Unlocking the castle doors: Raise happy teens through trusting guidance

[View original article published in the Daily Herald here]

“There are two lasting bequests that we can give our children. One is roots, the other is wings.”

Hodding Carter, Jr.

All pareimagescastlents remember the emotions experienced when their first child was born.  Besides boundless joy we also experienced an overwhelming sense of responsibility.  We realized we needed to make adjustments.

For instance, when a young friend became a father for the first time, he and his wife were worried about leaving the hospital with their little girl. The hospital was about 15 minutes away from their house if they traveled on the highway. They chose to go the slower — but safer — route through the city streets out of concern for their little girl.

Since becoming a father, my friend has become one of the safest drivers on the road! He explained, “I wanted to place a big sign on my car saying ‘precious cargo on board. ‘  I wanted to ensure no harm would come to my little princess.”


All of us probably can relate to this young man’s feelings. Parenting is the greatest and most rewarding calling. It can also be frustrating. Despite our efforts to protect our children, life happens and they will encounter opposition. Our princes and princesses need our protection, but they also need experiences to prepare for the dragons in their own lives. They won’t have the ability to slay them if we keep our children “safe” in the castle.

A few years ago, I was counseling an anguished couple whose 16-year-old daughter had run away from home. They grieved for their “little princess” who had escaped from their castle tower, and were desperate to know how to bring her back.

As I spoke with them, the father admitted that he had been overprotective and strict with her. He said he provided advice and lectures almost every day but that she would not “listen.” When I asked them if they knew what kind of friends she had, they didn’t know. They remembered that she once asked them if she could bring friends over, but they said they didn’t want “strangers” in their home. She then started coming home late from school because she went elsewhere with her friends. The father, concerned about his daughter, responded by waiting at the bus stop to take her home once she stepped off.

Reflecting on this, the parents realized the mistakes they had made. Even though they thought this was the way to protect her from harm, their lack of trust led them to this predicament. What could they do to make things right? Was it too late? And how could they have developed their relationship differently and avoid their daughter’s need to run away?

Emotional savings

Building the right kind of relationship starts at a young age and is built over time. As we try to listen and understand our children’s stages of life and perspective, we can show them that we love them. Time spent playing and doing activities that our children enjoy is precious. It can be the means of entering their world. Showing unconditional love and genuine interest builds emotional savings into the relationship and our children will typically respond in kind.

Be there

It’s been said that “a ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” Our children need to experience life — with our guidance, not a tight leash. We need to make ourselves available and acknowledge their positive behaviors and accomplishments. We can strengthen our children by letting them strengthen themselves. When they fail, we can be there to pick them up emotionally.

Be patient

As children grow, our role as parents change. Famed psychologist Erik Erickson said the stage of identity vs. role confusion begins between the ages of 12 to 18 years of age. At this age children are trying to figure themselves out. They want their independence. They believe they know it all. They certainly would be thrilled to have their friends live with them and have us move out! It’s at this time when we can “harvest” the relationship “seeds” that should have been planted in the earlier years. This is the time the real relationship with our children will be tested. Does your relationship with your children pass the test? Do you need to make any adjustments?

Teach limits and consequences

It would be wonderful if our teenagers continued to comply in helping with dishes or sweeping the floor as they did when they were 4 years old. But our children grow up and will want to test our limits. When they get into mischief, maintain a positive attitude and use the situation to teach them to become positive leaders amongst their peers.

Remember that when disciplining children, bribes and threats only work temporarily. They need to clearly understand the rules and consequences. Parents need to create realistic expectations and be consistent. It’s best when we have our children’s input regarding their consequences. As they get older, we can loosen the rope and keep any consequences consistent with their age and maturity level.

Bottom line

What was my advice to the couple who wanted to know how to get their daughter back? They needed to show their daughter unconditional love, respect and trust. They needed to share their concerns and allow their daughter to share her concerns. They needed to come up with a mutual plan to strengthen their relationship. Simply putting her back in the castle tower was not the answer.

It’s never too late to re-connect and strengthen your relationship with your children. Someone has said that “When we make mistakes, it is not what we did that matters, it is what we do, after what we did that’s important.” We can survive and thrive! We can create a trusting and respectful relationship with our children. We can do it!

A 3-piece puzzle to fostering life skills

[Published by MomClick Utah and The Daily Herald here.]

If yo3 piece puzzle pictureu were to compile a list of life skills you believe your children need to succeed in their lives, what would they be?

Vision, confidence and heart are three life skills that work together like pieces of a puzzle. You may want to add them to your list and make them part of your family culture.


“Dream it, believe it, achieve it.”

We have all heard this quote. Here is a story of a young man who made this quote a reality: Anthony Robles was born with one leg. None of the doctors could explain why. Growing up, his mother taught him that “God made you this way for a reason,” and she made him believe it.

In junior high he joined the wrestling team at his school. He was the smallest and worst wrestler on the team. He placed last in the city wrestling tournament at the end of the season. Not many people believed that a tiny kid born with one leg would succeed in such a demanding sport. He (and his mother) were the only ones who believed that he could.

In his junior and senior years at Mesa High School he had a record of 96-0, was a two-time state champion and a national high school champion. When he finished high school, there were no colleges interested in him as a wrestler, and not one school offered him a wrestling scholarship.

He begged the coach at Arizona State University to give him a tryout for his team. By the time his college career was complete, he was a three-time All-American and the 2011 college national champion in his weight class. His mother had helped him create a vision of his possibilities, and he believed her. He then went out and did the work to make that vision a reality.

How do we teach vision to our children?

We can start by teaching them that ordinary people can actually do extraordinary things. We can point out that they do not need to limit themselves, or let others limit them. We can emphasize that they are the ones who can decide how their life turns out. We can teach them that they are responsible for their own happiness, and to remember to consider the consequence before making a choice.


“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage and constancy, and the greatest of these is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” SEmD Walt Disney

As we think of our children’s lives and ability to succeed, we can realize that without confidence, they will not be able to reach their potential.

I recently watched a 2-year-old girl try to put together a puzzle. It was a difficult puzzle for someone her age and she grew increasingly frustrated. She said to her mom, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard!” and she threw the puzzle pieces down. Her mom wisely said to her, “That is a hard puzzle. I can see why you are frustrated. Would you like some help? Shall we see if we can figure it out together?” They worked together to complete the puzzle. Then her mom said, “Do you want to try and do it yourself?” “OK,” said the little one. She proceeded to put the puzzle together on her own. When she finished, she had a big smile and said, “I did it!” A dose of confidence was added to that young girl that day.

How can we teach confidence to our children?

Confidence comes from an accumulation of successful experiences. We can help our children understand that little successes can turn into big successes. In addition we can teach them that they can do hard things, to not be afraid to fail, to always bring their best, to focus on the things they can control in their lives, and to help them find and develop their strengths.


“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” SEmD Aristotle

Heart works along with vision and confidence to give our children balance in their lives.

Heart teaches our children to focus on others rather than themselves. I recently heard a story about a Dairy Queen employee who showed great kindness and compassion. While at work one day, he saw a blind man in line waiting to place an order. A $20 bill dropped out of his pocket onto the floor. The person behind him in line picked up the $20 and kept it, thinking he would not be seen. The employee took $20 out of his own wallet and placed it in the blind man’s hand. That young employee was most likely taught what was right by his parents.

How do we teach heart to our children?

It starts with us, doesn’t it? “It’s better to see a sermon than to hear a sermon.” They will learn by our example to look for the good in others, to count their blessings, not someone else’s, to be generous with their time and talents, and to notice other’s examples of kindness, gratitude and generosity.

What are the benefits of vision, confidence and heart for our children?

Our children will make better decisions, negative peer pressure will be less of an issue, they will have direction in their lives, they will define themselves rather than let others define them, they will be leaders rather than followers, they will develop compassion for others, they will reach their potential, and they will be happier.

We can make this three-piece puzzle work together. As we help our children have a vision of who they can become, develop confidence, and have a giving heart — they will do amazing things in their lives. Most importantly, it will make our job as parents much easier!


How to make your parenting vision a reality

[Published by MomClick Utah and The Daily Herald here.]

parenting plan pix

“A company without a vision cannot succeed. And a vision without a plan is the recipe for failure.”

— Kevin Harrington, ABC’s “Shark Tank” judge

Our lives are loaded with plans: business plans, retirement plans, health insurance plans, workout plans and vacation plans. But what about having a parenting plan? Parenting is just like any other undertaking in life. To increase our chances of a successful outcome, we usually need to know where we are going, and how we are going to get there.

I would like to suggest a three-part parenting plan that will hopefully provide you with some ideas to implement in your family. For best results, the three parts of the plan need to work together. Picture in your mind a three-legged stool. Each of the three legs are essential to make it stable. If one of the legs is broken or missing, the stool can’t serve its purpose.

The Parenting Plan

Part One — Where are you going?

The goal is to identify the life skills you believe your children will need to succeed in life. Take time to really think this through. What life skills will they absolutely need to have? Write them down and keep them in a place that you can refer to often.

As you interact with your children, they’ll continue to grow up and find their own interests. Their own experiences will help you teach them those life skills you want them to master for the rest of their lives. Refer to this list often, especially on rough days.

Part Two — How are you going to get there?

Every family has a Family Culture. Are you aware of yours? Are you pleased with it? Most importantly — does your family culture reinforce the life skills that you identified in Part One? Do you need to make adjustments so it does? Here is an idea:

The farmer

It’s time now to put on your farmer’s hat! Pretend you are a farmer and try to think and act like one. The goal of every farmer (parent) is to produce good fruit. These could be your “farming” steps:

1. Plant the seeds of the life skills inside your child’s fertile mind (good ground).

2. Nourish the seeds (water/sunshine) through repetition, experiences, your personal example and role models.

3. With time, and regular fertilization, the seeds begin to grow and take root within your child.

4. Over an extended period of time, and with consistent nourishment, a strong tree (your child) is created, with branches of the desired life skills.

5. Good fruit (happy, confident, resilient, etc.) is produced by your tree for years to come. Your vision for your child has become reality. Enjoy the harvest!

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant!” I would add: and how you nourish that seed each day.

Often parents judge themselves too harshly. They forget they need to focus on their effort and what is within their control — planting and nourishing the “right” seeds. We all have at least 18 years to complete that farming cycle!

Part three — Enjoy the journey

Parents need to focus on progress, not perfection. That is — your progress as well as your child’s progress. Remember that parenting is an acquired skill; it takes time and experience. It’s true, we don’t know for certain what will happen in the future and that there are no guarantees. One thing we know for sure is that we will make mistakes along the way, but we can always put forth our best effort.

There is no “one size fits all” parenting strategy. Each of our children will come wired differently. Let’s treat them accordingly.

Let’s maintain a long-term vision for our parenting journey. It really is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sense of humor

Keeping a healthy sense of humor is essential. Look for opportunities to laugh with your children every day. Laugh at your mistakes and apologize when needed. Laugh at all the funny things that happen in life. Some experiences are funnier years later. Keep a “funny journal.” You and your children will someday read it and have fun with the memories.

Do not play the compare game

As you well know, comparing ourselves with other parents is simply not helpful. Likewise, it’s not a good idea to compare our children with other children. Let’s not compare our children with each other.

How could this plan benefit you as a parent?

• You can see the finish line from the starting line.

• You can focus on the big picture for your children.

• You will keep what’s most important exactly that — most important.

• You will have a roadmap with clear long-term goals.

• The plan will affect the way you view and teach your children.

• You will be a proactive parent vs. a reactive parent.

Most importantly, you will parent with vision, confidence and purpose.


Passionate parenting begins with a vision

[Published by MomClick Utah and The Daily Herald here.]

mom click passionate parenting

Imagine for a moment that when you were recently taking down your Christmas tree, you found one last present. It was hidden behind the tree. Your children see their names on the present and are excited! The gift is from you to them. You have purposely saved it for last because it is the greatest gift they will ever receive from you.

What is it? What could it possibly be? What would be the best present that you could ever give to your children? What gift could you give them that would have the longest-lasting impact on their lives? The answer: Being a good parent.

My next few articles will address research-based “best practices” in parenting. Let’s begin by addressing an important subject that will be a good starting point for our discussion.

An old Chinese proverb reads, “The poorest man is not he without a cent, it is he without a vision.”

Research has shown that effective parents have VISION — a vision of themselves as parents AND a vision for their children.

“It was July 4, 1952. Florence Chadwick, who had previously swum across the English Channel, now was attempting the 21-mile swim from the Southern California mainland to Catalina Island. The water was a freezing 48 degrees. The fog was thick and visibility almost nonexistent. Finally, only a half mile from her destination, she became discouraged and quit. The next day reporters clamored around her asking why she had quit. Had it been the cold water or the distance? It proved to be neither. She responded, ‘I was licked by the fog.’ She then recalled her similar experience while swimming the English Channel. Evidently the fog was likewise engulfing. She was exhausted. As she was about to reach out for her father’s hand in the nearby boat to quit, he pointed to the shore. She raised her head out of the water just long enough to see the land ahead. With that new vision, she pressed on and became the first woman to conquer the English Channel.”

Every successful undertaking in life begins with vision. The clearer the vision, the stronger the commitment will be to make that vision a reality.

What is your vision of yourself as a parent?

What is it that you really do as a parent? Let’s put together a partial list.

• You are a teacher.

• You are a mentor.

• You are a friend.

• You are a cheerleader.

• You are a vision creator.

• You are a hero.

Why are good parents heroes? Because they do what “real” heroes do. They sacrifice themselves for others. They are good role models. They inspire others to want to become like them. They protect others from harm. They do extraordinary things.

This is what you do as a parent!

You will literally change the world through your children because of the influence they will have on other people. Future generations of your family will be affected by what you are doing as a parent right now. The ripple effect is never ending. Your children will become your lasting legacy to the world.

What is your vision for your children?

What kind of children do you wish to raise? How do you want them to turn out? Everybody wants to have good kids. Children that are happy, confident, responsible, resilient and compassionate. Every parent wants their child to reach their potential. So how do you do it?

Start by thinking about a pair of binoculars. What is their purpose? They allow you to see things clearly that are far away. They expand and improve your vision. Successful parents use their “parent binoculars” to see into their child’s future. They look at the big picture for their children — the view from 30,000 feet in the air. They “see the finish line from the starting line” for their children. They consider what they are really trying to accomplish as a parent. They see their children as they want them to become in the future.

The key question for you to thoughtfully consider is: What life skills will my children need to successfully navigate their lives?

Think through your list of life skills and write them down. This becomes the blueprint of your vision for your children. Do it today!

Imagine a pilot coming over the intercom and announcing: “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we have lost one engine and the plane’s direction finder. The good news is that we have a tail wind and wherever we are going we are getting there at 600 miles an hour!”

Isn’t that how you feel as a parent sometimes? Running around at 600 miles an hour not sure where you are headed?

What are the benefits of you having vision as a parent?

• It will give you an overall roadmap with clear long-term goals for your children.

• You will establish priorities in your parenting efforts.

• It will affect the way you see your children, and the way you teach them.

•You will be a proactive parent instead of a reactive parent.

• During challenging times with your children, you will remember what a great privilege it is to be a parent.

• You will parent with purpose, confidence and perspective.

Keep up your great work! I know you are doing your best to be a good parent. Thank you for being the “real” hero your children so desperately need in today’s challenging world. Your children and grandchildren will be forever grateful.

Your commitment to being a good parent in 2014 will truly be the greatest gift you can give to your children.