Welcome caregivers of ungrateful teenagers. I invite you all to share your wisdom, stories, suggestions and advice regarding your UT (ungrateful teen). While we will continue to discuss our UT's, it's also important for our UT's to know that even though they are ungrateful, we still love them. But on the real, something has to change and soon! Let's support each other and remember, sometimes it takes a Village, a shoe and good aim to raise a child.

Peace and Love! Lisa Butler

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"The Grace Period"

We are about to enter the "Grace Period", that time of year right after Thanksgiving but just before Christmas when our precious little teens are usually on their best behavior in preparation for all the excessive indulgence that us parents will throw their way. As the holiday season approaches, remind your teen about the true meaning of the holidays, set limits on spending, allow for your teen to earn gifts and have them give back to the community by volunteering and helping other families that are less fortunate. Another suggestion is to have them give a thank you card to all the people that have made a difference in their lives. A simple "thank you" speaks volumes when showing gratitude and appreciation.

I told my teen that for Christmas, we are going to adopt a family from the shelter. His question to me was "where is everybody going to sleep?". Needless to say, we had a long discussion about what my intentions are and how he was going to be involved. As parents we have to continue to be mindful about our role in why our teens are so ungrateful and when do "we" start making changes. Our teens are not going to change....unless we change! One of my favorite quotes is by Anthony Robbins, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten". Such a simple quote but it speaks plenty.

Take care and brace yourselves for the "Grace Period". And as we all know, there's always an end to every "Grace Period". :):)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Adopting a family for the holidays.

I told my teen son that for Christmas we're going to adopt a family from the shelter. His question to me was "where is everybody going to sleep?"

Friday, November 27, 2009

As a parent, I accept and acknowledge my part in the creation of my Ungrateful Teen!

Great article posted by Walden Counseling to my facebook group UTIMH (Ungrateful Teenager in My House).

Parenting with "foresight fortitude"

In an earlier post, the author Betty Friedan is quoted, warning of the jeopardy of a parent’s continued rescuing of their child/youth- which in the end, she states, renders the child’s life, short of learning values of responsibility, accountability, pride, etc. And though "...rarely has a single book ( Betty Frieman's "The Feminine Mystique") been responsible for such sweeping, tumultuous and continuing social transformation", her motivation was to address the reform of attitudes and expectations of women and as a result their effect on their children.
The author makes the statement about parenting style rather bluntly and matter- of- factly but really, through our findings, we believe her to be more than less, correct. It also should be said, that we think that the author speaks not of anti-social* diagnosed children, but more of those typical child(ren) who have been sheltered, over-nurtured/protected, and not permitted to grow through consequential life-experience; however painful it may be. As we stated, more and more we are seeing that the inclusion of consequential life experiences commonly present in earlier times (and we all remember them- if you don’t do your homework- your parents allowed you to experience the bad/failing grade, you forget your lunch- you go hungry, you don’t write the thank you note…) are not so much common nowadays. And being in the helping business, of course we tend to dwell on a more humanistic approach: the cause and effect modality of Freidan’s warning.

Through working with hundreds of families and children, we find that this over-participatory parenting style is not one that is necessarily premeditated by the parent; we see some of the parental behavior is merely a response from their own experiences as children; growing up with tyrant or emotionally absent parental figures and with that, render their pure determination of NEVER doing that! to their children.

Other times this approach of over-participatory parenting style is just a lack of “foresight fortitude” combined with exhaustion; thus yielding the “its just EASIER if I do it, then deal with constantly nagging them” or “this way I don’t have to endure a drawn out scene/tantrum, cause I can’t handle that right now”.

Or many times (as Betty Friedman may suggest) the situation played out in this familial landscape is one in which the parental figure who (whether consciously or not) may exhibit a- need to be needed, co-dependant parent trait. Here we think we are being loving and helpful to our children but in reality, we are stunting them. Here as co-dependant parents, our child finds experiences away from us to be cycles-of-emotional challenges; one challenge, right after another. We will add that a co-dependent parenting cycle- is no gift to our children now, nor when he/she reaches the age-appropriate-typical time to launch.

The great news is that parents can become mindful/cognitive of their own contributions to the conflict cycle and work to overcome it. Though the following approaches for remediating these parenting practices may not be new, they do work.

Cognitive Behavioral Approach

We can learn about the “why” of our over-compensation or co-dependency with our children and realize the consequences of carrying over these behaviors: as we stand back and watch the maladaptive behaviors exhibited in our youth. We can stop the cycle. We can ask ourselves "Was this our hope? to have a child so reliant on us,they are unable to launch out happily and successfully independent?"
Overcoming an ingrained parenting style takes fortitude and a high pedestal vision of success- a big picture focus for our children and the world they will be part of. It takes fortitude and true commitment to help overcome our earlier ways and to react mindfully. Cognitive Behavioral Approach is simply being aware of ourselves, our internal motivations which predispose us to certain tendencies. When we feel the urge to over- manage and rescue: be mindful of our own motivations, continue to be consciously aware of where we come from and have “foresight fortitude”- keep your eye on the prize!

Practice Emotional Detachment

We use this excellent example of ED from Michael Masterson "The best example I can give you is the natural love that a mother has for her child. When the child is happy, the mother is happy. When the child is unhappy, the mother instinctively wants to find the cause of the unhappiness and end it, if she can.
When the mother discovers that the child is unhappy because of some physical discomfort, she tries to relieve it. When the cause is an emotional conflict, she does her best to teach the child how to handle it. The mother’s goal is always to prepare the child to become independent. She works consistently to gradually free the child from his natural dependence on her so that he can go out into the world and live a happy and productive life.

When an 11-year-old tells his mother that he “hates” her because she’s imposed some restriction on him, the (mentally healthy) mother does not feel hurt, even though a hurtful thing has been said. She loves the child and doesn’t take his statement to heart. She remains calm. She reminds him that she loves him. And she explains that the restriction will not be removed simply because he “hates” it or her.

Behavior Modification

As most know, behavior modification occurs in all parenting; whether we sit down every night and help our child do homework, drive them wherever they want, buy them whatever they want, or allow them to be lazy/eat unhealthily …we reinforce certain behaviors and expectations in every move we make! We even do it with our mates.
Undoing unacceptable behaviors through firm, un-relenting-love-response equates to a simple approach that we teach in our parenting classes;

SAY it, MEAN it and DO it

Consistency and Follow through; Do it, it works. Consistent responding is important because erratic responses to unwanted behavior can actually cause the behavior to increase in frequency.

Let us try to explain this idea. If a child/youth consistently throws tantrums/hammers you for a new toy/cell phone… in stores, in front of friends/family, hoping to be given something to end the “tantrum”, inconsistent parent responses can worsen the situation. If a parent is occasionally determined not to give in, but, provides a candy bar/toy/cell phone/a promise to end the tantrum/hammering away on other occasions, the child/youth learns either to have more tantrums, or to have more dramatic tantrums. The rise in the number or intensity of tantrums/hammering happens because the child/youth is trying to increase the number of opportunities to obtain that infrequent parental reward for the behavior.

Plan responses to predefined target behaviors before the issue arises. Reward desired actions and withdraw rewards or apply punishment for undesirable behavior. The United Front is mandatory too. In two parent families both caregivers need to be consistent in their responses and on the same page; discuss the goals and the approach ahead of time and discuss the outcomes and plan privately and frequently.
The key to all of this Undoing? Follow through; even if you are tired and it’s just easier if you do it yourself then ask them to do it or you just don't want to argue. Follow through even if you had a bad day, and you can’t seem to look farther down the road for your child than their current hurtful or angry face. SAY it, Mean it and Do it.

Sometimes we will see that things may seem to get worse before they get better, this is the youth testing and pushing the new found boundary (they push many times in disbelief that you are setting consistent boundaries -the boundary of “ no, I will not bail you out this time, or next time”).
But they will get better if you stick to the charge you have- of walking beside your child.

The beauty in putting the power back on the kid is it will allow our kids to make it and being able to do it without us and give them the gift of feeling prideful.
Stick to it, it gets better and then- its gets BEST!

When Betty Friedan proposes that our children who rise up in families where so much is being done for them; without them being permitted to feel the pain or the discipline of learning/earning it themselves-where they will not be able to feel the pleasure of TRULY self-sustained goals, it is no large wonder that –the world for them will undoubtedly feel bland, they will not know how to reach self-set-disciplined goals independently, and as a result, life may well be devastatingly boring and unfulfilling.

Spirited by Friedman's bold statement we would like to say now, that over-participatory-parenting style is forever
and dare we say it, a bit self-serving in a -need to be needed way.
For those of us who need additional support to work effectively through the more intense underlying urges –we urge you to take advantage of a licensed professional family counselor-one you can openly relate to and one you respect. The truth is that teaching our children through consequential-life- experiences is conceptually short term with beautiful loving results. It’s not always easy- but it is worth it.

*distinguish that we are not discussing behaviors that have been categorized as, “antisocial” i.e. - oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Can you buy me a pair of new sneakers for Thanksgiving?

Yes, this is the question that my 16 year old son Anthony asked me a few days before Thanksgiving. Why would this boy need a new pair of sneakers just to go to his Grandmother's house for dinner...and why would he think that I would purchase them for him? As we gather with our families for a day of giving thanks it's important to remind our children what the true meaning of this holiday is about. Again, because we're dealing with ungrateful children it may be necessary to spend a little extra time hammering home the message today... Have a great and happy "Thanksgiving Day".