Understanding Our Teenagers Reactions & Behaviors

Attention Parents of TEENAGERS!!

So my oldest son turned 16 last month. I’d like to say we have a pretty great relationship, but I noticed the minute he turned 16, that teenage, entitled, attitude started. You know, the one every parent talks about. Let’s just say I had to bring him down a notch at least once or twice in the last few weeks, something he did not like very much. So needless to say, we started butting heads a bit. Then it dawned on me…his entitlement…his attitude….his eye rolling….his pushing me away, was just a defense mechanism. At first I’d get angry and fire back which is exactly what I think he wanted, subconsciously anyways. But my anger quickly shifted to hurt. I was being rejected and pushed away from my baby. It was in that pain that I was able to see that he too was struggling. I could see it in his eyes. I could feel it when we argued. His behavior was just a symptom of the struggle.

He is growing up. He is slowly going his own way. Once I was able to step back a bit, I was able to feel his pain, his grief, his fear, his guilt and his excitement. He has so many strong emotions all at once. I took some time to gather myself, then asked him, “What’s going on with you? I want to be there for you, but I can’t if I don’t know what’s going on.” He shared with me that he wasn’t entirely sure, but what he was sure of is that he wants to be more independent…he just doesn’t know how. These were his words, not mine. I responded by saying, “And we want you to be more independent. That’s why we helped you get a car, a job, and open a bank account. Do you think you feel guilty or sad pulling away from us? He answered, “yes.”

It was then that I realized my theory about what was going on is accurate. His anger, entitlement and disrespect were real, but they were a deflection; intended to push me away and cause a fight. Because if we can create a argument or create chaos in the relationship, then we can justify our wanting space and independence from that person. If we can hurt the other person and get them to react, then it’s easier to be mad at them than feel sad or guilty. In the midst of this conversation I was able to tell my son that it doesn’t have to be this way. We love him and want to support him becoming an independent teenager and young man. We want to walk beside him, not against him.

I’m not going to lie, I cried myself to sleep that night, reminiscing on the old days when my kids were toddlers and we spent our days visiting family, shopping at the mall, and playing at the park, the days when he needed me and wanted me all the time. Through those tears I grieved and there was a shift in our relationship, from dependence to independence.

I know that the next stages of my kids lives are going to be amazing with a whole lot of precious memories, but that doesn’t take away from the grief I feel of losing the past. I will never experience being a mom like that again. And I want to feel it….all of it. I want him to feel it too, not deflect away from it or push us away because it might be easier.

I share this because I think so many of us go through these battles with our teenagers and we become blinded by their behavior. We fail to recognize the struggle and challenges they are facing and the emotions we, the parents, are experiencing, the changes we are both going through. I know most of us want to love, support and walk with our kids. I think sometimes they are so overwhelmed with what that looks like and feels like that they become reactive to avoid processing the change. I think sometimes we become reactive to avoid processing it too. If I feel this amount of emotion about my son growing up and becoming more independent, I can only imagine how great the magnitude his emotions must be as he is only 16. His brain is not even fully developed yet. So I share this with you as a hope of shedding light on this complex stage in the relationship between teens and parents. I know many of you are struggling too. Thank you for reading;)

To Be “Weird” is to Be Real

While watching the sun rise today I met two amazing guys…pretty sure it was spiritually orchestrated by God. One guy shared a song by Jason Mraz called “Sunshine”. We listened to it and shared stories about ourselves as the sun came up. The other guy apologized for being “weird.” We all smiled and agreed how nice it is to be at a place where we are not considered “weird”, but instead appreciated for our unique individuality. He then shared a quote from St. Paul:

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.” -1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Wow! I was not at all expecting this guy to quote a verse from the Bible. If that’s not God giving me a little message this morning, then I don’t know what else is. Love how He uses people to speak light and love to me in places where I least expect it. I am so grateful for Kripalu and am so grateful for my quiet solo retreats where I can just go within and rediscover who I am and who I’m made to be.

To be weird is to be real. To be weird is to be genuine. To be weird is to be authentic. I love “weird” people!

Check out the song:

@ Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

Making Wise Mind Decisions

Fear and guilt come from the human part of the psyche called the emotional mind. They incorporate emotion and compassion, but lack logic and reason. They feel overwhelming and urgent and seek immediate gratification. When our decisions come from a place of fear or guilt rather than a place of inner wisdom, then we risk harming ourselves or another human being, therefore disrupting God’s greater plan. Fear and guilt are not love. 

Opinion and judgment come from the human part of the psyche called the reasonable mind. They incorporate logic and reason, but lack emotion and compassion. They feel shameful and critical and cause rejection and divide. When our decisions come from a place of opinion and judgment rather than a place of inner wisdom, then we risk harming ourselves or another human being, therefore disrupting God’s greater plan. Opinion and judgment are not love.

When we bring both the emotional mind and the reasonable mind together, we meet at the heart and encounter wise mind or inner wisdom. True love comes from inner wisdom. Inner wisdom comes from God and God is love.

Learning to Dance in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

I used to feel like a victim. I walked through life feeling exhausted and crippled by my own perception of a situation. Exhaustion led me to become vulnerable to darkness. It led me to focus on all the ways I’d been mistreated, misunderstood, rejected or abandoned. It led me to see all the flaws in everyone around me. But as I grew closer to God, I realized that just the opposite is true. The only thing I’m a victim of is God’s mercy, grace and love. I have a Defender on my side and that Defender chose me on purpose to fight these battles. He chose me to walk into these storms because He knows that I can.

We have one life and one universal purpose in this life. Our purpose is simple. It’s to be a speck of light in a whole lot of dark. It’s to be the love in the hate. This does not mean that we should dismiss our feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, or any other yucky feelings. It simply means that we can feel our ugly feelings without becoming crippled by them. It means that we can choose to walk right into a black storm and see it as an opportunity to be the eye; the calm and the light.

Today I choose to be the joy in my storms. I finally learned to dance in the rain and I am free. You can be free too!

The Hardcore Truth About Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss

I started my journey about 4 and a half years ago with intuitive eating. I actually started with Geneen Roth’s work and attended her workshop on Women, Food, and God. I learned a lot about self-compassion at this workshop and was introduced to the idea about being intuitive, eating when you are hungry and stopping when full. Her focus was on mindful eating. Shortly after attending this workshop I discovered Elyse and Evelyn’s book, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.” So I bought it with the hope that it would reinforce the ideas that Geneen had taught me. Intuitive Eating felt right to me, but did not help me to lose the weight I wanted to lose. It actually helped me to gain more. It allowed me unconditional permission to eat all the foods I had restricted in my life for so long. Those foods were my “binge” foods. My binge foods were foods I was not allowed to have, but eventually caved in and ate because I wanted them so badly and just couldn’t take it anymore. So when I did allow myself to eat them, it became “The Last Supper” mentality and I binged them. As I slowly started allowing these foods back into my life, my brain became confused because I was used to binging on them. I felt like I had no control and could not stop. I gained about 15 lbs that year. I had also just opened private practice and made some other significant changes in my life. So between emotional/stress eating and trying to figure out how to allow these restricted foods back into my life, my brain was simply a mess. I grew discouraged and frustrated and I ended up putting the book away for about a year. My struggle with food became more challenging because for the first time in my life I had learned that there was another way to eating. I had the knowledge because I read the book and attended Geneen’s workshop. My brain was so confused when it came to eating. One part was telling me that I could eat what I wanted and the other part still wanted to restrict, telling me that certain foods were “bad”. I was in the readiness stage of Intuitive Eating, but I just didn’t know it then.

I can remember this one night, about a year and a half after taking Geneen’s class and reading the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn and Elyse, I laid crying on the bathroom floor, desperate for help, fearing that I would gain more and more weight as each year went on. I had gone on and off a few more diets that year and nothing helped. I just kept slowly putting on more and more weight. I remember praying for God to show me something more as I knew in my heart that a diet was not going to be my answer. About a half hour after pleading with God, I opened my Facebook and scrolled down to find an advertisement for the book “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.” This advertisement was not just for the book, it was actually for the certification program to become an Intuitive Eating Counselor. I clicked on the link and read all of the requirements. I immediately knew that I wanted to study with Elyse and Evelyn, not only to help my clients, but to help myself. I signed up and began the process of becoming a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I knew deep inside that Intuitive Eating was my answer and I knew that signing up for this commitment would push me to work through it instead of running away from it.

I started exploring and learning more about the principles. I learned that I had met criteria for principle one: reject the diet mentality. I was more than ready to face my fears of gaining more weight and decided once and for all to just do it. I decided that I was going to submit to the program and start listening to my body, even if I gained 20 more pounds. In that moment I decided to let go of the number on the scale and the size of my clothing. I began to let go of all restricted foods. I began to honor my hunger and fullness. But I gained more weight and I was devastated.

I was another year into the program and fully certified. I was 30 lbs overweight and ashamed of myself, yet in my heart I knew I was healthier than I had been when I was a normal weight. My body was not physically healthier, but my mind was. I had gained weight, but I had also gained freedom from restrictive eating and dieting. There were so many times that I wanted to run back to another diet. What kept me focused on the program were the first 4 chapters in the book, specifically the one on the stages of Intuitive Eating. I can remember reading through stage two: the exploration stage. This stage explains to us that as we desensitize our brains to the old patterns and restrictive behaviors, we may overindulge in the foods we used to restrict. We may gain weight, but eventually we would reach a plateau where the weight gain would stop. At first I would binge on the foods I was reintroducing, but that slowed down rather quickly and I just simply ate those restricted foods every day and maybe even a little past full. Now looking back I can see the pattern. I was working through principle one and struggling with most of the other principles. But stage two reminded me that it is okay and that I needed to explore these foods and new behaviors and that I cannot judge how long that process is to last.

For me the exploration stage lasted about 2 years. And it was really scary. Two years feels like a lifetime. There were many doubts in my head and many thoughts of shame as I was sitting up in front of my clients teaching them about how I believed in intuitive eating, yet I knew and still do know in my heart that my body is not at it’s normal body weight like the book says it will end up. I started running small groups teaching Intuitive Eating and sharing my journey through the program. I began to focus on the progress not the perfection of my journey. The progress was that I was free from dieting and my relationship with food was healed completely. I no longer had a love/hate relationship with food. I finally had freedom to love and appreciate all foods with my whole heart. And I was no longer binging my restricted foods. I was no longer overeating them either. Over much time and exploration, I began to hone in on the skills of honoring my hunger, stopping when I am full and eating foods that are satisfying. The satisfying part was a bit of a struggle because for a good couple of years all I wanted were the foods I restricted because they were what satisfied me.

I am obviously being super honest here, knowing that my story may completely deter people from hopping on the Intuitive Eating self-discovery journey. But I promised myself that I would always be truthful to people. I do not believe in candy coating things. Intuitive Eating has been the hardest thing I’ve ever followed through with. And for 4 years, the reward was mental, not physical. But looking back, I can see that it was the mental part of me that needed healing first. This is not the same for everyone. Some people get the physical first, some people the emotional and some the mental.

I am happy to say that this past summer I had another Intuitive Eating “ah ha” moment. I was teaching an intensive 11 week summer program and when we got to principle 7: Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. It hit me that this is where I was stuck and this is exactly why I was still overweight. I started keeping a food diary for a few weeks. Sometimes it was just a mental note. Point being that I put my mind to being self-aware of when I was eating, what I was eating and why. I became extremely mindful and payed attention to my hunger and fullness. The “ah ha” moment came when I noticed the pattern that I was eating every single night, especially nights after work. As I came home from work, kids practices and games, etc, I would immediately go to the fridge or cupboards and eat something. Sometimes I was stressed and sometimes I wasn’t. The food choices were not “bad” and they were not “too much”, but the reason behind my eating was not hunger, it was stress and habit. And the foods I was choosing were foods that numb emotions. This helped me to realize that I had a stress problem, not a food problem. Now that I could recognize the pattern, I put my mind to not using food to cope. It was very difficult and I remember going back to the group I was teaching and sharing with them that I was only able to make it through two nights straight, then on the third night I just couldn’t take it anymore and would stress eat. But I kept noticing and being compassionate with myself and two nights, turned into three, then four then five. Now a side note is that in the month of August I rung up a rather large credit card bill, but was not stress eating as much. You see, I numbed out with shopping instead. I quickly noticed this pattern and decided to incorporate some relaxation techniques into my evening. I also assessed my workload at home, work and personal and set some boundaries. I also noticed that transitioning home and upstairs to the shower and bed were difficult for me. I was tired and just wanted to go straight to comfort. Anyhow, there are a number of things I have implemented into my nightly routine and I am happy to say that while this is rather the newest part of my journey, my clothes are looser and my body shape and size is noticeably different from just 6-7 weeks of managing my stress and not using food to cope. I am putting my energy into this principle right now and really being mindful of my feelings and patterns and utilizing a multitude of coping skills and setting boundaries. I am also staying true to my Intuitive Eating journey and mindfully making sure that weight loss and numbers are not my focus. There is no number goal or even expectation of where this journey will lead to. My hope continues to be freedom and peace.

Here is my point to this very long story. Intuitive Eating is a process that takes time. There are 10 principles and I had 35+ years of behavior and patterns to undo. I have been practicing Intuitive Eating for about 4-5 years now and very slowly I have watched my brain patterns and my behaviors change. I cannot diet anymore. It’s like my mind doesn’t know how to do it. My brain would have to relearn it all. My brain has rewired itself to practice honoring my hunger, stopping when I am full, honoring my satisfaction, honoring my exercise, etc. And finally, I am in the exploration stage of honoring my feelings without using food, shopping, etc. I am being compassionate with myself by reminding myself that I could be in this stage for the next year of my life. I am super excited that the physical is finally starting to be healed.

My best advice to you. Stay with it. It does work. It is a long-term process, but the reward is a long-term change. You will never go back to your old ways because your brain literally changes neuropathways. Going back would take just the amount of work that it takes to relearn how to be intuitive. Continue to learn and explore this program one day at a time, one principle at a time and one stage at a time. You will go through the 5 stages with each principle. Be mindful of your expectations of yourself and of this program. Remember that the first stage is readiness, the second is exploration. You cannot get to crystallization without going through the first two stages. It is scary. It is humbling. It is spiritual. Most of all, it is worth every single struggle I’ve had to go through to get to where I am today. If I can do it, then you too can do it!

To Believe or Not to Believe

This morning I got to share my faith with another human being. An opportunity within our work together allowed me to share these words. I asked for wisdom and courage and this is what came out. I share here that maybe it will resonate with someone else.

“The spiritual self-care. This is one of my favorite topics to talk with people about. I will share a little of my story here and you can take what resonates with you and feel free to dig deeper.

I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school 1st-8th grade. I was brought up with a faith in God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. But growing up I did not understand this faith because it was confusing as all hell. All I felt I was taught was to know all the things I should and should not do. And I was taught that God sees all and will punish me if I “sin”. Again, I had no idea what the heck that meant, so I learned to associate God with fear and shame.

But I remember as a child feeling God and knowing that what I was being taught contradicted the feeling I felt in my body and in my mind and in my soul. I remember questioning many parts of what I was being taught. I remember wanting to explore my faith deeper. But I was afraid and did not have the support. Most people thought it was crazy that I even cared.

So I went about my life without exploring this part of me. In my twenties I sought out therapy after almost dying from alcohol poisoning on my 21st birthday. Between counseling and my college classes in dysfunctional family therapy I came to learn that I was an “adult child”. So I started going to ALANON which is for family members of addicts. It was there that I began to rediscover God as my “Higher Power”. I studied the steps and grew to understand God in a much different way, as someone who could help me by leading and guiding me if I learned how to let go of the control I was trying to have over my life.

In my thirties I went through a huge mental breakdown and will not go into all the details because it is written in a book that you are welcome to read if you want (RENEWED: A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal). But anyhow, after this breakdown I began to turn to God even more and realized that the church I was attending was not where I belonged. I decided to explore churches because I wanted to get more involved and also wanted my children to know God. We found a non-denomenational church that we have been going to ever since and it has changed my life and my relationship with God completely.

I’m not saying your answer to life is to find a church, but I am saying that a huge piece to the healing puzzle is finding yourself spiritually. I do not believe all of our paths are the same, but I do believe that we all have a Higher Power that tries to guide us. I believe that God brings people onto my path for me to help with the gifts He has given me. I believe that my eating disorder was not a punishment or something God gave to me, but something God uses to help others and teach others about through me. I believe that God can guide you and has given you many gifts that He can help you to use to and pour into others.

I choose to call my Higher Power God. Maybe it’s because I grew up calling Him God. And to me that is okay. I believe God gave us nature as a gift and I feel closest to God when I am in nature. I see God in people sometimes, certainly not all of the time. I am grateful that I stepped out of my comfort zone and dug deeper into exploring my beliefs and my faith. I now have a relationship with God. I do go to church because I love connecting with God in this way and I learn a lot from it, but today I understand that churches are people and people are human. People are incredibly flawed. And even God’s church will hurt, reject and disappoint.

I share this with you not to convert you to believe in God or anything like that, but more because I want to challenge you to explore your spiritual beliefs. What do you know about God? Have you ever felt His presence? What keeps you from exploring your spirituality? I know mine was due to being hurt many times in a church and by people who claimed to follow God. Do you talk to God, and if not, would you ever ask Him to reveal Himself to you so you can learn about Him for yourself?

Anyhow, I am hoping this is okay that I shared this with you, but as I said, the spiritual self-care has become the biggest part of my healing journey and I find it the most exciting to talk about. I will be praying that you find yourself spiritually because it is awesome!!”

Pressing the Reset Button Now

From the minute I pulled into the parking lot, I could feel you near. I can hear your voice and I can feel your embrace. It’s like it’s just me and you this weekend; like I am your only focus. Being present, connecting with your Spirit in such a deep and powerful way. The silence and the beauty make it easy to hear you, feel you and see you; they make it easy to know you are here. No hair, no make up, no need to look or be a certain way. I am free to just be. My only goal these next 48 hours is to be with you. I embrace it fully. And in turn, I feel a sense of love, peace and safety that I cannot feel outside of here. I watch and listen as you go deeper into the depths of my soul, restoring me to the core. Change me. Heal me. Renew my spirit. I am yours and you are mine.

@kripalucenterforyogaandhealth

#takingtimetobreathe #reset #weekendwithgod

The Journey to Inner Wisdom

I love the challenge of a new climb; the beginning of a new journey.

I got in my car today with the intention of connecting with God through the sights, sounds and smells of this fresh winter blanket of snow. I was longing to explore my inner self in search of deeper meaning, new wisdom and more answers. After going back and forth, it becomes clear to me that I am to travel a new path today; a trail I’ve never been to. And I love the challenge. I love the excitement I feel in seeing something new for the first time. A fresh snow, a new trail, a new sight. It’s like God painted this picture just for me today.

After making my decision, I get into my car and drive to my destination. I pull into the parking area. It’s empty. Fear begins to creep in and I ask myself…Should I be here alone; all by myself? I hear my loved ones in my head telling me it’s dangerous, begging me not to go out there alone. But something inside of me pulls me deeper into the unknown; I want to see more. I want to explore.

I step out of my Jeep and put on my gear, take out my GPS and head out to the trail. There’s that fear again and I begin to question myself once more.

Will this trail be marked or will it be covered with new snow? Will I find my way or will I get lost? Will I get attacked by a wild animal or worse, a human?

I keep walking towards the woods.

As I continue to move forward I see a tall, slender, old woman in the trail walking toward me. The sun is glimmering over her and the reflection from the snow is like diamonds around her face. She is beautiful! I say hello and she smiles and says hi. She has to be at least 80 years old. I tell her it’s my first time and she tells me how much I’m going to enjoy the trail. We say goodbye and continue on our separate ways.

As I begin my journey to the top, I now have a clear path. This woman’s footprints guide my steps and I can see so clear where I need to go. The fear is gone and I say to myself, “If that 80 year old woman can do this alone, then so can I.” It is then that I realize…

The journey I am on is life.

The search is for wisdom.

The fear is the unknown.

And the answer….

It’s the peace and freedom in knowing that I am never alone.

I don’t know where that woman came from as there are no other cars in the parking lot this morning. And there is nothing for miles down the road. I don’t know where she is going as when I turned to look for her, she was gone. What I do know is that she was my reminder today that I do not ever have to be afraid because I am never alone.

Fear nothing.

Embrace the journey.

Grow in wisdom.

You are never alone.

Joshua 1:9

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The Number One Destroyer in the Parent/TEEN Relationship

unhealthy-ways-to-argue

-Proverbs 18:12
“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”

Pride is a big trigger for me. Just hearing the word makes me cringe. I do not tolerate certain forms of pride in others very well. My immediate response to unhealthy forms of pride is typically a negative reaction of fight or flight. I have no problem pointing out this kind of pride in others, especially when it presents itself as entitlement, but looking at pride in myself can cause a wall of defense to go up.

Having pride can cause significant challenges in any relationship. Pride affects the communication between two people and forces it to break down. Positive communication is necessary in order to have a healthy and growing relationship. This chapter will help you to understand what pride is, specifically how it can show up in the parent/child relationship. We will begin by exploring the definition of pride.

What is Unhealthy Pride?
There are two kinds of pride: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy pride is when we take pride in something or feel a healthy sense of pride with regards to an accomplishment. But unhealthy pride is when we feel entitled or like we desserve something. Often times, a prideful person will act as though they deserve more or they know more. They can have a sense of entitlement and see things one way; their way. They can present as arrogant, selfish, thinking of oneself as being better or more important than others and not being able to admit when wrong. While researching unhealthy pride, I came across the following characteristics:

  • Having an inflated sense of self or thinking that you are better than others.
  • Arrogance and selfishness.
  • Being defensive.
  • Not taking responsibility or ownership.
  • Inability to listen to another person’s point of view is the same as saying that your way is the only way.
  • Being fearful or anxious is the result of not trusting God. Distrust in God represents a belief that you know more than Him.
  • Controlling people, places and things is an inability to surrender which is another form of distrust in God’s will and plan for your life.
  • Having a deserving or entitled attitude.
  • Someone who is negative all the time and can only see the bad in things.
  • Someone who has expectations of perfection.
  • Consumed with what others think of them.
  • Judgmental and critical of others.
  • Breaks rules and doesn’t follow directions.
  • Wanting what others have.
  • Consumed by appearance or material things.
  • Allowing the inner critic to control your mind.

The Parent and Unheatlhy Pride

There are many different ways that parents can demonstrate pride in their relationships. It can present through their thinking and also through their interactions and reactions with their TEEN. I don’t think parents recognize their behaviors as being prideful. This is because the pride is a defense mechanism used to defend against a trigger.

As I stated earlier, a parent’s job is to make decisions and have control over their children until a certain age. Around age 11, the child begins to develop a sense of awareness and independence. Parents have much difficulty with this transition in the relationship and often times, the control and decision making that was once a healthy interaction, turns into prideful thinking and prideful behaviors. I’m not saying that once your child turns eleven that you should stop setting boundaries or having expectations. What I am saying is, that as parents we need to be aware of what how we are responding and reacting to our children. We need to be aware of our own triggers and we need to come from a place of intention when communicating with them, rather a place of reaction.

Let me give you a classic example. The “because I said so” answer we all give to our children. A teenager expresses dislike for a limit or expecation that is set and the parent responds with , “You need to do what I say.” The teenager will reply with, “But why? It’s not fair.” The parent then gets frustrated and hollers, “Because I said so, that’s why? And if you talk like that to me again, you will lose your phone privileges.”

Now I get it. I really do. I understand that as parents we want to raise children who respect us, listen to us and obey our requests. But just because the teenager expresses that he or she does not like a particular rule or agree with a certain expectation does not necessarily mean he or she is being disrespectful. And just because they respond with curiosity by asking why, does not mean that they are being disrespectful.  Parents can get easily triggered by simple interactions such as this one. We become immediately defensive if our children do not want what we want for them or behave how we think they should behave. We become defensive when they do not see things the way we do or have the same feelings and opinions about the things we do. And most importantly, we forget too quickly that we were the same way when we were their age. We had our thoughts and feelings; beliefs and opinions. We too expressed curiosity and at some point in our lives were probably shut down by a parent for having those thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions. You see, we learned to react this way from our upbringing in our culture. We learned to believe that we are more powerful, more important and feel this entitlement to be able to express that to our teenagers.

This is prideful parenting. We think that because we are the parents, that we have the right to respond this way. We think that it is not okay for our children to question us or have an opinion about things. We think this way and because we think this way, then we assume that our way of thinking is the only way.

This way of thinking and responding in relationship with our teenagers causes the relationship to break down. The more it breaks down, the more prideful we become. We tell our children they need to be with the family and enjoy it. How do you force someone to enjoy something they don’t want to do? How do you force someone to want to do something they don’t enjoy doing? Do you see where I am going here? It turns into a great big mess and in the end, because we are the parent, we think it is okay to blame it on our children being selfish and disrespectful.

Another form of prideful thinking is trying to change or “fix” your child. It blows my mind how many parents bring their teenagers to see me so that I can mold them magically into the person the parent thinks he or she should be. I’m not at all saying that if you bring your child to get help that you are prideful. Again, please understand that it is the intention behind the behavior or reaction to the teenager. If your intention is to give your child the guidance you do not feel equipped to provide, then the decision is not prideful. But if your thinking is to “fix” your child because they are not living up to your expectations, then this is prideful thinking. If you are a parent and you are going about your relationship with your child this way, then please let me tell you that you are not going to get anywhere. The changes need to begin with you letting go of your prideful thinking.

The TEENager and Unhealthy Pride
Okay TEENS, it’s your turn now. Let’s look at how TEENS can be prideful. I am pretty sure there are many things on that list that the TEEN reading this book can relate to. The biggest prideful characteristic in TEENS I see is a sense of entitlement. When they get to a certain age, usually around 13, they become very entitled. They form their own opinions about things and automatically assume that their way is the right way. They disregard their parents life experience and knowledge and say things like, “Things are different now.” They talk to us like we are old and washed up and have no clue what is going on in the world. There is especially a sense of entitlement between the years of earning their license and turning 18 years old. The thinking many TEENS have is “I don’t have to listen to you.” “Your rules are dumb.” “I’m almost 18 and I can do whatever I want.” “Once I move out, my life will be easy.” For some reason, many TEENS live in this fantasy world that life is going to be so easy once they move out on their own and can make their own decisions. They have a tunnel-like vision and can only see life through their eyes because for a TEEN, their life is the only one they are responsible for. They don’t have to worry about anybody else, but themselves. This is the way it should be for TEENS until they go out into the world and begin an adult life. But they tend to have a sense of entitlement about it and one track thinking.

This entitlement comes out in their interactions with their parents and causes great discord and breakdown in communication. It can be a tremendous trigger for a parent who is working so hard to find balance between taking care of themselves, working and raising a family. Again, those triggers cause stress and both parent and TEEN to go into fight or flight mode.

Effects of Unhealthy Pride on the Parent/TEEN Relationship
We all have some form or even multiple forms of pride. How does pride affect your relationship with your parent or child? Let me guess, you are looking at the list identifying all of the characteristics your parent or child has and how it impacts your relationship with them. You are saying to yourself, “Yup, if they weren’t as entitled, then I wouldn’t have a problem with him/her.” Or you might be saying, “If they could just see things my way for once, then we would be able to communicate better.” “If only he/she weren’t so critical and judgemental.”

As you can see, pride can present itself in many different ways. And if we look at the list one by one, we can probably see how each behavior or attitude affects our parent or child in the relationship. I know what you are thinking, “I need to give this book to my parent/child so they can see how their pride is affecting our relationship. If they read this, then maybe they will be able to see what I am trying to say to them.” Guess what! This way of thinking is the number one problem in the relationship. It is your form of pride and it is affecting your relationship with your parent/child.

I want you to tackle this chapter by looking at yourself, not your parent or child. As I stated earlier, it is easy to point out the flaws and faults of the other person in the relationship. It’s difficult to look at our own. Having a healthy relationship with your parent or TEEN begins with you being able to look at yourself first. And being able to do this is the first step in conquering pride in the relationship. When you deal with your pride, the other person’s defense mechanisms come down which allows them to deal with their pride.

Always seeing fault in the other person is the biggest form of pride. Blaming, shaming, judging and acting as though you are the victim in the relationship is a form of pride. Trying to change the other person to be more like you think they “should” be is a form of pride. By doing this, you are saying, I am better than you and my way is better than yours. And this way of thinking and being causes major breakdowns in communication. It triggers the fight or flight response which is why parents and TEENS argue, fight or shut down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many parents bring a TEEN to therapy and expect that the therapy will help their TEEN to open up and talk to them more. Their chief complaint is that their TEEN won’t talk to them and they think the way to making them talk is to bully them into it through therapy. I know this sounds really harsh, but it is so often the case of what I see. They use shame as a desperate plea to get their TEEN to talk to them. When the parent checks in with me before a session begins, they will say things like, “Well, he is still not talking with me and opening up with me at home.” They say it with a blaming tone and leave the session with the expectation that this will be worked on in therapy. Little do they know that the only way this will change is if they look at themselves first.

I experienced this kind of thinking a few months ago in my relationship with my sister. Over the years, we’ve grown apart. Slowly, I’ve distanced from her and a few months ago, she broke down and called me out on it. She was angry and upset and her frustration came out on me as shame and blame because I do not talk with her like I used to. I knew her heart was in a place of desperatly wanting the relationship restored, but the way she went about it was to point the finger at me instead of looking at why I was shutting down from her. And my response to her was exactly that. I first acknowledged that I do not open up to her. She responded with, “Well you need to. You can talk to me about anything.” I then explained to her that instead of pointing the finger at me, that maybe she should look at herself and ask herself why I don’t talk to her about my life. I explained that I feel judgement and blame when I tell her things. After the discussion, I had to let go of my pride and put the effort in to give the relationship a chance to change. I started calling her more and even opening up more. She too let go of her pride and respond with an open mind, listening ear and no judgement. And she even went above and beyond and began responding with curiosity to what I shared with her.

Pride affects communication. When there is a breakdown in communication in a relationship, there is a breakdown in the relationship. Pride triggers the fight or flight response in both the parent and the TEEN and the results of this can be detrimental to the relationship.

God and Pride
I’ve had a lot of parents and TEENS come to me with these very same issues and ask me how I can help them. Well, actually, their request is for me to change the other person by talking to them. My answer is always the same. I explain to them that we can certainly sit down and communicate their feelings to the other person, but we ultimately cannot change the other person’s behavior. Trying to change someone else is where our pride is.

So instead, if they are a believer, I am able to explain it to them in such a different way, by relating their relationship with their parent or child to their relationship with God. God is our Father. He is our creator. He does not make mistakes. He does not shame, judge or boss us around. He does not roll his eyes at us. He does not give up on us. He does not walk away from us. The God I know loves us unconditionally. He is patient and kind. He is forgiving and merciful. He sees the mistakes we made and continue to make right under His eyes and He is there to catch us when we fall.

When I started looking at my relationship with my children in this way, I was able to respond in such a different way to them. The walls came down and all I could see is love for my children. The relationships changed and their walls came down too. God wants us to talk to Him. And when we do talk to Him, He doesn’t respond with criticism and judgement and He doesn’t tell us what to do either. He’s given us the Holy Bible as His Living Word and He wants us to use it to seek Him and know His will for our lives better. It is a lifelong process and we mess up a lot.  Just like God gives us a way to live, we give our children rules, boundaries and expectations. And when our children disobey those rules and don’t live up to our expectations, we get stressed. Our reactions to our TEENS are not always Godly.

TEENS can learn a lot about how to have a healthy relationship with their parents through their relationship with God as well. As a child of God, I want more than anything to please Him. I’ve learned that my way of doing things doesn’t even begin to compare with His way. I’ve learned by making mistakes that His way is so much better in the long run, even though most of the time His way makes me uncomfortable or may be hard. It’s the same thing with our parents. We may not always like or understand what they are asking us to do, but God tells us to obey our parents. If your parent is making a mistake, you need to trust that God will work that out for you and your parent.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I know your parents are not God. But God is your Father. Your parents are your earthly parents. God is the ultimate boss. He created you and know what is best for you. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This means that He sees you. He knows you. He loves you. He loves
your parents and He will work it out if you just step back and give Him the time and space to do it.

And just as our TEENS need to be reminded of this, so do we as parents. We need to be reminded that they are His before they are ours. He will work for good in their lives. He can fix any mess they make. Our job becomes transitioning to be their brother or sister in Christ.

Ways to Conquer Pride
After reading this chapter, my hope is that you are better able to identify your own pride in your relationship with your parent or child. The following are ways to conquer pride in the parent/child relationship.

1. Awareness.
Having awareness is the first step in being able to change the relationship you have with your parent or child. Once you become aware of these things, you can take the next step toward conquering your pride.

2. Prayer.
Prayer is the act of communicating with God. It involves admitting our faults to Him, asking Him for forgiveness and
then asking Him to show us a new way; His way. It is the act of letting go of our own way and surrendering that way to Him. I will usually end these prayers by asking God to help me see a situation or person through His eyes.

3. Learn a New Way of Thinking
Once you let go of your pride, you will be restored with a new way of thinking. There are three characteristics I strive to replace my pride with. I say strive because I am human and like you I am never going to do this perfectly. The three characteristics are humility, grace and gratitude. The next chapter is going to explore how these three characteristics can change the parent/TEEN relationship into a more loving, open and healthier relationship.

So if you take anything from this chapter, please understand that pride is a defense mechanism that gets triggered by stress. A parent gets stressed when he or she is not in control and has fear of what will happen once they let go of that control. And the TEEN gets stressed when he or she feels controlled. Replacing this pride with humility, grace and gratitude is the way to having a healthier relationship with your TEEN.

Questions for Reflection
Find a quiet space where there are little to no distractions. Take a moment in quiet to reflect on what you just read. When you are ready, answer the following questions in your journal.

1. Do you recognize your pride in your relationship with your parent or child? Which characteristics listed above do you relate to? Explain by giving an example.

2. How does your prideful thinking or behaviors affect your relationship with your parent or child?

3. Describe one way your pride triggers fight or flight in your relationship with your parent or child.

4. How does God respond to you when you do not meet His expectations for your life?

5. How can you respond more like God in your relationship with your parent or child? Give an example.

 

5 Ways to Conquer Inner Critic Thinking

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Inner critic thinking is that inner voice that spews all kinds of irrational and negative statements in our minds.  It gets triggered by stress and is fueled as we feed it by adding to the negative stories it tells us.  We all have an inner critic.  But guess what!  We all have an inner coach as well.  Unfortunately, most people spend more energy feeding the critic and ignoring the coach.  Our brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out.  And just like our muscles, our brain needs reinforcement and repetition to grow stronger.  When we spend our time feeding into negative thoughts, we strengthen the critic.  So it only makes sense that if we can learn how to reinforce and build the coach that it will get stronger.  As the coach gets stronger, our irrational and critical thinking will get weaker.

Irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions are usually extreme and negative thoughts based on beliefs and ideas we get from our culture, society, family or even religions.  Our brains hear and idea or belief and process it by categorizing it or organizing it in the brain.    One of the ways we can organize a thought is by categorizing it into being good or bad.  When we do this we distort the belief by creating rigid rules and expectations about a particular person, place, thing or situation.  These rigid rules and expectations keep us stuck in our heads and can grow as we feed the storylines and make assumptions.  I will give you an example from an intuitive eating workshop I did this week.

Belief or idea:  “Sugar and white flour are difficult for the body to process and can trigger the brain to want more.  Eating too much sugar and white flour can cause the brain to become dependent on it much like a drug addiction. “

Cognitive Distortion:  “Sugar and white flour are bad.  I should never eat sugar and white flour.  If I do, then I will get fat.”

You can see that the belief or idea does not make one reference between white flour/sugar and fat.  But our brains can distort the information into a new thought or belief otherwise known as a cognitive distortion.  In turn, we label white sugar and flour as “bad” and many people feel shame and guilt when they eat it.

Intuitive Eating teaches 5 ways to reframe cognitive distortions.  These 5 techniques help to build the inner coach and conquer the inner critic, reframing our irrational thoughts and re-programming our brain to process beliefs and ideas in a healthier and more rational way.  These ideas come from the work of Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of “Intuitive Eating”.  Elyse and Evelyn use these techniques to help clients overcome irrational and negative thoughts about diets and body image.

1.  Actual Experience.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with an actual experience.

Example:  “I’ve eaten sugar and white flour before and did not get fat.” 

2. Fact.  Challenge the distortion by reframing it with a fact.

Example:  “Many thin people eat sugar and white flour every day.”

3.  Mindful Awareness.  This technique is simply acknowledging the thought without judging it or feeding the storyline. Mindful Awareness allows for you to reframe the distortion by recognizing the fear and anxiety that is triggered by the thought and being present with those feelings without having to add anything to them.

Example:  “This statement or belief makes me feel worried and anxious about eating white sugar and white flour.”

4.  Gratitude.  Challenge the distortion with an attitude of gratitude.

Example:  “White sugar and flour tastes yummy and is in some of my favorite foods.  I am so grateful they are available to me to enjoy when I feel like eating them.”

5.  “For the Most Part Thinking.”  Challenge the distortion by adding “for the most part” to the statement.

Example:  “For the most part, sugar and white flour will not make me fat or addicted when enjoyed in small amounts.  For the most part, I am free to enjoy them in my diet.

Try applying these reframing techniques to your irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions.  If you would like to learn more about my work or services, please visit my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.

The techniques discussed above are from the book “Intuitive Eating” by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.