Tag: defiance

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.

What to Do if Your Kid Leaves Dirty Dishes Laying Around

Teen girl washing dishes at kitchen sinkThere are times when a parent has no clue what to do. This especially happens when our innocent babies and precious toddlers become willful and defiant ‘tweens and teens. Kids capable of making choices out of laziness and disregard for their parents.
Poised, charming 23-year old Annie sat on the couch in my counseling office today and told me a brilliant parenting strategy that her dad pulled on her when she was a young teen.

As a middle-schooler, Annie used to leave her dirty dishes setting out on the kitchen counter.  A very typical problem with kids – but an issue that many parents find hard to put an end to. Her single dad got on her case.  He told her not to leave her dirty dishes sitting out in the kitchen.

Well, she thought she would test the limits and show him he couldn’t boss her around!  She stopped leaving her dirty dishes in the kitchen.  Instead, she started leaving them in her bedroom!  Once he discovered her pile of dirty dishes with crusted-on food, he came up with a plan to deal with his defiant daughter. He went out and purchased the largest package of cheap paper plates that he could find.

The Effective “Opportunity to Learn”

Annie wasn’t allowed to use real plates again until she went through the entire stack of paper plates.  For months, every meal she ate at home, she ate on a flimsy paper plate.  Just think of your experience with cheap paper plates: the sauce soaks through, a knife cuts through the bottom, leaving little bits of paper in your food, and you surely can’t carry the thing around the house for fear it will collapse in half.

Annie hated this consequence.

By the end of the 3 months it took to use all of the paper, she was willing to (begrudgingly) scrape her plate and place it into the dishwasher.

The best thing about her dad’s delivery of this “opportunity to learn?”  He never said a single word about it.  Not one.

Ten years later, Annie admitted that it’s still an effort to rinse her plates and put them in the dishwasher in her little apartment, but she does it.  With the consequence gift she got from her loving, patient, creative dad, she learned a lesson to last a lifetime.
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.

A Teenage Storm Today Makes Way for a Sunny Tomorrow

A Teenage Storm Today Makes Way for a Sunny Tomorrow There are many versions of a “Teenage Storm” – surly, annoyed, resentful, hurtful – perhaps it includes silence or is filled with an angry outburst claiming that you don’t understand. It could be your teen manipulating your emotions in the storm – looking for an opportunity to take advantage of your weakness. Whatever your particular teen brings to the table, I hope you let this parenting story help you remember to consistently stand your ground.

Just two days ago, 15-year old Parker was in a hurry to get out the door and head to school. When I took an extra minute to grab my coffee, he snapped at me in such a loud, angry voice that was so rude and harsh that it startled me. I kept my composure on the way to school. I needed to think about how I wanted to handle but I knew that we were both too heated to discuss it well in that moment. He got out of the car and slammed the door with a sarcastic remark of, “Good job mom, you finally made it.” Bear in mind that this kid could be riding the bus to school, but it’s a long walk and early morning and I generally like the chance to be with him, so I drive him to school.

After school, I calmly told him that the way he had treated me felt bad. He got fired up again and accused me of “going psycho over every little thing.” Of course, this hurt my feelings also. I mean, I am a reformed yeller and rarely raise my voice in anger!

In typical teenage fashion, that same afternoon, Parker wanted me to drive him to get a haircut and to a friend’s house. After putting on some mental armor and reinforcements to endure his inevitable protest, I calmly said to my son, “The way you treated me today doesn’t leave me feeling willing to do you any favors or drive you around.” Then I added a common phrase of mine, “I love you too much to let you learn it’s ok to treat me poorly.”

He was furious. And really disappointed about having to stay home while his friends got together. Fortunately, he kept it to himself. Still, I felt gross, he was grumpy and let’s just say it didn’t feel like the Cleaver household that evening.

The next day, everything changed. During breakfast, Parker was kind and helpful. He seemed calm and collected – the night of ruminating on his choices seemed to have had a positive effect. When he again asked me about taking him for a haircut, I had no problem rewarding his request and we had a nice evening.

Following through with consequences and limits with a strong-willed teen can be daunting. Teens never thank their parents for being firm (can you believe??) and we often feel like we have to run for cover when those particularly surly teens protest our attempts at discipline. But I swear, every time I set a limit and have the nerve to follow through, every time I’m strict with my strong-willed teen, I have to endure the storm, but once it is over, my teen is sweeter and nicer than he was before.



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.

Empty Threats Make Weak Parents

A father had no less than a gaggle of children in the grocery store…

little girl in supermarketGranted it was a Saturday, granted they were in the toy isle, and granted he was alone. I watched him try to corral all of his kids for about five solid minutes – he would get two listening and then another one was waving a small plastic sword around as if she was fighting some sort of eight-armed dragon. It was funny – but also a bit sad. He was struggling.

He kept saying things like “get over here,” “stop that,” and “c’mon” – pretty typical things for someone trying to gain control of a situation teetering on uncontrollable. And then we heard a large fart noise. It was super loud and all the kids fell into peals of laughter. The middle boy had stomped his foot on a whoppie cushion, which was now lying deflated on the floor.

This sent dad over the edge.

“You know what, now you are going to pay for that! Where is your money?? Get it out RIGHT NOW.”

Now, we all knew he wasn’t going to make the kid pay for it. I knew it, the store clerk knew it, and the kids especially knew it. The kids ignored the dad and all ran down the isle and around the corner – probably to find someone whom they respected.

So, what really happened here?
The kids knew they were pushing dad to the brink.
They knew no matter what they did, he didn’t have any follow through.
They kept testing – and finally found his trigger.
They laughed at his angry outburst and empty threat.
Dad was left feeling ineffective and outnumbered.

When you’re in this situation, take a few moments to form your plan of attack. What reasonable consequence might you propose right now, in this situation, that you will actually follow through with?  THEN DO JUST THAT.

No compromising. No empty threats.

Your kids will be mad. They will backtalk or cry or they might even throw a fit. But in the end, they will know you are a person of your word. That what you say is truth.

And that is something they will respect.

One final note: next time, plan ahead.  Have a game plan in mind since history tells you that the kids are likely to be unruly. Set up an incentive for good behavior. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is definitely true when it comes to parenting.
Roxann Blue
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Roxann is a new mom, graphic designer, and contributing author for Head & Heart Parents. In her spare time she likes to sleep. You can learn more about her at www.roxannblue.com

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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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This Little Song Stops My Toddler in Her Tracks!

Ice Cream coneDear Kerry,

We used to have 5 tantrums a day with my 2 1/2 year old little girl.  After switching from time-outs to  the Love and Logic’s “Uh Oh Song” we maybe have one a day.

The best part is that now that I can redirect her behavior with just the words “Uh Oh.”  It was really a life saver when we were at a wedding and she was starting to misbehave I just said “Uh Oh,” and she stopped and said “I promise, I promise, I will listen.”  

My husband is wanting to learn more Love and Logic skills because he sees that this is working so well.   I now feel like we can have more joyful days again!!

Thank you for all the amazing parenting tips! We hit a really rough patch for a while and I feel like we finally have the tools to take on the issues when they come up!

 —Jodie

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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Getting Kids to Pick Up – With No Nagging!

A dad I work with just announced to his 3 little boys that he has a new plan for a “Sunday Shelf.”

Getting Kids to Pick Up Their ToysHere’s how it works:

• When the kids don’t pick up their stuff as asked, dad picks up for them and puts everything on the “Sunday Shelf.”
• On Sunday, he pulls it all out and charges them x cents for each thing he picked up.
• If the kids protest, he says with empathy, “This is how it is in the real world… you can either pick up after yourself or hire someone to do it.  Looks like you chose to hire someone.  There’s always next week and you can do it differently if you’d like.”

After Dad explained the new deal, 7 year old Ethan complained, “That doesn’t sound like such a good deal for us, Dad.”

Words like that are a great indicator that you are giving your kids opportunities to be responsible and well-prepared for the real world as an adult.

And one more thing….

Dad does the “Sunday Shelf” fee collection just moments after giving them their weekly allowance to make sure they are able to pay their fines.



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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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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Little Kids Want to Be Big Kids

Little Kids Always Want to Be Big KidsLittle kids want to be big kids, and parents can leverage that desire to get cooperation when behavior problems arise.

In one example, 4-year-old Emma’s mom asked her to blow her nose. “No!” Emma shouted. Remembering how important it was for Emma to feel like a big kid, Mom said, “Oh, that’s right, I know that only big kids can blow their noses by themselves.”

Emma grabbed the Kleenex from her mom and said, “I can too blow my nose! I’m a big kid,” and proceeded around the room showing everyone in her family how she was a “big kid” and could blow her nose.

6-year-old Jack’s mom told him it was time to take a shower. He yelled, “I’m not doing it!” and ran out of the room. Mom’s Love and Logic parenting skills sprang into her mind as she called out, “That’s okay, I’ll run a bath for you because I know that only big kids shower.” She laughed when she told me this, “I hadn’t even finished my sentence and he was in the shower. He was showing me he was ‘big’.”

This parenting strategy also works when you’re dealing with a toddler who is a picky eater. Make a big production out of how you and your spouse are eating “adult food” and how your child is eating “boring little kid food.” As you eat, talk to each other about how tasty your food is. Really “Ooooh,” and “Awe,” over it. Ask for seconds.

If your picky eater’s curiosity gets peaked and he asks, “What’s that you’re eating?” respond, “Oh, this is big people food, you won’t like it. You only like kid food.” If he asks again, one of you say, “What do you think, should we let him taste it?” and have the other answer, “Nooooo, he’s too little, he won’t like it.”  Keep this up and pretty soon he’ll be begging for a taste.

This parenting strategy might not work with every kid, but it’s sure fun to experiment with it. And isn’t it better than the lectures, threats and bribes that you’ve tried before?


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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