Considering Giving Your Child a Cell Phone This Christmas? Make Sure Your Child Has Met These Milestones First

Considering Giving Your Child a Cell Phone This Christmas? Make Sure Your Child Has Met These Milestones First

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There are so many benefits to allowing your child to have their own cell phone, and Christmas provides a great opportunity to introduce your child to this important responsibility.

But how do you know your child is ready?

When I work with families in my private practice, one of the top concerns for parents always revolves around cell phones: their child either uses the phone to contact (or send pictures) to people the parents don’t approve of, or the child loses/breaks the expensive phone.

Since this is such a hot-button issue and I know that many parents are considering buying a cell phone for their child for Christmas, I thought I would share with my readers here the advice that I give to my private practice clients. Before giving your child their own cell phone, I believe that the child should have met certain life milestones BEFORE taking on this important responsibility.


The Milestones

When evaluating the milestones below, I don’t mean that your child should ALWAYS be perfect in these areas, but, instead, that they are generally – or mostly – compliant in these areas.

For example, if you can think of 2-3 times that your child was not successful over the past month in one of the milestones discussed, then more than likely your child has not hit that milestone yet.

When considering whether or not to get your child their own cell phone (or, for that matter, any other device that can connect to the internet), evaluate your child’s maturity in the following 5 milestones.


Milestone #1: Your child isn’t purposefully deceptive (they don’t have a habit of hiding things from you).

If your child doesn’t have a habit of hiding things from you in order not to get into trouble, then you know that your child has met this milestone.

This is important because your child will need to understand that while the cell phone is considered “theirs,” it still belongs to the parent. This means that you should know their password to log on to the phone and be able to access their phone at a moment’s notice.

You should also be able to access any apps that hey download onto their phones as well. Some kids might try to complain that this is a violation of their privacy, but it should be understood that parents have the ability to access the phone at any time to provide proper supervision. As your child gains your trust in this area, then you don’t have to check their phones as often.


Milestone #2: Your child mainly tells the truth.

If you can ask your child tough questions and they generally give you an honest answer, then you know your child has met this milestone.

Your child has the ability to communicate with people you don’t approve of – or even strangers they meet on the internet – and being able to trust you child when you ask how they are using their phone is key. You will always have the ability to check what phone numbers they call, what websites they visit, and what they are doing on their apps, but being able to have tough, but truthful, conversations with your child about their phone use is important.

Your child might “bend the rules” from time to time, but if they fess up to what they’ve done, then they are still on the path of responsible behavior (they’ll just need a reminder to remain on that path!).


Milestone #3: Your child takes care of their possessions well.

If your child doesn’t have a reputation for breaking their things or losing them, then they have met this milestone.

Cell phones and wireless plans are very expensive, so you’ll need to know that your child will take care of their property well. Teach them how to keep their phones properly charged and safely stored in their backpack or purse to ensure that they are successful in keeping their phones safe.


Milestone #4: Your child is pretty good at obeying rules/guidelines/limits.

If your child doesn’t argue a lot when you remind them of the family rules, or if they comply pretty easily to family routines, then they have probably hit this milestone.

The acquisition of a new cell phone also means the acquisition of a whole new set of rules, so you’ll need to know that your child is capable of following rules. Parents should never allow their child to have a cell phone without also reviewing guidelines for its use.

Some families make sure their child turns in their phone to the parent at night. Other families don’t allow their kids to download any apps. Whatever your rules will be concerning your child’s cell phone, it’s important that they are able to follow those rules.


Milestone #5: Your child is able to participate in offline activities.

If your child has activities that they do offline, such as read books, play an instrument, play sports, or participate in any other hobby or activity, then they have met this milestone.

It’s natural that kids are fascinated by all that the online world has to offer – video games, chatting with friends, watching endless hours of Youtube, etc. – but they also need to be able to understand that there is a balance between things done online and things done offline.

When your child has access to a cell phone, they will need to have healthy boundaries for it’s use. Don’t assume that your child will know how to do this all by themselves – you will need to set that tone for them, especially at first. Later in this article, I’ll discuss a tool that you can use to help your child learn – and maintain – these boundaries.


What If Your Child Hasn’t Mastered These Milestones Yet?

If you feel like your child hasn’t hit one or all of the milestones mentioned above, then you can use the milestones as concrete goals for your child to work on over the next few months.

First, explain that you really want your child to get to the point where they are mature enough for a cell phone. (Your child might argue that their friends who are the same age already have a phone, but gently teach them that the rules in your home are different and that readiness isn’t about age, it’s about behavior).

Second, communicate clearly to your child the 5 milestones that must be met in order to earn the privilege of a cell phone, and where they are on each milestone.

Third, create concrete and clear behavioral expectations for the milestones that your child still needs work on. For example, if your child still has a problem with lying, then let your child know that over the next 2 months, they cannot be caught in a lie at all. Emphasize that it’s your child’s choice to behave in a way that earns them the phone (for review on autonomy, see this blog post, and for a review on positive reinforcement, see this article).

No matter how long it takes, continue to use the milestones as goals for your child and review their progress with them. Eventually, they’ll earn the privilege of the cell phone and you’ll have more confidence in them that they can handle it responsibly!


Think Your Child Is Ready? Ensure They Are Successful With This Tool

If your child is ready for the responsibility of a cell phone, set them up for success by using my cell phone contract to create and communicate your family’s rules regarding the cell phone.

The contract clearly states the days/times for use, and other guidelines about safety, internet use, etc. It is in a Word document so you can customize it however you need to in order to fit your family’s individual needs. It also include lines for you and your child to sign to show agreement.

This tool is a great way to have a good conversation with your child about your expectations regarding their cell phone use. Print out a copy for your records and for them so that they can review their rules as needed.


Take Home Message

Allowing your child to have their own cell phone can have both positives and negatives. It’s definitely safer for your child to have a cell phone when they are out and about outside of the home, and you’ll always have a way to contact them when you need them. The downside to the cell phone is that it provides an opportunity for your child to contact strangers, gain access to internet websites that are inappropriate, and other dangerous activities.

The only way to ensure that your child uses the cell phone responsibility is to make sure they have met the 5 milestones discussed in this article. Also, be sure to download the cell phone contract included in this article to set your child up for success with this important life skill.

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How To Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Failure

How To Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Failure

We want our kids to confidently take part in activities that bring them joy and make them an interesting person, but some kids get so paralyzed by the fear of failure that they avoid participating in activities that could bring them happiness.

Lately, I’ve seen too many kids in my private practice that are avoiding life because they are so afraid of the feeling of failure. Luckily, I’ve had some pretty good success with a technique that I call the Stepping Stone Method.

By using the Stepping Stone Method, kids are able to develop their Mastery skills, which is an important element of the Self-Motivation Success Formula that I believe produces happy and successful kids.

Before I give you the step-by-step plan on how to use The Stepping Stone Method, I think you should understand how Mastery Mindset is related to the fear of failure.


The Connection Between a Mastery Mindset and Fear of Failure


If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that Mastery is one of the key principles to The Self-Motivation Success Formula and that I promote parenting that encourages a mastery mindset.

As a review, Mastery is the drive to participate in an activity – and to improve the performance in this task – simply because we enjoy performing the activity. Kids who have a mastery mindset persevere longer when the task gets difficult, need less outside encouragement from parents to engage in the activity, and derive much more intrinsic rewards from the task.

Kids with a Mastery Mindset aren’t as affected by failure as kids without a Mastery Mindset because they generally view mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. These kids believe that the goal of participating in an activity is to improve on their skills in this activity over time.

It’s important for kids to learn a mastery mindset now because this mindset will help them be happier and more successful as adults. Kids with a mastery mindset mature into adults who seek out careers, hobbies, and relationships for the intrinsic value – and not for baseless, showy reasons.

I’ve pointed out before how important it is for your child to participate in a hobby because it leads to so many great things such as higher self-esteem and increased social interactions, but if your child refuses to participate in a hobby (or any other activity) because they fear failing, then what do you do?

That’s where the Stepping Stone Technique comes in.


The Stepping Stone Technique


The Stepping Stone technique will teach your child not only how to develop mastery in a task, but also how to tolerate failure.

The philosophy of the Stepping Stone Technique is that any kind of mastery is a process that includes multiple steps – and some of these steps just can’t be skipped. Kids who have a fear of failure tend to focus only on the imagined BIG OUTCOME of the task and not on current step – or very next step.

For example, I had a client several years ago who refused to participate in any kind of activity where she wasn’t absolutely sure it would result in a success for her.

If she didn’t think she would win the spelling bee, she would purposefully mess up on her first try.

If she didn’t think she would be as good as the other kids in a dance class, she would refuse to even enter the dance studio building.

And despite having a natural talent for singing, she put up a huge fuss when her parents talked to her about  joining the Church youth choir because she envisioned that the whole Church body would make fun of her for her terrible voice (which was untrue – she had a wonderful voice).

Then I taught this client’s parents the Stepping Stone Method and they put it to use right away. Because their daughter had a natural talent and enjoyment for singing, they encouraged her (ok – they bribed her with allowing her to use the family car on the weekends) to consistently attend choirs practice and to participate in all choir performances for the next 3 months.

And after the 3 months, this client was able to overcome her fear of failure. Not only did she thoroughly enjoy singing in the youth choir, but she also became more courageous about trying other activities and tasks as well.

So how did this client have such a huge transformation in such a short amount of time? Let me take you step by step through The Stepping Stone Method.


The Steps:

(Step 1) Start Small. I’ve seen all too many times that when parents start to work with their kids on changing their behavior, they want to begin big, but in reality, it’s best to start small. So, when beginning The Stepping Stone Method, choose one small thing you would like your child to try and focus ONLY on that.

(BONUS TIP: This step works especially well when the activity or task you want them to try is something that they already have an interest in or they are naturally talented at it.)

In the case of the example from above, my client’s parents chose to focus on encouraging my client to join the youth choir because she had a natural interest in singing and had a natural talent for it.

Scientific research tells us that long-term behavior change is more likely to happen when we start small and experience a quick win. Experiencing a quick win allows the child to begin filling their confidence tank, which allows them to have the confidence to try the next scary thing.


(Step 2) Focus Only on The Current Step. Like I mentioned before, many kids with a fear of failure often focus on the ultimate goal – being the winner or the best at the activity – and this paralyzes them from participating in the activity in the current moment.

When this happens, encourage your child to only focus only on completing the current step to the best of their ability.

In the example from above, my teenage client started having an anxiety attack right as her mother reminded her that it was time to go to the first practice. My client told her mother that everyone would laugh at her when she performed with the choir in church and that they would say bad things about her behind her back.

Because I had prepared my client’s mom for this, she stayed calm while her daughter spoke about her anxiety, she didn’t judge her daughter or shame her for feeling these things, and gently reminded her that all she had to do today was to get in the car, get to the Church, and go into the choir room and participate with her friends.

This worked, and my client was still nervous on the way to the Church, but she was able to get through the whole hour of practice successfully.

When my client’s mother asked her how practice went, she replied, “It wasn’t bad like I thought it would be. It was fun.”

My client’s mother repeated this strategy for the next several choir practices and for the next several performances. After about a month, my client didn’t need this encouragement from her mother anymore because she had experienced a month of small wins and she was able to gain enough confidence and experience to know that participating in the youth choir was actually a fun activity.


(Step 3) Focus Only On Intrinsic Rewards, Not on Extrinsic Ones. It super important when using The Stepping Stone Method that you reinforce the intrinsic rewards gained from completing this current step, rather than the extrinsic rewards.

Just as a reminder, intrinsic rewards are those rewards we get that speaks to our inner happiness. The enjoyment we get when working on a task, the pride we get from completing it, or the happiness that our work brings to others are good examples of intrinsic rewards.

Scientific research tells us that people who are successful and happy tend to be driven by internal rewards. People who are internally driven to perform tasks also score higher on scales of perseverance and creativity.

On the other hand, extrinsic rewards are those tangible rewards that we get after performing a task. Examples of extrinsic rewards are earning a paycheck or allowance or getting a bribe for doing a household chore.

Reminding your child of the intrinsic rewards for overcoming a fearful task sets them up for overcoming this fear for other tasks as well. This worked well with the teenage client from our example. When my client’s mother picked my client up after each choir practice, she simply stated to her daughter, “You did it – you must feel great!”

She didn’t say, “See? I told her it wasn’t so bad,” or “I knew you would have fun,” or “I don’t know why you put up such a fuss when it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

I had coached my client’s mother to simply reflect how my client might feel after completing a successful task on her long journey of being a youth choir member. I also reminded her not to be offended if her daughter denied it – just hearing this statement spoken very calmly was very healing for the daughter.


(Step 4) Make Failures/Mistakes a Non-Issue. Kids who fear failure need to reframe how they think about failure. Instead of thinking that failure is a final statement of their abilities or worth as a person, they need to understand that mistakes or failures are just learning opportunities.

I’ve written in the past about how teaching our kids to take smart risks that include learning from failures sets them up for a successful future. If you think about it, every successful person has experienced failures, mistakes, or set, but they did not let these negative events stop them from pursuing their task. Perseverance in spite of failures is what defines successful people.

In order for this step to really make a difference for your child, though, you need to come to terms with how YOU feel about mistakes and failures:

  • Does it embarrass you when your child messes up?
  • Do you feel like your parenting is being judged when your child makes mistakes?
  • Do you unfairly believe that your child’s mistakes are due to their permanent personalities (and cannot be changed)?

If you are as uncomfortable by your child’s mistakes/failures as they are, then you might be unknowingly contributing to their belief that mistakes/failures are horrible experiences that cannot be overcome.  


(Step 5) Turn Negative Self-Talk Into Positive Statements. Finally, the last step is equipping your child with the ability on how to turn negative self-talk into positive encouragements.

It’s natural that we sometimes have some negative self-talk, but the faster we can turn that negative self-talk around, the more likely we are to persevere through tough times.

This worked well for my client on the path to participating on her youth choir. When my client spoke about some of her negative self-talk, her mother helped her see the situation in a more positive light. For example, when my client told her mother that the Church members would say bad things about her behind her back about her singing, her mother reminded her that they might say something nice about her like, “I didn’t know CLIENT could sing so well,” or “I’m so glad to see CLIENT with the other kids singing.”

This is definitely a skill that many kids with low self-esteem or fear of failure need to master. For more on learning how to help your child turn negative thoughts into positive ones, check out this previous article.

If you teach this skill to your child now while they are young, then they will be able to tackle any challenge when they are adults.


Take Home Message


I’ve seen way too many kids stop participating i life simply because they are afraid to fail. It hurts my heart every time I talk to a child with this challenge, but I have seen so many kids enjoy life again once they have learned to take scary tasks one step at a time.

My client who started out tackling their fear by participating in the youth choir is in college and is able to start new tasks and be part of new experiences all on her own. It took some work by her parents and some therapy from me, but she was finally able to take on her own confidence about life.

Once she gained confidence from being in the youth choir, she was able to utilize her stronger “courage muscle” by trying new experiences – and then gaining even more confidence after experiencing even more successes. When she failed, or a situation didn’t go as planned, she now had the skill to realize that these were learning experiences, and she was able to turn her negative thoughts into positive ones.

It might not happen overnight, but your child can have this same transformation too by using The Stepping Stone Technique.

Before leaving today, be sure to download the worksheet about how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. By going through this exercise on this worksheet, you’ll be better able to help your child in the moment when they need some positive thinking!




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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.

Click here to subscribe

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.

Click Here to check it out.



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The Easiest and Fastest Way to Change Your Child’s Behavior (Based on Scientific Research)

The Easiest and Fastest Way to Change Your Child’s Behavior (Based on Scientific Research)

Do you know that behavior change is a natural process? That many kids and adults undergo difficult behavior changes all the time – with no intervention at all? How do they do it?

Many teenagers are able to stop being lazy and begin hitting the books in order to get good grades all on their own – they don’t need a parent nagging them to study.

It is well documented that many adults stop drinking or doing drugs without the help of counseling or a 12-step group. These are the people that seem to “quit overnight”.

I’m sure you can think of a moment when you, or someone you know, had an “a-ha!” moment that caused you to live life differently. Many people report that near-death experiences have caused them to live their lives a whole new way after dodging an early death.

My point is that many Modern Parents that I speak to are struggling with figuring out how to get their child to change in some way – to get better grades, to be more sociable with their peers, to behave better, to stop feeling so bad about themselves, etc – but nothing they do seems to work.

This article is all about how science is beginning to show that behavior change is actually a natural process that is innate in all of our kids, and Modern Parents can either sabotage this change process or subtly encourage it to begin – and succeed.

First, I’ll point out several errors in the way that many Modern Parents think that could be harming their child’s natural tendency to change. Next, I’ll go more in-depth and explain why some kids are able to make positive changes without intense involvement by a parent, teacher, or expert. And finally, I’ll give you specific tips on what you can do to speed up and influence your child’s natural ability to make a behavior change that will positively impact their life.

My overall goal with this article is to teach you how to help your child make an important behavior change, while also encouraging a strong parent-child relationship. This article will help you stop being a nagging, overbearing parent, and, instead, will show you how to be a subtle (yet encouraging) participant in your child’s natural change process.

Errors In The Way We Currently Think About Behavior Change

There are many reasons explaining why kids decide to change their behavior that are currently accepted as fact today. Here is a sample of some common reasons that I hear all the time:

  • Kids only change when they get uncomfortable enough
  • The more you pressure kids, the more likely they will change
  • Kids just don’t understand why they need to change, so the more you lecture them, the more likely they will change because eventually they’ll “get it”
  • Kids haven’t changed yet because they haven’t suffered enough or encountered “real life” enough
  • Kids don’t change because they’ve got it too good in these modern times, so parents need to “get back to the basics”

The problem with the above statements is that they presume that change happens TO our kids, but in reality, change is something in which they MUST be an active participant.

As a child psychologist, I’ve found that the biggest mistake parents make when trying to enforce a behavior change in their child is that they think THEY are in control of their child’s change. These parents just think that if they make their child feel bad or embarrassed enough (aka the parent who destroys their child’s belongings and then posts the video on the internet), or hand out the right amount of punishment, or give their child the right lecture, then their child will finally give in and  change.

Forcing your child to change just doesn’t work – especially in the long-run.

I’ve written before about how forcing the child to change has a tendency to backfire . Research on motivation  has shown that when parents force change, kids act in either one of two destructive ways: they either become defiant or compliant. Both of these reactions have been shown to have some short-term change effects (the child will change in order to gain a reward, avoid a punishment, or go back to their desired behavior once the parent isn’t looking) – but our goal is to inspire long-term positive behavior change.

So if we’re not in control of our child’s ability to change their behavior, then what can we do? Just wait around until they change?

Absolutely not! We CAN be an active partner in our child’s natural ability to make positive, long-term changes.

New Understanding of Behavior Change

Behavior change is actually a natural process. As I said before, many people change bad or destructive behaviors without any kind of help at all.

There is even research to suggest that people who seek therapy to get help changing a destructive behavior – such as overeating or smoking – eventually improve , but not because of the therapy. There are decades and decades of studies that have investigated the effectiveness of therapy on behavior change. Study after study has shown that the same amount of people undergo behavior change whether or not they entered treatment, read self-help books, or didn’t do anything special at all.

Simply put: if people want to change, then they change.

The most interesting trend that these studies discovered, however, is that clients who sought therapy tended to have a higher rate of behavior change if their therapist displayed confidence in the client’s ability to change., These  therapists promoted change talk (as opposed to focusing on all the reasons why it would be hard or difficult to change). When clients worked with therapists who secretly predicted their clients wouldn’t actually follow through on the behavior change and/or spent a lot of time in therapy talking about the difficulties of the behavior change, then these clients tended to not follow through on the desired behavior change.

Another important trend that scientific research has identified is that kids change when they connect the reason behind the change to an internal reason, such as completing a important personal goal, making loved ones proud of them, or because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve written several in-depth articles before about the importance of intrinsic motivation and its impact on motivation, so it makes sense that this psychological ingredient is necessary for long term, positive behavior change.

Finally, research has also identified that behavior change is an interpersonal process – kids often become motivated to change (or not) through their day-to-day interaction with others.

For example, a young, shy child might want to join a dance class, and overcomes their fear to join the class when encouraged by a positive adult. On the other hand, this same child might give up on the idea of joining the dance class if influenced by a discouraging adult.

As you can see, while Modern Parents might not be in control of their child’s behavior change, they certainly can act in ways that influence their behavior change for the better or worse. But before I share specific tips with you on how to influence your child’s natural ability to change their behavior, you have to understand the important elements that must be present for behavior change to begin.

Elements of change

The three elements that I am about to share with you are all adopted from the psychological treatment model called Motivational Interviewing (MI). The MI method has been shown to be effective with helping people resolve ambivalent feelings about change in order to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior.

According to this theory, kids need 3 elements in order to be ready for any kind of behavior change: willing, able and ready.


It should make sense that a child who is not willing to undergo the difficulty of behavior change most likely will not change.

Part of willingness is an internal understanding of the importance of the behavior change. For example, a child who doesn’t understand the long-term rewards of putting down the video game controller in order to study for a test, won’t be motivated to go through the hard work of behavior change.

As such, if your child isn’t willing to change, then they won’t change.


Let’s say that your child is willing to put the work into undergoing a behavior change – but do they have the skills and knowledge to make the behavior change? Do they believe that they are capable of being successful with the behavior change?

Self-confidence, or the belief that one is able to accomplish a goal, is important when undergoing behavior change. If your child doesn’t believe that they can carry out the steps needed to accomplish the behavior change, then they are likely to quit very quickly when things get tough.


Many kids are willing to change and have confidence in their abilities to change, but they just aren’t ready to follow through on the change. They have different priorities for their motivation and energy.

A lot of times, our kids are plagued with the idea that they have plenty of time for procrastination. They erroneously think that they can put off studying for the current test because there are lots of tests to study for in the future. Or they keep telling themselves that they’ll stop playing so many video games tomorrow, but today they’ll continue playing.

If your child does not prioritize the importance of the behavior change, then they will not be successful with changing their behavior.

So the 3 elements of change – willing, able, and ready – must be present in order for your child’s behavior change to be successful, and the Modern Parent is a big influence on encouraging these elements to develop in the child.


How To Influence Behavior Change

Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Research shows that when people believe they can change, then change is more likely to occur. Furthermore, when other people in your child’s life believe that they can change, then they have more of a tendency to be successful with behavior change.

This is called the Self-fulfilling Prophecy. To put it simply, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, due to the positive feedback between belief and behavior.

For example, teacher expectations regarding student performance has long been shown to be a big predictor of student grades. The students that the teacher believes to be smart, tend to get better overall grades. These studies have also shown that teachers tend to spend more one-on-one time with students that they believe are smart, which gives these students an advantage towards getting better grades. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy in action.

You can create your own self-fulfilling prophecy with your child’s behavior change by acting in a way that communicates that you believe they will be successful in their behavior change goal. You need to be consistent with this confidence as well – even when they stumble with their goal (which is inevitable).

Communicate Your Confidence

Today’s kids are suffering from more self-esteem problems that ever before, which eats away at their confidence when they must undergo behavior change. (There are a multitude of opinions on why today’s kids are more prone to self-esteem issues, but I won’t delve into that in this article).

Most kids gain confidence as they mature, but Modern Parents can speed up a child’s confidence for behavior change by adopting a consistent attitude that communicates belief in the child’s ability to successfully change.

The key word here is consistent. As your child begins the path to behavior change, they WILL stumble. It is more important than ever for you to communicate belief in the child during these setbacks.

Communicating your confidence to your child can be done in many different ways:

  • Not overreacting when your child messes up; instead project a calm confidence in your child while they continue going down the path of behavior change
  • Avoiding the knee-jerk reaction of stepping in to “rescue” your child; it is better for your child in the long run to allow them to struggle with finding their own solution
  • By praising the small steps on the path to behavior change – success is success
  • When talking about their future behavior change, phrase the conversation as if you have no doubt they will succeed (i.e. instead of “hopefully all this extra studying will get that grade up by the end of the year,” instead say “you’ll be so happy when all this extra studying pays off with that awesome grade at the end of the year”)

Our Modern Kids are very smart and they can pick up on subtle intonations and phrases that might hint that you do or don’t believe that they’ll be successful in their behavior change. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into your belief that your child will be a success.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Focus on Arguments FOR Change

Evidence shows that that how someone talks about change heavily influences whether or not they will change.

For example, research has shown that clients who speak about their intended behavior change in therapy are more likely to make the change if they talk positively about it; conversely, clients who spend time discussing the many reasons why they shouldn’t change, generally don’t.

Therefore, when talking with your child about changing their behavior, focus on the positives of the behavior change – things like how they will feel after making the change, what positive effects will come about due to the change, etc.

It’s far too easy for kids (and parents) to get bogged down in all of the reasons why making the behavior change might not work, and doing so makes it more likely that your child will fail with the intended change.

A very powerful way of getting your child to speak positively about their intended behavior change is to challenge them to make arguments FOR the change. For example, many kids have a tendency to tell you all about the reasons why making the change will be difficult, hard, or not worth it, but, instead, have them speak about why making the change will be good for them in the long run.

The following are some helpful questions to elicit positive change talk in your child:

  • “I’ve heard lots of reasons why changing will be hard, but what are some reasons why changing would be good for you in the long run?”
  • “How would you feel about yourself if you did make the change?”
  • “If your friend wanted to make this change, what are some reasons you would give them to help them decide to change?”
  • “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you made the change? Would it be better or worse than the reward you would earn for making the change?”

There are lots of ways to encourage your child to focus on the positive aspects of making a behavior change – be creative and keep on trying. This simple change in your behavior might be all that is needed for your child to make an important change in their behavior.

The Take Home Message

One of the biggest frustrations for the Modern Parent is knowing that their child needs to make a behavior change in some way, but not knowing how to effectively help their child make this change.

Current scientific research shows us that most people can make behavior changes on their own, without intrusive interventions from parents, teachers, or other professionals. If given enough time, kids eventually will make positive behavior changes all on their own.

The question, then, is this: How do we speed up this natural tendency for change that resides in our kids?

We can do this by realizing that our kids need to be willing, ready, and able to change. These three elements MUST be addressed before change is possible.

In addition, the parent can indirectly influence their child’s willingness to change by focusing on their own communication style with their child: they must create positive self-fulfilling prophecies, communicate confidence, and focus on arguments for change.

If you accept that your child has everything they need right inside of them to change, and all you need to do as a parent is to create an encouraging environment for the change process, then your child will likely make the desired behavior change faster than you thought possible.



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Why Your Child Craves Sweets When They’re Using Their Willpower Muscle (And What To Feed Them Instead of Sweets For Maximum Performance)

Why Your Child Craves Sweets When They’re Using Their Willpower Muscle (And What To Feed Them Instead of Sweets For Maximum Performance)

Ever notice how your child will crave sweet snacks during situations that require lots of self-control?

Maybe your child has been known to ask for a cookie during homework time or candy when trying to get through a long, boring reading assignment?

According to science, there’s something called the brain-glucose link that causes your child to crave sweets – just as they are revving up their willpower muscle into high gear.

This article will explain the connection between your child’s willpower (aka self-control, grit, perseverance) and sweet snacks. In order for your child’s willpower muscle to continue chugging along in high gear, it needs some sort of fuel, but you don’t necessarily need to give your child sweets. I’ll also update you on some healthy alternatives so your child’s willpower can function effectively AND they stay healthy.

The Brain-Glucose Link

Recently, a pair of scientists wanted to investigate the link between glucose (a simple sugar that is an important energy source in living organisms and is a component of many carbohydrates) and willpower in kids. To do this, researchers asked the children in an elementary school to skip breakfast one morning. When they came to school, half of the kids were given a healthy breakfast and half were given nothing at all to eat.

As you can probably guess, at measurement point #1, the kids that ate breakfast retained more of the information taught that morning and were rated by their teachers to have behaved better than the kids that didn’t get any breakfast.

The kids that didn’t have any breakfast that morning had denied their willpower muscle of precious nutrients, which was the reason why they didn’t have enough self-control to pay attention in class and to control their impulsive behaviors when needed.

At this point in the morning, the researchers gave all the kids a surgery snack. After a few more hours, at measurement point #2, can you guess which group performed better? Actually, both groups performed about the same – the differences noticed in the morning seemed to have disappeared entirely – simply because all the kids had enough fuel for their willpower muscles to function properly!

This is just one of many experiments conducted over the past several decades that shows a connection between glucose levels and willpower. Todd Heatherton, a noted social neuroscientist, explains the biological activity that goes on in the brain during the glucose-willpower situation:

“Apparently ego depletion shifts activity from one part of the brain to the other. Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low. It stops doing some things and starts doing others. That may help explain why depleted people feel things more intensely than normal: Certain parts of the brain go into high gear just as others taper off.

As the body uses glucose during self-control, it starts to crave sweet things to eat – which is bad news for people hoping to use their self-control to avoid sweets. When people have more demands for self-control in their daily lives, their hunger for sweets increases. It’s not a simple matter of wanting food more – they seem to be specifically hungry for sweets.”

Our bodies tend to crave sugary sweets when glucose levels are low because this is the fastest source to raising glucose levels. In research labs, it’s very common for researchers looking to quickly increase glucose levels to give their participants surgery drinks.

Willpower researchers are fond of giving sweet treats to participants because it meets the goal of the experiment, but what is the best way to increase glucose on an everyday basis for our kids?

Sugar Works In The Lab – Not In Your Child’s Diet

Not only have experiments shown that sugar provides a quick glucose hit that serves to increase willpower rapidly in the lab, but these experiments have also demonstrated that this sugar high is very fleeting.

A soda or candy bar might give your child the needed boost required to get through the last 15 minutes of writing a book report or piano practice, but they’ll quickly experience a willpower “crash” as soon as the glucose gets depleted again.

The best way to keep your child’s willpower muscle functioning at peak performance long-term is to keep your child’s glucose levels at a steady level throughout the day using healthy foods, not sugar.

The body converts just about all sorts of food into glucose – but at different rates. Foods that are converted quickly are said to have a high glycemic index. These types of foods include starchy carbohydrates like white bread, potatoes, white rice – basically, just about every easy-to-grab snack item.

On the other hand, foods with a lower glycemic index help maintain steady glucose levels – and steady willpower functioning. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, fish, meat, olive oil, and other “good fats” are foods that associated with a lower glycemic index and are better for your kids in the long run.

Getting your child into the habit of eating healthy meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day enables them to take control of their willpower – and talk to them about the important connection between what they’re eating and their willpower muscle. Teach them that if they want to play their best during their baseball game or perform at peak performance during the marching band competition, then they will need to pay attention to refueling their willpower muscle with healthy foods.

Note: There might be times you want to quickly boost your child’s willpower using sugar, but this tactic should be used only for emergencies. For example, providing a quick boost of energy before an important math test or track meet might be the exception to the rule.

Take Home Message

Part of teaching your child to be autonomous – or to take control of their own decision-making – is to teach them that they are also in control of their own willpower.

We want our kids to dream big and make big goals for themselves, and the only way they will achieve these goals is by maintaining their willpower muscle. Their goals are attainable by achieving small steps along the way, and the only way they will have the self-control needed to focus on these small goals is by using their willpower muscle appropriately.



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