Sunday, November 27, 2011

Teen Identity: How to Nurture a Healthy Identity in Your Kids and Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Developing an identity is one of the most important things any person will do in life. Our identity or self-concept answers the question of ‘Who am I?”. It determines how we see ourselves, how we behave, and how we feel about ourselves. If we see ourselves in a negative light or feel badly about the person we are, it affects our ability to have a good relationship with others and our levels of success across various domains.

Developing an identity happens gradually throughout the childhood years. In early childhood, kids describe themselves in concrete ways (e.g., I have brown hair, I am Jimmy’s friend) and in adolescence their description becomes more abstract (e.g., using personality traits, morality, and ideals to describe who they are).

The role of parents is to excite teens into thinking about themselves in a more mature (and of course positive) way while providing a loving and supportive environment. Encouraging and compassionate surroundings allow teens to feel safe and proud of their attempts at an adult-like life. This support has a positive influence on their identity.

Here are some ideas on how to guide your child to develop a healthy identity:

1. Self-awareness: Guide your teen to think about who they are, what they are good at, what they like or don’t like, preferences, skills, and talents. Talking about bodily changes, what to emotions to expect, and the normalcy of it all is also important. Share stories from your childhood with your teen to demonstrate s/he isn’t the only one experiencing this ‘awkward’ stage.

2. Self-acceptance: With all the changes occurring in your teen’s life, mental and physical health depends on how much your teen is able to accept him or herself (e.g., new physical appearance and new way of thinking). Teaching self-acceptance is best done through modeling. Teens tend to criticize themselves similar to the way the same-gender parent does, likewise, they tend to praise themselves similar to the same-gender parent.

3. Family values: Every family has values. It becomes a problem however, if they are never discussed. The earlier a family discusses values (and adheres to them!!) the better. Sometimes there is a mistaken impression that teens will figure it out on their own. After all, it’s part of building independence and too much guidance might spoil them. Teens are still very much children and vulnerable children at that. It is at this age that they need parents to guide them on what is important in life. Clearly laid out values (not in lecture format though) outlines what type of behaviour is acceptable.

4. Goals: Goals help strengthen identity by adding a feeling of purpose in life. Completed goals give teens direction and a feeling of accomplishment. All 3 of these components are necessary for good self-esteem. Goals don’t have to be big to count; even simple objectives such as keeping room clean from week to week arouse feelings of pride. Encourage your teen to have goals, point out goals that have not been recognized as ‘goals,’ and remember to celebrate all successes. If there are any outstanding goals, teach your teen to view them as lessons learned before they write them off as a failures.

5. Future occupation: In addition to the other challenges teens face, thinking about future career choices adds stress and anxiety. 100 years ago, children’s future would be decided early. Sons would inherit the father’s farm or business and daughters would marry and raise kids. Today’s career choices are much more extensive and many times children are left on their own to figure it out...assuming that as they reach a certain age they will just know! Guidance, inspiration, and experimentation are important throughout the teen years as they help identify and pinpoint skills, strengths, and likes. Research, discuss, and experiment with (hands-on experience) a wide range of occupations.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Erikson’s Developmental Stages: Helping Your Child Develop Successfully

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

If there is anything parents want it’s the successful development of their children. As such, it’s helpful for parents to be aware of how their children develop and what psychological changes occur at each stage of development. Knowing where children are at helps parents attribute meaning to much of what children say or do. This knowledge increases confidence in parents and gives them patience while children are growing up.

Erikson, a German psychologist, proposed 8 (though I will only cover first 6) psycho-social developmental stages humans go through from the time of birth to the end of life. During each stage the human is faced by new and more complex challenges. Each stage is a building block for the next stage and unresolved issues from previous stages are taken into subsequent stages until the problem is resolved. Old issues tend to impede successful development in subsequent stages.

The summary of the 6 stages are as follows:

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust (Birth to around 15 months old)

During this stage infants face the challenge to develop a sense that the world is a safe and good place. Throughout these early years, children learn to trust or mistrust depending on how well their needs are met. Both mom’s and dad’s nurturing behaviour (touch, visual contact, and availability to meet child’s various needs) plays an important role for children to develop a good level of trust, safety, security and worth. The more the parents are available, the greater the likelihood this stage will be met with success.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame/ Doubt (1 to 3 years old)

Between the ages of 1 and 3 children learn many new skills and they learn right from wrong. The challenge faced is to realize that one is an independent person who can make one’s own decisions (the terrible twos!). When learning new skills and making choices, mom’s and dad’s behavioural and verbal feedback greatly influence how children perceive themselves. Encouragement will lead to high self-esteem and pride (whether the child failed or not) and autonomy whereas negative feedback will lead to feelings of shame and low self-esteem (whether the child succeeded or not).

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt (3 to 6 years old)

The challenge here is to develop a willingness to try new things and to handle failure. Primary family members continue to be the most important influence as children develop the desire to copy the adults around them. Some behaviour is directly tried out by the child (e.g. tying shoe laces, eating with cutlery) and other situations are played out in the imagination (e.g. tea parties, playing house). In their attempt to understand how the world works parents often hear the word ‘Why?’. Success at this stage leads the child to a sense of purpose. Children who frequently experience parental disapproval tend to develop a sense of guilt that carries into the next stages.

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority (6 years to adolescence)

The challenging during this stage is to continue learning basic skills and to work with others. If the stage is completed successfully, children develop a sense of competence, if not they develop a feeling of inadequacy.
Children now start going to school and their world becomes larger—they see, hear, and experience many things they have not up to this point. In school children develop relationships outside the home and start learning how to deal with peers. Children who have a difficult time getting along with peers due to lack of social skills or lack of success in previous stages develop low self-esteem and feel inferior to their peers.

Parental modeling of healthy social skills, positive feedback, and tips come in handy for children to apply to their own life.

Stage 5: Identity vs. Identity Confusion (Adolescence: 12 to 18 years old)

The challenge during the teen years is to develop a lasting, integrated sense of self. If this stage is not completed successfully, children end up moving onto the next stage without an idea of who they are. Children with a clear identity are able to stay true to who they are and their value system, whereas, children who are unsure of their identity tend to be more easily persuaded by others.

Teens will use their world experiences with friends and social groups, social ideals, family values, and own judgement and conclusions to understand themselves. Positive family modeling and continual healthy parent-child bonds are important for the success of this stage. Although teens tend to pull away from parents, it is important parents don’t pull away from their children. They are still children!

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young adulthood: 18 to 35 years old)

During this stage the challenge is to commit to another in a loving relationship. The success of this stage is usually determined by how well children fared in the previous stages. If previous stages lead child to experience overall feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, shame, and low self-esteem it is more difficult to sustain a healthy and loving relationship. If young adults believe themselves to be unsuccessful during this stage they will experience isolated and like they do not fit in with peers who have married and started a family.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life Coaching for Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

According to research, youth who have 3 or more adult role models (in addition to their parents) are less likely to engage in unsafe behaviours including, sex, drugs, and alcohol. The adult role models can be athletic coaches, teachers, extended family members, or a member from the church/ temple/ synagogue. Unfortunately, today’s communities are larger and as a result are less intimate leaving teens without the support previous generations were able to give to youth.

Life coaching for teens has been increasing in popularity. Similar to other role models, life coaches are trained individuals (be sure to always check credentials!!) who can guide your teen to think and behave in a self-serving manner. Coaching is about teaching youth to CREATE their life as opposed to be swept away by it. The benefits of coaching are widely recognized.

The benefits include:

1. Guiding and teaching teens how to think for themselves
2. Helping youth develop a self-identity, including how to think about their place in the family, school, and community
3. Promoting positive relationships with family members
4. Understanding the meaning of responsibility and accountability (responsibility is more than just chores and homework)

In addition to the many benefits, life coaching for teens often focuses on the following area (depending on individual programs). The 4 components serve to provide guidance to teens as they transition from childhood to adolescence and over into adulthood.

1. Self-awareness: Sometimes it is difficult to connect how our actions lead to outcomes. Many individuals see life as unfair fate or just plain luck. Life coaches show teens how to make choices that are in line with who they are in order to create the life they want. This way they do not need to count on luck for things to go their way.

2. Self-esteem and confidence: Self-confidence is based on self-esteem and self-esteem is based on how we interpret events in the world, including how we interpret others’ comments, our setbacks, and what we think about our place in the world. It is determined based on whether we focus on our strengths or weaknesses on our success or our failures. Showing youth to put things into perspective will raise self-esteem and confidence levels.

3. Choose and plan goals: Everyone has values, strengths, and needs. It is important we choose goals based on strengths and values to ensure goals are fulfilling. Picking goals because others expect us to pick them almost always leads to disappointment. Life coaches show teens how to recognize the goals important to them from the goals important to others.

4. Empowerment: Increased self-awareness, raised self-esteem and confidence levels, and choosing and planning goals all give teens a new perspective on life. This new knowledge empowers and motivates them. They learn that life does not happen randomly and they learn that when something does not go as planned they still have a choice on how to react.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Life Coaching for Parents

Life coaching is not just for individuals looking for personal improvement in career, social, or financial areas of life. Life coaching is also extremely effective in putting families back on track. Many life coaches are finding themselves working with parents (or the family as a unit) to help parents create the relationship they want with their kids. And they are doing a fantastic job!

Life coaching is not only for parents in crisis who are in dire need of outside intervention. Many parents would agree their family is functioning well, however, they recognize there are a few areas that could use some buffering. Most parent clients usually come for one of the reasons below:

1. Parents know the type of relationship they want to have with their children but have a hard time reaching that point. It is not uncommon for parents to feel inadequate and hopeless. Coaching for these parents is about inspiration and reassurance to follow their natural instinct.

2. Parents feel lost and stuck. They are not sure what else they can do to improve their relationship with their child, to get their teen to listen, and have a happy well-adjusted household. They’ve tried many methods and they know which of the parenting techniques are not working for them but are not sure what to do next. Coaching for these parents is about recognizing negative patterns, re-establishing the bond they have with their children and setting up some new rules.

Parenting was not meant to be hard and it certainly wasn’t meant to leave parents feeling lost, confused, feeling like a failure and unfulfilled. Parenting today is not what it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. The challenges parents face today are different than the challenges their parents faced. For economic reasons, many households have both parents working outside the home, some operate their own business from their home, however, feel tight with time and are unable to give their kids the time and attention they require.

Parents soon learn that parenting is much more than just modeling the right behaviour, providing their children with food, shelter, and sport and educational opportunities. Although all of these are VERY important, there is more to it than that.

When parenting consider these 3 areas:

1. Attachment: The strength of the bond you have with your child is extremely important and will determine how well your child is willing to listen to you and cooperate. If your child does not feel bonded to you and is more attached to his peers, he will be more likely to follow their example than yours.

2. Personal insecurities: Many of our personal insecurities stem back from our own childhood and they affect how we parent our kids. Whether we push them into activities they are not interested in, or push them to keep performing better and better each time, or try to relive our life through our kids it all provides incredible pressure on kids that can lead them to rebellion.

3. Observation and communication: Be present (physically and mentally) so you can observe your child, be alert to self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour, and be alert to anything that may be going on outside the home. Have an open line of communication so your child feels free to speak to you without feeling judged or belittled. Approach topics with an open mind.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Parents: Common False Beliefs in Teens

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Many people have false beliefs about themselves that keep them from getting what they want. If you think back to your teenage years you’ll probably remember you had some of the same limiting beliefs then as you do now (e.g., being afraid to try new activities or try out for teams, feeling you never were able to keep up with others, etc.).

Similarly, if you notice false beliefs in your teen and think she will simply outgrow them with experience and age, think again. With age and experience also come tougher challenges which can help perpetuate the same old false beliefs. As such, it is wiser to nip these limiting beliefs now then allow them to spread and dominate.

How will you be able to identify any of the false beliefs your child has? Pay attention to your teen’s speech (negativity) and behaviour (avoidant or self-sabotaging). Your child’s habitual patterns are visible through her words and behaviour. You cannot separate her thoughts from who she presents herself to be in the world.

Watch out for these common false beliefs:

1. Self-judgement: A common false belief adults hold is “I am not good enough.” This belief tends to be picked up in childhood while kids are learning new skills and frequently making mistakes and are solidified in teen years as they try to figure out their identity. This is where the quality of parental feedback is extremely important. Encourage your teen to avoid basing her worth on the outcome of her actions.

2. Social fears: If you’ve noticed your teen is avoiding social situations there is a good chance she holds the belief “Others tend not to like me” or something similar. Thoughts like these are usually based on 1 or 2 bad experiences and are then generalized to all future experiences. Pay attention to your teen’s social habits and inquire about her reasoning.

3. Capability: One of the most used words by adults as well as teens are “I can’t. Others can but I can’t.” Usually there is an underlying fear of failure and what that failure really means. For many teens it feels safer not to try than to try and prove to self that “I knew I wasn’t good enough.” Clarify to your child that success often comes after many trial and errors. The learning lessons along the way are normal and important for growth.

4. Powerless: Another prevalent thought which circulates in society and which teens adopt as their own is “I can’t change it.” This type of thinking leads to giving up, feelings of hopelessness, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, and depression. To challenge this thought, it’s important for parents to minimize modeling the victim mentality and take action more often. The more parents model to their kids that they can take action to change or repair a situation; the more likely teens will adopt this type of mentality.

5. Guilt: Guilt tends to be used if child has not done what was asked of her or if she made a major mistake. Repeated guilt-inducing parenting can lead child to feel she is bad and at fault for her inferiority. It can lead her to conclude “I deserve to feel bad for my inadequacy.” When a teen develops this guilt belief it can lead her to believe she deserves to feel bad about herself and deserves punishment. This affects her perceived self-worth and what she believes she deserves in life.

Now is the best time to empower yourself and your teens through positive parenting!

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Parents: Correct Your Teen’s Negative Thinking

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A habit of negative thinking is easy to come by. Let’s just consider the people around us, the television, the radio, and our community as a whole. Considering the new trend is to think and speak positively, it is clear that changing a negative mindset to a positive one is a lot trickier than most of us expected.

As adults we know how difficult it can be to change our habits. As such, it is important we encourage our kids and teens to develop the habit of positive thinking before they solidify a pessimistic view of life. Being negative has nothing to do with being realistic (“I just call it as I see it!”) it’s just one interpretation of the many possible ones. Being positive on the other hand injects a note of hope and expectancy. It’s a much healthier mindset.

In my practice, I love to work with and empower parents. While my one-on-one work with youth is creates immediate changes, it is my work with parents that helps the changes stick around long after I exit the scene. As such I direct much of my writing to parents, hoping to challenge them, inspire them, and guide them to think in different ways.

Here are common ways I suggest to parents to correct their teens’ negative thinking:

1. Challenge your teen’s negative thinking: Often times, you can challenge your teens negative thinking through logic alone. For example, if your teen holds the belief that new people tend not to like him ask him what he basis this conclusion on. Is it a preconceived expectation that tends to colour his view of reality? Is it based on some past experiences that lead him to believe every future experience will be the same? Future predictions, believing to be able to read others’ minds, all or nothing thinking, and catastrophizing are some of the major areas of faulty thinking.

2. Challenge your teen to step out of the comfort zone: Teens are willing to try new things if they are not worried about failing and of what that failure means. If the temporary failure is considered a part of the process and if it can be separated from what that means about him, perceived failure is no longer so threatening. Clarify this for your teen and challenge him to try something he otherwise wouldn’t.

3. A failure is not a failure: As a society we have conditioned ourselves to believe that anytime something does not work out as planned it is a failure instead of a ‘learning lesson.’ The word failure is defeating and has a note of finality in it where as a learning lessons sounds more positive and allows room for improvement. In my eyes failures only happen when people give up. Anytime your teen refers to ‘failures’ ask him to look deeper into the situation and ask him what he has learned and what he would do differently if he could do it again. Challenge him to try again if that is an option.

4. Watch yourself: Just as a kitten learns how to be a cat from his mom, kids learn how to be human, how to think, and how to behave from their parents. Yes, you must watch your thinking and speaking patterns (keep a journal to help you get a sense of your positivity/negativity patterns). Practice steps 1 to 3 in front of your teen. Just as a kitten follows mother cat’s example, your teen will follow yours.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Teen’s Low Self-esteem: How to Raise a Child with High Self-esteem

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Parents’ words and behaviour have an enormous impact on child’s self-esteem (SE) and self-confidence (SC). Carefully chose your words and watch what your behaviour communicates to your child. Kids require a healthy SE in order to have high SC. Only when kids think positively of themselves can they accept their achievements for what they are.

So what can you do to start raising your child’s SE right away? It’s simple!

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Grab a pen and paper and think about how you typically relate to your child as you read each point. Draw a line down the middle of the paper. On one side write down the typical wording you use (call it typical column) and on the other write down better, more encouraging words you can use instead (call it positive column) when communicating with your child. Write them down and study them!!! This way you will be able to recall the right words when you need them (even when you are tired, running on a short fuse, or caught off guard).

1. Encouraging comments: Even if your child didn’t succeed, always provide encouraging comments first (e.g., “That was a really good try, I liked your initiative and novel approach.”). It can be difficult to provide positive feedback, however when she obviously didn’t put in the effort required but regular comments like “You could have done better,” “That wasn’t done that well” can and will lead to feelings of ‘nothing I do is ever good enough.’ This belief (and others like it) is conditioned once she continues to receive these types of feedback. Start off on a positive note and relate the good stuff first.

2. Connect the dots: Discuss the reasons for failure. If your child didn’t put enough effort into the activity in question, it is important she understands failure was due to lack of preparation or not enough practice. This is different from believing it is her personal inability to be awesome. As such, your child is more likely to conclude “If I practice hard enough, I will be able to succeed,” instead of “Doesn’t matter how hard I try, I don’t have the ability to learn.” Let her know that not doing well was due to a poor choice and choices can always be changed. Comments like “You’ve got some natural talent. With extra practice you’ll ‘ace it’ or “Some things really do require more effort to be done well, what can you do differently next time?” connect the dots for your kids. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to them.

3. Encourage independence: Independence produces feelings of mastery which increases SE. It is important, however to recognize when a task is too hard for your child. Not all activities are age appropriate. By providing a mix of independence and a helping hand you teach her to stretch her abilities but to also know when to get help. It also sends a message that it is OK to get help. Comments such as “Look how far you have gotten on your own. What did you learn? How did you ever think of that!?!? That is awesome! You know I have some ideas too. Can I share?” If your child asks to be left to it alone, let her continue on her own. Pushing unwanted help onto your child can lead her to conclude that you don’t have faith in her abilities. Over time this can translate into feelings of inferiority. Leaving your kids to complete a task means you trust them enough to work it out on their own. Let them know you have fresh ideas when they are ready for them.

4. False beliefs: False beliefs are highly responsible for low SE and SC. Watch your kid’s verbal and behavioural patterns (they are a clue to what is going on in the mind) and ask questions. Get to the bottom of things so you can understand your child’s insecurity. Let’s say you notice your child speak badly about herself when she receives a low grade, your conversation with her can go something like this: “Why do you speak so meanly to yourself when you get a low grade? What does this grade mean about you? Are grades the only way of measuring how smart you are (or good enough)? Is it fair that you are mean to yourself based on your performance on this test? Why is it so important that I am happy with your grade? Would I love you more if you got a better grade? What makes you think that? Did I ever imply by accident that I would love you less if your grades were lower? Tell me so I don’t make the mistake again.). The more you understand the root cause of the belief, the more you can help her.

5. Famous people and role models: Role models are always great inspiration. Having a role model (AKA hero) works even better when the person is from the same field as the child’s interests (e.g., musician, visual artist, scientist, etc.,). If your child gives up before giving things a fair chance or tends to avoid things she thinks she can’t do, provide examples of the struggles her hero went through and how she had to try many times before the hero achieved her goal (e.g., Thomas Edison tried 10 000 times before he got the electric lamp to work; Einstein was considered to have a learning disability (some even speculate autism) and was told he would never amount to much). The great thing about all these wonderful people is they all faced adversity but believed in themselves the entire way. This belief lead them to success.

Best Wishes to your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Causes of Low Self-esteem in Teens: Unintentional but Common Mistakes Parents Make

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Parents have an incredible influence over their kids’ self-esteem (SE). While the best time to start building your kids SE is from day 1, it is never too late to start. Every day brings opportunities to nourish a child’s SE. Unfortunately, when parents don’t take these opportunities to show their child their worth (either because they do not recognize them or are not sure how to take advantage of such opportunities), kids will show signs of slow SE.

To be able to take opportunities each day requires conscious parenting. Conscious parenting means being in the moment and paying close attention to how your words and behaviour make your child feel. If you do not like his/her response consider how your words and behaviour may have affected your child. Every child has different sensitivity levels so it is difficult for any expert to give you an exact formula on how to treat your child. Experts can only provide suggestions and guidelines and it is up to you to adjust it so it fits into your family.

Here are some of the most common mistakes parents make that lowers SE in teens. Do feel free to adjust so it best suits your family!

1. Runs in the family: Typically (but not always), when parents have a healthy self-esteem, the kids do too. Likewise, when parents have low self-esteem, so do the kids. Why is this? Because SE influences language and behaviour (level of assertiveness, confidence, and sociability). Language and behaviour are visible evidence of the SE level and parents model that type of behaviour to their kids. Shy parents who avoid meeting new people and who have little to say in unfamiliar situations have children who observe their avoidant behaviour and will usually grow to imitate the parents.

2. Bad experience: Every once in a while a child will have a bad experience. Tripping and falling in a school performance, mind going completely blank during a test, making a serious social gaffe; any one of these situations can leave the child feeling bad about himself. During this time it is essential he receives unconditional support from parents. Bad experiences are a part of life; however, if parents are not up to date on what is going on in their child’s life they cannot provide the encouragement required so their child can gain a healthy perspective of the situation and maintain a good SE level.

3. SE isn’t nurtured: Although parents have the best intentions, they don’t always translate them into most effective words and behaviour. Reason being? Lack of knowledge. Part of building SE involves daily hugs and “I love you’s.” The frequency of either of these should not be based on performance or achievement. Rather they should be based on the child’s inherent worth as a human being. Regular hugs and “I love you’s” ought to continue into the late teen years. Your child may try to discourage hugs as he gets older (hugs tend to lose their ‘coolness’), but it is your parental right and duty to nurture your child with loving touches and words. Additionally, parents don’t always allow children to make age appropriate decisions. While it is true that you can do most things better, faster, and more accurately, doing things for your child ends up sending the message “you just can’t do it right.” Lastly, when problems arise, parents like to take over and have control of the outcome. Instead, encourage your child to solve the problem on his own as opposed to you taking charge. Remember, it is PRACTICE that gets things right, NOT age! And it is practice that builds SE and self-confidence.

4. Not involved in extracurricular activities: Being a part of teams and clubs builds SE. It shows your child he fits in socially, has great ideas to contribute, it gives him a feeling of achievement, a feeling of fulfillment, and allows him to make various friends. The trick of course is to sign your child up for activities he wants to participate in, not the ones you wish you participated in when you were his age.

5. Negative feedback: Parents often say ‘you could have tried harder and you could have done better.’ The intention of course is to let the child know that with more practice the result would have been better. And many times that statement is correct, had the child put in more effort he could have done better. What parents may not understand is that kids rarely hear what parents think they are saying. Over time the child will infer your words to mean “I am not good enough*.” Likewise, refusing to attend or threatening not to attend sports games until child improves skill leaves child feeling undeserving and stressed.

*Note: This is why parents with high SE don’t always raise kids with high SE. They unknowingly use the wording that leads kids to misinterpret parents’ meaning.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Changes and New Habits Aren’t Working in Your Home: From A Parent’s Perspective

Ivana PejakovicB.Sc., MA

This school year you said and you thought would be different. You set out proposed changes and had high hopes that homework would be done on time, there would be little arguments, grades would be up, and life would be great. A short time later, you’ve realized things have not gone according to plan.

Perhaps you thought about and implemented a plan of how the kids would start pulling their own weight around the home? You imagined the dishwasher would always be empty, the trash would disappear from the can, and the bathrooms would be sparkling clean (not to mention the dust-less furniture). Now you look back and think...things didn’t go according to plan.

What went wrong, you wonder? Is it just your household that is highly resistant to change or do other families go through a similar process? Is this normal?

Normal? That is debatable (depending on the expert you speak to)...but it is certainly common! During this process, try not to get discouraged because things aren’t getting better right away. Sometimes it can take up to a full year before there is a noticeable difference in behaviour. The kids (and you) need to adjust to a new schedule, change habitual behaviour, deal with stressful situations, and successfully overcome a bunch of disputes.

In fact, things often get worse before they get better as your teen may try to rebel against the new rules. And although things may never reach your ideal picture, change and improvement is possible! To make your journey easier, keep these tips in mind:

1. Bond/Attachment: Kids listen and respect those who they are emotionally attached to. The weaker your attachment is with your child, the less interest s/he will have in your attempt to improve the household situation. You need to strengthen your bond with your child before any effective changes will be made in the home.

2. Consistency: Although most parents know about the important of consistency, many have a hard time following up with this concept. The reason being? It requires a lot of attention and focus on the child to ensure regularity. With life being hectic, parents assume and feel they can hand over the responsibility to their children who ought to be reliable and sincere. If the rules are not their rules...think again! Also, try to be consistent in your behaviour (saying one thing and doing another will not work).

3. Giving up: When the going gets tough and kids challenge you, it’s easy to give up a little every day until you settle into old habits. Kids are smart and they have learned that if they challenge you long enough you will back off (they don’t know how or why it works, they just know it does). It is necessary for you to stay persistent (and consistent in your own words and behaviour) until the new behaviour becomes a habit for them. Eventually, they will repeat the new behaviour long enough for it to rub off in their daily life.

4. Lack of patience: Whenever making any major changes in the household (or in life), things will not transition perfectly. Some individuals will protest, some will not get it right, some will not seem interested in your new ‘self-improvement’ kick, others will just think it’s dumb to fix something that ain’t broke! During these times it is extremely important for you to hold on to your temper. Emotional explosions are not fun for anyone. Remember that it takes a while before habits are changed (21 day rule doesn’t always work). Sometimes it can take a full year, before you can look back and say...wow...things have sure improved. Stay patient.

5. I’m the parent! You listen to me: Right! When parenting, it is easy to assume the role of “I am the boss.” And while this is true, it is not a good approach to rub it into your child’s face (imagine if your boss said this to you...and if s/he has, how did you feel?). As most parents will agree, this approach tends to work more with little kids but less with teens. Teens demand more respect than little kids and are not afraid to say no and walk away.

6. Your plan: The problem is that it is YOUR plan...not your kids’ plan! Sit down to discuss the changes that need to be made in the home. Ask them for their opinion, ask them what new routine would make them happier, less stressed. Show them how these changes will benefit them....not just you! It could be that they do not see a problem. If there is no problem, then what is there to fix? Create a plan TOGETHER! Write down who volunteers for what. Let everyone know the chore difficulty must be age appropriate and distributed fairly. Make it the team’s plan not yours!

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto