Tag: power struggles

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.

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.

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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Success Story! Love and Logic® Works with 3 Year Olds

This mom shares her success story using the  brain dead statement “I know” over and over again…..

My 3 year old didn’t want any of the two choices I gave him for breakfast, so I picked one for him.  He was not happy and kept throwing a fit.   I empathetically used “I know” about six or seven times before he finally took a deep breath, slumped his shoulders, and started eating quietly.

Going “brain dead” began to work faster and faster the rest of the week.  It only took saying it 2 or 3 time for him to chill out and do what I said!

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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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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Don’t You Know You’re Supposed to Behave Today?

For many years now, my children have unwittingly been actors in a drama… the play could be titled “Kerry’s Fantasies.”

These fantasies consist of dreams and stories created by a much younger me in which my children are happy and well adjusted, squeaky clean and smiling.

In this dream, there is an act by the name of “Easter morning” in which the happy children wake up excitedly on Easter morning and search for colored eggs and candy, delighting appreciatively in each find.

Some years, my children have cooperated quite nicely with my little storyline. One year, however, my older two boys were cantankerous and fought over who found which egg first, whose basket was better, who had more. They squabbled and argued. I found myself very irritated with these ungrateful little children who were not acting according to my script for them. If they hadn’t been so obnoxious, it might have been funny.

I took a photo of this unpleasant scene: Palmer pulling Keaton’s shirt, Keaton grimacing and hollering. I thought I’d use it when they were older to show them how ornery they used to be. Instead, that picture has served to teach ME a lesson.

What that morning and my aggravation taught me is that kids will be kids, regardless of the sacredness of a day or holiday. Some days will be fun and full of smiles. Others will involve hassles and irritation. I learned that it is better for my sanity if I just show up in the moment, ready to accept the day as it is. No more scripts that the kids know nothing about. No more trying to get them to behave a certain way because it is a certain day.It is better to just show up and accept my three sons in whatever form they appear on any given day.


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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Disarming Defiance

For parents who deal with children being obstinate, defiant and challenging, here are a few thoughts on power struggles:

If we deal with resistance by struggling back, not only will we damage our relationship with our kids and set them up to be rebellious, but we will be very frustrated.  It is a child’s JOB to eventually claim control over his life and become independent.  “A child who feels he has no control over his life will spend much of his energy trying to manipulate the system and adults around him. A child who feels she has some control over her life will spend little time and energy trying to manipulate and control the parent” (written by Jim Fay).  We can create win-win situations and avoid power struggles by giving children choices.

Choices can make all the difference in the world.  Giving your child lots of choices gives him lots of opportunities to be in control.  “Would you like the red cup or the blue cup?”  “Would you like to hold hands in the parking lot or be carried?”  “Would you like to leave the park now or in five minutes?” (Ask five minutes before you really want to leave.)

The key to using choices is to offer two options, either of which will make you happy.  Always pick two choices you can live with.  “Do you want to wear your coat or carry it?”  Either way, I know my child has a coat if he needs it.  “Would you rather clean up your toys or have me do it?”  If I do it, the toys go to toy jail. (See short video about implementing Toy Jail below!)

If the child doesn’t choose, be prepared to choose yourself.  Also, never give a choice unless you’re willing to allow the child to live with the consequences of his/her bad choice.  Remember:  “I can live with either choice.”  If they protest the choice that gets made for them, apply loads of empathy and do not engage in arguing or explaining. Allowing our children to make choices and live with the results gives them valuable real-world experience in making decisions and learning about the consequences of their actions.




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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What If You Have A Strong-Willed Child?

One couple had a hard time with their 3-year old daughter in the beginning of the 5-week class.  It seemed that nothing worked with their strong-willed little girl.  Read below to see how things worked out…..

Hi Kerry,

Thank you again for all your help and advice about parenting. Below is a testimonial from our parenting experience.

After attending 2 classes of Love & Logic we had enough information to be dangerous. We had been practicing some of the principles for a while on our 3 year old, but now we had a better understanding of what we should be doing. Our next week was HELL!! Looking back, our daughter was testing us, pushing us to follow through with consequences, and was surprised when we did. The big plus for us, was since we were using Love&Logic we didn’t get upset or drawn into battles, we just sang the little songs or went ‘brain dead’ as we carried her to yet another time out.

A week later it was heaven, now she understands the consequences are coming and is actually starting to respond the first time. With so many choices she seems to feel like she has some control over events and doesn’t mind conceding things that a while ago would have been a huge battle. ‘Toy jail’ is finally hitting home, and we now have a 3 year old who, with a little supervision, cleans up after herself before bedtime.

Thanks,

Dave and Heather
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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Avoid “If-Thens” With Strong-Willed Kids

It seems that just about every family has at least one child who spends most of his time trying to figure out what others want.. so that he can do exactly the opposite.

Frustrated by their testy behavior, it’s pretty darn easy to fall into less than effective parenting practices. I hear some of these at the grocery store:
“If you’re really good, then I’ll buy you a candy bar.”
“If you don’t stop that, then you’re going right to your room when we get home!”

When parents are unsuccessful with strong-willed kids it’s frequently because they’ve issued an “if-then.” When their spirited kids hear this, they think, “Now the fight’s on! I’ll show them!”

Ironically, stubborn kids are willing to receive consequences.. and miss out on rewards.. if it means winning a control battle.

When rewards come as a surprise to kids, they have no opportunity to sabotage themselves before they receive them. When we avoid warning them of specific consequences in advance, they spend less time fighting us and trying to figure out how to find the “loop holes” in our plans.

Dr. Charles Fay
©2010 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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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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