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My Blog:

A Dose of Insight

Before I had kids, I felt pretty certain I had parenting figured out.


Just be consistent. It’s all about consistency.


Don’t let them watch too much tv.


Send them to public school. They’ll be prepared for anything.


Sports. They need to play a sport. Sports will get them ready for life.


Parenting should be no problem.


Even more embarrassing to admit is that I’d never babysat, and I didn’t have younger siblings. So I had absolutely no experience with kids.


So I’m not sure where all of my parenting confidence (a nicer word than arrogance) came from.


As you can guess, I was humbled before I even left the hospital with kid #1.


Nothing was as I’d expected, and none of my theories were remotely helpful when things got tough.


Even for parents with prior experience with kids, we’re all thrown into the deep end. And there’s no formula.


So parents do their best to create a formula.


Some parents set out to raise their kids however they were raised in terms of rules, discipline, standards, and interventions.


Some parents very specifically do the EXACT OPPOSITE of how they were raised. If their parents were strict, they’ll deliberately create a more lenient approach to parenting.


For some parents, it’s all about ensuring their kids like them.


But life never cooperates with our plans. Even if we create a formula that works, there’s a point at which it doesn’t work. Maybe a lot of points.


And that’s where the magic happens.


When human beings are forced to throw out their ideas, their formulas, and their plans, they tap into something big.


This is the space where people feel the most alive in other areas – when they cook, create music, compete in a sport, innovate and problem-solve at work – connecting to the creative process is where we do our best.


And outside of parenting, people love that space, trust it, and use it regularly.


But in parenting, it’s a last resort. Which I find fascinating.


For me, the best part of parenting was discovering, and showing my clients, how that’s a source of power we can draw on intentionally, and more often.


We can get good at it, like getting good at improvising in the kitchen.


As a parent, dropping into the unknown, putting away your playbook, and calling on the creative process is like having an extra parent show up (the helpful, reliable kind).


When parents drop into a creative space, they get more than just a fresh set of ideas. Parents that spend more time in a creative space draw out the more mature, reasonable side of their kids, they get more connection with their kids, and they spend more time being present and lucid versus reactive and tight.


Parenting is notoriously one of the hardest things to do, but it also pushes us to discover resources inside us like this.


That’s one of the topics of today's podcast interview with my colleague Jason Shiers.


To listen, click here or below. You'll be taken to this episode on Jason's podcast page.


To learn more about Jason, his work, or listen to more of his podcast episodes, click here.





Today’s interview was originally created for parents and practitioners supporting foster kids that are spiraling down or getting into trouble, like skipping school, getting into drugs, or acting out.


I’m sharing here because all kids and teens work the same way.

Like foster kids, on some level all kids and teens face uncertainty, insecurity, anger, and fear.

And just like foster kids, they react to those feelings by acting out, making impulsive decisions, getting aggressive, mean, and defiant. They shoplift. They shut down and stop caring.


They use drugs or alcohol as a way of ‘checking out.’

All those reactions and acting out are their best attempts to find stability and a sense of control.

In fact adults do the same thing.


Those reactions actually demonstrate our natural drive toward balance, homeostasis, and stability that we’re born with.


And while those behaviors may create more chaos and destruction, until we learn better ways, we use what we have.


What ultimately matters is that we all have something helping us along. If foster kids have it, all kids have it.


Getting some insight into how we all get lost, and how we all find our way back gives us faith, understanding, and a sense of connection that allows us to be more present and graceful with struggling teens.


It also gives us access to more creativity and guidance around how to be more proactive in supporting struggling kids and teens -- when to soften up, when to draw boundaries, and when to step in, and when to give them space.

The more parents and practitioners can understand and trust the natural resilience in the kids they support, the more they engage and help build that resilience over time. In turn they’ll feel less and less burden and pressure to save or fix them, allowing the adults to regain their own stability.


This interview was hosted by my long-time friend and colleague, Brock Sellers, LICSW, and his organization, the Children's Aid Society of Alabama. To learn more about Brock and his excellent work, click here.


Click below to watch the interview.








A client reached out this week that I helped 15 years ago when she was a troubled teen. She’s 30 now, doing great, and thanked me for something I’d taught her. It had turned her life around.


What I taught her was such a small point I don’t even remember talking about it. But I can see how much it clicked for her, and how it started a transformation in her chemistry and emotional habits.


She had severe anxiety, was so stressed she pulled all her eyebrows out, regularly exploded at her boyfriend, her parents, and her teachers. She was hostile, angry, explosive, and hated herself for it.


She hoped that by coming to me, she could get rid of the stress, calm things down, and teach her new ways of coping with life. And that did happen, but it happened as a ‘side-effect’ of learning something smaller that sounds a little trivial: the power of cleaning up her messes.


If you have a partner, a family member, or a friend you’re close with, it’s because you’ve cleaned up your messes. Maybe not all of them, or even most of them, but some of them. Otherwise, people don’t stick around.


All of us have our ups and downs, we say things we don’t mean, and the ugly side of us comes out. That’s a normal human thing we can’t avoid, and it doesn’t mean we’re broken.


We have spiritual ups and downs in exactly the same way we have physiological ups and downs - our immune system gets weak, we catch colds, and then we recover.


The more we’re comfortable with that system, the more graceful we become.


It does something for us to accept and forgive the fact that we get moody and make mistakes, blurt things we don’t really mean, or pick fights.


Acceptance allows us to focus on cleaning up, apologizing, or being extra thoughtful to let the person know you still care.


Learning to apologize, rather than trying to be perfect, shaming ourselves, or judging our mistakes allows us to take our human weaknesses and imperfections in stride.


We recover faster, learn faster, and become more accountable within ourselves and in our relationships over time.


It’s a small step toward a nicer life, and we can start anywhere, anytime.


For troubled teens, having a place to start that’s familiar to them and within reach brings immediate hope and results. That’s what they’re looking for.


That’s what today’s video is about.


By the way, this topic is also something that’s transformed a lot of couples I’ve worked with, including many of the brink-of-divorce couples. That’s a topic for another post but this is something that everyone struggles with, and everyone can benefit from.





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