Tag: Enforceable Statements

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.

Dear Kerry: “Toddler Full of Pasta”

Dear Kerry: My Toddler Won't Eat Anything But PastaDear Kerry,
My daughter is 2.5 years old and refuses to eat anything but the following: cheese, pasta, cheerios, milk, and bread. I have tried everything – being encouraging, being stern, offering “dessert”, talking, early bedtimes – nothing works! When I put something other than pasta in front of her, she screams “I no like it!!” – what else can I do?

Mom of A Toddler Full of Pasta

Dear Mom of a Toddler Full of Pasta,

You and so many other parents are going nuts with toddlers who want to live on dough and dairy. Think about how many common, well-liked kids’ foods are nothing more than white flour dough and dairy: pizza, grilled cheese, cereal, mac and cheese, noodles and butter, nachos, quesadillas. Getting kids to be adventuresome eaters who love healthy food is learned behavior, made from a lifetime of positive associations with tasting, trying and experimenting. Here are 10 great tips and tricks to help you along the way: Read more

No More Hassles Over Picking Up Dirty Socks

No-More-Hassles-Over-Picking-Up-Dirty-Socks

Dirty Sock Dilemma

After a long and tedious day I finally started to wind down, hours after I had hoped to.  I started to head to bed only to find a heaping pile of filthy clothes, shoes and socks, right in the middle of the family room. I wanted to scream. I wanted to pull my sleeping barbarians from their beds and give them the scolding of a lifetime. I wanted to know why my children hadn’t cleaned up after themselves…they weren’t being raised by wolves. They are very capable of cleaning up after themselves, they just choose not to.

Instead of nose-diving into complete frustration, I decided to try a little trick I learned in a recent Love & Logic® class I attended. I picked up all of the shoes, socks and dirty clothes, hid them in my closet and went straight to bed.  There was no need to get mad or create drama at the end of my long, tiring day. Tomorrow would be a new day and I was ready to try out this technique on my children. They had no clue they were about to be my personal guinea pigs and I was hopeful the experiment would work.

A Penny for Your Socks

As morning broke, the house was full of its customary commotion and, as the kids were almost ready to leave for school, I mentioned that I had picked up their dirty clothes and shoes the night before. Normally they wouldn’t care that I had cleaned up after them, however; when I mentioned I would be willing to sell their items for $.50 each, a look of curious disbelief came over their faces. After all, they needed their shoes for school which put me in complete control. With a wonderful sense of calm and a renewed appreciation for my general awesomeness, I calmly traded shoes, socks and jackets for money. They protested slightly before relenting and pulling out the money I was owed. With little to no fighting or arguing, I was able to teach them a lesson they won’t soon forget and save my sanity in the process.

Underpaid and Overworked: Welcome to Parenthood

Let’s face it, parenting is a thankless job. You’re constantly pulled in multiple directions and expected to take care of everyone else’s needs without considering your own. You cook, clean, bathe, clean, shuttle, console, clean, did I say clean? It’s a never-ending battle of maneuvering the same mess from one location to another. It’s the constant struggle of picking up the same toy 37 times a day, only to step on it 5 minutes later. When you consider all the annoyances of daily life as a parent, it’s no wonder we lose our cool from time to time.

With a little practice, though, it’s possible to stay cool and teach our kids a lesson at the same time.
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.

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.

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.

What To Do If Your Teen is Taking 45 Minute Showers

45MinuteTeenShowerMy teenage daughter was taking 45 minute showers.  I’d yell and scream at her that she was wasting water.  I’d lecture that her showers were too long but nothing deterred her.

Finally, I decided to replace action with threats and said “Sweetie, you get 15 minutes to shower and then I’m turning off the hot water.” 

It worked!  She started taking 15 minute showers.  All those months of lectures and warnings and all I needed to do was take action. Amazing!

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 Enforceable Statements Work for Picking Up Toys!

Getting Kids to Pick Up Their ToysI needed my 2.5 yr old daughter to pick up her toys. 

She ignored me so I said “I only read stories to girls who pick up their toys.”

She still didn’t do it and got distracted putting on dress up gloves.

I thought I’d give her another opportunity and said “I have pumpkin bread for kids who pick up their toys,” and she still didn’t pick up toys. 

So I was really really sad for her when the rest of the family sat down for our pumpkin bread without her.   She was crying and I held her empathetically.  When it came time to get her ready for bed, we kept our regular routine, I gave her a back rub and cuddled, but no stories. 

The next morning she woke up and said “I’ll pick up my toys, mommy.”

Following through with a consequence and letting our beloved children be uncomfortable is painful for us parents, but it is worth it in the long run as we raise kids who are responsible.



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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Connor Forgets His Snack

We had been struggling to keep second grade Connor focused on his “morning school routine” list as he is a major dawdler, as most are. So one morning I realized both my husband and I were reminding him of checking his list, “Do you have your snack? Have you made your lunch?  Where’s your water bottle, etc”. Annoying for us and him I’m sure. I told my husband that we needed to let him fail and so we decided to stop reminding and let him focus on his tasks.

Last week was a perfect Love and Logic teaching moment. We had the “set him up for success” conversation the day before, discussing what tasks needed to be done in the morning and then put our plan into action.

The next morning I modeled out loud,  “Ok, what do I need to do this morning?” Connor was wandering around. I made breakfast, we ate. I said “I’m done, so I put my dishes in the dishwasher. Now I am going to brush my teeth.”

Connor was still eating. I got ready and sat in the chair where he still was and announced “Bus is leaving it 10 minutes”. He finally got up and went to his room and then went to the bathroom. I announced, “5 minutes”. Then the doorbell rang and it was the two neighbors that we walk to school with. I told them to go ahead without Connor since he was running late.( I am now laughing inside because this is going to go just as planned.)

He came out of the bathroom, wandering around, and said “Who was at the door?” “The neighbor’s,” I said. He said “WHAT! WHERE ARE THEY?” So I calmly told him that since you weren’t ready, they should go on ahead since I didn’t want them to be late for school.  He said “MOM! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”  “Well you weren’t ready, so I’m waiting on you”.

You have never seen a 7 yr old move so fast! As we head out the door he starts to get in the car and I say “We’re walking.” “WHAT, we’re going to be late!” he says. I say “probably so” and calmly start walking up the street. He is now running and wants me to run too but I don’t.

We get to school with five minutes to spare, but here’s the best part. He is unpacking his backpack and realizes he forgot his snack and water bottle.  He says “Mom, we forgot my snack and water bottle!”. His voice tapers off a bit as he says water bottle. And then just looks at me, hangs his head, and knows it was he that forgot it. I said, “Yeah, what a bummer, love you, have a great day” and walked away, smiling. I just wish I had a camera to capture the look on his face.  As I walked out of school I was laughing and patting myself on the back for allowing him the experience of this logical consequence.

Then next morning and since every morning since he is proudly telling me or his dad that he’s got everything ready.

Shelly Moorman
©2009 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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Mom said, “Come and eat lunch or we’ll have to go home.”

One mom was at the park with her 2.5 year-old son named Foster.  He was heading down to the lake to play and Mom said, “Come and eat lunch or we’ll have to go home.”

He ignored Mom and walked towards the water. So Mom said, “So sad, looks like we have to go home now,” and picked him up and carried him home kicking and screaming.  On the way home, Mom started to get frustrated but remembered to go “brain dead” and started empathetically saying, “I know, I know.”

Pretty soon little Foster, still crying, laid his head on Mom’s shoulder.  Mom thought she would try another Love and Logic® one-liner so she started saying “I love you too much to argue.”  After a few more attempts at arguing, Foster quietly said, “Mommy, I love you.  Mommy told Foster not to go to the lake so we’re going home.”    When they got home, Foster was calm and mother and son went on with the rest of their day.

That day’s walk in the park may have been cut short, but chances are really good that the next 50 times that mom says, “Come and eat lunch or we’ll have to go home,” Foster will listen and they will have a great day.

Shelly Moorman
©2009 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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