Category Archives: Mindfulness

On Thoughts of Veterans Day: Eleanor’s Prayer (Dr. James Sutton)

Here’s a beautiful story about a woman in uniform during World War II … the uniform of the American Red Cross. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt served her country well, always mindful of the sacrifices being made.

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Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t only the most active wartime First Lady, her efforts to improve quality of life, ease human suffering, and promote a more substantial role for women in America went on for many years after her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, died while in office in 1945.

As First Lady during World War II, Eleanor performed tireless service for her country through the American Red Cross. All of her sons (John, FDR Jr., Elliott and James) served their country, also. (Two were in the Navy, one in the Army Air Corps, and one in the Marines.)

the Pacific TOUR

At one point in the war, the Red Cross wanted to send Eleanor on a tour of the Pacific Theater, so she could meet and encourage the troops, especially those that were wounded and were confined to  hospitals and hospital ships.

On Thoughts of Veteran's Day: Eleanor's Prayer

You can imagine Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’ hesitation about such a gesture. In addition to the logistics of moving the president’s wife to locations in the Pacific, the war was still going on in many of those places. What if she were to be injured or killed, or what if she were to be captured by the enemy? The admiral’s concerns were painfully real.

But, of course, who can say, “No!” to the American Red Cross and the White House? Eleanor Roosevelt did complete the tour. She kept up a schedule that would have exhausted a younger person, and, in doing so, brought an uplifting message of support and hope from the folks back home.

Admiral Nimitz praised her efforts and shared with her and President Roosevelt the positive impact of her visits with the troops. In the end, he heartily agreed her tour of the Pacific was a huge success. All who worked at the mammoth task of getting her where she needed to go were impressed with her energy, grace, and cooperative spirit throughout the entire tour.

Eleanor’s Prayer

There a low granite wall at Pearl Harbor that carries the text of a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt wrote during the war. It was said that she carried this text in her wallet all through the war. It says much about the character of this great and gracious woman:

Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember somewhere out there a man died for me today. As long as there is war, I then must ask and answer: “AM I WORTH DYING FOR?”

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. He is a Navy veteran, and served two assignments in support of the Third Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.

The Magic of Storytelling (Guest: Bill Ratner)

BTRadioInt-300x75Storytelling is a great activity for bringing families together in a pleasantly “non-techie” fashion. Voice-over specialist and father, Bill Ratner, shares his experience in storytelling and its effects on his own family.

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Storytelling is as old as recorded time; older, actually. Stories have always had a way of weaving a tapestry of connectedness, of support and dependence upon each other. Stories bring past and present together as they share a medium unique to humans: the spoken word.

The Magic of Storytelling, Bill RatnerBut is the art, practice and opportunities afforded by storytelling, of being and sharing with others, trailing behind our contemporary forms of communication by digital expression? Are we losing something when we can communicate worldwide at a keystroke, yet still be isolated and alone? Have we gone too far with the conveniences of instantaneous messaging? Most importantly, has it taken a hold on our children?

In an earlier interview on the Changing Behavior Network, voice-over specialist, Bill Ratner, shared his most heartfelt concerns regarding screen addiction and digital overload on our children and teens, as well as excessive pressures placed on them by advertising and the media. To address these very issues, Bill wrote Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It. In the book, Bill gives his take on the problems created, as well as potential solutions and needs for reasonable balance.

Parenting for the Digital Age, Bill RatnerPerhaps you’ve never met Bill, but chances are you’ve heard him. He’s a leading voice-over artist and voice actor in thousands of movie trailers, cartoons, television features, games and commercials. Through advertising, he has been the voice of many leading corporations.

But, while raising a family, Bill realized his children were being bombarded by messages he helped create. So, in his concern for the well-being of all young people, Bill founded a program of media awareness for youngsters, wrote Parenting for the Digital Age, and looks to share his thoughts and his experience on the topic wherever and whenever he can.

In this interview, Bill discusses the art and practice of storytelling as one avenue for bringing youngsters and families together, face-to-face, as they share in the time-tested experience of stories. As a bonus, this interview closes with a five-minute story told by Bill, a story that was aired on National Public Radio. (27:42)

www.billratner.com/parentingbook.html

www.TheMoth.org (A prime storytelling website)

Bill and his work are discussed in THIS ARTICLE published in TIME

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How to Manage Your Stressed-Out Child (Peggy Sealfon)

Peggy Sealfon, author and personal development coach, offers six very doable tips for helping children and the whole family take a bite out of day-to-day stress.

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How to Manage Your Stressed-Out Child, Peggy SealfonLife for families in today’s world is fraught with challenges. Responsibilities and distractions create disconnection and dysfunction.  Parents may both work outside the home and so the day begins with chaos as everyone is trying to get out the door. Evenings become a crash zone of exhaustion and frequently each member disappears into their digital screens: Dad may be checking his work emails; Mom is watching a TV drama, the kids are watching movies or playing video games.

When family interaction becomes reduced, there is a potential for children to feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Children are intensely susceptible to all their parents’ stresses and then, of course, they have their personal anxieties about school, academics, societal pressures,. If your child is showing signs of stress, consider these 6 ways to interrupt those patterns:

Impose some family time together. Shut off all digital devices for at least a half hour every evening and devote time to being united as a family.  In the past, families had dinner together and talked.  Sometimes today’s schedules don’t allow for all members to be present at that time so designate a “create” time together during which you work on a continuing project. Or just take an evening walk around the neighborhood. Do something regularly as a family.

Be a good example by managing your own stress. If you’re frazzled, you are guaranteeing your children to follow your behavioral conditioning. You need to behave as you wish to see your kids behave. There are numerous stress reducing techniques available. Try using my free audio every day: 3MinutestoDestress.com

Create wholesome morning routines so that you encourage a calm, focused start to the day. Get organized the evening before. Plus make certain your kids are getting sufficient sleep and enough of the proper nutrition to power them through their day.

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy SealfonGive your children time to play and relax. Kids need to just be kids. If you over-schedule activities for them, they lose out on having those carefree experiences to play creatively or just have time to chill. You can even teach your kids how to take a healthy time-out. Show them an easy breathing technique: use a deep inhalation and let go with a sigh. Repeat 3 to 4 times and then just sit quietly for a minute or two. This technique signals the nervous system to calm down.

Let go of perfection. You may be putting excessive pressure on your child to perform up to your expectations. Allow them to explore their gifts and uncover their strengths.  Simply encourage them to do their best and be perfectly engaged in activities and studies. Let them know that you’ll appreciate them for who they are and what they can do.

Use positive statements of encouragement. Be aware of ways you may be overly critical of your kids. They hear—and store—these negative beliefs. It’s staggering how many adults I coach today who are still hampered by childhood messages that has kept them feeling that they’re not loved, not enough, a disappointment and they’ll never amount to anything. So be mindful of thoughts you are conveying to your children through your facial expressions, body language and words.

Since she was born, Sarah’s parents have repeatedly told her she’s such a lucky girl.  Ever since she could speak, Sarah has taken that to heart and continually recited aloud “I’m such a lucky girl.” She’s now 12 and is a grateful, happy, balanced child. The repeated affirmation helped her assimilate this perspective into her life.

Clearly some days will be better than others. It’s critical that you pay attention to your personal well-being.   Remember how, when you’ve been on an airplane, the flight attendant always advises that in case of decompression, you put on your air mask first and then assist your child? You cannot give to others what isn’t flowing through you.  At the end of the day, your stressed-out child might just be a reflection of you. As the adult, you have choices and can change what isn’t working in your family life to cultivate a happier, more nourishing home environment.###

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach, speaker and author of the best-selling book Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. Want a free consultation with Peggy to supercharge your life? Visit her website at PeggySealfon.com

 

Unlocking Parental Intelligence (Dr. Laurie Hollman)

BTRadioInt

Dr. Laurie Hollman explains the principles and benefits of implementing Parental Intelligence in this excellent interview from our archives.

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The behavior of a child or teen sometimes can stump adults completely, leaving many more questions than answers:

Why do youngsters do what they do?

What are they thinking?

How can we better know their inner world?

Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Dr. Laurie HollmanThere’s little doubt that, on occasion, a child or teen’s behavior can frustrate and even infuriate a parent (or teacher). But, without insight, a parent’s response to the behavior often will be less than ideal. In fact, as many of us know from experience, some responses can make things even worse.

Bottom line: Behavior contains meanings, often multiple meanings. Reading these meanings effectively not only helps solve behavioral problems, it can lead to deeper, more fulfilling relationships with those we love most.

Our guest on this program, psychoanalyst and author Dr. Laurie Hollman, suggests that, when parents learn to extract the meaning from their child’s behavior and resolve problems using that insight and sensitivity, they are exercising a perspective and process she calls “Parental Intelligence.” In this program, Dr. Hollman will take us through the five steps of Parental Intelligence, sharing plenty of examples along the way.

Unlocking Parental Intelligence, Dr. Laurie Hollman

Laurie Hollman is an experienced psychoanalyst who has written extensively for many publications. She writes a popular column on Parental Intelligence for Mom’s Magazine and is a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Hollman’s faculty positions have included New York University and The Society for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. She is the author of the book we are featuring on this program, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. (28:45)

http://www.lauriehollmanphd.com

 

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How to Activate Curiosity in Your Child (Mike Ferry)

Curiosity helps kids learn and grow, but innate curiosity generally isn’t encouraged and supported as it should be. Mental conditioning coach and educator, Mike Ferry, offers some excellent ideas for strengthening, activating, and even recovering, much-needed curiosity.

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How to Activate Curiosity in Your Child (Mike Ferry)Whether we are adults or kids, curiosity is a path to happiness. When we allow our imaginations to roam freely and our minds to absorb whatever interests us, we feel happier and less stressed. Our children enter the world as happy little sponges, guided by light-hearted, curious natures. Kids love to learn and make sense of the world. When you think about it, the amount of knowledge children acquire by being curious is truly amazing.

Unfortunately, our innate curiosity tends to be trampled as we grow up. Parents get tired of answering their kids’ endless questions. Children learn that Mom and Dad are frustrated by their inquisitiveness. The questions gradually slow to a trickle before the faucet is turned off. Also, as children enter school, they realize that producing the “right answer” is more important than exploring and making their own connections. Sadly, school plays a huge role in squashing a child’s natural desire to learn. This ironic outcome helps to create an adult population that is less happy and more stressed than it would be if curiosity remained a priority throughout one’s educational career.

Teaching Kids Happiness and Innovation, Mike FerryAs a “mental conditioning” coach, I work with parents and teens to form habits for success in school and life. Curiosity is one of the qualities that I help my clients strengthen. When kids are curious, they learn more in the classroom. This tends to lead to higher academic achievement, which opens doors down the road. In addition, curiosity makes kids more creative. The more we learn, the more creative we become. Creative kids will be more attractive to potential employers, and they’ll shape a brighter future for all of us.

Want to help your kids strengthen (or recover) their curiosity? Here are some curiosity-boosting ideas that I share with my coaching clients:

– Be a patient parent. I know how difficult this can be. As a middle school history teacher, I am absolutely spent at the end of the day. By the time I come home to my own five children, most of my patience has evaporated. Despite my physical and mental exhaustion, I try to remind myself that my kids won’t be little forever. This is precious time, and it will be gone before I know it. After a walk around the neighborhood and some quiet time, my stress usually fades. Being in the moment makes it easier to answer questions and have meaningful discussions with my children. For more ideas on how to calm your brain and be a more mindful parent, check out my podcast episode, “Stop The Chatter.”

– Emphasize learning over grades. As parents, we recognize the importance of doing well in school. We want our kids to have the best possible educational and career paths in the future, and we know that report card grades determine what opportunities will be open to our children. This can lead parents to focus exclusively on the final result rather than valuing the learning process. When the report grade is all that matters, curiosity vanishes. On the other hand, parents can show that curiosity is important by taking an interest in what their children are learning at school. Is your daughter covering hurricanes or World War I in the classroom? Together, go to the Internet or the library to learn more. Turn the chore of school into an opportunity to make yourself smarter and more creative.

– Learn something new every day. Once you’ve communicated that learning is more important than grades alone, make continuous learning a part of your family’s routine. Do you know the countries of Europe? Could you identify all of them on a map? If not, start learning them here. Does your son love baseball? Maybe you could do some research on the history of the game. What games and sports are popular around the world? Find one that is unknown in your neck of the woods and have your kids teach it to their friends. When we get our kids (and ourselves) hooked on constant learning, we train our brains to look at everything with a curious eye.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful in your journey as a parent. Do you have other insights on how to boost curiosity at home? If so, I’d love to learn them! Feel free to contact me via my website, Facebook, or Twitter. ###

Mike Ferry is a mental conditioning coach, longtime middle school history teacher, father of five, and the author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation. His efforts to promote happiness and creativity have been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and radio shows and podcasts around the world.

 

Two Thoughts on Forgetting (Dr. James D. Sutton)

For young ones and older ones alike, “forgetting” can be a convenient way of dodging responsibility. But there’s one problem: We rarely forget things that are really important to us. Dr. James Sutton offers a handy tool for dealing with forgetting that just might be intentional.

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Two Thoughts on Forgetting, James D. SuttonEveryone, children and adults alike, sometimes forget. Ongoing difficulty with remembering specific things, however, can be associated with anxiety or worry, or it can be a veiled form of defiant behavior, an undercover way of saying, “I didn’t WANT to!” Let’s take a look at both types of forgetting.

Thought #1: Forgetting That Causes Worry and Anxiety

What about the person who leaves for work or an extended trip only to worry later if they closed the garage door, unplugged the curling iron, or left the front door unlocked? And what about the youngster who realizes she left her overdue library book at home… again?

I recently went to some training on the treatment of anxiety disorders. While there, I picked up a little intervention that makes a lot of sense. It’s based on the fact that added cognitive impression at the moment of “storage” improves memory exponentially. Point: If you want to remember, make a “bigger” memory.

It’s simple, really. As you close the garage door say loudly, “I am now CLOSING the garage door!” Your neighbors might think you strange, but, even hours later, you will KNOW you closed that door. (And the same goes for unplugging the curling iron, feeding the cat, locking the front door or putting the library book in the school backpack with a flourished announcement.)

Thought #2: Passive-Aggressive Forgetting

Forgetting is a convenient way to say, without the risk of saying it, “I didn’t FEEL like doing that; so there!” Passive-aggressive adults can turn a workplace upside down with this behavior, while oppositional and defiant youngsters can brew up a ton of frustration in teachers and parents with forgetting. Then they wiggle off the hook with a less-than-sincere, “I’m sorry.”

60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child, Dr. James SuttonBut, of course, nothing ever changes.

The solution to addressing intentional forgetting is to attack the intention. So, the next time you give the child or student an instruction or direction to be completed later, ask them this question (and try to do it with a straight face):

Do you think that is something you’ll forget?

(Regardless of the look on their face, it’s my guess the question will catch them off-guard. If they stammer a bit, it’s probably because they KNOW they’ve stepped into a bit of quicksand.)

For them to say, “Yes,” would be to expose more of their intent that they generally care to show. (But if that’s what they say, my next step would be to ask them to come up with a strategy for remembering, and then hold out until I get it from them.)

In most cases, the youngster will say, “No,” just to end the conversation. Then, if they DO forget, you’ve created a perfect opportunity to remind them what they told you earlier. The youngster essentially verifies the need for the question with his or her behavior.

Since these kids don’t really like to give adults the upper hand at their expense, you just might have a different outcome when you ask the same question (“Do you think that’s something you’ll forget?) next time. ###

 

A semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more tried-and-true strategies for reaching and working with difficult children and teens, consider downloading his book, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Self Help: More Than Just a Good Book (Shenandoah Chefalo)

Positive changes in how we think and how we manage difficult situations can develop even without our full awareness; they can even surprise us, but in a good way. There’s a message here for us and for our children. Author and foster youth advocate, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares her thoughts on self help.
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Self Help: More Than Just a Good Book, Shenandoah ChefaloI have written before about how I was a self-help book addict. I read every book I could find, re-reading several of them and even going as far as getting them on audiobook so I could re-listen to them hundreds of times.

I did this because I absolutely believed in their base principles, and, frankly, I needed a constant reminder. I would listen — and would feel good for 10 to 30 minutes afterwards. But, then life would happen; I would forget everything I learned and I would be right back to old habits until the next time I was in my car. This went on for years.

I often felt more depressed the more I listened or tried to read the books. Why wasn’t I able to just do this? How come I wasn’t good enough to implement these ideas? They weren’t helping me, and I didn’t know what else to do. I abandoned the ideas and assumed I was doomed for a life of hardship.

A Different View

Then, I decided to write Garbage Bag Suitcase, and everything changed. I didn’t know how this book would completely flip my world upside down, but while researching for that book, I stumbled on a piece of research (the Adverse Childhood Experience Study) that changed the way I understood my relationship with my mind and body. That one study lead me to more reading, but not in the self-help section, this time in the science section. Specifically, these were topics on brain function.

Before I read this study, things happened to me and I felt as though I was an unlucky participant in the happenings. I couldn’t understand how I could “change my luck.” After I read the study, I started to see my life’s journey in a completely different way. What if everything I considered “bad” that had happened to me, happened for a completely positive reason? It was a stretch, and when I told a friend she basically laughed at me.

But I couldn’t escape the thought. Was it possible that my own neglectful childhood had caused me to see only bad things? Slowly, I started to see tiny shifts within my own life. I was rewiring what I considered to be my “trauma brain” but it was tedious.

The “Test”

Then, recently, several disappointing things happened in a row (minor things, really):

1: My book wasn’t chosen for an independent award I was hoping to receive.

2: I submitted the book for a writing/screenwriting competition, and it wasn’t recognized there either; and

3: I also received a negative review about the book that felt very personal.

 

All of these things happened within a few days of each other.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloIn the past, any one of these things would have sent me into a deep depression for a day or longer. The trifecta would have made me nearly despondent.

But it didn’t. After each event, after the tinge of disappointment, I remember thinking to myself, “That’s OK, something better must be coming.” I didn’t intend for that to be my response, it just was.

Those old feelings of depression, sadness, emptiness, feelings that I wasn’t good enough, seemed to have just disappeared. This is what I understood from all the trauma research I had done. I had actually changed the pathways in my mind to a new way of thinking and feeling.

A New Way of Thinking

It was possible! And now that I have this new way of thinking, I find the information I learned in my previous self-help addiction is easier to implement then before. It wasn’t bad information; it just wasn’t enough information for a person who was still functioning in trauma brain.

The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. When I was in trauma brain, I talked about “how it was” because none of it worked. Now that I have begun healing my trauma brain (I have a few more new pathways to develop), I understand that the information is valuable, but usually there is a lot of hard work to do before implementing the principles in any of the books.

Some of us have never known true happiness, so trying to “tune in” to that emotion and bring more of it to us is impossible until we find, create and reinforce new pathways in our brain. We can feel helpless and paralyzed. What we really need is the support of those around us to offer guidance on our journey of self-healing!

In the end, my self-help addiction helped me heal — maybe not in the way I initially thought. I hear lots of people talk about the Law of Attraction. They are almost afraid to have a negative thought for fear it will bring more negativity. What I learned is, to begin with, you have to heal yourself from your negative thoughts. That takes patience, love and grace for yourself above anything else.

If you are going to go down the path of healing your trauma brain, you will bump into lots of negative emotions that you have to learn to overcome. It isn’t easy.

Practice, patience, and remember that we all deserve absolute joy.

 

Shenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth, and advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on translating evidence based research on trauma into skills that can be used immediately by individuals and organizations. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

Teaching Impulse Control (Christy Monson)

Issues of impulse control in children can create problems that only worsen over time. Quality of life can be seriously affected. Former therapist, Christy Monson, offers doable techniques and tips for helping youngsters manage frustration make better decisions regarding behavior.

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Teaching Impulse Control, Christy MonsonMany articles and research studies have been done concerning impulse control in children. But what about adults that have poor impulse control?

My husband and I are giving service at an inner-city retirement high-rise. Many of these people have never learned to control their behaviors. Some led professional lives, but because of impulsive decisions, lost their businesses and their money. Others have drug and alcohol problem because of their lack of control. They trade drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and money back and forth, according to the impulse of the moment.

Love Hugs and Hope, Christy MonsonI am teaching an addictions class right now and have found limited success with a modified group of behavioral expectations that I used with children in my counseling practice. Because of the struggle many of these people have, and because of the poor quality of life they now participate in, I implore everyone I come in contact with to teach impulse control to their children and grandchildren.

Here are a few of the techniques that have been effective in my class.

1. Look for the primary emotion underneath the anger, fear, eating, or whatever the impulsive behavior is. Discuss it with your child.

2. Set a pattern: STOP, THINK, CHOOSE. Make a visual and talk about this thinking process.

3. Develop clear expectations.

4. Have a daily report in place.

5. Use positive incentives, like a token economy. (Every time a positive behavior happens, put a bean in a jar. As soon as the jar is full, have a party.)

6. Give predictable consequences.

7. Always PRAISE THE POSITIVE

 

Enjoy your children. Raise them according to your standards and beliefs, BUT teach them to control themselves so that they will become healthy adults who are able to enjoy a quality retirement in their later years.###

 

Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

 

Children, Teens and Sleep (Guest: Dr. Robert Rosenberg)

BTRadioIntAs youngsters head back to school it’s critically important that they get sufficient sleep to maintain alertness and vitality. In this interview originally aired in November of 2015, sleep medicine specialist, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, offers insights in the sleep needs of children and teens, and how we can help them meet those needs effectively.

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As important as a good night’s rest is to all of us, it would be easy to underestimate the value of sleep in our lives. According to the National Center for Disease Control, however, 50-70 million Americans with sleep disorders clearly indicate how difficulty with sleep can lead to serious problems with vitality, productivity and overall health.

RRosenbergphotoPut another way, we need sufficient restorative sleep in order to survive and succeed.

What about the sleep needs of children and teens? What affects their sleep and what are the signs and symptoms that a youngster is sleep-deficient and struggling? Are children and teens with sleep issues ever misdiagnosed or mismanaged as having another physical, behavioral or emotional condition? How do we effectively identify, treat and manage sleep concerns in children and teens? Our guest on this program, physician, nationally-recognized sleep expert and author, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, will offer straight-talk insights and answers to these sleep questions and more.

RRosenbergbookDr. Rosenberg is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Medicine. For the past two decades his practice has been limited exclusively to sleep medicine. Dr. Rosenberg is Medical Director of The Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley in Arizona. His advice has appeared in columns and blogs of many popular magazines such as “O, The Oprah Magazine,” “Woman’s World,” “Prevention,” “Parenting” and “Ladies Home Journal,” among others. In addition his many appearances on television and radio, he hosts his own radio show, “Answers for Sleep” on HealthyLife.net. In this program we’re featuring his very popular book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems. (27:50)

www.answersforsleep.com

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Answers to Parents’ Questions About Raising Teens (Dr. Thomas W. Phelan)

Understanding why teens behave the way they do can help parents implement better responses and interventions. Psychologist and author, Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, offers his experience and insights on raising teens. And, as usual, what he shares makes a LOT of sense.
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Answers to Parents' Questions About Raising Teens, Dr. Thomas PhelanWhat does it mean to set limits with your teenager?

To begin with, setting limits means having what we call “House Rules.” These are agreed upon (and sometimes written) rules regarding issues such as hours, use of the car, alcohol and drugs, studying and grades. Parents can also have an understanding with their teens regarding work, money management, family outings, and even dating and friends. Setting limits can also include agreements about how to handle violations of the contracts that have been made.

Why is setting limits with your teenager such a crucial thing for parents to do? Why is setting limits such an important concept these days? What happens to teenagers who don’t respect limits? What are they like as adults?

Limits are important for two reasons. First, limits and rules are a part of life. In a sense, they are also a prescription for how to live a good life. Being able to put up with reasonable restrictions and guidelines is part of what is known as “high frustration tolerance” (HFT). HFT is a critical skill for adult success no matter what one chooses to do.

Second, reasonable limits keep teens safer. Parents are acutely aware of the Big Four adolescent risks: driving, drugs and alcohol, sex and romance, and technology. Teens and adults who don’t like rules and limits have a harder time getting along with teachers, employers, friends and romantic partners. They also get hurt more often by means of traffic accidents, drug use, unwanted pregnancy and STDs, and internet predation.

What happened to teenagers simply having respect for their elders?

Good question! Part of the answer lies in human history. Adolescence—and the mistrust/dislike of adults that often accompanies it—is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a few hundred years ago, adolescence probably did not exist. You were a child, and then, Bam!—you were an adult. There was no in between. Adolescence is largely a function of industrialized countries in which education became more and more important for job success. Education, in turn, delayed “growing up” because kids had to remain in school. In the U.S. today, the delay from onset of puberty to leaving home and hitting the job market can be 7-10 years or more. Teenagers really want to be adults, but today they have to sit around and wait for that. Can’t blame them for not liking the long and somewhat nebulous interval. In our culture, I don’t think we do a good job of helping kids make this intermediate existence meaningful.

Why do so many parents fall into the “I want to be a friend, not a parent” trap?

Good parents, research shows frequently, are both warm (friendly) as well as demanding (I expect something from you). Some of us adults, however, are better at the warm part and some are better at the demanding part. Warm-only moms and dads—sometimes known as permissive or pushover parents—are uncomfortable with the demanding role, and so they focus primarily on trying to be a friend to their kids. These children are more likely to develop “low frustration tolerance” (LFT). These kids often develop a sense of entitlement and they have trouble sticking with difficult tasks.

Why is it important for teenagers to be able to make some of their own decisions? How can parents set limits with their teens while still encouraging independent decision-making?

Like it or not, your teens ultimate goal is to get rid of you! You don’t want them living at home forever. You do want them to become competent adults who are financially independent, have their own friends, start their own families, and know how to enjoy life on a daily basis. This goal means your current strategy is to wean you children from your oversight. You want them to make more and more of their own decisions. Another way of saying this is you must avoid chronic and unnecessary parental supervision—otherwise known as overparenting.

In other words, set up your house rules, maintain a good relationship with your kids, and then get out of their way!

There is so much that parents have to guard against these days – social media, a lax culture, politics, etc. – how do parents make the tough decisions they have to enforce with teens today?

First, nail down your house rules. Keep them minimal, firm and fair. Second, stay in touch. Discuss social media, sex, lax culture, politics and drugs with your kids. This does not mean lecture them! Allow for differences of opinion and be respectful.

How do parents stay firm with their kids but not mean or angry? How do you say no to your teen and really mean it? How does a parent stay firm but fair?

Mean or angry is no way to discuss or enforce limits. Whatever comes out of a parent’s mouth during a parental temper tantrum automatically becomes silly and useless—even if the words themselves might look reasonable if they were written down on paper. Parents often feel anxious and sometimes even guilty when they explain a rule or a consequence to a disgruntled-looking adolescent. One important parenting skill is knowing when to stop talking! In many situations, the more you talk the less sure of yourself you look.

Surviving Your Adolescents, Dr. Thomas W. PhalenWhat’s your best advice to a parent who wants to raise an independent teen? What kind of practical advice and real examples do you have to offer?

When they are concerned about a possible problem, parents of teens need to think a bit before they intervene. In fact, there are four possible intervention roles moms and dads can consider. Choosing the best role depends on several things: the child’s safety, the parent/child relationship, and the goal of increasing a teen’s independence.

Role 1: Observer. In this role, a parent really does nothing other than watch what’s happening for a while. Maybe your son has a new friend you’re not sure about. Sit tight for a bit and see how the new relationship develops.

Role 2: Advisor. Your daughter who normally maintains a B average, is getting a D in science this semester. You might ask her what’s up, listen attentively, then suggest she try talking things over with her teacher. Keep in mind, though, that when you are in the Advisor role, your child does not have to accept your advice. Tell them you’ll trust them to work things out. That’s respecting independence.

Role 3: Negotiator. Something is bugging you and you do not feel your adolescent is handling it well. Your next possible intervention role is to negotiate. You first set up an appointment—spontaneous problem discussions are dangerous and volatile. You might say something like, “When’s a good time for you and me to talk about the leftover food in your room? It’s starting to smell up there.”

Role 4: Director. Your 17-year-old son broke up with his girlfriend two months ago. His grades have dropped, he’s lost weight, and he seems always crabby. You think he’s depressed, so your going to gently-but-firmly insist he see a counselor. Listen sympathetically first, then make your suggestion and ask him to think about it. But it’s not going to be negotiable.

What do you think it means to really parent today?

Parenting teens can be tough. As a mom or dad, you can often feel you are being torn into many pieces. It’s important to have a good job description. Here’s one we like:

1. Don’t take it personally. Your teens will be pulling away from you, even snubbing you at times (“How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothin’.”) This kind of interaction is normal. Nobody—neither you nor your teen—did anything wrong.

2. Manage AND let go. Respect and maintain your house rules while you increasingly allow more and more independence for your teenagers.

3. Stay in touch with the kids. Maintaining a good relationship with a teen is critical. Use business-like praise, talking about yourself, sympathetic listening, and regular one-on-one (not always family!) fun to keep in contact.

4. Take care of yourself. If you’re old enough to be a parent of a teen, you’re probably a mid-lifer! Not an easy task. Take care of yourself so you don’t take out your troubles on a sometimes irritating and distant kid.

5. Relax and enjoy the movie. Your kids only grow up once. Try to enjoy the show!

Dr. Thomas W. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author, and lecturer on child discipline and attention deficit disorder. For years, millions of parents from all over the world have used the award-winning 1-2-3 Magic program to help them raise happier, healthier families and put the fun back into parenting. A registered PhD clinical psychologist, Dr. Phelan appears frequently on radio and TV. He practices and works in the western suburbs of Chicago. Website: 123magic.com