How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter

How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter

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Modern Parenting is all about transitioning from one chapter to the next. As much as you might want to, you just can’t stop change.

There are some common chapters that all parents experience at one point or another:

  • The transition of going from parenting babies to toddlers, then toddlers to big kids, then big kids to teenagers, etc.
  • The kids are now dating chapter
  • The kids are now driving chapter
  • The empty nest chapter.

Then there are some transitions or chapters that not all families experience, but can be disruptive to the family:

  • Divorce and or re-marriage
  • Employment changes (i.e. new jobs, loss of job, going from part time to full time)
  • Moving from one home to another (maybe even to a whole new state or country!)
  • Illness or death of a loved one.

Family transitions happen whether we like them or not, and the more we can plan for these transitions to happen before they get here, the better off we will be.

I recently had a huge family transition occur – my youngest child went off to college and I became an empty nester. You can read all about that event HERE. I started planning for this new chapter of my life three years before my daughter, Belle, actually went away for college – and I’m so happy that I did.

Because of this planning, I’m feeling like this chapter of my life is just as meaningful as the previous chapter that was spent raising wonderful humans. 

I did not go through a period of re-discovering who I was (as is common for new empty nester parents). I put effort into this during my planning stage, so I was all ready to dive head-first into the friendships, interests, and career that I spent time envisioning during my planning stage.

YOU can have better family transitions too with a little planning. This post today is all about how to plan for the next big stage in your life – whether it’s a common transition such as the empty nest stage or the new driver stage; however, planning for the disruptive life transitions is just as important.

Read on to find out how to feel confident in your next stage of parenting.


Identify Where You Are Now and Where You Might Go Next

It’s super important to know exactly where you are now, and where you might go next. For example, if your oldest child is in middle school now, then you know that high school is next. That is your next big transition. 

It’s best to always have in mind one to three possible transitions coming up.

Now that you know your next possible transition, what do you want that transition to look like? How do you want to feel during that parenting chapter?


Once during a training I attended, the instructor reminded us that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Be intentional about where you want to lead your family – and how you want to grow as a parent and as an individual  in the next stage; otherwise, might end up on a whole other path.

Let me use my recent transition into empty nesthood as an example. I have two kids who are three years apart in age. My son’s transition into college was the trigger that got me to thinking about my next stage. When I dropped him off at college, it made me think that in three years when my daughter was scheduled to go off to college, I would have a lot of time on my hands. 

Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • What did I need to be happy when I wasn’t consumed with parenting 24/7?
  • How did I need to bring meaning into my life?
  • Who did I want to be a part of my life, and why?
  • What interests did I want to make time for in my next chapter?


These questions allowed me to start having a vision of my next chapter.


Keep In Mind Your Passions, Values, and Beliefs

I’m a broken record about knowing your personal passions, values, and beliefs and aligning all of your parenting and personal decisions with these important guidelines.

Don’t know your personal passions, values, and beliefs? Download the workbook that I created that will help you uncover them now.

Using your passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in making your parenting and personal decisions gives you the confidence you’ll need to tackle that next stage of life.

For example, one of my passions is Modern Parenting. By asking myself the questions mentioned in the previous section and using my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide, I determined that I needed to have a career that I not only enjoyed, but allowed me to work on my Modern Parenting projects. 

Another example is that one of my values is connecting with good people. I also knew that I wanted to feel connected to family and peers that made a positive impact in my life. Unfortunately, by working on this exercise, I came to the realization that I had let many of my friendships go over the years because I simply didn’t have the time or energy left over after parenting my kids to maintain good relationships with many of my family and friends. 

Over the three years that I planned my empty nest next chapter, this is exactly how I used my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in determining how I should prioritize my planning.


Design the Big Picture

Research tells us that the hardest part of any project is starting it!

Before you get overwhelmed and give up on your project of planning your next transition or chapter, simply give yourself permission to just design a rough outline of the important things that will need to be accomplished before the next stage gets here.

Don’t get tempted to look at the details yet. Just design the big picture.

So, using my empty nest example, I knew that career, family/friends, and Modern Parenting needed to be prioritized in the planning of my next chapter. 

As I considered my empty nest life, I roughly envisioned myself going to a job that paid me enough where I didn’t have to worry about my bills and would also allow me to financially help with my kids’ educations. This job made me feel good about myself because I was helping people as a child psychologist and making a difference in people’s lives. Most importantly, this job would either allow me to work on Modern Parenting full time, or leave me enough time to work on it outside of work. Finally, I also saw myself spending time with family and friends.

Once the overall picture felt right, I moved on to planning the details.


Now Plan The Details

Once you have the big picture nailed down, begin planning the details.

What steps do you need to take to accomplish the goals included in the big picture?

What tasks need to be completed before the start of the next chapter?

Who is involved in your next chapter? How do you need to prepare them? What conversations need to be completed?

Take as much time as you need to plan the details. However, once planning is done, then execute on your plan.

Again, let me give you a glimpse into my planning process for my empty nest stage. As stated above, I wanted to have close connections with positive family and friends in my empty nest chapter. Because I had not kept up with a lot of my family and friends over the past several years, I knew I had some work to do to get this area where I wanted it to be by the time my daughter moved to college.

Slowly and intentionally, I began to make it a priority to re-establish relationships with certain family and friends. Instead of waiting for people to ask me to lunch, I asked them. I texted people encouraging words when I knew they were feeling down or when I knew they had an important event happen. And I gave myself permission (and this was a hard one for me) to balance having a social life with also being a mom.


I can report that by making that effort to reestablish old relationships and encourage new ones over the last year or so, I now have the social life that I envisioned three years ago. I’m so happy that I put in this effort!


When To Start Planning?

You know the old saying about the oak tree, right?

When is the best time to plant an oak tree?

The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago – the second best time to plant an oak tree is TODAY!

The best thing you can do for yourself is to start planning your next transition or stage today. 

Thinking of transitioning from a parent who works part time to one that works full time? Start planning now in order to ensure a smooth transition on your kids and to feel confident in yourself.

Will your oldest child begin high school in 2 years? Start thinking about which high school is best for your child. Do they need to be taking certain classes in middle school to apply for a certain track in high school? What extracurriculars will they need?

You can never begin planning too early – but if you fail to plan then you plan to fail (I know! Cliched, right? But still true!!).

You can do this – I believe in you! 🙂



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How To Have Difficult Conversations With Your Teen So That You Get Your Point Across And Create a Close Parent-Child Bond

How To Have Difficult Conversations With Your Teen So That You Get Your Point Across And Create a Close Parent-Child Bond

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In my experience, one of the trickiest skills for a parent to develop is the skill of communicating an important message to their child while still maintaining a positive parent-child relationship.

Think about it: How many times have you had a difficult conversation with your child and one – or both of you – ends the conversation with their feelings hurt?

Or maybe the difficult conversation ended with yelling, name-calling, or hurtful judgements.

Worse yet, many of the important conversations we must have with our kids involves a lot of emotions. When this happens, it’s very difficult for the child to really HEAR what we want to get across to them. When our kids feel attacked, judged, and/or not liked, it’s as if they turn off the listening parts of the brain and hyper focus their energy on arguing the opposite side of what we’re trying to get across to them.

The point of this article is to explain where most parents fail at having difficult conversations with their teenagers. Psychological science has identified several key communication techniques that many well-meaning Modern Parents use, but don’t work. Want to know what DOES work? Later in this article, I’ll teach you several effective strategies to use when having difficult conversations with you teenager that actually serve to make your teenager listen to you AND build a close parent-child bond.

But before you implement any new communication techniques, you’ll first need to be able to identify what make a conversation critical – and what mistakes most parents are making that contribute to miscommunication, hurt feelings, and/or a damaged parent-child relationship.


Retreating vs. Competing


So what are critical conversations? These occur when a parent and child have a conversation where lots of emotions are involved.

The following are examples of common parent-child critical conversations:

  • Talking about why your child got a bad grade
  • Discussing why you don’t want your daughter to go out with her boyfriend past 10:00pm
  • Listening to your son tell you that they don’t think the other kids like him at school
  • Confronting your child about the cigarettes you found in their car.

Sometimes conversations can start out as a normal, non-emotional conversation and quickly turn into a critical conversation. You know this is happening when all of a sudden you feel dread, anger, nervousness, and/or annoyance about continuing the conversation.

Most parents react in one of two ways when confronted with a parent-child critical conversation: they either retreat or compete. I’ll admit that when I must have a critical conversation with one of my kids, my gut reaction is to retreat – to avoid having the conversation altogether.

Retreating solves the immediate problem, right? It gets the parent out of the uncomfortableness of having the conversation – but it’s not effective in the long run. Avoiding critical conversations on a regular basis only serves to ignore a family problem and degrades the closeness of the parent-child relationship.

On the other hand, competing is just as ineffective. Instead of retreating, some parents tackle the critical conversation head on by focusing on “winning” the conversation. When this happens, intense emotions cause both parent and teen to stop listening to the other person, and what needs to be communicated never gets across.

Instead of retreating or competing, the smart thing to do is to have the difficult conversation using strategies that help us gain the courage to have the conversation while keeping the emotional level low so that both parties don’t instinctively feel like they have to defend themselves.

When we focus on defending our point of view then we don’t leave much cognitive ability to listen to the other person.

But before the Modern Parent can begin using effective critical communication strategies, they need to set up an environment that decreases the teen’s instinctive need to defend themselves and increases their ability to see their parent’s point of view.


How Parents Set Themselves Up For Conversation Failure


In order to have a constructive conversation with a teenager, we must set up a safe environment for them. When they feel safe, then they are more likely to see the parent’s point of view – they won’t feel the instinctive need to defend their own point of view.

So where are most parent going wrong?

The fight or flight process automatically handicaps clear thinking. When teens enter into critical conversations with parents, their biology automatically switches on the fight or flight mechanism.

When humans experience danger or stress, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear – this is the fight or flight response. During this time, our hearts beat faster, our breathing speeds up, and our bodies release adrenaline.

Our bodies act this way when we feel physically threatened AND when we feel emotionally threatened – like during a difficult conversation.

It makes sense, then, that when our bodies snap into fight or flight mode, we prepare to defend ourselves. This defense can take the form of a physical defense or an emotional one, but during both forms of defense, our ability to critically and intellectually listen to our opponent becomes compromised.

Think of it this way: during fight or flight, our bodies shift energy from cognitive tasks to protective ones. Thus, listening to someone else, empathizing with them, and having the ability to compromise with them is super hard during critical conversations because our bodies are working against us.

Critical Conversations tend to be spontaneous. Kids have great timing, right?

When you have time to have a nice long conversation with your child, they seem to not be in the talking mood. But when ARE they ready to open up and talk? That’s right – when you’re tired, stressed from work, in the middle of a household project, or any other inconvenient time.

Because critical conversations tend to happen during unplanned and inconvenient moments, we sometimes don’t handle the conversations as well as could have if we were totally prepared for the topic beforehand.

We can’t stop these unplanned conversations from happening, but we can develop a system to reacting to them in a way that provides the guidance that your child needs and builds a strong parent-child bond.

We create an Ineffective Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Are you familiar with the principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy? It’s the horrible psychological principle that says we tend to either directly or indirectly make a situation happen simply by believing that it can happen.

For example, if a parent believes that their child is lazy and does not like to study, this belief about their child will then CAUSE their child to shy away from studying.

This is done directly when the parent doesn’t promote a consistent after school study routine because they believe that it’s too much trouble and a waste of time.

The parent indirectly makes this belief come true by transferring this belief to their child. Kids tend to believe the descriptions they hear about themselves – especially descriptions they hear from their parents. As such, kids will often conform to the negative beliefs that their parents have about them.

How does this relate to difficult conversations with our teens? We inadvertently create self-fulfilling prophecies during emotional conversations by letting our words, body language, and/or our attitudes express our beliefs about our child.

As we’ve previously discussed, there are some really good reasons why we don’t react in the best way during difficult conversations, and we can say things, act without thinking, and/or have an attitude that doesn’t help guide our child or build a good relationship with them when this happens.

So, if there are so many reasons why difficult conversations with our teens can go wrong, what can we do?

Now that you know some of the “traps” that many well-meaning parents fall into when having difficult conversations with their teens, it’s time to transition to learning the techniques that do work.


The Techniques That Provide The Guidance That Your Child Needs & Builds a Positive Parent-Child Bond


As discussed above, you can’t always control when difficult conversations happen with your teenager, but you can control how you react to them.

Having a plan in place is the first step to ensuring that difficult conversations with your teen changes from something that you dread to times that are meaningful to both you and your teen.

In order to make this change happen, you need to make the four commitments described below.

Commit to having difficult conversations with your child. Remember above when we discussed the three options for reacting to a difficult conversation? One typical reaction that many of us choose is to avoid having the conversation altogether.

Going forward, you have to resolve having these conversations with your teen. It might be tempting to avoid the conversation or to give in to what your child wants in order to end the conversation, but this won’t get you want.

When you see that a difficult conversation is about to happen, take a deep breath and remember why this is important: you want to be the guiding force for your child and you want to create a positive and warm bond with your child.

Commit to moving out of fight or flight. So we discussed above how our biology can trick us into being poor listeners and even worse thinkers.

Now that you have resolved not to run from the conversation, the next step is to identify how your body acts to fight or flight and then resolve to actively take steps to return to your norma functioning.

During difficult conversations, take notice of your body: do you start to breath rapidly? Does your heart beat out of your chest? Do you ball up your hands or tense up?

Once you identify how your body reacts to fight or flight, take steps to calm down in the moment. Take long, slow breaths. Remind yourself that your child is not the enemy. If you are worrying about the work you should be doing, or the dinner you should be cooking, or you have a disagreement with your co-worker on your brain, try to push these thoughts out of your mind right now and focus on your child.

Tell yourself that this moment will not last forever, and that YOU can positively influence your child once you are out of fight or flight mode.

Commit to ending negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Get honest with yourself and think introspectively about any judgements you have about your child or yourself.

This step is all about committing to believing in your child and yourself. Your child might have behaved a certain way in the past, but it doesn’t have to define them.

The same can be said for you, too. Perhaps in the past you behaved in a way that you are not proud of. You CAN change. Believe that you can and this self-fulfilling prophecy will come true.

Commit to ending negative self-fulfilling prophecies – and begin using positive ones.

The self-fulfilling prophecy principle has been proven over and over again to work, so you might as well use it to your advantage!

Take the following steps to create positive self-fulfilling prophecies:

  • What are some of your knee-jerk judgements you’ve made about your child or family in the past (i.e. your child is lazy, your family doesn’t care, etc.)?
  • After identifying your usual judgements, now identify what the OPPOSITE judgement would be (i.e. judging a child to be lazy would turn into believing that the child has potential if she just puts forth enough effort).
  • Once you’ve created positive self-fulfilling prophecies, begin to behave in a way that communicates this prophecy to your child or family both verbally and nonverbally.

That’s it. That’s all it takes to make this psychological principle work in your favor. It may feel strange at first – but don’t give up on it! I’ll bet that you’ll see progress in a very short period of time.

Commit to using your new communication plan – no matter what! The biggest factor in making your new communication plan a success is to use it consistently.

New systems always take awhile to feel comfortable and successful. Don’t give up if:

  • You accidentally revert back to the way you used to communicate – learn from your mistakes instead of giving up on your new plan
  • It feels “weird” using the new plan – it will feel more comfortable soon
  • Your child or family thinks you seem “fake” – your willingness to consistently make an effort to improve the communication between you will eventually change their minds
  • It seems like it’s taking a long time to work – success doesn’t happen overnight, and better communication with your teen is worth putting in the effort on this.


Take Home Message


As Modern Parents, we all want a close and loving relationship with our teenagers. Many parents and teens over a long period of time have slipped into an ineffective communication pattern that slowly tore apart what once was a good parent-child relationship.

By using scientific studies to our advantage, we now know specific strategies that help to strengthen the parent-child bond through effective communication.

We can’t avoid having difficult conversation with our teenagers, but we can resolve to have these conversations with the dual goals of providing the guidance that our child needs AND to build a solid parent-child bond.



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How To Predict Your Child’s Future

How To Predict Your Child’s Future

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One of the most frustrating things for any Modern Parent is that there is no way of knowing definitively if their child will turn out to be happy, healthy, and successful. Further, it’s even more tricky to pinpoint whether or not any of the little moments they spend parenting their child will make a significant impact on their child’s future.

Well, what if I told you that there IS a way of predicting your child’s future?

What if I told you that there is a way to get a quick peek of what your child will be like when they become a young adult?

Believe it or not, psychological science has given us a tool to get this quick glimpse of our child’s future – and I’ll share that tool with you in a minute – but what I want you to consider is this: If you use this tool and see that your child’s future is not exactly as you had pictured it, will you use this new information to do things differently NOW in order to change their future for the better?

That’s the point of my blog post today. I want to share this tool with you so that you can use it to either:

  • Identify and fix certain parenting mistakes that might be contributing to the not-so-stellar future that the tool helped you see, or
  • Keep consistently performing the parenting techniques that seem to work for your child.

One of the pillars of Modern Parenting is to parent with intention, which means that parents need to be able to “course correct” when necessary. If the use of this tool enables you to see if there are any ways to tweak your parenting to positively impact your child’s future happiness and well-being, then you are definitely parenting with intention.

Now that you know the Modern Parenting goal for this article, are you ready to get that glimpse of your child’s future? Read on to find out about the tool.

The Tool

When I was in graduate school learning all the ways of being a psychologist, I was taught that the best predictor of future behavior is present behavior – and I have largely observed this to be a true fact over the years of working with kids and their families.

You know this to be true, too. Think about some of the families and kids that you know. Can’t you just sometimes look at a child and envision their lives as adults doing the same thing that they’re doing now? We’ve too often seen our friend’s unmotivated pre-teen grow up to be an unmotivated young adult with a dead-end job who continues to play video games all day. On the other hand, there are also those kids that participate in chess club, play the violin in the school orchestra, and get straight As in their college prep classes. These kids usually go on to achieve academic and career success later down the road.

So, the tool I want to share with you in predicting your child’s future is based upon an honest examination of your child’s present behaviors, routines, and motivation. Answer the 9 questions below to get that glimpse of your child’s future.

  1. How does your child like to spend their free time? Is it spent on a balance of interesting, worthwhile activities as well as relaxing activities?
  2. Does your child need to be told what to do or can they initiate worthwhile activities (like homework and hobbies) all on their own?
  3. Does your child seem to have an attitude of curiosity and adventure? Or do you need to nag your child to make an effort to look around them and notice the interesting world around them?
  4. Is your child able to follow daily routines? Does your child follow any kind of routine that ensures they complete their homework on time and/or spend time on activities that could turn into interesting lifelong hobbies or interests?
  5. Can your child establish a goal, and all the necessary steps to complete that goal in an age-appropriate way?
  6. Does your child do the same, boring thing every day?
  7. Does your child have an idea of what they want to do with their future? Is your child able to understand that what they spend their time on now has a big impact on their future?
  8. Does your child show interest in participating in activities that will, over a long period of time, bring them closer to their future goal? Does your child have enough patience and confidence to practice an activity or interest enough to slowly increase their ability in that activity?
  9. Is your child all talk and no follow-through?

So, did you get that glimpse of your child’s future by answering the questions about their present behavior?

Did you like what you saw in your head? Were you surprised by your answers? Did you answers scare you a little?

What You Need To Do Now

Don’t like the vision of your child’s future? The good news is that you can make changes now that will have a huge impact on your child’s future.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object at rest, stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion unless otherwise acted upon. This is also called inertia.

Families can have a certain inertia, too. Some families have a certain movement to them – they are constantly on the move, consistently working toward pursuing their interests, passions, and values. The children in these families typically grow up to be interesting and happy young people.

In contrast, other families have zero inertia. These families are passive and simply watch life pass them by. The children in these families may want to pursue passions and interests, but the pull of their motionless inertia keeps them at rest.

Why am I reviewing basic science concepts with you? Because it illustrates that your child will continue to go down whatever path they are on unless something forces them to go down another, more successful path.

You have the power to nudge your child onto another path. And it’s not that hard to do, either. All you have to do is intentionally introduce a few simple techniques into the family environment that activates your child’s inner drive for curiosity and motivation.

I’ve recently created an online course for Modern Parents who are interested in making simple changes now that end up having a huge, positive impact on their child’s future.

This course is called The Self-Motivation Success Academy and I created this self–paced, online course for busy Modern Parents who are interested in learning how to jumpstart their child’s inner motivational drive.

Every child is capable of self-motivated behavior. What does a self-motivated child look like? These kids independently choose to complete chores and academic assignments on their own without having their parent oversee their work. They have a vision for their future which includes pursuing a career that taps into their innate talents and gifts and they participate in hobbies that satisfy their interests and passions.

Every child is capable of learning to be self-motivated. I know because I have spent many years as a child psychologist teaching this method to my individual clients, and I want to share what i’ve learned over the years with you.

As I don’t believe in willy-nilly, pop-psych ideas, everything that I teach in The Self-Motivation Success Academy is based on sound scientific principles. The methods that I teach in the course work because they are based on psychological research, specifically Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory and Eric Erickson’s developmental theory.

To help you further understand your child’s motivation struggles, I’ve created a quick quiz to help you identify your child’s natural Motivation Personality Type. Did you know that most kids fall into 1 of 7 Motivation Personality Types? What’s more is that if you really want to help your child learn to be more self-motivated (and get them ready for a great future) then you need to know how to work WITH their unique Motivation Personality Type.

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After taking the quiz, not only will you know your child’s Motivation Personality Type, but I’ll also give you suggestion on how to begin working with that particular personality style.

If you are on a journey with your child on helping them overcome self-motivation issue, then I highly suggest starting by taking the quiz.

If you used the questions in the above section to catch a glimpse of your child’s future – and what you saw didn’t quite match with what you always envisioned for your child – then I really hope you take the quiz and look into the online course.

Stop your child’s current inertia today by intentionally making changes in your family that will lead to huge, positive changes to your child’s future.

You CAN work with your child to encourage their self-motivation skills to develop, and i want to show you how easy it is.

Take Home Message

The point of this blog post is to illustrate to you how your child might be slowly going down a path that doesn’t lead to the happy and successful future that you originally envisioned for them.

But you don’t have to let inertia win! Bodies at rest stay at rest unless otherwise acted upon. Be that force that nudges your child onto a more successful path.

Some kids are born naturally self-motivated, but most kids need to be taught these skills.

Your child’s school doesn’t teach self-motivation skills – and kids who don’t yet have these skills tend to struggle in school. You CAN teach these skills to your child and it’s super easy too.

Don’t know where to begin, but want to be that change that interrupts your child’s current inertia? Take the Motivation Personality quiz. Not only will you gain a better understanding of WHY your child struggles, but you’ll get specific pointers on working WITH their unique personalities – not against them!

If you want further help tackling your child’s self-motivation challenges, ten check out my new online course specifically for parents. This self-paced course contains video lessons taught by me that will teach you everything you will need to learn to create a family environment that encourages motivated, independent, and interesting kids.

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Solving The Top 5 Holiday Modern Parenting Challenges

Solving The Top 5 Holiday Modern Parenting Challenges

It’s that time of year when Modern Parents turn their focus from kids, work, and family schedules to the holidays…and all the modern challenges they create!

This past week, I’ve received a few emails from a few Modern Parent readers asking me for advice on how to handle some modern holiday dilemmas, and I thought I would share with you some of what we discussed – since many of you will experience the same challenges.

Before I get to the questions, remember that Modern Parenting is all about:

  • Creating warm and close relationships with family members
  • Helping each family member to be proud of their unique talents and traits
  • Appreciating the meaning behind the season, and not the commercial aspect of it

Question #1: Do Modern Parents have to nurture relationships with family members who are toxic?

It’s really hard to nurture family relationships when you don’t get along with one of your family members. Chances are, you’ll have an extended family member (or even a close one) that is difficult to connect with during the holiday season.

One reader wrote about how hard it is for them to be around their sibling’s spouse for long periods of time due to their grandiose personality. Yet another Modern Parent wrote to me about how difficult it is for them to entertain their teenage step-child over the holidays.

I totally get it. You just aren’t going to “click” with everyone – and sometimes that’s ok.

While one of the core elements of Modern Parenting is to build and nurture family relationships, it’s also equally important to intentionally choose the influences you allow into your Modern Family. So, when it’s difficult to get along with a family member, ask yourself if going to the effort of nurturing a relationship with that person makes sense to your Modern Family.

For example, if you are struggling with getting along with your brother because you don’t seem to have much in common, making an effort to find things in common makes sense. Generally, he’s a nice guy and always remembers to send your kids birthday cards, so he’s probably a good influence to have around your Modern Family.

In contrast, maybe you have a family member who always nitpicks and criticizes you and your kids. They never seem to have anything nice to say to you or your kids. It makes sense to not waste energy in maintaining a relationship with this person.

Still not sure whether or not you should let a family go? Ask yourself this, “Does this person’s influence HELP my family, or HINDER it?”

The answer to that question will guide you on your decision.

Questions #2: How do Modern Parents handle family situations where they are being judged negatively by other family members?

Another core aspect of Modern Parenting is respecting other parent’s rights to raise their families the way they feel is best. Every Modern Family is uniquely different – and that’s ok. It makes sense, then, that because of this uniqueness, each Modern Family will have their own individual passions, values, and beliefs.

For more on Modern Parenting and finding your unique passions, values, and beliefs, read THIS ARTICLE.

So, how does the Modern Parent practice respecting others when they feel disrespected themselves? By not giving the judgement by the other person much attention.

For example, let’s say that you get seated next to your very judgy, non-parent cousin at the table during Christmas dinner. You get into a conversation with your sister about how much you and your kids like the tv show Stranger Things when your cousin tells you all about how her friend doesn’t let her child watch tv at all because it’s such a bad influence.

Because you will want to respect the parenting of your cousin’s friend, it’s best to just say something positive and then change the subject. For example, a simple, “That’s nice” or “I have friends that do the same thing too,” is enough. Quickly ask your cousin about her new job and change the subject.

From first hand experience, I know how easy it is to want to defend your own parenting during this situation. Take it from me, though, defending your parenting is usually met with deaf ears. The best evidence that you know what you are doing as a Modern Parent is by consistently living out your personal family passions, values, and beliefs.

Question #3: How can you make the holidays special for your child if you don’t get a chance to see them much over the holidays?

Whether you don’t see your child over the holidays due to a divorce or other custody arrangement, or they are grown and live away from you, it’s still important to stay connected with your child – especially during the holidays.

The best way to stay connected when you are away from your child is by creating and consistently performing family traditions.

Don’t have any traditions with your child? Or maybe you had traditions with them when they were little, but they are all grown up now.

It’s never too late to create new traditions with your kids.

Here are some pointers. Be sure to:

  • Do something your child likes – this way they’ll be invested in participating
  • Do something easy – if it’s too elaborate then it will be too difficult to repeat each year
  • Do something meaningful – make it about building relationships with each other, not about gifts or things.

Family traditions are one of the best ways to maintain family relationships because they are predictable, dependable, and meaningful. Sometimes it might take a couple of tries before you develop just the right tradition, but I encourage you not to give up until you find just the tradition that works for your Modern Family.


Question #4: How does the Modern Parent handle their disappointment when the holidays don’t turn out the way they expected?

It’s so easy to build up in your head how wonderful the holidays with your Modern Family will go.

I’ve been there, done that.

But the reality is that the holidays rarely live up to our expectations. The best way to deal with this situation is to begin by managing your expectations at the beginning of the holiday. Remind yourself that the holidays are the perfect time to:

  • Nurture relationships with family members
  • Teach your kids the values and beliefs about the holidays
  • Fulfill your personal need for a connection with family, friends, and faith.

When you use the above three criteria to manage your holiday expectations, then you will more easily adhere to may of the core principles of Modern Parenting.

You don’t have time to cook your family secret recipe cookies for your daughter’s class party? That’s ok. The cookies don’t make the holiday – bonding with your child at the class party does.

Your son didn’t show as much excitement about the gift you spent so much time picking out? That’s ok. The holidays should be about the deeper meaning about family and faith anyway. You will have an opportunity every year to get the perfect gift for your son.

Question #5: How do I keep my child from becoming an entitled Modern Kid during the holidays?

SUCH a good question!

Modern Parents are not immune to wanting to spoil their child with everything they’ve ever wanted during the holidays, but we also know that spoiling our kids does not align with our values and beliefs.

We want our kids to appreciate the deeper meaning of the holidays while still seeing their faces light up with joy during some of the special parts, too.

Instead of spoiling our kids with things during the holidays, try spoiling your child with experiences of feeling loved through family, friends, and faith. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has some really great articles on keeping the holidays simple and meaningful. Read THIS ARTICLE and THIS ONE for some great anti-entitlement holiday ideas.

The main thing that will serve to inoculate your child against modern holiday entitlement is to make an effort to share your values and beliefs about the holiday with your child. If you practice a faith, then include your child in those religious activities. If you don’t practice something so organized, you can still participate in activities that teach your child your values through experience. For example, if being charitable is an important value for you, than involve your child in a holiday meal for the homeless or something similar. Just focus on the deeper meaning behind the holidays.

It’s important to note, thought, that it’s part of growing up to be a little selfish, so if your child displays some entitled behavior, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that they are a “bad kid.” Use these situations as opportunities to teach your child about your values and beliefs.

Take Home Message

The holidays can be very hard to navigate, but the take home message for Modern Parents is to keep in mind some of the core principles to Modern Parenting. If a situation starts to get a little hairy, ask yourself the following questions to provide you some guidance on how to handle the situation:

  • What can I do during this situation that would help bring my family relationships closer?
  • If this situation isn’t going the way I want it, what can I do to help the situation come close to what I’d like?
  • What can I do to help each family member’s unique talents and gifts shine during the holidays?
  • How can I encourage the appreciation of the holiday instead of focusing on the

The holidays become much easier to navigate with the helpful guidelines of the core Modern Parenting principles.

If you liked this article, you might also like these articles about Modern Parenting and the holidays:

How To Handle Your Kid’s Holiday Entitlement So You Don’t Have To Be The Family That Cancels Christmas

How MODERN FAMILIES Enjoy The Holidays: 5 Tips For Surviving The Holidays



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Four Signs Your Teen Is Avoiding Adulthood

Four Signs Your Teen Is Avoiding Adulthood

A recent scientific analysis of seven large surveys identified what Modern Parents have suspected for a long time now – that Modern Kids are putting off adulthood for as long as they can.

There are pros and cons to what the author of this large-scale analysis, Dr. Jean Twenge, calls a “slow life strategy.”

The pros are that Modern Parents can worry less about their kids engaging in risky behaviors such as having sex, drinking, and smoking.

According to the Modern Kids surveyed, they actually preferred spending time hanging out at home with their parents instead of socializing outside of the home with their peers. As such, they aren’t putting themselves in situations where previous generations of teens might have engaged in risky behaviors.

As you might have guessed, though, the downside to a “slow life strategy” is the postponement of positive teenage milestones that serve to prepare kids in becoming successful adults.

Twenge’s study also found that the average teen is putting off getting their driver’s license and getting their first job by several years.This means that when our kids come of age and are expected to be independent young adults, they are often sorely unprepared; thus, they retreat to their “comfort zone” of the family home.It seems, then, that there are pros and cons to this new phenomenon of extending the Modern Kid’s childhood.

While it’s great that Modern Parents are plugging in and creating a positive and nurturing environment that inspires Modern Kids to enjoy their fleeting childhoods, it’s also encouraging a generation of kids to become complacent with staying in the nest.Many well-meaning parents (myself included!) enjoy parenting and all the little daily interactions with our kids that show how much we love them.

I like spoiling my kids by making them dinner and cleaning up the kitchen afterward – instead of requiring them to “do their part” by cleaning up the dishes afterward. It’s always fun to chat with them in the kitchen while I cook or clean up.

I like driving them to and from school or activities. We have the best conversations in the car. (Keep in mind that my son wasn’t interested in getting his driver’s license until he was 19.)I didn’t mind looking the other way when my kids were younger and the house was messy – if it meant that they both agreed to snuggle on the couch with me and watch Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

Recently, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post on how to balance creating a close bond with today’s teenagers while still encouraging their independence. If you’re looking for some guidance on how to ensure that your child continues to hit those important young adult milestones, then I highly suggest reading that article.In today’s article, though, I want to explore some warning signs that might indicate that your teenager might be actively avoiding growing up.

Identifying these early warning signs before your child hits young adulthood is key in helping them be prepared when the time comes to grow up and become independent. 


Sign #1: They don’t seem comfortable making their own decisions

Does your child often defer to you on where to go for dinner, what to watch during family TV time, or even how to spend their free time?On the surface, it might seem like that your child trusts you to make good decisions for them (and this could feel really good for you as the parent), but the reality could also mean that your child just doesn’t trust themselves to make their own decisions.

Part of being an adult is having to make choices that have consequences – either good ones or bad ones – and many teens who are nervous about growing up are also nervous about making “bad” decisions.

One solution to this problem is to intentionally let your child make decisions. Start off slow – maybe insist they choose what movie to see on Friday night – and work up to more important decisions.It’s also important that you help them get over their fear of making a wrong choice. Let them make some not great choices so you can also teach them that how to make up for bad choices.

For a great article on how to encourage your child to take smart risks, click HERE for an article that I wrote about this in the past (it comes with a free downloadable PDF parenting resource too!). 


Sign #2: They avoid talking about what they want to do after graduating high school

Many kids are stuck because they can’t imagine themselves as adults.

When asked about what they want to do when they grow up or where they want to go to college, these kids never have an answer. The thought of being independent, working at a job, or even living in their own house or apartment is extremely foreign to some kids.

These kids avoid any kind of discussion about growing up like the plague.

If this sounds like your child, help them overcome this fear of independence by talking about their future. As always, you’ll want to start off slow and non threatening, and do it in a natural (not forced) way.

Expose your child to adult experiences such as college campuses and places of employment. Get together with successful young adults that you might know. Let your child hear about the rewarding experiences this young adult is having with their independence.

The goal here is to help your child start imagining themselves as a successful adult in the future. Get them excited about growing up!

Sign #3: They don’t have interests or hobbies of their own

When your child’s only interest is accompanying you on whatever your hobby happens to be, then they are cheated from exploring their own unique talents and passions.

Now, I’m not saying that spending time with your child while participating in an activity that is fun for you is a bad thing – far from it!

What’s important is that your child is always encouraged to discover their own unique passions, values, and beliefs that might be different from yours.

Independence is about your child discovering who he or she is as a person and how they fit into this world. They need to start this journey of discovery while they are teenagers so that are somewhat comfortable with themselves when they become young adults (this is important because, as we all know, figuring out who we are is a lifelong process).

Encourage your child to explore interests and passions. They might not always stick with a hobby once they’ve started one, but it’s so important that you encourage their search! Once they’ve found a hobby that interests them, then growing up to further explore it seems fun and exciting. 

The goal here is to allow your child to find an interest that they are excited about participating in independently. This makes growing up and participating in this hobby less scary.

Sign #4: They don’t have many face-to-face friends

Let’s face it, in order for our kids to successfully navigate the adult world, they must be able to have good relationships with the people around them.

They’ll need to have a good relationship with their boss to stay employed.

They’ll need to understand how to have positive romantic relationships if they are to remain in a relationship with a romantic partner.

Being a happy adult means engaging in social relationships of all kinds – with friends, Church members, work peers, etc. If our kids don’t know how to navigate these face-to-face social contacts, then no wonder becoming an adult seems like too much work!

Encourage your child to have face-to-face relationships with peers by allowing your child to have friends over to your house for movie nights or sleepovers. Sign your child up for social extracurricular activities such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Put them into contact with their peers as much as possible.

Now, many kids do have ample opportunity to socialize face-to-face with peers and they still have difficulty maintaining long-term friendships. If this is the case with your child, then taking them to a mental health professional for an evaluation might be a good idea. Lots of times, mental health professionals can help kids learn special skills to help them if they have any social difficulties.

Take Home Message

I think Twenge’s analysis of surveyed teens is a huge eye-opener. We don’t have to look at her work and conclude that this generation of kids is doomed.

Rather, Modern Parents can use this new information to better inform their parenting.It’s ok if we allow our kids to have a “slow paced life,” but we still need to ensure that they are ready for adult responsibilities when the time comes.

The trick is finding that sweet spot of allowing our kids to take certain aspects of life slowly, while acknowledging that they are still consistently going down that path of adulthood.Is your child stuck in childhood? You’re not a bad parent if this article opened your eyes to that fact; however, now you need to do something with that information.

It’s never too late to work with your child to encourage their budding independence.



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What Every Modern Parent Needs To Know About Creating A Positive Parent-Child Relationship

What Every Modern Parent Needs To Know About Creating A Positive Parent-Child Relationship

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Psychological research has shown over and over that the positive bond between parent and child is the foundation for future success and happiness for the child. Without this important structure created during childhood, future mental health, happiness, and career success are all put in jeopardy.

Bam. That statement sure puts a lot of pressure on the Modern Parent.

If we don’t have a secure connection with our child, then research pretty much says that the consequences for our kids could mean anything from low self-esteem to problems with insecurity, anger, and depression.

As a Modern Parent myself, I feel so much pressure to have just the “right” relationship with my my son and daughter, but what exactly does that relationship look like?

It’s pretty common knowledge these days that psychologists believe that most parents fall into 3 different categories of parenting.

  • Authoritarian: This parent is controlling, overbearing, and set high (and often unrealistic) standards for their kids. Interactions between these parents and kids is usually intense, judgemental, and punitive. Parents spend a great amount of time communicating and enforcing the family values and beliefs; however this intense focus on following family values without question often leads kids to rebel. Psychologists have found that this style of parenting leads to kids who often times grow up with socioemotional struggles, romantic relationship difficulties, and career problems.


  • Permissive: This type of parent does not have consistent rules (if any) in the household and allows their kids too much freedom without boundaries. These kids often don’t know what values and beliefs are important to the family, because they have not been communicated effectively by the parent; as such, these kids often spend lots of time trying to figure out who they are and what they believe in. Research has shown that kids of permissive parents often develop anxiety, depression, narcissistic traits, and difficulty with self-motivation.


  • Authoritative: Psychologists overwhelmingly agree that this is the style of parenting that tends to create kids who are mentally and socially healthy, as well as self-secured and  successful. The secret to this type of parenting s the way in which these parents are able to communicate clear and sensible rules, boundaries, and values while also empathetically enforcing them. Interactions between parent and child are warm and respectful, while the parent takes the time to explain the reasoning behind the family rules and values.


The Modern Parents that I work with understand the value of being an authoritative parent. They want to have a respectful relationship with their child that is characterized with warm, heart-to-heart discussions about important (and not so important) topics, while still maintaining family rules that make sense.

Even so, many Modern Parents are still feeling a disconnect with their child. They don’t have the positive, easy connection with their child that they’ve always wanted.What’s missing?

I would argue that not only do Modern Parents need to practice the good habits of the authoritative parent, but they also should encourage their child’s sense of autonomy in order to encourage a close, positive, and honest relationship with their child.

We want our kids to feel that they can share their thoughts with us, but in order to do that, they need to feel as though they can trust us.

So how can the Modern Parent build that trust? Keep reading on to find out how encouraging your child’s sense of autonomy not only helps your child in so many positive ways (such as increasing their self-motivation, creativity, and general happiness), but also serves to build a great parent-child relationship.


What Does it Mean to be Autonomy Supportive?

As I’ve said before, supporting your child’s autonomy doesn’t mean allowing them to do whatever they want, when they want, regardless of the consequences.

According to Edward Deci, a research psychologist who spent decades researching the ins and outs of self-motivation, autonomy is that magical element where people feel like they’re in control of their lives.

We WANT our kids to understand that ultimately THEY are in control of their lives – it’s up to them to make good (or bad) decisions. Mom and dad will not always be around to make their decisions for them, so practicing autonomous behavior while in the family home makes sense.

The Modern Parent’s job is to allow their child to make their own decisions regarding their behavior, and then to follow through with any appropriate rewards or consequences based upon the family’s individual rules and values.

That’s how autonomy works. Modern Parents communicate the family values and beliefs and set boundaries for their child’s behavior. The parent then allows the child to decide whether or not to follow these family rules (which they usually do), but when they decide not to adhere to the family boundaries, then the parent follows through with consequences that make sense.

This is exactly how the real world will be treating our kids, so this is great preparation for teaching our kids how to be successful young adults.Research also says that kids who feel autonomous (versus its opposite – feeling controlled) creates kids who are more creative, happy, and well-adjusted. Plus, as a child psychologist, I’ve seen first hand how encouraging autonomous behavior has helped eliminate behavioral problems and has allowed the kids that I work with to become more self-confident.  


How Autonomy Helps Build a Close Parent-Child Bond

According to Edward Deci, being autonomy supportive is all about how we relate to others – our kids, people at work, friends and extended family members. As Edward Deci says in his book Why We Do What we Do, the first step to building a bond with anyone is by being willing to relate to them:

“As human beings, as active agents who are worthy of support, rather than as objects to be manipulated for our own gratification. That means taking their perspective and seeing the world from their point of view as we relate to them. Of course, autonomy support may require more work, but then, as socializing agents, that is our responsibility. For us to expect responsibility from others, we must accept our own responsibility as the agent of their socialization.”

When you are an autonomy supportive parent, your child learns that:

  • You trust them to make their own decisions. This DOESN’T mean that you think they will make the best decision every time (who does, right?). It DOES mean that you believe that your child is capable of making good decisions, and, when they don’t, they are capable of remedying their bad decisions.


  • You are willing to help them. Your child needs to know that you are dependable – whether it is by correcting them through setting boundaries and consequences  (Yes! Science says our kids LIKE parents who maintain family rules!) and/or by helping them problem-solve during a crisis. Our kids need to know that we are there for them through good and bad.


  • You are a wise person yourself. Remember those times you learned life lessons from your parents? Usually it was when your parent shared a story about their life that really drove that lesson home. Sharing our own little stories of our ups and downs goes along way in instructing our kids about being an adult.


Qualities of an Autonomy Supportive Parent

So what are the qualities that an autonomy supportive parent should practice in order to build a positive relationship with their child?

Quality #1: Non Judgemental communication – listen, then instruct

I’m not telling parents that they aren’t allowed to have an opinion about their child’s life. What I am saying is that kids (especially teens) are more willing to listen to their parent’s instruction and opinion AS LONG AS THEY FEEL HEARD.

It’s so important to let your child get out what they want to say first, and acknowledge that it makes sense that they would think and feel that way. Once your child feels heard and understood, then go ahead and share your own wisdom.

Quality #2: Showing interest in their interests and hobbies

There are countless articles and studies out there telling Modern Parents to put down their cell phones and tablets and get involved with their kids – but really CONNECTING with our kids is a different story.

To really be autonomy supportive, parents need to be willing to engage with their child or teen at their level. This means that spending some time playing your child’s favorite video game, taking them to their favorite band’s concert, or learing all about their interest in anime shows them that you are interested in THEM – not in who you wish they were.

This communicates to your child that you trust them to figure out who they are, because the person they are about to become is awesome in your eyes.

Quality #3: Knowing the difference between being a friend and being a parent

Once you begin implementing quality #1 and #2 above, you will probably see your relationship with your child improve; however, smart Modern Parents know that there is a fine line between being your child’s friend and being their parent.

Being an autonomy supportive parent means allowing your child to feel free to voice their opinions and thoughts, and to make their own decisions, but you still need to make sure that the family rules are followed.

Never allow your child to use your close relationship to bend the rules. As Edward Deci reminds us in his book, “If there are no limits, no structure, no regulations to internalize, there will be no internalization…Permissiveness is easy, but autonomy support is hard work. It requires being clear, being consistent, setting limits in an understanding, empathic way.”

Remember…supporting your child’s autonomy means letting them practice their decision-making skills in the safety of the family environment. Setting and maintaining limits teach your child all about the real world, and that’s the point of parenting – setting our children up for a successful future in the adult world and maintaining a good relationship with them in the process. 


Take Home Message

Parents who are autonomy supportive and involved have children who better internalize the family rules and values willingly and for a lifetime. Furthermore, Edward Deci’s experiments with autonomy have shown that kids who were able to internalize the family rules and values were naturally better at achievement and adjustment.

This is why what we do at home as Modern Parents goes a long way in helping our kids develop a happy and successful future.

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