Self-Control Can Teens Learn It

Teens are famous for being impulsive and difficult to live with. Blame it on their raging hormones, right?

 Not totally. Their brains play a role in the behavior we label as “typical teen.”

Teens  often use the limbic system of their brain, the area responsible for in the moment survival, rather than the prefrontal cortex, the “CEO” of the brain to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t mature until the late twenties, so it’s not a conscious choice to use a less than stellar steering wheel for their lives.

One of the new buzz words from the neuroscience world is: executive functioning. It refers to the ability to order your thoughts, put things in your short term memory for future use, and to stay on task mentally, not something teens are able to do very well these days. (Many teachers are noticing that preschoolers are starting out their educational years with less executive functioning than previous students years past.) A recent New York Times article delved into a new solution for helping preschooler have more executive function and more self-control. Read the article here. That solution can help teens learn self-control as well.

The solution? Play! But not just any type of play, but rather dramatic, pretend play. Play has been stripped from our children’s lives at school and home and replaced with a heavy load of academics, organized sports and over scheduled lives. Play has gotten a bad rap as something silly, frivolous and without merit. Yet play is the womb for brain growth, happiness, innovation, stress regulation, and learning, among other wonderful things.

Teens aren’t keen to go back to playing dress-up-lets-pretend, (which is what helps little ones learn better) but they are, believe it or not, quite happy to use their imaginations and get their hands messy.  When given the chance to use their imagination to create, teens have a better chance to learn self-control.

The challenge for parents is to learn HOW to bring play back into their teens lives and how to play along with them at times. Even preschoolers need to be directed at how to play as it has been slowly removed from our culture so you can well imagine how challenging it is to bring play into the lives of our teens.

Part of the monthly subscription covers the topic of play.

As more scientists publish the positive benefits of play, and experts bemoan the loss of play in our lives, parents have the chance to learn more.

I’ll keep you posted about the latest reseach on play and how you can ues it to be a better parent, and how it can benefit your teen daughter.

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Teen Girls COAL Burns The Brightest Relationships

Giving your daughter a lump of COAL this Christmas may be the best gift you ever give her! The acronym COAL stands for Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. It was coined by Dr. Dan Siegel to refer to a state of mind in the way you relate to you “inner child.” However, it is also a wonderful way to relate to your flesh and blood child!

When you listen to your daughter with a curious mind as to who she really is, or what she really wants you to know,  you will hear more of her truth. When you listen with an open heart that is not judgemental, you will build more trust in your relationship so she will feel she can share her truth.

When you listen with a sense of acceptance, and you don’t give unasked for advice, or tell her what she “should” do, or “should be,” you build a strong bridge between the two of you.

When you listen with love, you give your daughter your full attention, you don’t interrupt, or steal the conversation. You turn off all distractions and you give her what she needs in order to say what she wants and needs to say.

COAL is what will make your relationship burn bright, and warm for a lifetime.

I hope you’ll consider giving your daughter COAL for Christmas!

My newest book for mothers and mentors of teen girls will be available after the first of the year.

True Listening: The Essential Parenting Skill For Mothers* of Teen Girls. (*and Mentors!)  There are 52 short skills that teach you the art of True Listening with COAL in mind. You won’t have to learn all the skills,  even learning just a few will improve your relationship with your daughter. Added bonus: You will build a better relationship with yourself as well!

Happy Holidays to all the faiths. Let us each celebrate our own beliefs with open and grateful hearts this season.

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I keep Telling Her

Recently, a lot of my mail has been from moms who have shared that they have “told their daughter…” whatever the topic was about.. and the daughter is still, gasp, making the wrong choices/decisions, Dr. Jenn HOW COULD SHE??

I know. It’s tough when our daughter’s don’t “listen” to us. We know the dangers, we’ve lived through a lot of them. We want to save our daugther’s from making the same mistakes we made. But…

The BEST teachers are the ones who don’t shove their own wisdom down their student’s throats, but rather, they invite their students to find their own wisdom. Good parenting is about leading your child to the door of their OWN wisdom and encouraging them to put their hand on the door knob and turn, open the door and walk in.

Your children can’t live your truth, for the have their own. Your children can’t live your dreams. They have their own dreams. You get the point.

Parent’s who understand that their children have their own purpose, their own path and that they need to make their own mistakes, have the best chance at creating good relationships with their children.

“I told you so!” never endears your child to you. 

Let your child make a few miss steps without the guilt trip.

Stop “talking at” your child. Learn to listen instead. Stop telling your child what to do. Lead them to the door of their own internal knowledge, and gently encourage them to turn the knob.

Turning towards you child, instead of talking at, lecturing, preaching etc., is far more helpful.

Remember when YOU were a teen? I bet you had to find out things on your own, didn’t you?

Let your teen find their own way. Just don’t abandon them. Be there, but be there as support, not shame,  or not as the know it all of their lives.

Love is allowing your teen to find their own truth.

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Hot headed or Hot House Mother Quiz

Are you a Hot Headed or a Hot House                                                                                   Mother?

Take the quiz and find out.

1. When my daughter talks to me about things that make me anxious or angry, I:

a. Listen as calmly as I can. I want to know who she really is.

b. Tell her I don’t want to hear about it.

c. I walk out of the room and ignore her. She should know not to bring up certain topics with me.

2. When my daughter does something I don’t like I:

a. Discuss her behavior and help her find ways she can learn best from her mistake.

b. Tell her “I told you so!”

c. Immediately ground her, take away her cell phone, and give her a piece of my mind!

3. When I am upset over work or relationships I:

a. Understand that my daughter is not my mother and don’t burden her with adult issues.

b. I tell her what a jerk my boss, or boyfriend or her dad is!

c. I cry on her shoulder and expect her to help me solve my problems.

4. When my daughter is disrespectful of me I:

a. Do my best to understand it is part of being a teen and I don’t over react.

b. I insult her just enough so she doesn’t get too big of an ego.

c. I totally tear her up emotionally. I won’t stand for her being so sassy with me!

5. My daughter is my complete opposite:

a. I value our differences. She is her own person.

b. I do my best to get her to be more like me.

c. I don’t want much to do with her. She’s too weird!

6. I’m her mother so:

a. I know I need to help my daughter become her true self. She needs to trust me.

b. I want her to be scared of me a little, so she will do what I tell her to do. I know what’s best for her.

c. I expect her to jump when I say jump. I’ll tell her who she can be friends with and what she should be when she grows up!

7. When my daughter talks to me  and I get happy, scared or angry  I:

a. Wait for her to finish telling me everything she needs and wants to.

b. I interrupt her often and share my point of view.

c. I turn the conversation around to make it about me. I need to express myself.

8. When my daughter tells me about a problem I:

a. Listen as long as it takes for her to hear herself and find her own answers.

b. Give her advice even if she doesn’t ask for it. I’m her mother for heaven’s sake!

c. I tell her what she should do and make sure she follows up with what I tell her.

9. When my daughter talks to me I about stressful things I:

a. Listen for feelings, and ask what I can do to help.

b. I listen and worry that her problems mean I am not a good mother.

c. I tell her she shouldn’t feel the way she does and that she will feel better tomorrow.

10. When my daughter tells me something that seems out of character for her I:

a. Am truly curious as to what is true for her.

b. I roll my eyes and think, oh boy, here we go with some crazy idea she has.

c. I tell her she is off her rocker and to “get real.”

11. When my daughter tells me she is happy but she’s slumped in the chair frowning I:

a. Say what I see. I tell her I see her frowning. I ask her what that means and ask if she wants to talk about it.

b. I tell her I know she is sad and that things will get better.

c. If she wanted me to know about her feelings she would tell me so I just listen to the words and ignore her body language.

12. I think about what my truth is and what I want:

a. Often. I make those questions part of my life map.

b. I hardly ever listen to my own truth or wants.

c. I have truth and wants? You’re joking, right?

If you circled mostly c answers, you are more of a hot headed mother than a hot house mom. That means you are more prone to letting fear, worry, anxiety and ego get in the way of nurturing your blossoming daughter.

If you circled mostly with b answers, you are “warm headed, and have some control over your emotions that can get in the way of you listening to who your daughter really is.

If you circled mostly a answers, you are a hot house mother. You tend carefully to the tender shoots of your daughter growing, unfolding and blossoming into who she is meant to be.

Check your answers to question number 12. If you answered a, you self-listen fairly well. If you answered b, you might want to consider learning how to listen to your own truth and wants. If you answered C, you may want to begin exploring who you really are, and take steps to begin to know yourself better. You can extend the care and nurturing of hot house mothering to yourself.

There are no perfect mothers. Some days you may be a hot house for your daughter, with great nurturing, and the next day, be hot headed  and cold to your daughter. You may be unable to be there for her in a respectful, loving way. As long as your daughter gets more hot house care than hot headed mothering, she will bloom.

Your daughter is on loan to you from someplace we know naught about. She came through you and is here to find her own purpose, path and passion in life. Please honor her growth, till her soil, keep the weeds and pollutants from her, and listen to her as she grows. Encourage her to find her way, to grow into the most amazing woman she can possibly become. Treat her with the protection, sanctuary and nurture of hot house care.

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The Question That Answers Most Questions

If you are like most moms, you ask yourself many questions every day.  Should you get new car? A divorce? How about losing a few pounds, or adding more exercise into your life? Do you wonder if having an affair will lift your spirits? Maybe you just want to indulge in some online flirting, or sexy talk with a stranger on Craigslist because you husband isn’t attentive as he used to be. There are a thousand things we ask ourselves every day. How do you best decide what is the right answer? By asking yourself a very simple, solid question: “Is it good for the children?”

People can fool themselves when they ask, “Is this good for me?” Often we talk ourselves into believing something is good for us, even though deep down we know it may not be. Using the question, “Is it good for the children?”  is an amazingly simple tool to use to help you guide yourself through life. Let’s take a look at some real life examples.

One woman wanted a divorce from her emotionally abusive husband. Was a divorce good for the children? Usually they are not. But she had to ask, “Was it good for the children to be subjected to a very dysfunctional, cruel family system? What was best for the children?”The woman decided on a clean break, and therapy for everyone. That felt as if it were best for the children.

One woman I worked with fought a battle with diabetes. Yet she drank sodas every day. She couldn’t stop adding more sugar into her bloodstream until she asked, “Is it good for the children?” She realized she was putting her health at risk, which was not in her children’s best interest.

Can you see how this simple, elegant question can apply to so many things you as a mom face every day? If you ask yourself the question and you feel that what you are considering doing isn’t good for the children, don’t do it!

Take the question one more step beyond and use it as a guidelines for your thoughts and beliefs.. Ask the question, “Is it good for the children that I believe… or I think…” What you believe about things is passed down to your children in ways you may not even recognize. What you believe about yourself certainly gets  handed down . Is it good for the children that you feel less than, or small, or feel like a victim?  Probably not. If you know something isn’t “good for the children,” I encourage you to find the way to turn your answer around, so your thoughts, beliefs and actions, “are good for the children.”

Please note, the answer does not have to be about your own children. The answer can encompass children everywhere. We are all united on this planet. Let us not forget that our thoughts, beliefs and action ripple out and touch so many others. May you find your way to always answer, “Yes! This is good for the children.”

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