Tag: ‘tweens

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.

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.

    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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    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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    How Do I Get My Kid To Do The Dishes?

    Getting Kids to Help With ChoresFirst, it is important that children contribute to the household. Not only does it send an important message to our children –

    “You are a valuable member of this family and we count on you to make our family function”

    – but it gives them a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.  Studies also show that kids who contribute at home do better at school and are more responsible with their homework.

    How do you get started?

    Call a family meeting. Announce that you are going to talk about each family member’s contributions.  Start with Mom and Dad’s roles.  Ask, “Who is going to pay the mortgage?”  Write it down in Mom & Dad’s column.  Then move on to who will pay the electric, gas, phone, cell phone, internet, and food bills. Continue by asking who will shop for food, prepare food, etc.  Then, when the parents’ list is nice and long, ask, “Who could set the table?”  “Who will clear the table?” “Unload the dishwasher?” “Vacuum?” “Dust?” You will be surprised with how willing the kids are to discuss what “contributions” they will volunteer for and how they decide to split them up among the siblings.

    One dad reported that his 6- & 9-year-old boys argued about who got to take out the trash.  “I should, I’m older.”  “No, I should because you have more chores than I do,” said the younger. Another mom found out that her 7-year-old daughter was upset that mom got a housekeeper because she liked cleaning the bathrooms!

    How do you implement?

    Give kids a deadline.  Ask them to have a chore done by Friday dinner, tonight before bed, or before soccer practice.  Don’t demand.  We adults don’t like it when our bosses treat us like that!  Then, go on with your business.  Don’t harp, don’t remind, don’t nag.  If the contribution is not done, then you say, “This is so sad. I’m going to have to do something about this, but not now.  Try not to worry.”  Then the kids worry while you have time to come up with a plan for a logical consequence. If you want more information on how to come up with good consequences, I teach classes and offer parent coaching on this skill.

    Should you pay them?

    Don’t pay for their contributions.  You want the little voice in their sweet heads to say, “I’m doing this because I’m a valuable member of the family,” not “I’m doing this because I’m getting 5 bucks!”

    Should they get allowance?

    Yes. Just like you give them books to practice reading, give them money to practice spending and saving. Just don’t tie the allowance to their contributions. The general guideline out there is $1 per year of age, so a 10-year-old would get $10 a week. However, you should do what makes sense for you, the child, and the family budget.  Let them spend it and pray they make bad decisions and buy things that break easily.  Better they learn the lesson when the cost is low than in the real world when the cost is expensive.  Some parents like to have the kids set aside a certain percentage of their allowance for savings and a certain percentage to give to charity.

    At what age can you begin?

    You can start as early as 3-4 years old.  That’s the age when you start the association between the job, fun, and you!  Get the little guy to walk with dad as he takes out the trash. He gets a high five and a “good job” from dad.  Now he associates trash with love!  And at age 6-7, you step out of the picture and the child still has the job and the fun!

    Parents who try the family meeting, contributions, deadlines and allowances report amazing stories of participation and cooperation.

    Isn’t it at least worth an experiment to see if these steps will get your kids to do the dishes?


    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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    Be Careful About Taking Away What Your Kids Need the Most

    When we’ve got a seriously underachieving youngster, it’s awfully tempting to resort to taking away all sorts of things in a desperate attempt to motivate them to do their schoolwork.

    Sadly, this often backfires, leading the child to become even more resistant about learning.

    Most of us wouldn’t feel that motivated if our spouse said, “Ok, that’s it! No more golf [or whatever else we might love to do] until I start getting some better reports from your boss!”

    While it’s entirely reasonable to set some limits on TV, video games, and other entertainment activities when kids are doing poorly in school, taking them out of their favorite sport, Boy Scouts, music lessons, etc. is a bad idea. The research is clear:
    Children who are involved in a healthy extracurricular activity are far less likely to get involved in drugs, sex, gangs, and other high-risk activities.

    Kids who are struggling in school need at least one natural high…so that they aren’t so tempted by various artificial ones.


    Dr. Charles Fay
    ©2009 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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    “Loan Me the Money!”

    Kendra and Mom were walking through the mall when Kendra spied the most “spectacular” pair of dark glasses.

    “Oh, Mom, they are perfect. They’re just what I need to complete my collection of eyeware. I’ve got to have them, but I don’t have the money. Will you loan me some? Pleeese! I’ll pay you back.”

    Mom knew that a loan to Kendra was never a loan. In the past, asking for re-payment drew fits and sulking. With this in mind, she knew that he had only three choices:


    •  Loan her the money and fight with her for re–payment.
    •  Give her the money and avoid all the hassle.
    •  Make her sign a promissory note and hope for better results this time.

    But wait! Why are these his only choices? Contrary to what the media and advertising says about having it now and paying later, there is another choice. Kendra might learn more about money management and decision–making if she earns the money and buys later.

    A wise parent will say, “They are beautiful. I can’t wait to see you wearing them. You can come back for them when you have the money.”

    “But, Mom. I don’t know why you’re so uptight about money. It’s no big deal to loan it to me!”

    “You’re right, Kendra. A big deal is learning how to earn and manage your own money.”


    Jim Fay
    ©2009 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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    “Mom, I Lost My Jacket”

    “Mom, I lost my jacket,” my almost 12 year old son told me.

    “What? Grandma just gave that to you last week,” I accusingly replied.  “Where did you last wear it?  Have you looked in your room?” “How could you have lost it?”  I ranted on.

    Then I caught myself.  Whose problem is this?  What happened to my empathy?  I tried to recover my Love and Logic senses and said,  “So that’s pretty sad – losing your jacket so soon.  What are you going to do about it?”  But it was too late, my son had switched off his thinking mode since I had clearly taken over. He simply replied, “Nothing.”

    I reflected on my missed opportunity.  I could have used empathy and hugged my son with a big “This is so sad, you loved that jacket from Grandma. I could have helped him solve his own problem by asking, “What are you going to do about it?”  Then we could have grabbed a hot cup of cocoa and brainstormed together ideas for him to look for his jacket.  We could have had a special mother-son bonding time working together to solve his problem.

    So instead of beating myself up, I decided that in parenting, if we take the time to reflect on our mistakes, we are more prepared for the next time – and in parenting, there are lots of next times! And, since he did find his jacket, he’ll probably misplace it again and this time I’ll be ready for it.

    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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    All the Other Kids Get to Do It!

    If your kids are old enough to talk, you’ve probably heard things like:
    “Jackie’s parents let her watch anything on TV she wants to.”
    “Mandy gets to have her computer in her room. Like…this is the 21st century.”

    Some of us have even heard horrifying things like:
    “Robert’s parents buy him beer for his parties. What’s the big deal?” or…
    “Michelle’s mom doesn’t care if her boyfriend spends the night in her room. Her mom trusts her.”

    My message for this week is a simple one:

    Our kids learn to resist peer pressure by seeing us do it.

    If we back down when our kids argue, manipulate and try to use guilt, they’re far more likely to do the same when their friends turn up the heat.

    One of the handiest involves responding to arguments by calmly repeating the same loving one–liner such as:
    “I love you too much to argue”
    “Probably so”
    “What did I say?”
    “I argue at 6 a.m. on Saturdays” My personal favorite for the teen years.

    Doing this will make them mad in the short term, while teaching them how to live happier, healthier lives in the long term.


    Dr. Charles Fay
    ©2009 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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