Tag Archives: communication


Eight Week Course: Sidestepping the Power Struggle

Discipline means to teach; you do that by using loving, Sidestepping Cover 2014effective methods. Dr. Allison Rees will focus on effective methods of discipline, setting limits and maintaining relationships through clear, healthy boundaries. Developing self-esteem in yourself and your child will also be discussed. This course provides tons of information about why your kids behave a certain way and how to be an effective parent.  How do you teach your child to take responsibility?  What does discipline mean to you? For parents of children aged 1 to 10.


“This course helped me to enjoy my children and take the high road with my parenting.”

“So much more than what I expected.  This course really did take the guess work out of parenting.”

“I enjoyed the presentations, the wonderful leaders and especially all the men facilitating.  I was hesitant to come and be the lone male.”

View upcoming courses


Here are just a few of the  handouts used in LIFE Seminars courses:

  1. Basic traits
  2. Anger
  3. Practice for side stepping the power struggle
  4. Communication
  5. Limits
  6. Preschoolers
  7. ADD
  8. Helping with your childs homework
  9. Maturity
  10. Meal time blues
  11. Teens
  12. Triggers

An Adult Relationship

The time of parenting teens is one of intense change. In the earlier stages of raising adolescents we buckle up, expecting to go through a period of conflict or uncertainty. In those early years we are often intently focused on the act of parenting but, ideally, as our teens mature we begin to parent less, support more and start sharing a life with a neat young adult. We start to see that light at the end of the tunnel. We also begin to see space in soon-to-be empty bedrooms for the big screen TV, along with more freedom and less responsibility. Hmm. Sounds kind of delicious.

But there may be another thing you have to deal with your marriage. That is about to change too.

Once the kids walk out your front door, you may find yourself face-to-face with your partner and have absolutely nothing to say. If the kids have been a focal point in your relationship, it may be time to take a look across the dinner table and get to know that familiar face again. After all, in a few short years, that person might become your traveling partner. Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually enjoyed each other’s company?

Couples who have been married 25 years or longer have the second highest rate of divorce because staying together “for the sake of the kids” is no longer an issue. And, with the challenges of raising kids removed, the relationship may also feel a little dull, especially if you haven’t taken the time to connect in the past.

Hopefully, raising teens has given you some valuable lessons about relationships. Living with a teen has probably taught you a lot of humility and patience. You may have also developed some pretty great communication skills along the way, including how to listen, how to talk respectfully, and how to resolve differences without completely losing it. Hopefully, you have learned you aren’t perfect and you aren’t always right. Your teen would have taught you this during her stage of criticizing everything that came out of your mouth. Maybe her lessons have helped you move on to the next stage of your marriage.

Somewhere along the way you have likely learned other relationship lessons as well. Possibly the most important one is that you are responsible for your own happiness. Your partner can only be accountable for so much. In his book, How to be An Adult in Relationships, David Richo says, “Mature adults bring a modest expectation of need fulfillment to a partner. They seek only 25 percent of their need fulfillment from someone else, with the other 75 percent coming from self, family, friends, career, hobbies, spirituality/religion, and even pets.” Taking responsibility for your own happiness is also a wonderful departure gift for your kids, allowing them to separate from you without guilt or confusion.

How to be an Adult in Relationships

A mature relationship accepts that there will be challenges and that the original romantic stage was really just a temporary state of insanity. Would you honestly want to go back to the time when the basis for falling in love may have been nothing more than liking how your partner smells?

It’s likely that neither you nor your partner knew what you were in for when you got together. How could you have? And even in its mature phase, there will still be times of conflict in any relationship. Most people who share a history experience phases of being unloving, even fantasizing that their partner will ride off into the sunset and forget their way home. Conflict is not only normal; it is a necessary component to any healthy relationship. Conflict allows us to be two separate human beings rather than one symbiotic blob. We have to be able to move through contention in order to rest comfortably in commitment.

Looking back, you may see that what you shared with your partner wasn’t just love, but also values and respect. You didn’t have to agree on everything and hopefully, over the years, you’ve learned to disagree with dignity. You may have learned that simply being right doesn’t really feel great if it shuts your partner down completely. Perhaps you’ve even found a place for the “yes, dear”, as you’ve learned to suck it up for the love of peace and harmony. And though some may find the only way to achieve peace and harmony is through separation, it’s nice to know you have tried your best.

If we’re lucky, at the end of the day we learn that the purpose of a relationship is to enjoy happiness rather than to endure pain. And as our adolescent kids begin to experience that insane, romantic kind of love, we might be there to show them the mature model. Yes, we might seem kind of old and boring in our polyester pants or high-waisted blue jeans; but we can show them enduring love, healthy boundaries, conscious choice and direct, respectful honesty.

Pulling the Plug on Power Struggles

As our children go through the significant transition from child to teenager, most of them produce some interesting behaviours. Criticizing or shutting out parents, defiance, mouthiness, doing things to irritate you, the list goes on. It’s important for parents to understand what these behaviours really are rather than simply label them as disrespectful. In their move toward independence our kids are teaching us to treat them differently. This is individuation at work, teens are learning to handle life’s stress and pressure on their own and with their friends support rather than their family’s. A lot of needless power struggles can erupt when we take this behaviour personally.

When teens lose their heads or act poorly, they don’t need to deal with parental panic. They need parents who are strong enough to deal with their emotional struggles. Lectures on respect and moral values don’t usually go too far at this stage. Better to model self-control and remember to breathe deeply: in through the nose, out through the mouth.

When my daughter was 14, I expressed that I was feeling hurt by something she had said. Her response was, “I’m a teenager, Mom, I’m not supposed to be thinking of your feelings all the time. Just ignore me when I act like this. (Yes, she really said that.) Ignoring some of these typical behaviours is not being a neglectful parent. It is important to see them as part of a stage and not take them personally. This can require an incredible amount of self-discipline.

When behaviours cross so far over our boundaries that they can’t be ignored, we need to give ourselves time to think and cool down. When stress and anxiety are high and anger (ours or our teen’s) escalates to the point of no return, we only have one good choice: disengage. Get out instead of having to prove that we are right. Do not come up with consequences in the heat of the moment as this can devastate our teen and send him running out the door. Effective consequences are never born out of anger. Waiting until we feel calm will give us time to be effective and fair.

When it comes to teaching responsibility, a lot of great parenting is about what we don’t do. Not nagging and not rescuing kids from their responsibilities and the natural consequences of their choices is doing something powerful. In our children’s younger years we take time to teach them and give them feedback and guidance until they know how to do tasks comfortably. But once they have been taught, love means pulling back. In letting go of teen issues (such as hygiene, diet, bedrooms, laundry, homework, choice of friends, clothing and money) we give our teens a chance to experience real life learning, including small failures and how to recover from them.

When we back off from some behaviour and from issues that are our kids’ responsibility, we remove a lot of power struggles in the family. This gives us more room to maintain our own boundaries and deal with family issues: those behaviours that affect more than one family member, such as respect, contributing to family chores, keeping noises at a comfortable level for everyone, limiting phone use so others can receive calls, privacy, locking up at night, coming home when expected, safety, care of the family car, and using illegal drugs or smoking in the house.

Most family issues can be dealt with through communication. Use non-judgmental language and encourage respectful problem solving; these are powerful tools during the teen years. If we start by talking about feelings and needs rather than by criticizing our teen’s behaviour, we have a much better chance of having a respectful discussion. “I worry when you don’t come home on time. I need some reassurance and need to know that you are safe. Would you please call me and let me know you’re okay?” Some issues will need to be negotiated. Teens need to develop these skills to help them be accountable and to create choices for themselves. Communication can help parents relax and creates more freedom for teens.

Problem solving can work if everybody agrees they want to solve the problem. Family members need to agree to speak respectfully and not interrupt.

Effective Problem Solving Includes:

1) Identifying the issue and sticking to it. Avoid bringing in other issues or bringing up the past. Stick to the point.

2) Identifying everyone’s needs. Listen to your teen first. Make sure you understand exactly what she is saying and how she is feeling. Listen until you really understand your child. Once your teen has been heard, she will be much more receptive to hearing your concerns. Keep it brief and concentrate on your needs and feelings.

3) Brainstorming possible solutions. Have someone (you or your teen) write down all the ideas. Do not judge anything during this time. Just get creative, have some fun and bring in all kinds of ideas.

4) Looking at the pros and cons of each idea and choosing those everyone can live with. Compromise is the key.

5) Putting the plan into action and setting a time to follow up to see how things are working out. Two weeks is usually sufficient.

It might take some time to put all of this into place but the payoff will be well worth the effort. Teens need to know that they can be loved while they separate into their own, unique selves. Take time to enjoy and support your teens, and don’t miss any opportunities to give sincere, positive feedback. Even though he may not show it, your teen wants your acceptance, guidance and approval.

What Were You Thinking?

I often joke with parents in my classes about the expression my face has grown accustomed to wearing around my teens. It’s a neutral look, free of judgment and negative emotion. With amazing self-control, it manages to stay there even when I am hearing something that makes me want to scream. That look is there for a really good reason: teens are quick to see or hear a putdown, sense judgment or feel deeply hurt from a lack of trust.

Trust gets complicated during this stage of development and the word seems to take on new meaning. Being completely honest with your parent isn’t always easy for a teen. “Hey mom, dad, I just thought I’d let you know that I’ve siphoned out the vodka bottle a few inches and replaced it with water.” “You want to know my plans? Well, we’ve been planning on MSN for about a week. About 20 of us are meeting at the park and we’re going to get buzzed.” How do you trust a teen when they are lying to you? Especially when you know they are lying? What does trust really mean?

I have concluded that trust has to assume a more philosophical meaning through these years. “Please trust that I want to live, I am planning on keeping myself safe and I know I am loved by my family.” When I am connected to my kids, I can trust them in this way because our relationship is the linchpin between their need for autonomy and my need for reassurance. In order to do this, I need to remember that our relationship comes first. That doesn’t mean that I’m trying to be their best friend but that they know I care, I support them and I have enough self-confidence to set reasonable limits with them. A good relationship also allows room for guidance and discussion.

I am well aware of how fragile this linchpin is. Scary behaviours can appear suddenly with new friends or acquaintances, a drug experience or any number of factors. Often a parent’s initial response to these behaviours is to try to control more, falling back on time-honoured strategies such as long groundings or a complete loss of privileges. But this kind of approach is rarely effective; it serves mainly to force the teen’s behaviour underground and to damage the parent/child relationship.

“What were you thinking?” we might ask a teen who has just done something reckless. Perhaps it’s time we face some scientific facts: adolescent brains are undergoing a huge amount of growth just like the rest of their bodies. It may not surprise you to know that changes in the brain’s frontal lobes: “the part that governs the ability to reason, control impulses, measure risk and practice second thoughts” are the last to mature. While this development may vary from child to child, in general this part of the brain doesn’t fully develop until the late teens or early twenties. Until this takes place, adolescents have more activity around the amygdala, the more primitive “fight or flight” part of the brain and less in the frontal cortex, that rational, logical part. This explains a lot in terms of a teen’s impulsiveness and why parents may (legitimately) feel so much anxiety during this time.

Building Trust with Your Teenager

The world seems to be more complicated today but the developmental needs of teens haven’t changed. They need parents who love them, education and information to help with real life choices. They need respect and encouragement from the adults around them, including teachers, coaches and relatives. Don’t be fooled by a tough looking exterior or rolling eyes. Teens feel deeply hurt by thoughtless comments that come from adults. They are very sensitive to assumptions, putdowns and intrusive comments. Before you speak to a teen, ask yourself “Would I speak to an adult this way?”

When negative emotions pile up inside teens’ heads, it is very difficult for them to be articulate and represent themselves effectively. Most of the teens I counsel need a lot of help with assertiveness. They often bring me their own special look: the one that tends to push people away rather than bring them closer. Most of them need to learn that their needs are valid and that they aren’t horrible people for having them. They also need to develop skills and strategies to build “trust” in the relationship they have with their parents. And they need to hear that it is reasonable for a parent to ask for information and be given reassurance.

Adults also have their work cut out for them. First, we need to express concern from a position of having a need for the teen’s well-being. “I understand there will be alcohol at the party and I feel very concerned about your safety.” We also need to give them limits that are do-able but clear. “I’ll be picking you up at 11:00 and I want to hear from you if your plans change.â” We can also ask teens to tell us how they plan to keep themselves safe and convince us that they are ready for this kind of freedom. “Prove to me that you are ready for this kind of responsibility.” Of course, we may never feel fully convinced that they are ready but shutting down their honesty only puts them in danger. If we are reasonable they will often satisfy their curiosity and find balance between peers and family.

It is much easier for teens to be accountable if they actually experience the rewards that go with it. Teens are often hurt that nobody seems to notice the good stuff they do; be sure to praise your teens for the great decisions they do make. They are making choices all the time but the ones that seem to get our attention are the ones that scare us half to death. While this makes sense, it also means we have to work harder at noticing all the good stuff.

Teach teens that responsibility equals freedom and vice versa. If they come to the plate with respectful negotiation and a track record of accountability, present freedom like a prize. Let them know that representing themselves as truly reliable can only bring more flexibility on your part. Again, tell them if you feel scared or concerned but make sure you express it from a place of love rather than as a criticism or judgment of who they are.