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20 Things You Must Avoid As A Teen or Adult

20 Things You Must Avoid As A Teen or Adult

We should be living our lives without regrets. Going boldly into the day establishing a model for our teens that they can live fully and that an attitude of generosity and learning will take them far. Here is a quick list of 20 things to consider every day of you and your teen’s journey.


Make a great effort to avoid these pitfalls!!

1. Drifting Along

2. Setting a bad example

3. Wasting time

4. Being Selfish (not serve others)

5. Ignore reality

6. Take your family and friends for granted

7. Being Stingy

8. Thinking there will always be tomorrow

9. Making excuses

10. Not replicating yourself (investing in others)

11. Waste your talents

12. Sickness

13. Depression

14. Loneliness

15. Waste your money

16. Not sharing your strengths (yourself)

17. Not taking risks

18. Not chasing your dreams (if you have a job you’ll work everyday of your life, if you have a passion you’ll never work)

19. Not remaining a student

20. Not relying on something greater than yourself (faith)

Parent or Friend: Do I Have to Choose?

Parent or Friend: Do I Have to Choose?

The thought of being a parent can be overwhelming. Especially considering the teen years, it can be down right terrifying. I came across this blog post recently authored by Dr. Joanne Stern, and it sums up the delicate balance on the topic of being a friend or parent with your child.

Here is her post. The original post can be found here:


You shouldn’t be friends with your kids. What they need is a parent, not another friend. Right?

Wrong. That’s a parenting myth that needs to be debunked.

Actually, there’s no conflict between being a parent and a friend. And here’s why. A parent who is approachable, accessible and has their kids’ best interests at heart grows a close bond with them. We just call that a friendship. And you can set boundaries and have effective discipline- because your kids respect you enough to obey you.

But let me explain to you what I mean when I say you should be friends with your kids. Your friendship is a caliber higher and a layer deeper than those they have with their peers. It’s a caliber higher because you bring with you knowledge, experience, wisdom, and mature decision making ability. It’s a layer deeper because you don’t get jealous or competitive with your children and you never abandon or betray them.

Think for a moment about how you are with your kids when they’re young. You are their friend. You laugh, talk and play games with them and you enjoy each other immensely. And, of course, you still maintain discipline. Your kids benefit immensely from this friendship because it establishes a solid base of trust and respect between you. Why would you want to back away from or sever that close and positive relationship when they reach the pre-teen and teen years- times when they’re struggling with their growth into adulthood and meeting big challenges along the way? In fact, these are the times they need your support, your caring and your influence the most.

But, parenting is an art, not a science, and there are several ways you can get off track with them. Let me give you some tips to help you stay in balance.

1. You don’t want to become permissive. Effective parents set boundaries and permissive ones erase those boundaries. You don’t hang out with them on Saturday night giggling about their boyfriends, using their slang, dressing like they do and trying to be oh so hip and cool. You don’t share inappropriate and intimate details about our life with them just to try to get close to them. You don’t give in to them so they will like you. A parent who is also a friend keeps the boundaries crisp and clear, but you let them know-and feel-that you’re there with them for the long haul.

2. You don’t want to be distant and aloof. If you were, you wouldn’t get to know them and they wouldn’t get to know you. There would be minimal trust between you, and they wouldn’t share with you what’s happening in their lives, so you would lose your ability to influence and guide them. If you’re closed down with them, they’ll close down to you. If you don’t open up to them and promote mutual sharing, the communication between you will be tense and surface. Communication is a two way street-in any kind of relationship. And it’s the bedrock of a relationship. So if you decide to be distant, you have to give up on being close to your kids.

3. You don’t want to be controlling. When you control, kids tend to rebel. Instead of getting on the inside track with them, they will be out to disobey and get out from under your control. They might rebel openly and loudly by looking for ways to sneak, lie and cover up; to be un-cooperative, to be sullen and to talk back. Or they might rebel quietly by getting an eating disorder-because you simply cannot control what they put in their mouths or what they don’t. Control doesn’t feel like respect, and if you don’t respect them, you can’t expect your kids to respect you.

4. You don’t want to become a helicopter parent. When you hover over your kids making all their decisions for them, trying to prevent them from making a mistake or-God forbid-failing, you actually damage their self-esteem. They see your hovering as a message that you don’t trust them and that you don’t believe they can take care of themselves. The more you guide them in decision making, but allow them to make their own-in age appropriate ways-the more mature and wise they become in making good choices. And you want to teach them that failing is okay. It’s part of the human experience. You can ask them what decision they made that led to a bad outcome, how could they have handled it better, what they can do to recover and how you can help. And you can model for them how to deal with mistakes by admitting some of your own. Instead of making them feel belittled, berated, humiliated, put down or stupid, teach them that failure is a learning tool.

So what’s the best position to take? Being a parent who is a friend because that’s how you help your kids most and that’s how you get to be the one they talk to-and listen to-even during the tough times.

Your Teen Masterpiece

Your Teen Masterpiece

As parents we get busy. We have morning routines, school, sports, work, cleaning the house, just to name a few. This can quickly become a rut where “raising our kids” means just getting to bed time with as few arguments and injuries as possible. A dear friend of mine said that we have opportunities flying past us everyday, but we miss them because we’re too distracted.


Our kids represent great opportunities. Their lives are very moldable. In fact, they require it. If we don’t, someone will. And when “someone” does it usually leads to frustration on our part. By default, your teen wants to be led, or another way to say it is shaped by you. My kids were watching the documentary of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the famed body builder, recently. My opinion had always been ‘what’s the big deal? he has big muscles like all of the other guys’. During his interview he’s asked what separates him. Arnold had won Mr. Olympia several times in a row when his competitors couldn’t win a single time. His answer: (I’ll paraphrase) My competition are scientists and I’m an artist. He’s the sculptor and his body is the clay. As parents, we can read all of the books and go to all of the seminars to get all of the education, but the simple truth is that it’s not only education. Parenting your teen is also equal parts ‘You’. Your creativity, your experience, your perspective.

There’s great imagery here for parents. Our teens know nothing as they enter the world. It’s true that they have their own ‘leanings’, but it’s our responsibility, as parents, to see their leanings and encourage them, shape them, and lead them into their life fully ready to be independent individuals. This might start by defining what your family does and doesn’t stand for. Maybe teaching them to iron, cook, create a monthly budget, basic car maintenance. Preparing them for the next stage of their life by sculpting them into the masterpiece they were created to be.

What’s The REAL Question?

What’s The REAL Question?

As parents we’re smart, so smart in fact that we don’t need to hear the whole question or conversation that’s playing out in front of us because we’ve been there, done that. Right? Using our infinite wisdom and experience to quickly and easily wield our ‘solution sword’ to cut through any and all drama or need. We’re kind of like super heroes, but the problem is that the only life (read: time) we’re saving is our own. Our teens should be getting our best when ultimately they’re getting our worst. By simply not taking time to hear and understand we’re telling our teens that they’re not important enough for our time and that communication is a one way street or ultimately doesn’t matter. 


Let’s change it. Let’s listen, but not just listen with our ears, rather be active listeners. Let’s do some full sensory listening. Listening with our eyes, mind and spirit (discernment). Let’s give some feedback to make sure that we’re understanding what’s being said to us. This is relationship, trust building stuff. Crazy things can happen when you don’t fully listen, but instead just give quick answers. Maybe your teen is denied a destiny altering opportunity or you give permission for something that has negative effects. The seemingly insignificant moments are where life is happening. Don’t miss them, because you’re too busy.

Our teens want to be heard and understood. When we take the time to listen and truly understand the benefits can be wonderful. It establishes solid communication skills that our teens can take with them into their other relationships. Our communication is not only about saying yes or no, but about having the opportunity to confirm their natural leanings. Their values and experiences are shaping their responses to what’s going on in their lives. Many times what they know to be true is flying in the face of their culture. This can feel confusing and their trust in you can bring clarity and confirmation to what they already know is true.  Our teens need to know that it’s ok to be guided by deeper meanings, by values and boundaries.

So here are 4 quick suggestions to get started being an active listener with your teen:

1. Be Present
Life is happening right now. The passive mind never wants to be where you are. It loves the past and the future. You can control your thoughts. So get control of where your mind is and bring it to the present conversation with your teen.

2. Every Action Is An Attempt To Have A Need Met
This should be your assumption every day. Regardless of how or what your teen is saying, choose to see that what they say and how they say it are attempts to have needs met. This brings real purpose to your conversations.

3. Slow down and listen
Determine what’s really being asked. The difference between listening and not listening is likely a matter of a few minutes in your overall day, but could give you the best Return On Investment you’ve ever had. If ‘now’ isn’t a good time, then set a time with your teen to talk so that you can be present. If you need time to think about your answer, then tell your teen that you need to think about it and give them a future time when they can expect an answer. 

4. ‘No’ is more than a 2-letter word
With your teen it must be more than, ‘because I said so’. They want to have dialogue. They have a need to understand even if it’s ‘agree to disagree’ because timing or values are compromised. A great question to ask your teen is, ‘can you explain to me why you feel that way?’.

Being an active listener provides lots of great opportunities to have teachable moments with your teen. Don’t miss out!


What are some of your strategies for listening to your teen?  

5 Ways To Help You Say Yes To Your Teen!

5 Ways To Help You Say Yes To Your Teen!

When it comes to our children growing up and taking more responsibility lots of parents, newbies and the well-acclimated, struggle with setting boundaries and loosening the ‘reigns of freedom’. Mainly because every child is different. Our organization has worked with over 8,000 hard-to-reach teens in a residential setting and I’m here to tell you that there are no magic rules to follow. So, as a parent, what can you do? Your child is growing and they are either too young to be adults or too old to be children, either way, there are a few things to consider to help guide you in your journey of parenting.


1. Start early As early as possible start by giving your children responsibilities. This might look like chores around the house, special project(s), etc. When my twins were 3 we introduced the ‘what comes with you, goes with you’ rule. That meant, for example, that if a toy left the house and made it to the car for a trip, then the toy left the car when going back into the house. It took some time, but eventually it became second nature.

2. Principle over circumstance This step requires some discipline on the parents’ part. This looks like setting a boundary and following through with it. If you’ve clearly stated the expectation and the consequence, then it’s your (parent) responsibility to follow through when expectations are not met. If your teen or tween never ‘cross a line’, then they’ll never learn where the boundaries are. There’s safety and peace for your kids when they know where the limits are. A solid personal example comes from setting morning expectations for my kids (on school days). They have a short-list of things to do (make bed, brush teeth, clean up after they eat), when this short-list isn’t done before they leave for school, then they face consequences. That’s the principle or the expectation. The circumstance(s) are what make this point challenging for parents. Let’s say the kids are running late, forgetfulness or laziness to name a few. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating ‘drill sergeant’ behavior. Leniency is encouraged, however, at some point you’ll need to draw a proverbial line in the sand and promote a principle over circumstance environment.

3. Freedom within structure Personally, I love watching my kids wrestle with responsibility. It’s the part of their development that excites me. Experience in the making. The birthplace of their perspectives and opinions. The safest way that I know to give them as much ‘responsibility practice’ as possible is to give them freedom within structure. A generic way to look at this point is to start with a set of basic assumptions: Your child is not you. Your child will not do things the way you do them and your child will make mistakes. 
One example is staying up late without adult supervision. A general expectation in our home regarding content on TV lines up with our values. No ‘R’ movies, no racy content, no gratuitous violence, etc. It’s true that they interact with a lot of garbage at school and around town, however, our home is our safe zone. Our peace zone. It’s our home. So the freedom within structure says that you can have the freedom to stay up and the structure is that what you do without us lines up with our minimal expectations.

4. Failure is normal
The natural tendency to protect or in some cases over-protect is in all of us. In rare occasions growth and maturity will develop absent this crucial experience: failure. Failing doesn’t make your child a failure. Your parental role will be more important than ever when you observe their short comings and walk them through it. Observing 3 points: A. Where they passed, B. Where they fell short, C. What to look out for next time, your child will become more self-reliant and responsible in ways you never imagined. I am father to 5, from High School to Elementary and they are all growing into responsible people. They are not perfect kids and our journey is far from over, but by being intentional with their development I believe that they’ll be ready for what life throws at them as it happens.

5. Say Yes
While working with numerous house parents in our residential programs, we noticed that our first response to almost any question posed by the students was no. Just the word, ‘no’, causes most kids to stress out. We realized that most of the time we didn’t even know what we were saying no to. So not only was the student losing control, but we were in a consistent state of frustration. After some team discussion we settled on a new strategy. Every time we were asked a question, we automatically said, ‘let me think about it’. This did 2 things: it forced us to actually listen to what they were asking and it began to establish a new level of patience in the student. Lastly, it made us realize that ‘yes’ was just as easy as ‘no’. So many times we don’t have a good reason for saying no, because we weren’t really listening.

As a parent, are you a dictator or a passive friend? What are your experiences with freedom?