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Do You Respond or React with your Tween2Teen?

Things don’t always go according to plan. It could be at work, school, home, or just life in general.  Last week, very little went according to plan: flat tire, broken garbage disposal, school event overload, extreme work catch-up and a little tween ‘tude. Each of these experiences had the potential to push me over the proverbial edge. I’m happy to say they didn’t … this time.

Several years ago, I learned a very worthwhile lesson about what can happen things don’t go according to plan.  At the time, I was newly married and pregnant with my first child. The house we had purchased was in desperate need of paint.  I carefully selected a painter that I felt gave us a decent price and quality work. After a week, I reviewed the work. Eh. It wasn’t so quality after all. I was certain, though, that the painter would come correct.  He didn’t. Instead, I received the final bill, which was far more than the original estimate. This was not anywhere close to going how I had planned. And, I’d love to tell you that I was quite calm and reasonable when I spoke with the contractor. I was not. My reaction was far from calm, reasonable or even slightly helpful. I actually changed my locks the next day as I was afraid of retaliation. It was that bad.

This experience, however, taught me the valuable difference between reacting and responding. What’s the difference? A reaction is quick, not-so well-thought-out act of anger or aggression. A response offers more contemplation; it is non-threatening, even calm, and it allows for assertiveness without aggression. A reaction provokes and sets off more reactions; this can perpetuate a cycle of threats. A response starts a discussion – even a debate – that can lead to resolution instead of rage and resentment.  Reaction is about power; response is about respect.

Both reactions and responses are born the same. Your child (or anyone for that matter) says or does something that triggers an emotion. Perhaps your 6th grader ignores your efforts to make their school dance special, or your 4th grader screams, “I hate you.” Maybe you just found a joint in your 8th graders dresser drawer. There are countless situations that can trigger you. It is what happens next, though, that makes the difference, especially in the relationship with your tween. You have to make a choice: react or respond?

Alright, I’m going to call my bluff. I don’t always choose to respond. Sometime I react (and it isn’t pretty.) We all do. Some situations that trigger a lot of fear, anger or inadequacy; and, you know what, you will react. However, there are a few tried and true strategies that can weight the odds of in more favor of responding than reacting.

  • When something doesn’t go according to plan, take a deep breath and count to ten or fifty or one thousand, if necessary.
  • Eat a piece of dark chocolate. I’m not joking. Dark chocolate can calm the nerves by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The was a study in 2009 that showed the markers of stress were reduced in high anxiety folks by eating 40 grams of dark chocolate a day.
  • Admit to yourself that this is not going as planned and that is just fine.  Don’t belittle yourself. Just say “ok, this is not what I want but I’ll figure it out.”
  • Ask yourself:  “What’s going on with me right now?” Are you hungry, tired or just cranky. If so, grab a snack, take a nap or, I don’t know, do a happy dance. Then move on.
  • Step away. This is especially true if you are in a monkey-wrench of a situation with your child. Rather than react, tell your child, “I am really, really angry. I need some space from you. We WILL talk about this when I get back.” Then, go for a walk. Hit the gym. Write a letter and DON’T mail it. Scream curse words off your roof. Call someone. Eat more chocolate. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself the opportunity to calm down.
  • Consider what your child needs from you. I guarantee it is not feeling guilt or shame. What do you need? Perhaps more boundaries, appreciation, ground rules. Now, consider how you want this situation resolved? My guess that it usually isn’t with doors slamming and punishments being tossed around like a hackey sack.
  • Talk WITH – not AT – your child. Children – especially tweens and teens – shut down when they feel you are lecturing them. Give them permission to speak – not scream – whatever is on their mind. This shows them that even though you may be upset, you still value what they have to say. This also gives great buy-in on any consequences you may need to choose. (That’s coming up in another article!)
  • Still feeling uncertain? Seek out counsel from a friend, family member, mentor or counselor for support.

We cannot control what happens in our lives. Things are not always going to go according to plan. We do, however, always have command over our choices.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section on how you remain calm when things don’t go according to plan and you have been triggered.

With gratitude~  jws


Flipside Friday

“I’m worried about my 14-year-old son. He is putting himself into situations that aren’t the best and being very nasty in his tone with me and his dad. He’s fine with the rest of the world but not us. What should I do?”


FlipSide_Logos_v1_Page_2The Flipside …

From 14-year-old, Kaci:

“I think that young teenagers put themselves in situations like this to prove something, whether to themselves or other people. They want to prove that they are independent and grown up, or even cool. They think that doing things that are unsafe will make them seem cooler, even though it wont. Maybe he’s feeling pressured by his friends to do these things, or he could just be coming up with things on his own to feel older. I know from experience that 14 is a tricky age, you’re rapidly growing up, yet still feel like a kid, so this might just be a phase he is going through while trying to find himself.”


From Julie

Adolescent boys do quite a bit of posturing, don’t they? As much posturing as boys do, though, they often feel at a loss of what they could be doing – powerless to what their life looks / feels like. This, in turn, causes them to rebel or disconnect. Typically, this behavior serves as a purpose to figure out who they are and what they can get away with. (Boys aren’t alone. Girls struggle with identity development at this age as well.)  They want so much to be their own person – separate from mom and dad – but they really don’t know who that person is. Rather than patiently wait, they rebel a bit with the snarky comments, eye rolls, and so forth.

It’s also important to note that tween-to-teens are wired for risk-taking, novelty seeking, reckless behaviour and impulsivity. A recent study has shown that the adolescent brain is extra sensitive to the rewarding signals it gets when something better than expected happens. The discovery might help explain why your son is taking risks that don’t seem worth it to you.

As parents, we often see the situation through adult / parent eyes and we fail to see the flipside. Taking that time to put yourself in your son’s shoes can be extremely insightful in terms of figuring out his needs. Learn his language (i.e. what are the words / phrases / even times that allow you to communicate.) Begin a courageous conversation with him about his behavior. For example, you can say, “I get that doing [insert whatever he is doing here] seems exciting. Is there something more you get from it? [maybe a sense of belonging, adventure - let him tell you]. I’ve been there too. However, the risks you are taking paired with the disrespect you are showing isn’t acceptable. What do you think needs to happen?” See where that leads you. And, don’t have this conversation if he just got in trouble as he will be on the defensive. I also recommend taking a listen to the MP3, The Art of Talking – and Connecting – with your Tween-to-Teen. You can access it here:   Art of Talking with Tweens-to-Teens



Beyond Talking: How to Create Meaningful Connections With Kids in Just 5 Minutes [guest post]

guest post by Kevin Strauss of FamilyeJournal

Remember the days of writing letters? Once upon a time, people used to write letters of all types and send them all over the world and they might take months to reach their recipient. Letter writing is extremely powerful and people would share their deepest and most personal feelings. Once a person opens up in that way there is a greater chance they will receive a similar reply. And this is how incredibly intense feelings and the strongest bonds of connection are made… or they used to be.

Times have certainly changed. While the speed in which people can communicate has increased exponentially, the depth of sharing seems to have decreased exponentially. We share a lot more and a lot more often yet we’re missing out on the deeper and more meaningful connection.

The result is a society that is far less connected, emotionally, to each other. It may seem like no big deal but it is. You may even think, “Sure, I don’t talk to my kids (or parents) as much as I might like, but we’re doing ok.” and you probably are. But then again, we see the signs of a lack of connection all around us, every day.

People seek connection constantly. Connection provides the support that helps feed our emotional needs. Most recently, we turn to social media to receive a constant bombardment of updates from our network. It feels like we’re connecting when we read these posts but in reality, real connection requires an equal sharing between at least two people. Social media is largely unidirectional. We might share what we’re doing but not really how we feel about it or what it means to us. Nor are we learning how our confidant feels on the same subject.

Social media is just the newest way to try and overcome our loneliness. Alcohol and drugs have always been an escape for people. They also provide a false sense of connection with the buddies sharing in the unhealthy behavior. The recent tragedy at UC Santa Barbara is another reminder that someone who feels lonely and isolated may turn to violence as a means of compensation.

Did you know that strong connections can also lead to wonderfully positive behaviors? Studies show when kids feel connected to their family they earn better grades, stay in school and are more likely to graduate. This means we need to listen to our kids and we also need to share with our kids how we feel about various topics and events.

Having a deeper connection with our loved ones isn’t as difficult as you might think. Getting deep doesn’t mean sharing all of your personal secrets. Connection is a process that begins with opening the lines of communication. While talking may seem like the best way, perhaps because of its immediacy, writing can be so much more powerful. Like letter writing from days past.

Of course, the time and effort to write a letter, no matter how powerful, is just not very realistic in today’s instantly gratifying electronic age. But there are ways to have real conversations, without talking, and while living under the same roof or opposite sides of the world.

Email can be just as effective as old-fashioned letter writing. Plus, email can be delivered faster and easier than snail-mail. However, it still requires you to initiate a conversation and if both people aren’t fully engaged, the email thread ends at one.

If you’re interested in improving connection within your family or a group of friends, a website called (FEJ) can help. FamilyeJournal is a free relationship boosting website that offers a database of questions for you and yours to answer and share. It’s private to only those members your family leader has added and is available 24/7 around the world.

The days of letter writing are nearly extinct but the need for connection is basic to everyone no matter your age, gender or ethnicity. The rate of loneliness is steadily increasing even with social media. A simple Q&A website like FamilyeJournal can change all of that. Personal connection is the key to making everything better.


family-eJournalAbout the Author: Kevin Strauss, M.E. earned his Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He has worked for nearly 20 years in the areas of orthopedic implant R&D, regulatory affairs consulting and NIH funded research. Kevin also has 13 years of experience working for positive behavior modification. His work has been published and presented at conferences, earned approximately 40 patents and won awards for innovation. His passion for psychology, human behavior and communication has led him to set his goal on improving personal connection.


Five Love Languages Parents Need to Know

Blend500I often talk about finding your tween-to-teen’s “language,” which means figuring out what words, phrases – even the best times to chat – work for them to receive and give information. However, I also believe their is another language of tweens-and-teens: the language of love. I am a firm believer that the foundation of communication and connection is love. Gary Chapman agrees. According to Chapman, author of “The 5 Love Languages” series, there are five different ways people communicate their love and need to feel their love. Everyone is different because we may also have a mix of love languages. As parents, we must understand the type of love language our children speak and need to hear to ensure they are getting their needs met. The five different love languages are:

Quality Time

Quality time is about being present with your loved ones.  People who need quality time crave alone time with their loved one, want to catch up with them by having time alone where they can talk and bond. You may have the love language of quality time if you find yourself constantly desiring to be with someone when you are alone. You likely don’t feel satisfied or happy until you can be with the person or people you love.

Physical Touch

People who need physical touch feel love and demonstrate their love for others through a hug, a kiss, a cuddle, a pat on the back (sex, too, which is important to note during hormone-laden adolescence).  You may feel lonely or lost if you haven’t been physically near a loved one. You crave to be close to those you care about and demonstrate your love for them with hugs, massages and even sitting close to others.


Gifts isn’t about the big, shiny package. The love language of gifts can be flowers, a note or card, maybe a mix-tape (umm, I’m definitely dating myself there) – just small gifts that share a token of love. People who with a love language of gifts feel validated when you pick something out for them or spend money on them. Your love language may be gifts if you think or wait anxiously for holidays or birthdays to see what your loved ones might get you. Gifts are usually a big test in relationships for people who speak the gift love language.

 Acts of Service

Whether it is cleaning, cooking, running errands, or driving, acts of service are seen as acts of love. By doing that act of service the other person feels love or is showing their love. People who need acts of service will sometimes ask their loved ones for favors or errands not because it is easier, but rather because they need the affirmation of the other person’s love. You need acts of service if you feel unwanted or unimportant if someone does not follow through on a promise or do something that you ask.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are verbal clues for others to express how much they love and care about someone. Words of affirmation can also be compliments and reassurances that confirm inner love in an outer way. People who need words of affirmation need to hear from the people they love frequently. Additionally, they need to hear what the other person is thinking out loud. That outward, verbal expression is how they feel loved. If you find yourself constantly needing to hear from your loved one to get reassurance or even fishing for compliments, words of affirmation is likely your love language.

This week, take the time to sit with your family and talk about each of your love languages. (Yes, you may need to have ice cream on hand to combat the tween-to-teen eye rolls.) Listen with your ears, eyes and heart to see if each person’s needs are being met. If so, yay! If not, talk about ways to speak each other’s language. Actually, the best thing you can do is simply ask what your child needs from you. And, then listen, really listen, to the answer.

And, now, I’m curious … what’s your love language? What’s the best way for others to “speak your language?” 



Feel closer to your family in just 30 days?

Is it possible? Yes it is!!


I am very excited to announce that I am partnering with FamilyeJournal to give you and your family a fantastic opportunity to communicate and connect!

As you know, today’s on-the-go lifestyle can make it difficult to connect with your kids. I have found that FamilyeJournal is an easy way to help improve your family connection with thought-provoking questions that you answer and share online in just a few minutes.

family-eJournalSo, who is FamilyeJournal and why would I want to partner with them on this? Like me, FamilyeJournal is dedicated to improving and adding value to your family relationships. This dedication led them to create the online family journal that connects parents, kids, grandparents (anyone!) by simply sharing your thoughts through journaling prompts.  And, if you know me, you know that I’m all in for anything that provides deeper connections!  I also love it because it helps build connection around something kids understand and love … technology!

Cool, right?

Here’s where it gets even better. Announcing…

The 30-Day FamilyeJournal Challenge

FamilyeJournal has offered a special challenge just for us. For just $10, your entire family will have an opportunity to win a $50 gift card to Target. Actually, there are two $50 gift cards – one will be awarded to a family with the most read eJournals and one to an individual who shares the most (calculated by the highest average number of characters).

Here’s how it works:

(1) Click here to pay the $10 per family registration fee.

(2) Download the FamilyeJournal Quick Start Guide (it will actually be emailed to you after registration) and follow the directions.

(3) From August 1 to August 30, write in your online family journal, and enjoy the deeper connections you will make.

(4) Winners will be announced on September 10, and gift cards will be sent to winning individual and family.


So, what are you waiting for?

Register now!