W.O.R.K. With Your Teen’s Brain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A particular area of interest for me is the teenage brain. It is one of the most rapidly changing periods of brain development. This is no surprise to parents who are trying to understand the rapidly changing personality of the teenager.

Perhaps the most dramatic area of development is the area called the prefrontal orbital brain. It is called this because it sits directly behind our eyeballs and it is responsible for abstract thought, moral reasoning, self-control, planning, judgment and so many other areas commonly associated with adults. This area is in constant flux, causing radical shifts in mood and attitude. This formation and reformation of the brain continue into young adulthood (the mid-20’s). I often joke with parents that while their child has the hardware upgrade, the software has not yet been installed. This is why the teen is capable of getting pregnant, driving a car or doing algebra but they don’t mean that they are completely ready for the adult world of intense responsibility or raising a family.

This poses significant challenges to parents who want to navigate the raging waters of adolescence, therefore, I am going to list four basic reminders to help parents stay sane when their child actions appear insane. I am using the acronym WORK to guide parents:

W = Remember that your child is still “wondering” about how the world works. He or she might try to convince you that they already know how it does but they don’t. They haven’t had enough experience yet for this to be possible. They need you to help them by asking “what if” questions that will explain some cause and effect relationship and assist them in planning out their day and making better judgments. Because their brain is still developing they use their “will” to fight you and cover up their inexperience. Don’t shame them. Train the “will” to find positive rewards in daily interactions. “Wait” for them to get it. It will take them longer than you as they haven’t traveled some of these morally sticky situations in life yet. Allow them a little more time to “wake” up to a new world of responsibilities and schedules.

O = Be “open” to “opportunities” for your teenage child to share some wisdom about the world and how to survive in it. Don’t preach at them as this will shut them down completely. “Occupy” the same space and look for openings when you are both in a good mood. The relational approach will be more effective and allow more “objective” conversation between you. Remember that “obedience” at this age is really about natural consequences or trial and error for the teenager. The will learn more about doing then lecturing. Being a good role model will help them understand how to use the “operators” manual called their brain more than lots of words at this time of life.

R = “Relationship” is one of the toughest things to have with the teen but one of the most important tasks a parent can do for their child. You may only have a split-second when the door is open wide enough to have that former intimacy but use it when you can. It will pay huge ‘rewards” for both of you later in life. “Recognize” that the teen is in process. They are still not fully cooked and need more time in the oven of life before they can be expected to make better decisions. They will “reflect” their peers and “respond” more from other inexperienced teenagers over their own, more experienced parents. This is not a true sign of his “respect” or “rejection.” The teen is just trying to find their own way. Don’t take this personal. “Rebelliousness” is the other side of the “readiness” coin of maturity.

K = Be “kind” to your teen as they developmentally, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Turn the proverbial other cheek and smile when they growl. Reach out again when they slap away your hand. The “key” to relating to the teenager is a long-term vision. This isn’t just about today. It is about the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years of your life together. The cold response you get from that teen-child today will “kindle” into a stronger fire connection later in life. Work with that end in mind. Keep in mind this is your “kin.” They may be more like you than you care to admit. They share your nature and your nurture and need your “kudo’s” for every positive effort and the end result you can give.

The Emotionally Regulated Classroom

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It’s been reported that one out of every four children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect their learning and/or behavior. Educators need the right information, with the right tools, to be prepared at the right time.

When children have experienced chronic and pervasive trauma, their thinking skills are literally hijacked by their emotional brain, shutting down their ability to focus, initiate tasks, follow directions, organize work, and control impulses. Everything a child needs to be successful in school.

The Emotionally Regulated Classroom:

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Educators can model emotional self-regulation for their students.

They can demonstrate how to notice, name, and respond to intense feelings instead of reacting to them. Doing so, will build resilience within and beyond the classroom.

Educators can use classroom design to prepare a space that promotes self-regulation. Classrooms should, generally, be well organized, clean, well-labeled, and provide resources for overwhelmed students.

Many of the principles and techniques used to interact with students with trauma are broadly applicable to conversations with all students.

Clear, assertive, comfortable communication can establish trust and provide structure.

However, it is important for educators to realize that the emotional and social needs of students with trauma are different.

Students should be made aware, in a clear, specific fashion, what their teachers and staff expect of them.

School discipline policies should be communicated at the beginning of the year to all students, faculty, and staff, and should be consistently described.

Allowing students an opportunity to inquire about, and even challenge, rules, will increase their sense of procedural justice.

If students perceive the procedures as basically transparent and fair, they are more likely to go along with an individual decision or policy they do not agree with.

Regulation Strategies for the Classroom:

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One strategy to regulated the classroom is called “Two Before Me.”

In a group discussion, a student may initially speak up whenever they have the opportunity & are called on.

However, after speaking, a student must wait for at least two other people to speak before they can raise their hand or contribute again.

This prevents conversations from being dominated by a limited few people and can reduce conflict/arguments.

Another strategy is the “Suggestion Box.”

Students with trauma often find it scary to communicate their needs or express displeasure.

Students who have been neglected may not be used to identifying or sharing needs at all.

To encourage these students to express their needs, supply them with a suggestion box or cubby hole in a circumspect place in your classroom.

Set aside a weekly or monthly time where the contents of the box are discussed or provide written answers to students concerns on a bulletin board.

You can name this box something other than a suggestion box. Perhaps call it a comment box or question box or come up with a name the class decides together. Remind students that it is OK to write feelings they are uncomfortable to say out loud as long as the feeling is not directed at a specific person, or intended to cause harm.

In the “Ouch/Oops” strategy,  the classroom learns how to manage hurt feelings and resolve conflicts.

If your class adopts this rule, anyone is free to say “Ouch” if something a peer or teacher says rubs them the wrong way.

For example, if someone said something hurtful, accusatory, or generally offensive, the person who caused the “Ouch” is required to say “Oops”. It is then up to the person who said “Ouch” to determine how the conflict should be resolved, like having a private discussion or a mediation with the teacher or other peers.

Educators will need to watch for misuses of this strategy, such as a student using “Ouch” frequently to derail a conversation or target a disliked peer. Also, students may “Ouch” something benign a teacher says that they don’t like, such as assignment due date. And students may refuse to respond with an “Oops” if there are no firm rules on it.

If necessary, educators may want to restrict this strategy to personal discussions to prevent misuse.  Generally speaking, older students are somewhat more likely to use “Ouch/Oops” strategy correctly but with some practice, it can be a useful regulation tool for all ages.

References:

GET MORE Trauma-Informed Tools by contacting Ron Huxley at rehuxley@gmail.com for a consultation or in-services at your next event or conference. Click here for more information. 

A family is a group of power-full people…

Ron’s Reading: Keep Your Love On: Connection Communication And Boundaries

One of the most common aggravations experienced by parents is the “power struggle”. It usually happens when the parent has to get to work or needs to finish dinner or help the child with their homework. Right in the middle of this urgent time, the child decides to exercise their will and demand a treat or refuse to put on their shoes or wants to argue about some topic they really don’t know anything about. Regardless of the circumstances, the outcome is two yelling, arguing, snorting, bug-eyed people who just want the other person to do what they want them to do. No fun for anyone!

Why does this happen so often in families? Danny Silk is one of my favorite authors and I recommend his books to many of the parents I work within family therapy or parenting workshops. In his book: “Keeping Your Love On: Connections, Communication & Boundaries” he shares how a family is a group of powerful people who are trying to learn how to live in powerful ways. He writes: “If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person. Powerful people do not try to control other people. They know it doesn’t work, and it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.”

The trick, for parents, is not to demand respect but to create a respectful environment where non-respect, talking back and control simply can’t exist. There just isn’t enough oxygen for those negative elements to survive. Learning how to be a powerful and responsible person is one of the most important tasks of parenting.

You can get more information (and read along with me) on Danny’s book here: Keep Your Love On: Connection Communication And Boundaries

 

8 Traits of Powerful People

Source: http://lovingonpurpose.com/blog/rq-8-traits-of-powerful-people

If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person.

So what exactly is a powerful person? Here are 8 traits of a powerful person:

1. THEY DO NOT TRY TO CONTROL OTHERS.

Powerful people do not try to control, convince, or manipulate other people or their behaviors. They know it doesn’t work, and it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.

2. THEY CREATE A RESPECTFUL ENVIRONMENT.

Powerful people are able to consciously and deliberately create the environment in which they want to live. They don’t try to get people to respect them; they create a respectful environment by showing respect. They deliberately set the standard for how they expect to be treated by the way they treat others. As they consistently act in responsible, respectful, and loving ways, it becomes clear that the only people who can get close to them are those who know how to show respect, be responsible, and love well.

3. THEY REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM.

Life does not happen to powerful people. Powerful people are happening. They are happening all the time. They are not controlled or infected by their environment. Powerful people refuse to play the victim by shifting responsibility for their choices onto others.

4. THEY REQUIRE OTHERS AROUND THEM TO BE POWERFUL.

When powerful people encounter a powerless person, they are not tempted to dive into any unhealthy emotional ties or attachments. They hear a victim’s sob story and ask, “So what are you going to do about that? What have you tried? What else could you try?” These questions confront powerless people with their responsibility and their capacity to make choices and control themselves. This is the only option a powerful person will offer to powerless people: become powerful, make choices, and control yourself.

5. THEY MAKE DAILY DECISIONS THAT ALIGN WITH THEIR VISION.

Powerful people do not simply react to whatever is happening today. They are able to take responsibility for their decisions and the consequences of those decisions–even for mistakes and failures. They can respond to today and create tomorrow. Powerful people have a vision and mission for their life, and can use the events of each day, whether positive or negative, to direct themselves toward that vision.

6. THEY LET THEIR “YES” BE “YES” AND “NO” BE “NO.”

Popular opinion or the pressure of others does not sway the language of powerful people. They know exactly what they want and how to communicate their desires. A powerful person says, “I will. I do. I am.” Powerful people can say both “Yes” and “No,” and mean it. Others can try to manipulate, charm, and threaten, but their answer will stand.

7. THEY LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY.

A powerful person’s choice to love will stand, no matter what the other person does or says. When powerful people say, “I love you,” there’s nothing that can stop them. Their love is not dependent on being loved in return. It is dependent on their powerful ability to say “Yes” and carry out that decision. This protects their love from external forces, or from being managed by other people.

8. THEY CONSISTENTLY DEMONSTRATE WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE.

Powerful people can be who they say they are on a consistent basis. And because they know how to be themselves, they invite those around them to be themselves. Only powerful people can create a safe place to know and be known intimately. They say, “I can be me around you and you can be you around me. We do not need to control each other, and we don’t want to control each other.”

We all have room to grow in becoming powerful people.  No matter what, know that every step on the journey to getting free and being a powerful person is worth it. Choosing to say “Yes!” to a life of responsibility will be one filled with adventure and joy. Do not let powerlessness and a victim mentality steal from you any longer. You are a powerful person who can make powerful decisions. And more importantly, you are a powerful person who can choose to love–because He chose to love you.

Great Behavior Breakdown

Why does your child lie, steal, defy, incessantly chatter, cling, or whine?
The answer is simpler than you may think: Children misbehave because they are stressed. When something is alarming, their brain is stuck reacting to fear rather than responding normally. It feels like life-or-death for the child, resulting in dysregulated behaviors. 

Parents often wonder, “What was he thinking? He knows better. He must be doing this on purpose.” The truth is, the child is not thinking at all, but merely reacting unconsciously. The solution is not doling out consequences, but rather helping your child return to regulation. Bryan Post in his book The Great Behavior Breakdown, explains how to respond to misbehaving children in a way that helps them feel safe, thus eliminating negative behaviors.

What can trigger a fear response in your child? For some children, especially those who have experienced trauma, almost anything can trigger fear. A small change in routine, such as going out to eat at a restaurant or skipping reading before bed, can illicit fear. In normal development, a brain automatically alerts to any change in environment, quickly assesses it to see if it is an emergency, and then returns to normal functioning. When a child’s development has been troubled, her brains often get stuck in alert mode. A brain that is stuck in alert is panicked, illogical, and desperate. There is only one thing that can bring the brain back to normal functioning: containment and positive feedback loops.  
Containment means eliminating extra sensory input. Often this looks like turning down the music, walking out of a store, sitting on a parent’s lap, or closing eyes. Positive feedback loop is a fancy way of saying, make it feel safe and enjoyable. When the child is full of negativity, hold on to a calm, regulated, demeanor. Be positive, low key, and non-threatening. Eventually the child will give in to your invitation to stay near until he or she feels safe enough to go back and play. 

I have used Bryan Post’s approach for years while working with adoptive and foster children. For kids with trauma, his techniques work when nothing else does. Next time your child is misbehaving, see the reaction as fear rather than anger. It will change the way you respond, change your child’s behaviors, and transform your relationship.

Guest Blogger:
Stephanie Patterson, MS, LMFT

Frustrated with fighting with your child?

Yelling, nagging and threatening no working for you?

Can’t figure out why your child is always misbehaving?

Let us help with this special report on the “4 Goals of Children’s Misbehavior” and redirect that negative energy into positive relationships. It can be done. No matter how small or how big the behavior, this report will help parents find more peace and respect in their family! 

Click here to get it now!

Need MORE control of your children? — If yelling, bribery, and giving in no longer works in your home then it’s time to do something different!

The parenting toolbox has a dozen behavior charts that you can use today to regain control of your children and your life.

As a member of this list you have complete access to all these tools for free!!!

We’ve been adding new tools weekly. Perhaps you’ve already gotten them? If not, go now and use them and get MORE control.

>>The charts can be found here when you join our “MORE” parenting list<<

If you need even more than these charts can give you or you need some help or you need to know how to use them for your children then Ron Huxley is available for consultation via Skype or phone. Get more parenting coaching from the parenting expert:

Http://Ronhuxley.com/coaching

Battle of Wills or Battle of Beliefs?

Many parents get into power struggles with their children over everyday tasks like homework, chores, bedtime, eating all their dinner, etc. This battle of wills can become a daily hassle that will wear out the most resilient parent.

In its extreme form, children can develop an oppositional defiant disorder which is characterized by negative, argumentative, disobedient, and hostile behaviors toward parents and authority figures. They refuse any guidance or direction from adults. Relationships turn into competitive matches where every interaction is geared toward the need to win. The subject of the argument no longer matters. The parent and child are armoring themselves to win the battle no matter what the topic. The reality is that parents can’t win every “battle”. That is exhausting! Research indicates that this battle creates even more oppositional behavior in children and the moral of the story ends up being that no one wins!

What Is Really The Problem?

The problem is not the behavior but the beliefs of the contestants in the power struggle. Instead of trying to change behaviors and win the battle of homework or chores, try to change the belief system and win over their heart. That can be difficult for the parent in the middle of a heated argument. It is even more difficult after dealing with defiant children for days, weeks, or months of non-stop fighting.

Parents are not prepared for tools of the heart that change belief structures. Most parenting tools focus on behaviors that attempt to mold children into obedient, submissive people. This is a perfect set up for oppositional defiant behavior to accelerate. Tools of the heart focus on changing oneself first and then work on creating a connection. It doesn’t confront the person. It confronts the beliefs that drive the person to act in opposition and defiant ways.

The Misunderstanding of Power in Relationships.

One of the beliefs that need to be addressed is the idea that in order to be powerful I always have to win. Not only do I have to win but you have to lose so that if you being hurt starts to the sign that I win. The child can get into the habit of hurting people, animals and destroying property to prove they have power. When the parent counters attack or overpowers the child in any way they reinforce this dysfunctional idea. The more realistic belief is that we can both be powerful by making appropriate choices and managing ourselves. Self-control is the ultimate example of power. The parent must model this in the home. The only thing you can guarantee complete control over is when “I manage me.” I cannot manage you 100% of the time. When I try to manage you, I set up a revenge mentality in our relationship. You will do what I want in this battle but you will look for ways to win the next battle.

Focus on Feedback.

Instead of an argument, we want to focus on feedback. Replace “you messages”, as in “you always” or “you never” or even “you are” with “me messages”, such as “here’s how this situation is affecting me”. Don’t hold up a mirror to child’s face to inform them of how “ugly” they are acting. Hold up the mirror to your heart and share what you are feeling. This can be a risky act, on the part of the parent, but vulnerability is what leads to intimacy and without an exposed heart there can be no heart to heart connection.

Questions are useful tools for parents even if you already know the answer. A dominating parent tells the child what to do or what they are not doing right. A parent who values responsibility provides lots of opportunities for the child to make choices. The parent allows the child to voice their needs with questions such as “what do you need in this situation?” or “what are you going to do about this problem?” Don’t be quick to jump in and solve the problem with the child. Let them tangle at bit at the end. You want their brains engaged and trained in solving their own problems.

Using questions help the parent and the child stay focused on the person, in the problem, instead of focusing on the problem in the person. This is an important distinction. Keep asking how your child is going to clean up the mess. You aren’t saying they are a mess but there is this mess of school grades or unclean rooms. If they don’t know to clean up their mess because they are used to the parent always tell them how to clean it up or clean it up for them, start giving them some ideas they can try. If they act like they don’t care about cleaning up the mess, give them choices that might be completely undesirable. “One choice might be to do all of your brother’s chores for a week to pay them back for breaking their toy. Would that be a way you can clean up this mess?” Of course, they don’t want to do that! The point is to get them engaged in this conversation to find a solution they would prefer. If they still refuse any responsibility for their actions, stay calm and wait this out. At some point, the child will want something from the parent and at that moment the parent can return to the mess that is still needing to be cleaned up. Re-ask the question of how they would like to clean up the mess. This teaches self-responsibility without ever breaking a connection with the child. You continually express your belief that they are powerful people who can make a good choice, if not today, then tomorrow or the day after that or the day after that until they finally learn to manage themselves well.

Do You Value Being Right Over Relationship?

If a parent insists on lecturing and using their authority in dominating ways then they are communicating that being right is more important that relationship. Relationships take time and this mess that the child has made can take as long as it needs to get cleaned up but it will get cleaned up. The value of learning responsibility and how to handle freedom and make good choices is more important than being right on this issue we are at odds with each other. Stubbornness is the hallmark of oppositional defiant behavior. Use this same energy to regulate your reaction to stand firm.

There are a lot of false beliefs in the parenting community that parenting educators perpetuate. We have put you in a difficult position and given you a difficult requirement that can set you up for failure. As a parenting educator, I apologize! Let’s learn together on how to build powerful people in intimate relationships with one another.

Better Beliefs Bring Better Relationships

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

You don’t have to keep praying for better relationships. You can just start having them. Let them start with you today. Don’t expect others to start because you did but once you start they will feel the ripple effects of it and will try to have better relationships with you as well. 

The thing that drains you in your relationships isn’t the other person. It is the beliefs you have about that relationship that drains you. Negative emotions make you tired. 

Change what you believe about your family. A hopeful thought will bubble up life and love that you didn’t know was still inside. Stop trying to do what you are doing better and do it with better beliefs about what is possible. Don’t wait for better days to come. Start having better attitudes and better days will come. 

So much effort goes into changing other family members instead of changing the culture of the family. Shifting the atmosphere of the home and paying attention to examples of hope, love, kindness, celebration, patience, cooperation, respect, power, optimism, fun, playfulness, honesty, sharing, peach and more, will make those values increase. Ignoring what you dislike about your family relationships will strangle those things and they will wither away. 

Don’t act on feelings. Feelings deceive you. They come and then they go. Let them. Practice what you believe and act on your hope of what will be and not what is going on in your relationships. Feelings are signals to the temperature level in the home. They are not the thermostat. Your beliefs are set the temperature. 

Hurting families protect and hold back parts of themselves to avoid further hurt. Risk involves giving more of ones self to build trust and get more of the other in return and better, safer relationships develop through these small acts of faith.

Breakthrough in the strongholds of fear will change the atmosphere of the home bringing balance in mood and reactivity. Underestimating your influence will disempower your ability to change. Stop thinking about yourself and powerless and start thinking about yourself as powerful. You have 100% power over your own life, reactions, attitude and beliefs. Your outer reality doesn’t determine your inner reality. Your inner reality will transform your outer reality. 

It is time for unreasonable optimism about your present and future relationships. This is more than strategies to change things. It is a personal revival to change yourself. The family changes when you change. 

diyparent:

Children who have been abused and neglected suffer from an internal model of fear. The world is a scary place. Providers, regardless of the amount of love and tenderness, can’t be trusted. Behaviors can go to the extreme and violate social norms and expectations but these behaviors were normal in an abnormal world. They are now abnormal in a normal family! Unfortunately, children who have been maltreated still operated under F.E.A.R. or False Evidence Appearing Real.