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 If your teenager isn't performing up to expectations, they must be defective!

What are you going to do?

Send them back to the factory?

Expect the schools to fix them?

Give them the proper pharmaceutical drugs?

- - - and if you don't believe that your teenager can be strengthened, built, refined - much like a coach builds an athlete - then you're done!

But if you believe they have the capacity for growth and change and even championship status, watch these pages next week for some easily workable, proven, low effort solutions!!



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Depression is one of the more prevalent issues for teens and their parents - and it’s worsening daily.  FACT: if you treat it only with prescription drugs, you are precluding their learning coping skills. 

I watched a presentation about depression recently – which should fascinate you, even if your teen is not depressed. The link is below, from NY Times best-selling author Johann Hari.  My fear is that many parents will simply ignore or reject it L.  I will leave it you to decide yourself.  I also have the transcript, if you’d like to read it.  If you’d like to talk about it or to obtain the transcript, I’d be happy to – just email me at CoachSteve@Launch-Your-Life.com  


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 Parenting is not an automatic, knee-jerk response.  NO ONE just knows it.  It’s not inherited nor pre-printed in your brain in the parents book of know-how!

Chances are that you’re parenting exactly as your parents did – or exactly the opposite!!

The world has changed IMMENSELY in the last 5 years, let alone 10 or 15 – when your teen was born.

And by today, your kids and their world and their chances to do incredible things HAVE CHANGED!!

So your plan of action must change also!!!!

First rule:


– which presupposes that you PAUSE, and think

– don’t make it a knee-jerk reaction.

[Consider] - ‘Why did my teen do that or say that?’

All human behavior is successful [purposeful].  [Many people will disagree. They’re wrong]

There’s some gain, or self-image preservation that a teen “accomplishes” by their actions.

Example: If they don’t know how to do something and don’t want to admit it, avoiding it preserves their shaky self-image. 

I’m sure you can see lots of other self-image protections in your teen’s actions – whether they’re belligerent or unkind or avoidant - those are self-image protections!!

Many years ago, I observed gifted kids who were academically strong and therefore had never been challenged in school/ classes.  When they finally were, typically in college, they were emotionally defenseless – they had no strategy no mental resource available!  It had never been developed!  They simply didn’t know what to do – and their self-image was “under attack!”  

So if your teen becomes defensive or belligerent or avoids doing something needed or requested or explained, this is a great time to [pause, think], then follow our ASK, DON’T TELL strategy.

ASK, DON’T TELL means stop telling, reverse your paradigm, and begin gently asking clarifying questions.

Teens are TIRED of being TOLD.  So by shifting to an ASKING, information-seeking mode, not sermonizing or “teaching” – you’ll get further AND strengthen your relationship!

BTW – Discovery learning – leading them to their own revelations – is THE most powerful means of learning!

SO – was there information here you can use?     When?

Got your information-seeking, non-accusatory questions?  Prior thought and preparation is what makes anyone a champion!! 


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 There’s been an alarming proliferation of categories to explain or define emotional and cognitive abnormalities over the years: learning disability, dyslexia, cognitive impairment, from “autistic” evolved to the autism spectrum as well as ADHD, ADD, executive function impairment, 2e [twice exceptional] – and more.

Two concerns:

(1) all of a sudden, with this diagnosis, many parents feel a huge burden has been lifted from them. “Now, we know what it is!” – and they’re relieved!

(2) but the name, the labeling doesn’t actually do much of anything!

I once sat in a multi-disciplinary meeting at which the neurologist [a required medical professional by law, back them] – told us the student did or did not have ‘frank brain damage’ – I don’t remember which BECAUSE it didn’t matter!  No matter what he found, we still had the same student and deficiencies or conditions to remediate!!!

For me, that was a life lesson - which I’ve come back to, countless times. The key point, whether the student has ADHD, dyslexia, executive function problems, etc. – we’re NOT going to throw him/her away – we’re going to work with them, develop them!!!

These conditions can often be treated by and with drugs.  However, in the long run, most people – parents and student – want to wean off them.

I have worked with enough teens to know that most of them recognize that they themselves need to learn coping mechanisms and processes to succeed with life without medication.

And yes, it can be done.  There are, of course, some who will need medication for life.

One “can’t be changed or fixed” example: many people believe that a reading disability [dyslexia, if you must] is a permanent condition.  And yet – if you read the results Dr. Peter Gray found in surveying students who left school and went home to learn, in a fairly brief period of time, they were reading well!!  Seemingly, it was the pressures of school that “disabled them.”

Most often, we can provide and develop coping strategies. I see many workshops now being offered to ameliorate these cognitive and or emotional shortcomings.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t negate those workshops in any way. But… read on - - - -

The most straightforward strategy is to (1) identify the needed or desired behavior(s) – lack of focus, lack of self-discipline, attention deficits, etc., then, with a cooperative student, work toward the new/ desired behavior with a positively stated goal – not a “don’t do that” goal.

It’s FAR easier to move TOWARD a new, desired behavior than AWAY FROM an unwanted or undesirable one.  We need to identify a new, DESIRED behavior – which will simply ‘overlay’ on top of the unwanted behavior - using the old but still valid model of successive approximations. [Frankly, this will work even with an uncooperative teen – but must be done subtly!]

Step by step approximations of the desired behavior are rewarded or reinforced as the student moves or acts, small step by small step, closer and closer to the desired end result.

Done repeatedly, this process will instill the new, desired habit or behavior.  And with recent research, we now know that it takes [approximately] 66 days to install a new habit.

FYI – neurolinguistic programming proponents contend that everything we’ve ever experienced is in our brain!  And I tend to agree.  So overlaying the new behavior overrides the unwanted one.  Might there be a relapse?  Absolutely.  “Rinse and repeat.”

There are said to be four stages of learning.  The goal here is to internalize or habituate these behaviors to the fourth stage: Unconscious Knowing – but realize, to get there, they need to move through the previous three stages.

Four Stages of Learning

1.       UNconscious UNknowing – don’t know what you don’t know

2.       Conscious UNknowing – you know that you don’t know

3.       Conscious Knowing – you know and, with conscious effort, can do…

4.       UNconscious Knowing – you do, simply by habit – literally without thinking

This is NOT a quick fix – but interestingly, all these repeated reinforcements can also only have a positive impact on the student’s self-esteem - - - and that’s your main job to nurture as a parent!

With these thoughts, go forth, and may the force be with you – and please report back on your results!



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You’ve probably noticed the huge popularity of motivational quotes all over the internet. And there's a message there. As much as people may want to ‘direct’ those quotes to us, they are also particularly meaningful, even personal, to the individual who posted them.  My message is – life beats down on us daily. And we all need to support each other.

And for you as the parent of a teenager - you need to do pretty much the same thing. As frustrating and even angering as teenage behaviors and unpleasant comments may be, it's important to keep in mind that they really are trying to establish their place in society in their own minds and in your household.  They are filled with doubts and wonderments.

So your BEST function as their parent is to look beyond their shortcomings and the negative things they do and remain positive, upbeat and encouraging. But keep in mind - a key element – your comments needs to be subtle - not directly expressed or explained.

I'm sure many of you will have doubts and even rejections of these thoughts but they are true and valid and real.



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 In teaching sales skills a few years ago, I did an entire sales presentation ASKING ONLY QUESTIONS! I never made a single declarative statement.   And it worked! The class understood and valued what I had done. 

[old expression: “sellin’ ain’t tellin’, askin’ is”]

In ‘negotiating’ or communicating with teenagers - you could do much the same thing!

This may take a little thoughtful preparation on your part, but the results will be worth it - fewer arguments, improved relationships, happier family life, greater mutual respect!

 We are all predictable [ask your spouse or partner!] – so you can readily predict what your teen will say to almost anything [assuming you listen well].

Imagine an entire conversation with your teenager in which you ONLY ask questions! Nothing snide, nothing sarcastic, nothing condescending, no sermonizing.  Just lead the conversation through and with questions. [like the Socratic method – see below]

Remember always that if you don't participate in an argument there is no argument. By asking questions, you take the lead, you don’t argue and you’re always guiding the conversation.  I can instantly hear many readers objecting and disagreeing and saying this won't work.  Yes it will!!  It may take a little prior thinking on your part – especially if you already argue with them often.  But THINK – if you don’t argue – and they expect you to, they’ll be dumbfounded when you don’t!  Give it a try and see how far you get! And please report back as to how you did. I am always open to new and advancing learning.

 Let’s start a list of good, worthwhile questions. I’ll start:

·        “that’s an interesting point – please tell me more”

·        OR – “I don’t follow your thinking – please tell me how you got there”

·        “Now THAT’S enlightening!”

·        “just curious – what evidence or past experience makes you believe that?”

·         _________________________________________

·         _________________________________________

·         _________________________________________


Socratic method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions


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Very often, we tell our kids to “do your best!” But what happens if they don't know how to do that? My mother's classic comment was “if you’d just apply yourself.”  I never knew what that meant. And that's where parenting launches into high gear!

One of my favorite courses in grad school was “Concept acquisition” – that is, the study of how anyone acquires the concept of “two” or “girl” or “apple.”  The major realization was and is – each of us sees or perceives “distinctive features” that someone else may not even notice, but clearly, for the learner, identifies a TWO – and is not a GIRL, not an APPLE. 

Let’s take that further:  in studying “in the zone” we find that, over time, everything becomes boring. But what re-ignites interest and directed motivation is “finer and finer levels of detail”, such as, in bowling, getting the 7-10 split once every fifty times, not once every hundred.  Golf is a better metaphor.  When my friend and I took up golf, we knew we were getting better when our tee shot was only one fairway off, not two or three.  These exact same concepts are how you help your teen “do their best.”  

As in bowling or golf, we needed a lesson in very specific actions or grip or release or stance or approach.  I once took an at-home study course in which the entire first module was about what to eat before starting, how to sit, where to sit, etc., etc.  You may need to guide your teen in some of these prelim steps as well.

I am a huge believer in the effectiveness of micro-goals –the essence of all success and a close cousin, no, brother, to ‘finer level of detail.’  Encourage your teen to work in short bursts, much like Salman Khan of the Khan Academy recommends for at-home, virtual learning. 

And DON’T FORGET – compliment the heck out of them each and every positive, even small step forward, as they get closer and closer to “doing their best.”

REMINDER: we are all our own worst critics, as is your teen OF THEMSELVES.  Say nothing negative unless they ask – and be very gentle and instructive, not negative and destructive. 


 Your human teenager’s human performance in any field is defined and limited by their self-esteem or self-image - what they believe they’re capable of – or NOT capable of.

 That self-image is a MINDSET.  Mindset defines performance – but also determines if and how they will grow – or fail to grow – to plateau, to remain exactly where your teen is now and always!! J L 

 Mindset is an attitude - a habit of thought. How do we build an attitude?  Same way we build or install any habit – REPETITION and REINFORCEMENT.  But be careful!  If that repetition is not progressing toward the final product we want, we are creating mediocrity!!

 And that’s where Carol Dweck’s GROWTH mindset enlightens us. The GROWTH mindset is the belief that we are capable of learning or performing better.  This mindset is crucially important – because many of us, unconsciously or unintentionally fall into that CLOSED mindset of “that’s all s/he is capable of – they can’t do any better.”   We do it to ourselves, we do it to others and worst - we sometimes do it to our teens.

 This is a common human problem: - we are our own worst critic. We also criticize our teenagers – when they need positivity THE MOST! If your teenager is criticizing themselves, saying they’re no good or dumb or just can’t get it - it's up to you to help them to seek out and find and LEARN FROM – where they fell short or failed – and get them back in the IMPROVING- not quitting -game!!!!!

These are the crucial points:

(o) find what/ where they fell short,

(o) compliment the good they did and

(o) help, enable, encourage them to try again – the sooner the better!!

 Strengthen or re-strengthen or reinforce their good.  And to use the lessons of Carol Dweck and mindset – ASKING “what did you learn from that mistake or setback?”  DO NOT LECTURE.  They will often be negative about themselves – which is where YOU come in – GUIDE THEM in searching, finding the lesson it taught!!!

 The core element in building an open mindset is constant positivity: always maintaining a positive attitude, regardless of the depths of any setbacks. The core elements of that open mindset are the belief and the perception that it's all there for Learning and growth and advancement and strength. We all tend to see setbacks that we caused as our weaknesses. Everyone has them and does them.

The key issue is to listen, accept, validate and then ask your teenager what they learned from this setback. And you might remind them that the greatest learnings occur from mistakes failures and setbacks - not from what you did right! That's the gold medal. Value, treasure and use every negative instance that your teen experiences – TRULY VALUE IT because that's the only thing that builds untapped potential.

If you have questions or comments, contact us at CoachSteve@Launch-Your-Life.com




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 If you consider the best of the best in any profession – sports, sales, trial lawyer, great public speaker or even singer/entertainer, they've already “done this before many times!”, ‘before the big game’ or the big presentation or the big stage. It’s exactly like they did it in practice.  That's the secret of effective performance!

So why throw your teenager into the game or world of life – without practicing?

You KNOW they will be faced with many large and small decisions and choices –and talking them through with their trusted advisor – YOU – can only help their decision-making!



STUDYING [or avoiding]


If you lay out or describe an actual, probable situation with them – and either ASK them how they’d handle it, what they’d say – or suggest what they might say – you have the basis for discussion.  They may disagree [probably?] – but you will have introduced your point.

And be as specific and detailed as possible.  Adults have a tendency to speak to young people in generalities and assume their teen will directly apply it to a situation. 

Don’t allow them to say “I’d say something like _____”  Make them tell you the exact words they would say.  THEN you have the basis for practice and refinement. Mastery in any endeavor comes from practice!!

Remember – the simplest way out of a conversation is for your teen to say “yes, I understand” = when in fact they either don’t understand or don’t care.  STAY THE COURSE.  Don’t be militaristic – don’t get loud or emotional –and in many cases, you may choose to come back to this issue at a later date.  Remember - almost all learning requires repetition!!!  

Oh, and of course – one of your best tools in connecting with teenagers – HUMOR!  Make them laugh, even at your expense.

And - if you have questions or comments or an issue you’d like to discuss, email us at CoachSteve@Launch-Your-Life.com  



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 We sure know that parenting a teenager can be like lassoing a volcano!


Want to be less tired?

If you’re like too many parents, you dread waking up each morning and dealing with the unpredictabilities and even animosity spewing from your teenager.

Here’s a thought

– the wisest reply to ALMOST EVERY teen issue – is to ASK - -


“why do you say that?”

“why do you think that?”

“what tells you that or supports that?” from you past [experience]

WHY is this universally powerful?

Because (1) we frequently reply to issues – THINKING we know what they’re thinking and we reply to that – and we are often wrong.

And sometimes, even if we’re right. a teen will tell us we’re wrong, just to disagree!

Secondly, by subtly asking them to explain their thinking, it causes them to reflect on THEIR OWN thoughts and thinking

Thirdly – it often diminishes the venom and anger they may be feeling

Fourth – it gives you time to consider and plan YOUR REPLY [which very often, is another question]

So the keys are:

·         Pause [take a breath, release any emotion]

·         Gently ask WHY _____?

·         Follow up in a low-key manner with no [negative] emotion,

·         maybe with a non-commital  “That’s interesting…”

·         OR “that’s an interesting thought – thanks for explaining”

BTW – the minute you make it a debate or argument, even if you win, you lose!

Think long-term vs. short-term.  Do you really need to in this debate or issue?

We learn most from our mistakes – allow them their mistake-making leeway. 

In a huge proportion of cases, they’ll come back, with love!

Questions or comments?  CoachSteve@Launch-Your-Life.com


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