk about sexuality and sensuality without being overly-sensitive or blaming.

    To learn more about fully understanding your spouse’s needs or how to deal with differences in creating passion and intimacy in your relationship, please contact us or check out our classes for married couples.