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Welcome to the EP Parenting Blog


This is the place to read blog posts from our experts and from EP's team of dedicated Parent Bloggers, who write about their own experiences raising their children. Comment, ask questions, and share advice. If you're interested in blogging for us, please click here.
Jul
23
Posted By:

Mothers and teenage daughters are highly ‘tuned in’ to each other. This is definitely true for me and my 18-year-old daughter. Since my daughter was a baby, I learned how to tune in to her every look, movement and sound she’s ever made. By the time she hit adolescence, my tuning in skill was highly developed. Now, it seems like I can tune in to my daughter’s emotional state from a hundred miles away. I know what kind of mood she is in by the way she shuts the door, opens the refrigerator and what clothes she puts on.

There are so many positive aspects that come from this ‘tuning in’ skill for moms.

Tuning in enables you to protect your daughter. When you’re tuned in you know if she is telling you the truth. You know when things don’t add up. You know what she needs and when she needs help or protection.

Tuning in fosters empathy and compassion. This is needed in order to have a close, loving relationship with your daughter. She understands that you know what she is feeling and that you care. This enables her to feel loved.

There is a negative side to tuning in—mothers can get stuck in hyper-tuned-in mode. You can get so tuned in to your daughter that by default, you tune out everything else, including you. Your daughter might pick up on your hyper-tuned-in mode and react. She might raise her voice and yell, or avoid you by hiding in her room.

You are hyper-tuned-in to your daughter when…

  • She gets into the car after school and you immediately say, “What’s wrong?
  • She reads a text and tears up and you say with great emotion, “Are you okay?”
  • It’s Saturday morning and when she stumbles out of bed you ask her to clean her room. After she slams the door, you decide to give her a lecture right then about manners.
  • You are driving her to school on the first day and you remind her of 7 things that she needs to do. And she snaps at you to shut up. You yell back that she can’t talk to you that way.

These scenarios will escalate into a big, dramatic scene. They can be avoided by tuning out.

There are many benefits to tuning out. The main benefit is that it decreases unnecessary drama between you and your daughter.

Your daughter is going to have dramatic moments. She can’t help it. She is hard wired for drama with her hormonal surges, undeveloped prefrontal cortex and limited problem-solving skills. I call this a “triple threat” for drama.

Her drama is like a fire. When mothers get hyper-tuned-in to their daughters it’s like you add gasoline to the fire. When you tune out, you are not feeding the fire and eventually the fire will go out.

Some additional benefits to tuning out include:

1. Your daughter has the space to feel her own feelings. It’s okay if she cries or gets upset. Many of her down moods will pass quickly. They are like a brief afternoon shower in the summer. There may be hard rains and lightning, but it will quickly pass.

Please note, however, if her depressed mood lasts longer than a few days, then you can step in and see what is going on.

2. You won’t take it personally. When you are hyper-tuned-in to your daughter, you take things personally. If she is in a bad mood, you think it’s aimed at you. If she is unhappy, you think you are not doing a good job as a mother. If she is ungrateful, you feel she is taking advantage of you. Nothing can set a mother off quicker than taking things personally.

When you are tuned out, her bad mood won’t get to you.

3. Tuning out decreases anxiety. If you are hyper-tuned-in to your daughter, then you are prone to fear. When you are hyper-tuned-in, you’re usually not tuning into her strengths and successes. Most likely you are tuning in to her sad, stressed or angry moments. Your imagination will make mountains out of these molehill moments.

4. Timing is everything. A normal teenage girl will have happy moments, calm moments, sad moments and stressed moments every day. There are predictable times that your daughter is going to be in a bad mood or stressed. If your daughter is sleepy, hungry or stressed, she will not be her happy self.

It’s so important to learn when to tune in and when to tune out. There is a delicate balance. You don’t want to be hyper-tuned-in and you don’t want to be so detached that you are always tuned out.

Tune her out when she is having one of those moments. Most likely the storm will pass. Tune in when she is back to herself. This will save you lots of grief.

 

Colleen O’Grady specializes in encouraging and empowering mothers of teenagers, especially teen daughters, to live their highest and best life. From her coaching programs to her therapy sessions, she has helped thousands of mothers and teenage girls uncover their true purpose in life, create more happiness, and move to a place of inner peace. Find out more at www.poweryourparenting.com.

Jul
16
Posted By:

Who doesn’t love summer? Well, for many reasons, single parents. First of all, it’s a financial minefield. With school out there’s full time daycare to pay for and it’s not just a tiny bump; it’s a major increase in what is likely already a super tight budget. And then there are all the enriching camps and field trips.  You want your child to experience learning new skills and making friends with kids outside of the familiar zone, along with beading bracelets, singing songs and horseback riding. But wow, all of that comes with a hefty price tag.

If your kids are older and able to stay at home that solves the daycare issue, but then you’re presented with a whole new line of issues. What will your kids do all day, home alone? Will it be safe? Will they be getting themselves into trouble? And let’s not forget how much your grocery bill will increase as they raid the cabinets all afternoon (and late evening), as well as the rise in your utility bills from having the AC on all day (as well as electronics, sucking up electricity).

As if this wasn’t enough, all around you it will feel like every other family is going on vacation – to their cabin, to visit the nation’s capital, or to see the Grand Canyon. Wanting to include you in the conversation, they will ask, “Where are you going on vacation this summer?”  To that I say, hold your head up high and declare, “We are planning an amazing staycation!”

I respect and admire all of you. Your day is long, your to-do list even longer. So for today, I salute you:

To all of the working single parents (I realize that’s redundant, all parents are working parents), I respect you. I know the daily grind you face – the one that never, ever lets up. I know that when you head to your car in the morning with the promise of a gorgeous day on the horizon – I know you really want to dump the kids off at camp and just goof off all day. So I say, make it happen! Schedule a day off alone.  Take the kids to daycare, or somewhere, and just enjoy sitting on a patio, sipping coffee and reveling in the quiet. At that moment, no one needs you! Can you imagine how energized you will feel from that? Schedule your day off today.

To all of the work-from-home single parents: you have your own special brand of challenge, as you are likely working from a home office and maybe have the kids underfoot. There’s not a real separation of work and home life, so you need to be extra diligent to create a boundary between the two. It can be a lonely existence, working from home, so be sure to schedule in some play dates or even trade off babysitting with other parents so you can get some crucial alone time.

To all of the working single parents who also attend school: can you say sleep-deprived? As if parenting and working weren’t exhausting enough, you’re also the college student, racking up credits while you write papers and complete lab reports; all in an effort to finally secure that degree that promises higher pay, better benefits and a more rewarding career. Do me a favor; pat yourself on the back with gusto. You are killing it! And you can’t see it now, but when your kids are all grown-up, they will say how incredible you are to have done all of that.

I will leave you with this. Your life is really tough right now, but let’s be honest – everyone has challenges, tragedies and trials. Instead of focusing on your hardships and exhausting life, put your energy towards creating a positive attitude and being the best parent you can. Seek help from others when the going gets too rough and take some time to enjoy the journey – and your summer!

 

Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.

Jul
10
Posted By:
Parent Blogger

Last week in Belle Fourche, SD where I live, the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association held state finals. Events for boys included the usual “rough stock” competition: bull riding, bronc riding, bulldogging and steer wrestling.  For girls there was barrel racing, goat tying and pole bending.  Roping events are open to boys and girls. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the rodeo kids in full cowboy gear; confident, proud and still humble enough to greet spectators.  Model teenagers—exactly what we want from our own kids!

Watching the rodeo was fun because the events took me back to a few years ago when our oldest son Ty participated in high school rodeo. For four years we traveled to rodeo grounds throughout Wyoming and western South Dakota. We attended state finals in Douglas and then national finals in Springfield, Illinois and Gillette, Wyoming.  Although we knew absolutely nothing about rodeo, we learned to enjoy the experience despite some of the drawbacks.

Rodeo is expensive. Most participants have to travel with their horse(s). If your daughter participates in barrels and roping, she will probably need more than one horse.  That means driving a big enough truck to haul a horse trailer with living quarters, plus room for tack and hay. Big trucks require a lot of gas.

Fortunately, our son Ty was a bareback rider. He didn’t need to haul a horse since rodeo contractors do that, so we were able to travel in a Toyota Corolla.  The trips were still expensive in terms of hotel accommodations, food and time. Especially time. We are self-employed which offered scheduling flexibility, but still, time is money.

Rodeo, like many other sports, can be dangerous. One rainy, windy spring day in Newcastle, Wyoming, a horse landed on Ty’s right foot and sheared off that little bone that sticks out on the outside of the ankle. The accident happened following a winning 78-point ride. Today he has a silver commemorative belt buckle and a pin in his ankle, enabling him to set off alarms in airports. We ended up with a hefty bill from the orthopedic surgeon.

Our younger son Shay was drawn to motocross racing and snowboarding. He tried roller blading and rock-free climbing. He even followed his older brother to the rodeo arena and had a hand at bareback riding.

For some reason, many kids are drawn to similar high-risk, or “extreme” sports that involve danger (and subsequent expense).  These are the sports seldom sanctioned by schools, which include hang gliding, bungee jumping, skateboarding and BMX bike riding. The list is always growing.

Any sport or activity is potentially dangerous, but what should parents do when a child is drawn to riding bulls or jumping off a bridge tied to a bungee cord?  Here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Don’t dismiss the need for extreme sports.  Kids need to gain skills and feel accomplished.  They need physical activity. They also need to succeed at what they see as something extraordinary and outstanding. Extreme sports offer the opportunity to fulfill all of these needs.
  • Steer your kids toward activities that offer safety guidelines and a clear set of standards for competition. Do not accept the notion that concussions are part of the experience or that one must expect injuries and endure pain.
  • Attend the events and learn the terminology. This includes getting to know the other participants and their parents. On the high school rodeo circuit, we made some good friends among the other parents despite us not being a “rodeo” or ranching family.  Many rodeo kids are products of generations of participants.  Some, like Ty, are drawn to it just as kids are often drawn to other extreme, adrenaline producing activities.
  • Cheer for everyone. Enjoy the success of all the kids.  Remember that extreme sports are really about individual achievement and a community cheering section is much healthier for everyone than competition. 

 Extreme sports offer the opportunity to belong, participate, and experience some adrenaline rushes without the formality and conditions of other organized activities. Ty discovered rodeo when high school football didn’t work out and golf was a little too civilized for him.  He loved the camaraderie, sense of belonging and the admiration of his peers and the adults. So bring on extreme sports!

 

Meg English is a career teacher.  She has taught International Baccalaureate classes, college composition and specializes in non-traditional gifted learners. She has written extensively on education, schools and parenting. Meg has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and an M.S. in history. She and her husband, author John English are the parents of two adopted boys and several foster children.  They live in Belle Fourche, South Dakota within a few hours of their 6 grandchildren.

Jul
02
Posted By:

What if your child’s bossiness or argumentativeness or the energy she has the moment she jumps out of bed is actually a strength that she was born with? What if she simply has not had the life experience to develop and maximize its potential? What if, as you are trying to tame the bossiness, to make the persistence more flexible or to rein in the energy, you might be overlooking your child’s natural born strength? What if there were successful strategies you could implement that would support the mastery of your child’s strength as well as integrate brain functions and bring greater harmony to your family?

Everyone shows up on this planet with a unique set of strengths. There are 24 signature strengths that fall into 6 categories – Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence, Wisdom and Knowledge.  (You can find out what your signature strengths are by going to University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology website and taking the VIA Survey. Click on Questionnaires.)

Some children are born with an abundance of several strengths. A lot of kindness as a signature strength will probably not cause your child to have challenging behaviors. He will like doing favors, good deeds and helping others. A child with lots of leadership or persistence strengths will often behave in ways that are challenging for parents. A child with leadership strength wants to take the lead to encourage and support a group to meet a goal. A child with persistence as a strength will want to finish what they start and rarely lets things get in her/his way. A child who has an immature leadership strength could act in argumentative or defiant ways when their strength is not recognized and supported. A child who has an immature strength of persistence might lie or argue so s/he can continue to pursue the goals s/he is focused on. These children have not had the life experiences that will help them develop the skills necessary to use their strengths effectively.

I recently explored these questions with a group of parents. A Dad of a 7-year-old boy said “I feel like I’m in a game show: every thing is about making a deal and he never gives up! He will even resort to lying to have things go his way. ” A Mom of a 4-year-old girl commented that her daughter does that too, but instead of lying she will be downright defiant. Another Mom of a 6-year-old boy said, “My son wants to do everything I do. Yesterday he came to me all excited showing me my checkbook saying he had paid all my bills. There were crayon marks all over the checks!”  I invited these parents to look at their child’s behavior through a different lens. I described the behaviors they were describing as strengths – bossiness is leadership, pushiness is persistence, and energy is zest. The Mom of the 6-year-old boy said, “Zest really describes him to a tee; he’s excited and interested in everything!”  The Dad of the 7-year-old said, “My son has leadership and persistence and he thinks he is smarter than me. What do I do about that?”

So let’s take a closer look.

A person who has learned how to optimize their strength of persistence will finish what they start. Rarely do obstacles prevent them from achieving their goal. They take pleasure in completing tasks. A child who is born with this strength might look like s/he always want to get her/his way, will not stop asking for what s/he wants, will point out all the reason why s/he should get or do what s/he wants and may even lie. Parents often talk about being worn down.

A person with the strength of leadership is someone who builds good relationships and is able to encourage and support a group to meet a goal. They are able to organize and make things happen. A child with this strength often wants to be first, will tell other children what to do, and seems to always have to win.

A person with zest approaches life with excitement and energy; for them, life is an adventure that they embrace whole-heartedly. A child with zest is active from the moment her/his feet hit the floor in the morning and s/he doesn’t stop until they have fallen asleep. They are interested in and want to do everything that can make them seem unfocused and mischievous.

Every child is born with a unique set of strengths and talents. To support our children with maximizing their potential, we need to be able to recognize their strengths and talents and help them develop and mature their capabilities. This is often easier said than done. Often, a strength that is underdeveloped can be misunderstood as a challenging behavior. When a child’s budding strength is seen as defiance or hyperactivity that needs to be changed, it can easily create frustration for a parent and child. As parents, we want our children to develop into healthy adults who have meaningful lives. We support this development when we take the time to notice what our children are doing well and build upon it.

As human beings, we all want our unique gifts and talents to be recognized and valued. When we are using our strengths to engage in meaningful activities we tend to feel a sense of accomplishment, which then influences positive emotions. This carries over into supporting positive relationships. These elements, positive emotions, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishments are the building blocks to maximizing our potential and building a meaningful life.

 

Torrey Harrison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She did her graduate work at Smith College School of Social Work.  She has over 20 years of experiences providing mental health services to children, youth, and adults. An area of expertise is in training direct care workers to provide in-home mental health interventions to children with emotional and behavioral challenges. She has presented workshops to parents, early care and education providers on Understanding Kids Challenging Behaviors, Positive Parenting, Infant Mental and ADHD. Torrey also taught class in Positive Psychology for an adult education program.

Jun
26
Posted By:

I see from my teen clients that girl drama has reached a new peak, or in reality, a new low.  Teen girl social strife and the drama that accompanies it are magnified to a new scale of meanness in today’s social climate.

The tragedy is that girls disguised as friends are often just bossy bullies.  Girls looking for true friends are unable to find a safe harbor in their peers where they can comfortably be themselves. This happens in “friend groups”, a millennial word for “clique”, which are comprised of several members and one queen bee who runs the show.  The ultimate mean girl as the decider of who stays and who goes is nothing new, and sadly extends far beyond adolescents. Just read the April 2014 story in Boston Magazine to learn about Boston’s suburban mean moms and the devastating impact they have on others’ lives. http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2014/03/25/mean-moms-suburbs/

It makes sense that the female offspring of these mean moms are raised as bullying pros without even knowing it; effortlessly tormenting pals in their “friend groups”.

In today’s culture, the ‘anything goes’ motto extends beyond appearance and attire into relationships.  Teens struggle to define typical peer relationships in a culture that accepts rivals, or worse, rival friendships. Here are 5 reasons why it’s too easy for girls to be the new mean girl.

Brazen Attitude of Entitlement  Our indulgent culture of ensuring kids are heard has been misinterpreted  by many  to mean, “It’s okay to allow our children to be demanding of anyone, anytime.” Girlfriends ask whatever they want of each other, and the ones who can’t or won’t meet expectations are often left on the outs. I can think of a recent example where a mom offered to take her daughter and four out of 12 friends to the mall after school; that’s all that would fit in her car.  Upon pick-up at the school, the mother arrived to a scene of uninvited girls insisting that they should have been included. The mother, a nice, well-intentioned woman, felt bad that the girls were upset. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry.  My car only fits 5,” she agreed to chaperone all 12 girls at the mall if they could get a ride there, however, that was not sufficient. The girls yelled across the parking lot and called and texted the mall-going girls throughout the entire afternoon, complaining that they were left behind.

The mother was horrified by the scene these girls created under the guise of close friendship, where in reality they acted more as if they were in a gang. Isn’t punishing individuals for not doing what the entire group decides a form of socialized aggression, consistent with a gang?

When asked, the girls adamantly describe their friend group as being composed of close peer friendships, and yet they treat each other very poorly.  It’s not safe for them to make decisions without a group consensus, similar to a gang.

Tolerance of Blatant Disrespect. Teen girls  don’t demonstrate self-respect when they  blatantly disrespect others, including adults and those in authority. Self-respect implies that a person feels enough respect for themselves to treat others with kindness and the way they would want to be treated. When teens are nasty to whoever isn’t giving them exactly what they demand, they are letting everyone know how badly they feel about themselves and the world around them.

Parents who attempt to make their home a welcome spot for their daughters and their friends complain that the girls’ treatment of one another and of the parents is very troublesome. They describe the girls as having a complete disregard for authority and treating parents more like underlings then actual adults who are in charge.

Helicopter Parents.  Acceptance of drama and promotion of entitlement by parents only breeds more of the same. Mothers report that they often try to mediate their teen daughter’s peer conflicts because they are fearful that, without parental assistance, the girls will lose their friends and have a social breakdown. Historically, teens have wanted separation from their mothers; wanting to do things their way as they grow more independent.  And yet I’ve frequently heard from teens and mothers that parents “need” to get involved in teen drama because the girls can’t seem to resolve their own conflicts. What is this teaching our teenagers? Parents need to allow their teen girls to fight their own battles, learn from their mistakes and choose friends that are true friends. Not all girls are part of the mean crowd.  Teens who learn early on who their true friends are, and what qualities are important in a friendship, may not suffer so much in adulthood. Parents would benefit from allowing their daughters to learn this earlier rather than later, after settling into an adult lifestyle like the Boston Magazine article describes.

Bypassing assertiveness and going directly for aggressiveness. All of the examples above point towards an unmitigated intensity that reflects aggressive behavior much more than assertiveness. Teens today could use some basic assertiveness training which is a component of acting like a mature and responsible adult. Assertive people have acquired the skills to state their opinions to others in a respectful manner, while those who are aggressive attack others and force their opinions on others. Assertive people have a better chance of gaining the respect of those around them, as they are able to stand up for themselves while considering the needs and views of others. Parents, adults and authority figures own the burden of teaching young girls how to assert their needs with friends, family and even adults. Girls learn through being assertive and advocating for their position and desires without attacking others.

Social media. Social media has an instant audience for every impulse and angry statement. That was not the original intent of social media, yet it seems to be its primary use amongst teens who fail to realize that even texting can’t be erased forever. Parents can teach children that freedom of expression on the Internet does not mean bashing a business on Yelp or a person on Facebook. It’s always better to confront a person directly. It’s normal and natural to want to do it via the web in an over-the-top way when someone feels slighted. By outlining the reasons that this will backfire and be even less effective than speaking directly to whomever has let you down, parents can teach children the right way to be assertive and stay away from aggressive attacks on others.

As adults, we need to take a good hard look at what’s happening to our children today.  If we’re raising them to be demanding, insensitive and possessive to the point of being hurtful and self-destructive, then we need to change our behavior and help them change theirs.

 

Kate Roberts, Ph.D., is a Boston-area licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist, who has coached parents and families for 25 years. She has published a number of articles in professional journals and offers parents practical strategies in her bi-weekly parenting column; Dr. Kate’s Parent Rap in the Salem News and in her Savvy Parenting blog for Psychology Today. Dr. Roberts has worked as a consulting psychologist to school districts throughout New England and  works with parents and children through institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital. You can check out Dr. Kate’s website at www.drkateroberts.com and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jun
19
Posted By:

Being a parent of two older adopted boys, a frustration for me when my boys were in school was hearing that they were getting ridiculed about it. It made them feel “less than perfect.” So we came up with a plan, through role-playing, that stopped the person in his tracks. One phrase my son learned to say was, “It could be any of you who ended up adopted. It just happened to be me.” It’s a great idea. It empowered him, and hopefully they will carry that with them into the future if ridicule ever rears its ugly head again.

Read more »

Jun
13
Posted By:

It’s a Monday night and you’re sorting clean socks – a task that seems to have no end.  How can there be so much laundry all of the time? You’re tired from a weekend that revolved around your kids’ activities, but instead of relaxing with a Netflix binge marathon and buttered popcorn, you are washing baseball jerseys so your daughter will have a clean uniform for tomorrow’s game.

Let’s just be clear on something: chores and errands? They will never, ever end. They are embedded into our daily life whether we are happy about it or not. So why don’t we try approaching the drudgery of grocery shopping, filling up the gas tank, and vacuuming with a new outlook?

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Jun
10
Posted By:
Parent Blogger

I am guilty, again. In this case, guilty of harboring a romantic notion that summer vacation from school is actually good for all children. As a novice teacher and young parent, I used to believe that all children who experienced the “glorious” freedom from demanding teachers and confining classrooms would benefit. Somehow given such freedom, children would explore and determine their own unique learning experiences with little guidance. Yes, I was indeed misguided.

Read more »