Tag: arguing

Dear Kerry: “My 13-year old Can’t Stand Me”

Dear Kerry,

I am in a really hard corner of parenting – my 13 year old daughter, who I have loved and adored since the day she was born – cannot stand me. Everything I say is met with eye rolls, every request I make is countered with a snarky “Why don’t you do it?” All she seems to care about is her phone/iPad and her friends. How can I get her to connect with me – we used to have such a great time together!

Mom of a 13-Year Old Who Can’t Stand Her

Dealing with a TeenDear Mom Whose 13-Year Old Can’t Stand Her,

You are in great company with a lot of other good, loving parents whose young teens can’t stand them. It is a young teen’s developmental task to start the process of becoming independent.  Think of them like little birds: if the little bird doesn’t decide that the nest is intolerably crowded and scratchy and smelly, it would never be able to leave the safety and comfort of its family and take that leap. And we ARE raising them to eventually be independent and go out on their own, right?  Right.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not terribly painful for us as parents.

Limits need to be put on nasty behavior.

If you focus on the disrespect and give it a lot of attention while you try to stamp it out, then you are just putting emotion and intensity exactly where you DON’T want it, which is on her misbehavior. One big risk of this is getting pulled into your teenage self where the two of you might end up sounding like two teenagers bickering with each other. Something to try instead is to focus on what you DO want.  If your daughter makes a reasonable request in a polite way,  answer “yes” when possible.  If she is snarky or demanding, the best thing to do is be unavailable to provide services until you are treated with respect.

Staying calm is essential.

It might sound like this: “Sorry, sweetie but I don’t think it sounds like fun to take you to the mall when you are treating me this way. Maybe another day when I like how you’re speaking to me.”  And now here is the tricky part…. stick with it!  Think of yourself as simply hanging up a “closed” sign on a shop door. No drama; just hang up the sign.

This is when you get to teach her three important things:

  1. When she’s nasty to people, life is not sweet.
  2. You respect yourself enough to set limits when she doesn’t treat you well.
  3. You are modeling for her to do the same with people who are disrespectful of her.

The cool part about this strategy is that you are actually setting tough limits on her nasty behavior even though it doesn’t sound like you’re punishing her.  Basically, she was snotty to you and because of it, you are delivering a tough consequence of not taking her somewhere.  This is parenting in a way that is simultaneously strong and kind.

A couple more examples of being “unavailable to provide services when she is disrespectful”:

  • “I love you too much to buy you that skirt until you’ve made amends for how you just spoke to me.”
  • “I’ll be happy to return your phone to you after you’ve been polite and pleasant to everyone in the family for an entire meal.”
  • “I make school lunches for girls who show appreciation.”

How to get her to connect with you.

First, you are entering into a chapter of parenthood where sometimes our job as parents is to learn to tolerate a little more space and independence from our beloved, aggravating, precious children into whom we have poured so much of ourselves.  It doesn’t feel natural and it’s not easy… but that might be what she needs for now.  Focus on having a 10:1 ratio in your communications with her: a minimum of 10 positive comments for every 1 negative comment or nag, reminder or command.  Watch for those moments when she wanders in and starts chatting with you.  Drop what you are doing and be present for those sweet moments that come on her terms, when she is open and willing to connect. 

Just listen.  Be curious.

Learn about how she makes sense of things. Silently repeat these three words during those times: LISTEN, LEARN, CURIOUS.  Don’t teach unless she’s asking for your opinion.  Look at her.  Smile at her. When she is done talking, let her be done. You are teaching her that you are OK to come to you in times of need, no matter what she tells you.  This is crucial for keeping the door open as she gets older and even more independent.

Lastly, invite her to spend one-on-one time together doing things you both enjoy. Put thought and effort into offering fun times together. If she opts out, let her… but make sure she knows that you are available for her. If she opts in, remember the 10:1 rule.

I’m heading into the adolescence of #5 out of 6 of my kids and stepkids and I wish this chapter was easier.  It’s just not. But if you practice the 10:1 ratio and don’t take her behavior personally, this too should pass.  Having a parent coach and good therapist has been a sanity-saver for me as I’ve navigated the teenage years with a herd of boys.  Remember that the best thing you can do as a mom is to keep yourself in balance.  Putting in the time and effort to be in a good state of mind so that you can be warm and open, able to laugh, able to cry, able to set healthy limits and be at peace is a worthy investment.  Whatever your state of mind is around your family … it’s contagious.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2015 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Standing Up to Teen Defiance

How to deal with teen defiance, love and logic, parenting classes, denver, co

Big Problems with Teen Defiance

Siblings and rivalry go hand-in-hand so it’s no surprise that 14 year-old Preston taunts and pesters his younger brother, Kyle. Recently, Preston refused to stop pestering his brother and was provoking him by throwing things, hassling him and doing anything he could to elicit a response from his brother just for entertainment. This was much more interesting to him than sitting down and doing homework.  As mom listened to the bickering, name-calling and yelling, she wondered how she would diffuse the situation without aggravating her defiant, strong-willed adolescent even further.

Parenting was so much simpler when the boys were little but now as a single mother of 3 boys, parenting was often aggravating and left mom wondering what to do. After all, two of her three sons were teenagers and had outgrown the parenting strategies that had worked long ago. She wondered how it was possible to reprimand her sons when they became defiant without putting herself in harm’s way.

Taking a Stand Against a Big Kid

When Preston refused to leave the room even when mom demanded it, it was apparent that he had his own agenda. Finally, he left the room but only to return minutes later exhibiting the same behavior that got him in trouble the first time. At that point Preston was worked up and mom was frustrated at her son’s unwillingness to cooperate. Nothing was resolved and mom felt miserable with the state of her family, but it was time for bed. There was no way that this mom was going to try and reprimand her strong-willed teen when he was clearly fired up. She knew better.

Get Out of the Red Zone

Stepping away and allowing her son a chance to cool down elicited a much different response the next morning. After a good night’s sleep, mom decided to tackle her son’s growing defiance when the situation was no longer in the red zone. That morning, she took her son’s phone away for the defiance he had exhibited the night before. Although he was unhappy with his mom’s decision, he was no longer fired up and he begrudgingly handed over his phone.

Be Persistent

After surviving a day without his cell phone and then getting it back, Preston was back to his old tricks. He was taunting his little brother and pestering him for no reason.  This time, however, mom set boundaries immediately for his unwanted behavior and stuck to them. A quick glance from mom along with a calmly executed, “This looks like defiance” was all it took for him to stop. Preston had figured out that his mom was not willing to let his poor behavior be left unchecked..

This was a big wake-up call for her son and a feeling of accomplishment for mom.

She had busted through the fear of angering her teen and was able to take control of the situation with minimal struggle.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

Ask Your Misbehaving Son: “What Kind of Man Do You Want to Grow Up to Be?”

Raising Boys, Raising a Teenage Boy, How to deal with a misbehaving teen

While on vacation recently at the beach, a family of five found themselves having a less than ideal time together.

Lying on the beach and doing absolutely NOTHING sounded perfect for the over-worked parents, but the two older boys, James and Liam, wanted ACTION and their little sister Mattie wanted to join in the fun.

The water-fight that started out as fun quickly turned into James and Liam ganging up against Mattie – taunting, teasing, and leaving her feeling hurt and unwanted. She just wanted to play with her brothers! Her protests were met with a “You can’t play with us!” blasted at her by James. Mattie burst into tears.  This got mom’s attention.

The family vacation that was supposed to be fun and relaxing had somehow devolved into an exhibition on the beach of wet, upset kids that really wanted to have fun but couldn’t quite figure out how to make that happen. Mom thought fast.

“James, what kind of guy do you want to grow up to be?”

James: “A nice guy!”
Mom: “That’s wonderful to hear. Now, what do you think a nice guy would do right now?”

James’ face fell. He knew the answer.

Fascinated, Mom watched him go through the mental gymnastics:

“I don’t want to let Mattie play and I don’t feel like it and I’m not going to. So there! But I want to grow up to be a nice guy and a nice guy would let her play. So I guess I have to shift out of my “mean-boy” mode and into my “nice-guy mode…”

Sometimes kids feel ornery or stubborn or righteous and it is our job to ask questions to help them shift into a more civilized state of mind.

One of my favorite series of questions which help accomplish this are:

  • 1. “Who do you respect and admire?”
  • 2. “Would you act this way if he was watching you?”
  • 3. “Would he treat others this way?”
  • Besides stopping kids in their tracks to think about their behavior, these questions open the door for a conversation about integrity which calls for them to treat people well, whether or not anyone else knows about it.

    Siblings provide countless opportunities for teaching children how to treat all of the people around them. The next time your children are bickering/ fighting/ becoming increasingly aggressive towards each other – thank the universe for giving you such a great real-time, perfectly chaotic moment on which to build important life lessons!



    Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
    ©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

    My 1.5 Year Old Hates the Car Seat

    assorted sweets in a square box
    My 1.5 year old son didn’t want to get in his car seat.  He wasn’t responding to the choices I was giving him and instead was fighting me.  I finally got him buckled in and wondered what  Love and Logic skills I could use for a consequence for his sad decision. 

    He is too young for a delayed consequence, so I used an enforceable statement.

    I had a bag of M&M’s that I opened up and shared with his 3 year old brother saying  “ I only give treats to boys who get in their carseats for their Mommy.”   Yes, of course he started crying and screaming.  But I know that it worked because later that day when I needed him to get in the car seat, he jumped right in!    It felt good to have some skills to use.

    –Margaret

    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    And Then My Daughter Said.. “You’re Not a Rock Star!”

    I started using my new Love and Logic® skills of empathy and going brain dead.  My 4 year old daughter wasn’t too happy when I set a limit about eating snacks before dinner.  She started arguing back and I calmly said “I know.” 

    I could tell she was trying to figure out a way to get me to engage with her.

    You had told me in class that kids would escalate their comebacks to new levels, but when she said “You’re not a rock star!” I burst out laughing as I agreed with her saying,  “I know.”  

    It was great, it broke the tension and she laughed too.  The argument was over and we hugged and went on with our day.

    In addition, I now know that when she tells me “I’m not a rock star” after a couple of “I knows” that she will soon give up and we will move on to other things.

    –Katie K

    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    I’m Running Away!

    IWasGoingtoRunAwayThe other night my 7 year old son kept trying to argue about something.  I used my new Love and Logic skill of not engaging and calmly replied “I know.”

    He ended with “What is wrong with you!!”

    I replied again, “I know.”

    He yelled “Ugh!” and ran off.

    The next morning he comes down to breakfast with a fully loaded backpack, suitcase, and pillow in hand.

    “Mom, last night I was going to run away.”

    “Oh, I replied, “Thanks for telling me.  Let’s talk about it.”

    I realized that this was the time to discuss what was bothering him since she was calm and I was calm.  We had a great talk and he felt understood, loved and secure and I felt peaceful and logical. It was clear that talking it out in the heat of the argument wasn’t as effective as waiting.

    — Stephanie
    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Three Different Parenting Styles

    Drill Sergeant | Helicopter | Consultant

    Different Parenting StylesWere you raised by a “Drill Sergeant” always telling you to “Jump,” and you asking, “How high?” or were you raised by a “Helicopter” always hovering, ready to swoop in and rescue?  Did you ever think about what kind of a message these parenting styles send to your kids? Drill sergeants are communicating these messages:  “You can’t think for yourself.  You can’t make it without me.”  Helicopters send these messages: “You are fragile. You need me to protect you.”

    Are these the kinds of messages you want to send to your precious children?  If not, what can you do instead?

    Consider adopting the “Consultant” approach to parenting.  Consultants send this message to their kids:  “You do your own best thinking.”  How do consultant parents do this?  One way is to offer choices and alternatives instead of giving orders or commands.  Commands give something for the kids to fight against.  Choices keep kids in thinking mode.  Here are some guidelines for giving choices effectively:

    Give only 2 choices, either of which you are happy with.

    “Do you want to do your homework before or after your snack?”
    “Do you want me to change your diaper over here or over there?”

    If the child doesn’t decide in 10 seconds, you decide for them.

    Only give choices when things are going well and before any resistance.

    Build up your choice savings account so you can make a withdrawal.

    “Sweetie, don’t I usually give you choices?  It’s my turn now. Thanks for understanding.”

    Kids Cooperate Better When They Have Choices

    Many of the parents in my classes have been happy when they report how they’ve gained their child’s cooperation by giving choices.  Parents report their toddlers successfully choose which bib to wear or which shoe to put on first or what song to sing when getting into the car seat.  Parents share that their school age kids choose between washing the plates or the glasses first, going to bed now or in 10 minutes, or brushing their teeth before or after putting on their pajamas.   Adding the tool of choices to your parenting toolbox can be just what you’re looking for to adjust your parenting style to the more consultative approach.

    Shelly Moorman
    ©2010 Shelly Moorman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Does That Mean “NO”?

    DoesThatMeanNO
    Here is a story of a mom in my class who learned a new skill to not engage in a battle with kids when they’re protesting a limit.

    That skill is called going “brain dead.”

    This works with kids of all ages. See what happens when she uses it to neutralize the “buy it for me” battle.

    My 9 year old daughter and I were at Walmart In the middle of the afternoon rush when she asked for a bouncy ball (regression anyone?) I said “no.” She protested, fussed and whined. I got to whip out my “brain dead” phrase for the first time, “Love you too much to argue.”

    She looked at me with an expression of shock and confusion. He then asked me incredulously, “Does that mean no?”

    The element of surprise using a new phrase was great! She accepted the “No” without further protest and we moved on. I had to laugh to myself when in the car driving home she said, “Mom, don’t say that again.







    Shelly Moorman
    ©2013 Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    How Many Ways I Can Be Naughty at Bedtime?

    Putting Toddler to Bed

    Three year old Wes used to play his favorite game at bedtime. It was called, “See how many ways I can be naughty.”

    He was the only one enjoying the game. His single, working dad certainly did not. Wes was very creative in how he played the game: he ran away when it was time to put on his pj’s. He clenched his jaw when it was time to brush his teeth. He screamed and threatened to wake up his baby brother. He jumped on the bed when it was time for tuck in. Sound familiar? It’s a very popular game amongst the little people. It’s a game though, that doesn’t usually end well for either the child or the parent.

    Wes’s game ruled until Daddy came up with a better game called “Earn a Minute.” This game starts at the beginning of bedtime when Daddy whispers to Wes, “For every step of bedtime that you do cooperatively, you earn a minute of You-n-Me time. If you get enough, we might be able to read a whole extra book!” “Game on” for little Wes. He might as well wear a sign that says, “Will Cooperate For You-N-Me Time.”

    Here’s how the scoring works
    Brush teeth: earn a minute.
    Go potty: earn a minute.
    Wash hands: earn a minute.
    Get undressed: earn a minute.
    Get in the bath: earn a minute.
    Cooperate with being washed: earn a minute.
    Get out of the bath first time you’re told: earn a minute.
    Hold still while being dried: earn a minute.
    Put on PJs: earn a minute.
    Climb into bed: earn a minute.

    Wes has mastered this “game” and he savors his ten minutes of special Daddy-time before going to sleep. Dad is happy because the extra story time takes less time than all the hassling did, and father and son both get happy snuggle time instead of exasperation and negative attention.

    Every now and then, Daddy mixes things up and says, “We’re not playing tonight, so you might as well be a rascal.” Well now, when Daddy invites Wes to misbehave, it’s not as much fun for Wes and the power struggle is over.


    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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    Didn’t I Tell You What I Don’t Want?


    Imagine this: you’re sitting in a restaurant and when the waitress asks for your friend’s order, your friend goes through the whole menu of what she DOESN’T want…

    “I don’t want the burrito and I don’t want the tacos and I don’t want the chimichanga.” How likely is she to end up getting what she was hoping to have for dinner? Not very.

    But don’t we do that to our kids on a regular basis when they are squabbling?

    Do you ever get frustrated, dare I say, even yell at your kids, over sibling bickering? It’s no fun to admit, but many of us get annoyed at their bickering and say (or yell), “Stop arguing!” Or, “Don’t do that to your brother!” I wish it was effective parenting, because it sure does flow out of my mouth easily and frequently.

    Perhaps…. instead of telling our kids what we DON’T want, maybe we can be more effective by telling them what we DO want…

    with something more along the lines of, “I’d like you to keep your hands to yourself and use kind words.” It’s like saying to the waitress, “I’d like the enchiladas, please.”

    On long summer days with all the kids around more than usual, some parents have found it helpful to be proactive instead of reactive with sibling bickering. They set a timer and tell the kids that if they can play together nicely until the timer rings, they get a _______ (fill in the blank here…. a check mark on a chart, a star, a quarter in the jar). After several rounds of success, the parents will then offer a fun activity as a treat for playing well together …. a trip for ice cream, game night, a special treat.

    What’s cool about this strategy is that parents are creating more of what they do want (kids getting along with each other) instead of punishing kids for doing what the parents don’t want (fighting).

    Kerry Stutzman, MSW
    ©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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    Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

    As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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