Filling in the Blanks

Here’s the situation:
You and your spouse are out on a long-overdue and much-deserved date, you got a sitter, you have eaten dinner and are at the theater and notice you have a missed call. You check the voicemail, it was the sitter. She says “I’m at the Hospital with little Johnny, just wanted to let you know, bye.”
I know my reaction: “What the… move – outta my way!!!” I would yell as I’m hurdling theater-goers, dodging ushers and dragging my wife with me to the nearest exit. As we make it to the car and panic finally begins to give way to common sense, I call the sitter back to get the details of how my child ended up in the Emergency Room. The sitter picks up the phone, my heart racing; I ask the fearful question “Is Johnny OK, What happened?” Not wanting to hear the dreaded answer, I hold my breath wondering if Johnny has a new allergy, did the baby gate fall down, I did tell the sitter Johnny can’t swim, right?

What would your reaction be to this scenario? What is going through your mind, is it similar to mine?

The Result
After what seems like an hour and at least fifty prayers later, she replies, “Johnny’s fine. Don’t you remember I told you there was a carnival at the hospital sponsored by the Fire Department that we might go to? I reply “Yes, of course I remember (I hadn’t), thanks for checking in.”

Filling in the Blanks
What was the reason I (and I’m guessing most of you), jumped to the worst possible conclusion? The very first (and only) things I thought of were negative scenarios. I call this process “Filling in the Blanks.” I filled in the missing information with the worst possible conclusions so that if the end result was not as bad as what I created in my head, it would be a relief. I do need to remember to Respond vs. React. When I respond to a situation, I take into account all the facts. Reacting is allowing emotion and fear to take control and dictate the outcome. When all the facts are not available I must seek out the truth rather than Fill in the Blanks with emotion and fear. With this awareness comes responsibility to make a change – one change at a time.

God Bless,
Kevin

 

Standing Your Ground

Raising a child is incredibly rewarding.  At the same time, each of your children will present you with challenges you never dreamed of and often time, each child’s challenges will be quite different from their sibling’s.  As parents we must be prepared to manage each of these situations with deft and agility that would make even Kobe Bryant proud.

In order to do this we need to establish our very clearly defined mandatory rules (see OCG blog February 24th).  Once you have clearly defined your mandatory rules the rest is easy… right?  I have assisted hundreds of families in establishing mandatory rules and when they leave my office they feel comforted.  Often, for the first time, they have the tools they need to begin to bring consistency to their family.  They have the rules, they have the consequences and they have the pure intention to create a safe environment for their household.  Seems like more often than not, I get that phone call, “Mike, we did all this work, and it just isn’t working with our family.”

I find myself smiling, not because it is funny, but simply because of the frequency of which I get this call.  I ask the question, “Are you being consistent?”   “Of course we are” they reply.  From there we will go into a much longer conversation about the instances in which their mandatory rule failed to hold water.  Inevitably, we find out they were consistent, most of the time.  There are those time where the kids simply wear them down.  Parents will stick to their guns, and stick to their guns… and so on, until the one time where they are tired, stressed, and just simply need some peace.  Then, they cave.  The child is allowed to break the mandatory rule, and the parent sinks into the recliner in exhaustion.  Your mandatory rule just became an optional rule.   DANG IT!

It can be so difficult to stand your ground.   At times, your children will be able to present you with wonderful arguments as to WHY you should allow them to break a mandatory rule.  And let me tell you, those little rascals can be very convincing.  We all know the importance of being able to stand your ground and maintain the mandatory rules of your household.  Now, I am going to teach some techniques as to HOW to maintain those rules and not get worn down by those children that are dead set on getting what they want.

Little Johnny; 16 years old, approaches you to tell you he will be smoking and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it.  He argues that you can tell him as many times as you want that it is against the house rules but you can’t physically stop him.  Besides, law enforcement is much too busy to ticket a minor for smoking cigarettes.  He argues that he does not intend to smoke for the rest of his life, he will quit when he is 25.  Grandma smokes and she is 87 so it can’t be all that harmful now can it? (Breathe parents; you can’t strangle him that would be equally as harmful as smoking)

Are you ready to deal with this? Yah, me neither, but it’s our job as parents to set limits and to keep our children safe… so here we go (without the strangling).  Keep in mind, we want to respond and not react.  We want to think about our response and remain in the adult ego state and remember, we never argue with an adolescent.   Hear them out; allow them to exhaust themselves with little to no response from you.  You simply want to be an attentive listener.  This is a wonderful place to utilize our Deflector Phrases: regardless, never the less, and Sponge Phrases: that may be however, uh huh, you already said that, anything else?  Once Johnny has provided you with all of this new information, you can evaluate your mandatory rule and determine if it continues to have value.  My guess is that if it was important enough for you to make it a mandatory rule, then you will stick to it.  Reflect back to Johnny what you heard him say and ask “Is there more?”  When he has exhausted himself (temporarily) provide him with your response.  Stick to your mandatory rule.  Simply inform him that not only is smoking illegal, unhealthy, and dangerous, but it is against your family values.  Likely, Johnny will again engage in argument.   Calmly hear him out and then politely (without sarcasm) repeat the answer you already provided.   We will hear him out and respond to him a total of three times, and then declare the conversation over.   Be ready, because there is a good chance he will follow you around and keep badgering you.

It may be time to call in the reinforcements.  This is much more difficult for the single parent or the parent that has to parent alone because mom or dad works away from home.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.   Call your therapist, clergyman, neighbor, aunt, uncle, grandparents, UPS man, plumber or anyone else that can assist you to stay strong.  It may also be time to remind Johnny the he can also earn consequences for disrespect.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a time out yourself.  You will have to have pre-arranged parameters for what a time out looks like in your home and parents can take time out too.  (You may want to remind Johnny that you cloth him, fix his food and put a roof over his head)

We practice these types of scenarios in our live workshops.   We will revisit these techniques and teach dozens more when you come visit us in the Bay Area June 25-26.

Thanks for reading, and your comments are greatly appreciated,

See ya next time,

Mike

Framework of Family Values

Growing up in a traditional cowboy family, there were certain values that were absolutely KNOWN. “Integrity” – you do things the way you know they are supposed to be done. Family simply comes first.  You be there when your family needs you, regardless if the last time you saw them you were fighting tooth and nail, you stood beside them. You had their back. “Service” – my mother and father were founding members of the Sanders County Search and Rescue as well as their first volunteer ambulance service. You didn’t pass by a person with a flat tire without offering a hand.

As an example of my parent’s values and mentality, a family showed up at the family ranch one day mid-summer when I was 10 years old.  They arrived in their old pick-up truck with a camper. They were lost and only about 150 miles away from their intended destination.  My father gave them directions, but they stayed a week. They felt right at home and camped in our yard. Similar to this mentality, my parents would never lock the door to the house for fear someone would show up and need something to eat when they were not home. They didn’t want a locked door to stand in the way.

Values are something most of us do not spend much time evaluating. Most married families do not discuss their family value framework. The family value framework is the foundation of rules, boundaries and expectations for our family. If we as parents don’t understand the foundation of the expectations we are setting for our children, how will they understand?  When you attend a Real Change Group workshop we assist you in establishing and evaluating your family’s value framework. 

Come see us in El Dorado Hills, California and Spokane, Washington in May. We promise, you will be glad you did.

– Mike

Setting Boundaries

One Change Group has returned from another phenomenal experience. The attendees of our Bellevue, Washington workshop were nothing short of amazing. I want to thank them all for the privilege to serve them and I am confident they will take the skills they learned and apply them to their lives. I look forward to hearing their follow up of the growth they are experiencing in their relationships.

It became painfully obvious that many of our families struggle with setting mandatory rules. What was even more evident to me is the struggles that so many of our parents have setting appropriate and healthy boundaries for themselves with their adult children. This also is indicative of the difficulties so many of us have simply setting healthy boundaries for ourselves. What is the price of not setting appropriate boundaries and conversely, what is the pay off for good, solid healthy boundaries?

First, let’s just say that for some of us, healthy boundaries are not all that easy to set. I know there are certain people, and certain times where I am as week as a newborn foal. It is difficult for me to look at a teen in need and tell them, “Sorry, I don’t have time for you.” Thus, I occasionally work some pretty long hours. What I have learned is that by setting some very healthy boundaries and expectations, I can even sometimes eliminate these events before they occur. It is important that you clearly define what your boundary and discuss that boundary with the people in your life. Let’s say your boundary is, “I will not be treated with disrespect.” What does that mean? People may not physically mistreat you? They can’t yell at you? Call you names? Similar to a mandatory rule, you must clearly define the boundary, and then know how you will manage the situation when someone violates it. Will you call them out on the violation? Or will you terminate the relationship? You should examine these decisions prior to a situation occurring and then be an open communicator. Remember, rule #1 is “I will be 100% responsible for myself and to others 100% of the time.” It’s your job to inform those that violate your boundaries.

You will find that you will simply have much healthier relationships and will be able to avoid those situations that often lead to anger and resentment. You will find you will have much more respect from those around you and you will in return, find yourself with an overall increase in happiness!

Can’t wait to see “ya’ll” in Houston next month.

Mike

Mandatory vs. Option Rules

Hey Gang – Mike here,

Get ready Bellevue, Washington here we come! March 19th and 20th Jodie, Kevin and I will “take our talent and passion” to the west coast. Bellevue is smack dab in the middle of the area which my parents grew up, so I am extremely excited to bring this very special process to the families of western Washington. It is exciting to think that One Change Group is “on it’s way.” We pray that we will be able to bring our methods and tools to thousands of families in the upcoming years with one mission in mind, “to create healthy change in families guided by Integrity, Purpose and Responsibility.”

I have worked in the therapeutic boarding school realm for nearly twenty years. I love what I do, but it does come with a price. I am not speaking of the seemingly endless hours and stress that comes with managing a high quality treatment program for teens or even the late night phone calls from parents in emotional crisis. The price comes as we watch families shattered as they struggle to function together due to communication issues. These families fail to set clear and concise boundaries.

This brings about the difference between mandatory rules and optional rules. Mandatory rules are representative of clearly defined family boundaries. A mandatory rule is only successful when it is 1. Clearly defined, 2. Parents effectively follow through with consequences, and 3. Parents are CONSISTENT! As you can imagine, mandatory rules help to keep our home safe, physically and emotionally. At the other end of the spectrum, optional rules are rules that parents want their children to follow, but the children do not. This is typically a result of either poor follow through by the parents or the rule was not clearly defined from the beginning.

Join us at an upcoming workshop and learn how to become a more effective parent.

See you soon,

Mike

AKA “The Teen Whisperer”

One Change Group Website Launch

We are very proud of the new website launched for One Change Group. The goal of this website is to help families understand how our Real Change Workshops are uniquely positioned to help them overcome the strife and negativity they are currently facing as communication breaks down between parents and children.

Additionally, our Forums offer alumni of the Real Change Workshops an opportunity to stay in touch with each other and provide ongoing updates and support as they get on track to positive, healthy communication within their families.

As we set out across the country to bring our Real Change Workshops to families in need, we welcome your feedback and questions about our website, our mission, and the tools we provide families to set a strong foundation of positive parenting.