Brain-based parenting: The Neuroscience of caregiving for healthy attachment (by Daniel A. Hughes & Jonathan Baylin) tries to do something truly amazing – to explain the chemical and emotional brain mechanisms that interact to create and sustain the loving bond parents feel for our children. That magical bond that makes us love every inch of them, that makes us prioritise our children’s needs over our own and keeps their wellbeing central to our thoughts and fears. And that stops us throwing them out the window when they are at their most annoying and antagonistic. This is magical territory indeed.
This book covers some really crucial topics – like the importance of parents’ emotional self-regulation in parenting effectively and the negative impact of stress on parents’ ability to tune into their children empathetically (and remain the ‘adult in the room’). There are some fascinating insights into the roles of oxytocin and dopamine in building the parent-child relationship and ensuring the parent gets pleasure from it (and therefore wants to engage even more). And a truly wonderful “caregiving formula” comprising playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy to optimise a reciprocal and nurturing parent-child relationship. Continue reading →
Some of the hardest decisions parents of teenagers face are around how much freedom to give at what age. What is the correct curfew time for a 14 year old? At what age is it ok for them to go to the shopping arcade with their friends? Take a train by themselves? Have a girlfriend/boyfriend over? And what about parties? And alcohol?
The problem is that different parents make different decisions. It would be really handy if there was a universal consensus that all parents of teens would stick to, but there isn’t. There will always be teens who are allowed to stay out later or walk home in the dark (or do whatever it is you are telling your teen they can’t do) and that can make it really tricky to feel secure in your decision-making and stick to your guns in the face of a protesting teenager. Continue reading →
What is it about teenagers’ bedrooms? It’s like there’s some secret lesson at school that they all attend after which dirty pants, wet towels, half-empty crisp packets and every wearable item from their wardrobe are forever more jumbled in a heap on their bedroom floor. In the space of just a few months, I went from carefully picking my way through strewn Lego pieces to tip-toeing through smelly socks and dirty teaspoons.
Without a doubt, arguing about the untidiness of teenagers’ bedrooms is one of the top complaints I hear from parents of teens (second only to arguing about spending too much time on technology).
But just what level of tidiness is it reasonable for parents to expect? Continue reading →
If you are worried that your child’s anxiety is impacting negatively on his or her life then it’s a good idea to seek support. You’ll find some great advice for parents of anxious children on the Young Minds website, which outlines the different types of anxiety and how parents can help anxious children to develop coping strategies. There is also information for older anxious children and teens to read for themselves and clear factsheets written by The Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Young Minds have a parents’ support line (0808 802 5544) which you can phone to get one-to-one support on any emotional or mental health issue affecting children. For more general parenting advice – or if Bullying is a concern – then Family Lives also have a helpline (0808 800 2222). And, whatever the source of their worries, anxious children can get telephone support from ChildLine (0800 1111).
If you are a bit of a brain geek (like me) and a parent of teenagers (or nearly-teens) then this is the ideal book for you. It charts the changes that take place inside teenagers’ brains and how the differences between teenagers’ and adults’ brains can explain typical teenage behaviour (such as impulsivity, risk-taking, mood swings, lack of insight, forgetfulness, and poor judgement).
For a parent of teenagers, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults is both an enlightening and a frightening read. It will help you understand why your teenagers behave the way they do (and why they can’t control it) but also just how dangerous that teen thinking and risk-taking could be. A teenager’s brain is basically a recipe for disaster: a hormone flooded, jacked up, stimulus-seeking explosion incapable of weighing up risks or making mature decisions. It’s amazing any of them survive at all…. Continue reading →
Being a parent of teenagers, I know there are fewer choices out there when you are looking for parenting advice on teenage issues. Whether it’s professional help you are seeking or peer group camaraderie, it’s hard to find quality trustworthy parenting websites for teenagers and not-yet-teens (but-already-acting-like-ones).
We all need a bit of advice every now and then to dig ourselves out of a parenting hole – especially when our children are going through the rapid and sometimes tumultuous changes of the teenage years. For first timers, The Beginner’s Guide to Parenting Teenagers is a good starting point!
When the tricky issues strike, you need to be sure your information is accurate, reliable and practical. Here is my round up of the very best parenting websites for teenagers and tweenagers – I hope you find it useful. (And if I have left any out – please let me know!) Continue reading →
Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of reward charts. They help children to focus on the behaviour that is expected from them and they remind parents to catch their children being good and pay attention to it.
But when it comes to teenagers, a sticker chart is not going to do the trick. A slightly more grown up approach is required. One version of this is a ‘behaviour contract’.
The idea of a behaviour contract is that, just like a reward chart for younger children, it sets out clearly what behaviour is expected, what rewards or privileges will be earned by doing that behaviour but also what the consequences will be for misbehaviour.
A behaviour contract works best when the target (good) behaviour is clearly defined, when the rewards are achievable and when your teenager cares about the rewards and the consequences. Breaking habits takes effort – from both you and your teen – and behaviour contracts only succeed when both of you are on board. Continue reading →
Triple P parenting self-help workbooks are an ideal solution for parents who want to learn more about positive parenting but who can’t attend a parenting course.
The books cover all the same material as the acclaimed 8-week Triple P parenting courses – helping parents to discover and implement positive parenting strategies for managing, educating and caring for their children – but with the added convenience of being able to read it on the train or dip in and out as time permits. The workbooks guide parents through a 10 week series of reading, thinking and practice tasks designed to build good relationships with children, encourage their learning and development and manage their behaviour in a positive way. There are three Triple P parenting self-help workbooks to choose from, depending on the age and needs of your child: Continue reading →
Good communication is essential for building and maintaining relationships – chatting, sharing experiences, resolving problems and agreeing ground-rules. Which can be a bit of a problem when it comes to communicating with teenagers since hanging out with mum or dad isn’t always their top priority. The teenage years involve a major shift in parents’ relationships with their children as power and decision-making are handed over from parent to child. And along with this striving for independence comes an inevitable degree of pushback and rejection – of you, your habits and values, and of your right to know their thoughts. Maintaining good communication during this process can be challenging!
All teens are different and between the ages of 11 and 19 an individual teenager may undergo many transformations (so remember to enjoy the good bits!). But here are some practical tips on communicating with teenagers to help keep those channels open through the difficult bits. Continue reading →
One of my teenagers is a bit of a grump at the moment. Put it down to hormones or identity struggles, whatever the cause the result isn’t always pleasant. After dragging him to a barbecue this summer and being rewarded with appalling rudeness (in the presence of my Dad, even worse!), I came to the conclusion that spending family time with a teenager was a doomed project. But after a trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum less than a week later, I changed my mind. Having fun family time with a teenager is possible, but there is definitely a Right Way and a Wrong Way to go about it.
Homework is a common struggle for all parents. Every school night at desks, computers and kitchen tables across the country, weary parents pitch into battle over what homework needs to be done, when, how, and how good is good enough? Homework fights can really sour those precious few hours with our children between work and bed.
If homework fights are ruining your evenings, here are my top tips for taking the heat out of homework:
Welcome to the parenting teenagers years! During this stage of parenting there will be no handy help from midwives, health visitors or mother and toddler groups. You won’t be swapping tips with other mums or dads at the school gate and no one is going to give you a ‘How To’ manual for Christmas. When it comes to parenting teenagers, you are on your own with only self-doubt and the internet to help…
So, in the spirit of comradeship, here are a few simple rules that I found out the hard way. Stick to these and – yes, it might still get messy and there will definitely be difficult moments but there’s a good chance you’ll come out the other side with a healthy relationship with your adult son/daughter and a smile on your face. Good luck! Continue reading →
When I was twelve, for a brief time my career ambition was to walk the streets. Things weren’t exactly great at home and I didn’t place a lot of value on myself. Having gone through puberty early, I was receiving sexualised attention from older males that I simply wasn’t equipped to handle. In my mixed up teen mind, I mistook this attention for the love I was craving. I was ripe for sexual exploitation.
Now, when I look back on my teenage years, I feel lucky. Not about the hard stuff that happened – but that worse didn’t happen. Fortunately, my basket of risk and protective factors had a few positives in it too. I was intelligent enough to be in the top sets at my comprehensive school so my peer group were generally less screwed up than me. I had middle class parents who, for all their faults, practised a baseline of supervision that kept me largely in sight in my most vulnerable years. And, despite a self-destructive streak a mile wide, I had a belief in happiness that was rooted in a carefree early childhood playing make-believe in a quiet country lane. Take just one of those elements away and I don’t think I would have made it. Somewhere, in a parallel universe is a me who ran into the wrong person and mistook grooming for love. Continue reading →
Dealing with teenage tantrums isn’t always easy, especially when you’re juggling work pressures too. Teenagers can go from nought to ten out of the blue, sometimes over quite trivial triggers. And they often express those emotions forcefully – not very comfortable when you’re the one in the firing line! It’s not surprising things can get messy.
When someone shouts at us, our hackles rise and our emotional temperature shoots up. Often, our volume goes up too and we find ourselves shouting back. Similarly, when we see someone we love distressed (sad, hurt, upset) our first instinct is to want to solve the problem, to make whatever is causing their distress go away.
Unfortunately, both of these instinctive responses can lead you into deep water when dealing with an emotional teen.
To override these unhelpful instincts, you need a plan (and you need to stick to the plan). Faced with teenage tantrums, remember the plan and do the same thing every time: first deal with the emotion then, afterwards, deal with the problem. Continue reading →
Teenagers and toddlers have a lot in common. An ability to go from 0 to 10 on the tantrum scale completely out of the blue, a stubborn refusal to follow guidance, fierce fixations on particular objects or activities and a single-minded pursuit of the pleasure-right-now principle (to name but a few).
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to trying to work out why children behave the way they do. Partly it’s curiosity and partly it’s a way to stay calm in the face of unreasonable and unpredictable child behaviour. If I’m able to imagine my tantruming toddler as a Play Robot that has got stuck on ‘Go’ then I find it a lot easier to achieve the emotional distance required to stay calm when he ramps it up at the checkout in Tesco’s.
Now we have reached the teenage years, I have been searching for an understanding of older children that will help keep me sane in the face of their more maddening behaviour. And I think I may have come up with a few! Continue reading →