Sometimes I Want Out of This

A few days ago, I saw a short video clip of Esther Perel standing on stage and she asked the crowd to raise their hand if they’ve ever thought about leaving their current partner. Many of the people in the crowd raised their hand. I was right there with them, I have had times where I have thought about not being married to my wife. To some, that may be shocking  that a Marriage therapist has contemplated about not wanting to be with their significant other. To me, this is one of the most healthiest and honest statements a person can say who has been with the same person for 14 years. It is not about not loving my wife, it is about the fact that at times we get annoyed with one another and the thought has come around. Notice that I have not left my wife, nor has she left me. I would bet if she was asked if she has ever thought about leaving this marriage she too would agree the thought has come to her.

One of the best statements I have heard many times is that the people who are closest to us, those that know us best, know how to push our buttons. My wife and I have both said things to one another that have hurt. Again, not many people know me better than she does. It doesn’t make it right, but sometimes when we argue we don’t think, instead we focus on what we want and how we feel and this is typically when these thoughts of leaving the relationship tend to come about. When we are thinking clearly, these thoughts are not coming up. John Gottman calls this “summarizing yourself syndrome.” So as I sit here, writing this blog post, I am not thinking I want to leave my wife. But if you are calm, not arguing with your partner and yet you are thinking you want out of your current relationship, a few things should happen. First, John Kim would encourage you to ask yourself why you want out and assess your role. The reason being, when we want out of a relationship, we tend to focus on all the things the other person is or has done wrong and seldom do we take time to look at ourselves. I won’t go further as it isn’t the basis of this post but I felt it only fair that I mention important steps if you really in a calm state want out of your relationship what are some important steps to take before jumping ship.

To get back to situations when in an argument and not thinking clearly, which has some physiological reasons for not being able to think clearly. Here is what is important to do, first take some time for yourself to calm down, then come back together with your partner and work on repair, own your steps, whether you think you were right or wrong own your steps. Then depending on if things stay calm discuss what you and your partner can do the next time the difficult topic or situation that played into the argument comes about to change the dynamics of the situation. I hope this post is helpful if you have questions or thoughts email, Brian@themarriagedoc.com.

The Issue Messing up your Relationship

The issue messing up your relationship isn’t that your partner doesn’t listen, that you’re a workaholic or because you and your partner don’t communicate well. None of these are the REAL problem. The problem is neither you nor your partner are self-regulating. I’ll explain self-regulation but first I need to explain your nervous system in order to get into the self-regulation.

We all have a nervous system, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which is then broken down between the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). What is most important to understand is we are in SNS when we are anxious, upset, sad, depressed, frustrated and so on. It is when we are in a threat response. The PNS is experienced when we are calm and comfortable in our bodies.

Interestingly, we cannot be comfortable in our bodies and anxious at the same time. Nor can we be in any type of threat response while being comfortable in our bodies.

Now let’s look at self-regulation, an important point to understand is that self-regulation is relaxation, but relaxation is not self-regulation. Self-regulation is when we are able to identify that in the moment, we are experiencing a threat response and making an effort to get out of it. Relaxation is leaving the moment to go and practice Yoga, tapping or any other activity to manage the feeling of being stressed. There are many ways to practice self-regulation, to begin, take ten seconds and with your eyes open, looking forward scan from the top of your head to your feet. The goal is to notice any tight muscles in your body, when you notice these, relax your muscles. After ten seconds and you complete your body scan, take a deep breath and notice what you notice. Go ahead and give it a try.

I encourage you to do this daily multiple times. Why? Because in 5-6 minutes, I will encourage you to repeat the body scan. Why? Because those muscles you allowed to relax, will tighten back up. Why? Because we as human beings cannot unlearn past experiences. This means any time in the past we have felt picked on, nervous, put down, experienced a threat response in the past has been learned. Therefore, your muscles will tighten up again. The good news is the more you practice self-regulation, the more often you will be in a comfortable body.

The more you’re in a comfortable body, the more relaxed you will be and the better you will be in your relationships. If we are not experiencing a threat response, we tend to approach situations in a calmer manner, we think better, we function better. Therefore, your practice of self-regulation is very important for a healthy relationship. If you have questions email me at Brian@themarriagedoc.com.

Bonding

I am asking that you to think back to when you first began dating your current partner. Think about the thoughts and emotions related to being in a new relationship. What thoughts/emotions come up? I’ve heard people say anything from exciting to nervous and hopeful. Many people want to spend as much time together as possible in a new relationship, talking on the phone, going to the movies, spend time with each other’s friends, the more time the better.

Overtime, the newness can wear off, but typically, we still want to spend time with the person. We can share interests and values with one another Interestingly, we don’t always separate who we are as a couple, from who we are as an individual. Instead, we created a bond with our partner, which is important, we should feel safe and secure in these relationships.

The problem in some romantic relationships is when there is a disagreement. Some partners feel and express that their significant other should agree with their perspectives on an issue and that having a different viewpoint is an issue in the relationship. Similar to all or nothing thinking. Many couples get stuck in this, the bonding stage of development., which is termed Symbiosis and characterized by poor boundaries, and one partner being passive and the other more aggressive regarding their wants and needs.

Differentiation

In healthy relationships of development, the couple may experience some Symbiosis but through therapy and or working together have been able to make a REALLY important discovery; I am me; you are you. Seems simple enough but the reality is in relationships, this is an easy area for couples to get stuck.

In differentiation, partners are able to express their individual thoughts, opinions and desires. Instead of viewing differences among partners as a threat, you both appreciate the differences each bring to the relationship. When arguments come up, these partners work to find ways to manage conflict and find resolution together. This stage of Couple development is a must in order to reach later stages. I won’t go into all the stages in this post, but I am curious, does any of the content in this post remind you of your relationship with your partner? Comment and or let me know via email. Brian@themarriagedoc.com….Thanks for reading and keep coming back for next month’s blog.

Fight Nice!

This month I thought I would write about an online course which I am revamping and releasing soon, Fight Nice! The idea for the group came while listening to a podcast episode from Jay Shetty, who said that couples need to learn how to fight appropriately, not that fighting should be avoided. First of all, the word “fight” comes with preconceived ideas. One of those ideas is that a fight involves a physical altercation which my course is not about, and this is actually false. There are several terms for a fight such as an argument, disagreement and so on.

There are seven parts to my course, Fight Nice! Starting with a discussion on the General Alarm system and ending with Planning for the future. The course is all about providing the necessary information so that you can then take tools and ideas provided to create a plan to help you and your partner fight constructively not destructively.

In terms of the General Alarm system, another name is fight or flight. Part of the information provided is a description of what fight or flight means and that we don’t always know when we are triggering our general alarm system. Also, a misnomer is that only those with a trauma history can experience fight or flight which is not accurate as this is something we are all born with the ability to use. The issue is that often times the system is activated when it isn’t needed, and it can have a HUGE impact on us and our interactions with those we care about the most.

The good news is there are ways to reduce these struggles and you can learn all about them when you sign up for my online course which again will be offered in the near future. If you would like to be notified when the course is available email me at Brian@theMarriagedoc.com. Take care and be sure to check-out the next blog post and take a look around on the site as there is a lot of good information AND you can contact me for a FREE 15-minute consult for Couple and or individual therapy for those in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 

What is happening?

 

There is a problem that is pretty common in couples’ therapy. The problem is that while it seems some improvements have occurred in your relationship, but now other issues are popping up. You and or your partner maybe talking about dropping couples therapy or finding a new therapist because this should not be happening!

What if I told you this was normal?! That, many couples have other issues aside from that which brought you into therapy come up after being in couples’ therapy for a time.

Why?

There are multiple reasons for this to happen. For example, many couples begin feeling anxious when they are noticing and feeling positive from their participation in therapy and healthy changes in their relationship. The thoughts of worry may come creeping in those things will return as they were prior to therapy, increasing anxiety. Often doing something new brings up feelings of anxiety.

Another reason is developmental.   Relationships can change through normal developmental stages. These same stages tend to parallel some of the stages of childhood development. As one issue from a developmental stage is remedied, it makes sense another may then arise. Out of these experiences, anxiety can arise.

Reality

The reality is that being nervous is normal. The important thing to remember is why you’re going to therapy. You want healthy changes in your relationship. By stepping into uncomfortable situations such as therapy, you’re putting yourself in a position for growth. Change can be scary, but my question is, what if nothing changes? Are you willing to stay in the same relationship, with the same issues? Only you can answer these questions.

It’s important to express worry and nervousness and not keep these fears to yourself. Allow your partner to support you and know what is going through your mind.

What You Need To Know Before Beginning Couples’ Therapy

Often times, Couples are not really sure what they are getting into when the process of couples therapy is started. They maybe unsure what to expect regarding the therapist and what the therapist may expect from them.

Often times, couples will approach therapy with the idea they are expected to describe their problems with their partner and relationship and that the therapist will provide them with tools to be satisfied, happier and a more stable relationship. Couples tend to expect to learn some new skills and information from the therapist. In many cases, people tend to hope their partner will learn to act differently which will fix problems in their relationship.

After 17 years of clinical experience, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective. Yes, I do have some expectations of you. I am not neutral. I have evolved principles and concepts that I believe give us the greatest chance for success.

I am of the belief my primary role is to help you improve your responses to each other without breaking your core values and or deeply held principles. So that you may know some of my key guiding principles, I have created this document to provide clarity and focus to our work.

Your job is to create your own individual goals for being in therapy.  MY job is to help you reach them. I have many tools to help you become a more effective partner – they work best when you are clear about how you desire to be in your relationship.

Goals and Objectives of Couples Therapy

The major aim of therapy is increasing your knowledge about yourself, your partner and the patterns of interaction between you. Therapy becomes helpful as you apply new knowledge to break old and ineffective patterns and develop more effective ones.

The key tasks of couples therapy are increasing your clarity about:

The kind of life you want to build together

The kind of partner you want to be in order to build the kind of life and relationship you desire to create

Your individual blocks to becoming the kind of partner you want to be

The skills and knowledge necessary to do the above tasks

Tradeoffs and Tough Choices

 

To create sustained improvement in your relationship you need:

A vision of the life you want to build together

To have a life separate from your partner because you are two individual people

The appropriate attitudes and skills to work as a team

The motivation to keep going

Time to review progress

To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult tradeoffs and tough choices for each of you.

The first tradeoff will be time. It takes time to create a relationship that thrives: time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, coordinate, nurture, relax,  do the work between sessions, hang out and plan. This time will encroach on some other valuable areas – your personal or professional time.

The second compromise is comfort. That means emotional comfort, like going out on a limb to try new ways of thinking and doing things, listening and being curious instead of butting in, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing. At the beginning, there will be emotional risk taking action, but you will never grow if you don’t get outside your comfort zone and take risks. In addition, few people are emotionally comfortable being confronted with how they don’t live their values or being confronted with the consequences of their actions.

The other comfort that will be challenged is energy comfort. It takes effort to sustain improvement over time: staying conscious of making a difference over time, remembering to be more respectful, more giving, more appreciative etc. It takes effort to remember and act.

The other effort is even more difficult for some people: that is improving their reaction to problems. For example, if one person tends to blame but doesn’t take accountability for their actions, it will take effort to make improvements in their willingness to own their steps in the problem and the impact on the other person.

In all these areas, there is generally a conflict between short-term gratification and the long-term goal of creating a satisfying relationship. The blunt reality is that, in an interdependent relationship, effort is required on the part of each person to make a sustained improvement. It is like doubles in tennis – one person cannot do most of the work and expect to be successful.

How to Maximize the Value from your Couples Therapy Sessions

A common yet unproductive pattern in couple’s therapy is focusing on the which problem happens to be on someone’s mind at the moment. This is a reactive (and mostly ineffective) approach to working things through.

The second unproductive pattern is showing up and saying, “I don’t know what to talk about.” While this blank slate approach may open some interesting doors, it is a hit or miss process.

The third common unproductive pattern is discussing whatever fight you are now in or whatever fight you had since the last meeting. Discussing these fights/arguments without a larger context of what you wish to learn from the experience is often an exercise in spinning your wheels and not helpful to the process.

Over time, repeating these patterns will lead to the question, “Are we getting anywhere?” and thoughts that therapy has not been productive, at which time many couples tend to drop out.

A more powerful approach to your couple’s therapy sessions is for each person to do the following before each session:

 

Reflect on your objectives for being in therapy.

Think about your next step that supports or relates to your larger objectives for the kind of relationship you wish to create, or the partner you aspire to become.

This reflection takes some effort. Yet few people would call an important meeting and be unprepared.

 

Important Concepts for Couples Therapy and Relationships

The following ideas can help identify areas of focus in our work and/or stimulate discussion between you and your partner between meetings. If you periodically review this list, you will discover that your reflections and associations will change over time. So please revisit this list often, it will help you keep focus during our work.

Attitude is Key

When it comes to improving your relationship, your attitude toward change and being open-minded is more important than what action you take.

Identifying what to do and how to do it is often easy to identify. The bigger challenge is being open to why you don’t do it.

How to think differently about a problem is often more impactful than just trying to figure out what action to take and the change tends to last longer.

Your partner is quite limited in his/her ability to respond to you, just as you are limited in your ability to respond to your partner. This is an important understanding in increasing maturity.

The reality possibility exists that you have some flawed assumptions about your partner’s motives and they have some flawed assumptions regarding your motives.  The challenge tends to be, most of the time we don’t want to accept these assumptions are flawed.

 

Focus on Changing Yourself Rather than Your Partner

Couples therapy works best if you have more goals for yourself than for your partner. I am at my best when I help you both reach objectives you set for yourself.

Problems occur when our reality around our expectations, hopes, desires and concerns are challenged. It’s human nature to try and change one’s partner instead of adjusting our expectations. This aspect of human nature is what keeps therapists working.

One of the biggest challenges in being part of couples therapy is accepting you will need to improve your response to a problem (how you understand it, feel about it, see it, or what to do about it). Few people want to focus on improving their response. It’s more common to build a case for why you’re partner needs to change.

While you and your partner both can influence one another, you can’t change them and they cannot change you. By becoming more efficient as a partner is the best way to bring change to the relationship.

During the good times when your life and relationship seem to be going well It’s easy to be present and loving to your partner. When it gets challenging and requires work, and your partner is whining and sniveling about how you got them into this mess, that’s when you get tested. Your leadership and your character get tested. You can join the finger pointing or become how you aspire to become.

Nothing is impossible with the willingness to do the work.

Fear is a signal that it’s time to prepare, not to give up.

You can learn a lot about yourself by understanding what challenges you and how you handle those situations.

The more focused you are on your partner changing, the less initiative you will take to change the patterns between you.

Zen Aspects of Couples Therapy (Some Contradictions)

All major goals have built in contradictions, for example, speak up or keep the peace.

All significant growth comes from disagreements, dissatisfaction with the current status, or a striving to make things better. Paradoxically, accepting that conflict produces growth and learning to manage inevitable disagreements is the key to more harmonious relationships.

All couples have arguments, disagreements and fights. This is not a sign of an unhealthy relationship. The unhealthy relationship comes from the how you argue, disagree, and fight.

It’s not what you say. It’s what they hear.

Solutions, no matter how perfect, set the stage for new problems.

Tough Questions

A willingness to ask good questions–of yourself and your partner–helps you uncover causes beneath causes.

The only bad question is the one not asked.

In a strong disagreement, do you really believe your partner is entitled to their opinion?

Under duress, do you have the courage and willingness to seek your partner’s reality and the courage to express your reality when the stakes are at their highest?

Why is it important to let your partner know what you think, feel and are concerned about? (Because they really can’t appreciate what they don’t understand.)

What is the price your partner will have to pay to improve their response to you? How much do you care about the price they will have to pay? (Everything has a price and we always pay it.)

Can you legitimately expect your partner to treat you better than you treat them?

If you want your partner to change, do you think about what you can do to help the process?

When a problem shows up, it’s natural to think “What should I do about it?”

A much more productive question is. “How do I act in this situation?”

The Importance of Communication

The three most important qualities for effective communication are respect, openness and consistent.

Healthy communication is much more difficult than most people want to believe. Effective negotiation is even more difficult.

A couple’s vision emerges from a process of reflection and inquiry. It requires both people to speak from the heart about what really matters to each.

We are all responsible for how we express ourselves, no matter how others treat us.

Communication is the number one problem that brings people to couples counseling.

Effective communication means you need to pay attention to:

How you request to have discussion with your partner

Managing unruly emotions, such as anger that is too intense

How you are communicating – complaining, blaming, vague, etc.

What you need from your partner during the discussion

What the problem means to you

The outcome you want from the discussion

Your partner’s major concerns

How you can help your partner become more responsive to you

The beliefs and attitudes you have about the problem.

No wonder good communication is so hard.

Some Final Thoughts.

You can’t create a flourishing relationship by only fixing what you see as wrong now. But it’s a start.

Even with the best intentions all couples must– practice, practice and more practice. Practice the right things and you will get there.

Love is destroyed when self-interest dominates.

The possibility exists that we choose partners we need but don’t necessarily want.

It is possible that opposites attract.

To get to the bottom of a problem often means you first accept how complex it is.

Trust is the foundational building block of a flourishing relationship.

Trust is easy to lose and hard to get back.

You create trust by doing what you say you will do.

It’s impossible to be in a highly inter-dependent relationship without ever being judgmental or being judged.

If neither of you ever rocks boat, you will end up with a dull relationship

Knowledge is not power. Only knowledge that is applied is power.

Most of the ineffective things we do in relationships fall into just a few categories:

Blame or attempt to dominate

Disengage/withdraw

Resentful compliance

Whine

Denial or confusion.

These are the normal emotional reactions to feeling a threat or high stress.

Improving your relationship means better management of your reactions.

Everything you do works for some part of you, even if other parts of you don’t like it.

Three motivations will govern any sustained effort you make. You will seek to:

  1. Avoid pain or discomfort
  2. Create more benefits
  3. Be a better person.

It’s also true for your partner.

If you are asking your partner to change something, sometimes it’s a good idea to ask if the change is consistent with how they aspire to be in that situation.

Businesses and marriages fail for the same three reasons. A failure to:

Learn from the past

Adapt to changing conditions

Predict probable future problems and take action.

Effective change requires insight and action. Insight without action is passivity.

Action without insight is impulsive. Insight plus action leads to clarity and power.

If you want to create a win-win solution, you cannot hold a position that has caused your

partner to lose in the past.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

-Brian Herbert

Please review this article from time-to-time as there is a lot of information to take in.

Bullying

Many of us have heard horror stories which have come about because of bullying whether online or in-person by peers. Let’s be honest, kids can be terrible. But what about adults? What is the responsibility of adults, from teachers to parents to coaches and so on? We all play a role in how we manage bullying from talking with our kids at home, to how we carry ourselves around others and specifically, how we treat other people. Adults are the role models for children, we can’t expect them to be respectful and basically not bully if we the adults, the grown-ups don’t show them the responsible ways to act.

Many times, bullying for kids occurs in school, many of these institutions have anti-bullying policies. One of the steps I suggest to parents when they express concerns around bullying is to talk with their child’s school about these policies and to have a copy on-hand.  We often need to remind schools that having a policy is not enough, it must have an action plan. The plan needs to address what bullying is, what are the steps to report bullying, and what happens after the report in terms of handling the incidents. An important step is also educating on impacts of bullying, not just for kids but to the staff working with these kids, because this goes back to a prior point, we are their role models, what we do, so will they.

This needs to lead to the creation of safe environments for all. I know that not all kids are going to be friends, but all kids do not need to bully. There are zero good reasons to bully someone! The ramifications can be tragic. Kids and adults have killed themselves because of being bullied. Attendance is impacted in schools by bullying as well, often due to anxiety experienced at the thought of being in the environment. Kids are smart, they can see where the bullying takes place and where it doesn’t. If you’ve ever had to deal with an anxious child and struggled to get them on the bus or in the car or even off the bus or out of the car at school, you know what I mean. It’s taxing on all involved. We all need to do better and be better.

I encourage families to have meetings within their homes that are welcoming to discuss all topics including bullying. Parents, don’t be afraid to ask questions, contact the school and advocate for your children. We do not have to tolerate such behaviors nor the ignoring of such horrific behaviors. These meetings can be a great way to stay connected as a family and support one another.

In addition to family meetings, be available for your kids, no matter the topic. Our kids need us, sometimes as a sounding board, other times to discuss different topics. My wife and I have made a consistent practice of asking our kids about how their day went, specifically, “What was the best part of your day?” You can do this any way you want but I thought I’d share as an example. The point is to let your kids know your their if they need you and they are not alone.

OCD

Anxiety is something we all deal with to some extent; it cannot be completely avoided. However, if you have OCD, you know struggles on a regular basis are difficult. The compulsion or ritual to avoid a perceived stressor seems to provide relief temporarily. Instead, folks tend to get caught into a cycle of repeated behaviors to manage emotions. I’ve NEVER met anyone that enjoys being in the cycle, but the cycle seems for many to be safer than doing nothing. I’ve met folks that felt the need to wash their hands repeatedly, open and close a door, check that certain appliances have been turned off and or obsessing over certain thoughts. Of course, these can be different for folks, as are behaviors within the ritual or compulsion, for instance some folks say they need to wash their hands twice each time they eat, open a door 3 times and close it before leaving, etc..

The point is not what do you do or not or how many times you do these behaviors. The point is that the identified and used solutions are actually part of the problem that are keeping you stuck in this cycle. The event/s, whatever it is are not the real problem. In our minds they may seem to be the problem, but the behaviors (compulsions or rituals) are the actual problem. The solution needs to be altered.

Treatment is not cookie cutter; it can look different. The need for changing the solution overtime is what across the board is the same for everyone. We need to understand what the interpretation of a situation/experience is in order to work to assist in managing the emotional reaction which together along with the ritual/compulsion is where we fine the negative cycle. Once we understand the way the experience is being understood (interpretation) we then can recognize the emotional reaction whether fear, guilt, anxiety, shame, etc..). Then the ritual/compulsion which is the current solution can be examined and processed in therapy. Again, many different interventions which can be used to overtime to change the current solution.

If you or someone you love is struggling with OCD, therapy can be very helpful at taking back control over your life instead of feeling controlled by situations/experiences. You deserve to enjoy life and not be held captive by it! Feel free to contact me and let’s get to work. (PA residents)

Being a Team Player

As a Marriage and family therapist, I see the need for teamwork all over the place and appreciate the value of working with others. Specifically, I am speaking of family, and this must be broken down to spouses.  If spouses don’t work together, there is likely a disconnect which will then play out within the immediate family, for instance, two parents that are often arguing and not agreeing on how to redirect their kids will likely find a break down when issues arise in the home. Its only common sense that spouses should work together to raise their family. Notice, I did not say they ALWAYS agree on how to raise their children OR for the matter any topic. The reason being and I tell clients this often, a partial compromise can be just as valuable as a total compromise. You may wonder, what could this look like and how might it be achieved? I am happy to explain!

First, healthy communication practices are necessary for two partners to talk respectfully with one another to discuss their thoughts on raising a family. One example being, one partner was raised to go to church every Sunday, while the other was not raised valuing church. The couple would be encouraged to discuss both sides by gaining an understanding of why going to church is important and why not going to church is important for the other partner. Till we participate in deeper conversation to seek the answers we are having a discussion without respecting the other’s viewpoints. Think of it as court, how can a Judge or even a jury find someone innocent or guilty without some evidence? The understanding is the evidence.

Once we begin gaining more understanding, we can then discuss what we are open to and closed off from. The areas of openness can then be used for a partial compromise. In the example above, perhaps spouses agree that they will go to church once every other week and bring the kids along to try out one or more churches to find a level of comfortability. It’s important to know, the process is not about winning or losing! This is where teamwork is found, even though disagreement on a topic, some level of compromise can be found, and healthy communication is the key to getting there. Of course, your area of disagreement may not be around raising kids, you might not have kids, it doesn’t matter the example can still be used the same.

Parenting a Teen

The title alone may have brought on anxiety for you, I know it tends to for me. I have a 13-year-old son that let’s just say some days are good and others, not so good. The annual doctor’s appointment for my teenage son still sticks into my mind as the Pediatrician looked at my wife and I and told us, “Some days will be better than others” as she went on to discuss hormones and other changes that occur naturally. My wife and I glanced at each other, then expressed understanding regarding the changes in mood and body. It’s interesting how you can look at your own flesh and blood, remember how cute they were as younger kids and wonder what happened, ax if as parents we did something wrong to have a shift to someone that at times is a stranger. I don’t want to make it sound as if our eldest son is a nightmare that isn’t the case but sometimes, he is so moody that he is best to stay in his room and handle from a distance for a little bit.

Not long ago, I had a chance to catch-up with one of my friend’s mothers whom I hadn’t spoke with in a while. We discussed having teenagers, she said to me that one of the biggest light bulb moments was when she looked at her sons and they were taller than her. She went on to say that she in these moments realized the need to talk with them as “young adults.” The problem from her perspective and experiences was trying to treat her sons like they were still little kids as this often brought about tension and arguments. However, she found that when treating them as they were versus as a little kid, conversations, disagreements tended to go better. I appreciated this conversation as it was very helpful for me.

One of the balances my wife and I have had to make in terms of parenting three boys, one of whom is a teen, the middle being 12 and the youngest 7 years old, is that of give and take. What I mean is that our eldest son needs to be able to do things that perhaps our youngest could not. We needed to show our eldest son that until he proved unable, to have more responsibility. In our household, this looked like being able to stay home alone for a brief period of time, for instance if he didn’t want to go to church or while we run to the grocery store. It is necessary however, to talk with your kids as we have ours, to NEVER answer the door for a stranger, keep the doors locked and to use the cell phone for emergencies and for when we call to check-in. Also, we talk with our kids about calling 911 for emergencies only! These steps have all been taken in order to prepare and educate our kids on how to handle different situations and remain safe.

Through the ability to do things differently than his younger siblings, our eldest son seems to show appreciation in different ways, your kids maybe different, our son will at times be more willing to do things we ask, practice responsibility in other areas of his life, meaning that if he says he is doing something he will often be doing just that, he as no one it isn’t perfect but it’s getting better. My point to drive home to you is that, change needs to come from us as parents as well as the changes from our young adults. Often times, parents point to the kids as the one’s needing to change but that is a cop-out. If you want to get stuck in a negative pattern of interactions by treating your teen as a little kid and them getting upset then you get upset be my guest, but I can tell you it is worth trying to show them that you see they are growing-up. In some cases, I feel it is fear and loss of our young, cute kids that causes us to try and hold on to the thoughts of how they used to be that brings the tension. We then try and treat them as we did when they were younger which leads to push back. But if we can respect the changes, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them, talk respectfully with these young adults and work through our own emotions, things may just get better and we may feel like we have more control over the situations that arise.

Disclaimer: If your son and or daughter, regardless of age have shown an inability and or unwillingness to be trusted and give more responsibility then as the parent, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them in a responsible and appropriate manner. The example I gave is regarding my son and as noted above, kids are not all the same regardless of age and you probably know your child better. At the very least, allow the post to be food for thought.