Coach Advice: Stick to the Facts

Posted February 12, 2016 by

Coach Advice: Stick to the Facts

As a coach (and a mother), I remind myself and others to “stick to the facts” when parenting in difficult situations.

What do I mean?

“Stick to the facts” is shorthand for focusing on your child’s behavior – not the way that behavior makes you and your child feel.

How can you make this happen?

Bad behavior causes many powerful emotions in both parents and kids. That’s natural. Our most important relationships can stir up the best and worst of our emotions!

But when you are parenting a child who has misbehaved, it’s highly effective if you can separate your emotions from the job at hand.

Imagine you catch your teenager in a lie. You might feel sad, angry, betrayed, disappointed, and even fearful. You could feel like your child has a character flaw. Why would they lie? What kind of person are they? Who have I raised? As normal as these emotions are, they’re not helpful when deciding how to best respond to the behavior.


“Parenting has always been a balance between thinking and feeling, and both are very important. When you’re over–personalizing, you’re letting your feelings drive your actions.” – Carole Banks, MSW

If you can, stick to the facts.

Fact: Your child lied. Talk to him about it. Stay calm. Give an appropriate consequence.

For more guidance, check out this excellent article: Disrespectful Child Behavior? Don’t Take it Personally.

The emotions of parenting are very real and powerful. In many cases the secret to effective parenting is to separate emotions from behavior. When your emotions are high, think: What is the most effective role I can play for my family right now?

I know this isn’t easy! But it will get easier with practice.

Take care this week,

Denise, Empowering Parents Coach


Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

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  1. Momma5 Report

    My 15yo son was intoxicated and drunk. Thankfully his friend called to pick him up. He has never gotten into trouble like this before. He gets excellent grades in school ..Playes sports. Gets along well with others, etc. We are scared for him and devastated. How do we handle this, what do we say?

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      It can be quite scary when your child makes a risky and illegal choice, such as drinking underage. The first step is going to be focusing on calming yourself down. While it is normal to be upset, angry, and scared when something like this happens, if you attempt to address this with your son when you are in an emotional state, it can impact how effective you are able to be with him. You can find more tips on how to move forward in Risky Teen Behavior: Can You Trust Your Child Again? Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.

  2. timberwolf0227 Report

    I have been turning to the information provided in Total Transformation and all these wonderful articles. You guys are my life line right now.

    I cry almost everyday.   My son is 17 1/2 and has a “I don’t care” attitude.  He skips school or goes in late all the time.  I am physically sick every morning as it’s a daily battle.  My nerves are shot, and I hate life right now because of this. It has affected my marriage and our family. I can’t concentrate at work as I’m worried if he went in or left school early. I keep listening to the cd’s and reading the articles. I have to try to control my emotions, but it’s so hard. I don’t yell, I don’t justify myself, I just cry. Going through my changes is not helping with my emotions.  

    He is a Senior and I can’t understand why he is throwing away all this time he spent  in school during his Senior year.  It’s been a problem since 11th grade, but we made it through.  This year is the worst. When we ask him why, he says he is tired of being talked down  by authority at school. We had been seeing 2 differnt counselors in the past 1 1/2 – 2 years.  It was mildly helpful.  He now refuses to see anyone. The last counselor moved 2 towns over and my son uses the excuse that now the counselor is too far….not so.  He doesn’t want me to find a new one either.  

    It’s a sad situation for all of us.  Based on everything I have listened to and read, he will have to face the consequences of his actions.  I guess I just have to work harder on controlling my emotions when he does this, and let him take responsiblity for his action. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreicated.

    • rwolfenden Report

      timberwolf0227 Thank you for being here, and your kind words about our site.  We are glad that you are here, though I’m sorry to hear about the struggles you are experiencing with your son right now.  You make a great point that, while it’s not the outcome you might have wanted, in the end your son is responsible for handling the consequences of his current behavior.  You can really only control your own actions and responses.  You might find some additional tips in our article,  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family.  Take care.

  3. Rachel Report

    I have a 12 yr old and I am at witts end with him. He is defiant and disobedient and thinks he is in control. He to has ADHD and hard to deal with need help

  4. lshirley5 Report

    Thank you. Sound practical advice. I adopted my Grandson due to neglect from birth. He is 4 and is blatantly defiant and verbally and physically very aggressive. It is incredibly easy for me to take it personally, and find myself in a loosing battle of saddness and confusion. Separating emotion from behavior is something I can understand. I have read so many books and articles, but this seems common sense.treat the behavior appropriately and keep the emotions stable! I especially like the simple “I don’t like that”. Thanks again.

  5. Kristindubnoff Report

    Thank you for this reminder. I have a 17 and 13 year old and it is not always easy and I frequently make mistakes. My mantra has been “Act, don’t React.” Similar statement of mindset as you wrote on. Unfortunately, it is not always cut and dry because we are human with feelings and stresses. Thank you for your supportive role. Much reinforcement is always appreciated!  ~ Kristin Dubnoff

    • BT Report

      My daughter and grandson moved in with us 18 months ago. She is almost 31 and suffers from depression and anxiety with ADHD. Her son is 9. He has ADHD and is oppositionally defiant. Please let me just say…….I hate labels. I try my best to love them both and be there for guidance. Their way of communicating often leads them to yelling at each other. The tone and anger quickly cause me to experience fright or flight in my own home. Please tell me how I can find peace in my heart and in my home when this happens.

      • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

        I hear you. It can be so challenging when two people you love and care about are yelling and fighting with each other, and it’s often difficult to stay calm in these situations. Part of developing a plan to stay calm is recognizing what triggers your anxiety. It sounds like you have already completed this step. For more tips on how to stay calmer when your daughter and grandson are fighting and yelling, you might read 4 Tools to Help You Stay Calm with Your Difficult Child next. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.



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