“I found Luke with a depth of wisdom beyond his years of counseling experience, and often consulted with him when working with a challenging child or parenting issue and discovered the kernel of wisdom that would bless my own clients.”Joyce Yaeger, MA, LPC
Luke’s specialty began with Child and Adolescent issues–ADHD, Behavior Problems, Conduct disorders and helpiing Parents navigate these challenging issues. But quickly his skills set developed to involve Couples and Families (particularly Step- and Foster families).
Since 1997, Luke has worked directly with children and adolescents struggling to make their way in the world, some even struggling just to stay alive.
Throughout this time, he has added to his repertoire experience with youth ministry, CPS and APS, and couples seeking better ways to love, and always with a focus on helping kids and families become the best they can be (even if the children are not even born yet).
Children require a dedicated sense of reliability and predictability from their caretakers. They will test, naturally, how far they can go in order to find this stability. And they will find it, whether through “pushing mommy’s buttons,” or seeing if Auntie notices that great drawing. They’ll even test it to be sure it’s still there (think of a time you said not to do something, and your child gets ready to do it anyway, watching to see if you’re still watching). The primary focus children have is on those who provide for them. To see this evidence, just look at how they imitate their caretakers in an effort to be more like them. This responsibility, placed on us as role-models, makes it both easy and difficult to shape and mold them into confident, successful adults. The secret is in providing them with as little “Guess-work” as possible, creating for them a challenging and yet predictable and reliable place for them to grow and learn. The more predictable and reliable the environment, the more sure of themselves children will be. But that’s just part of the secret. We must also take care in providing the right kinds of stability.
The “I Can vs. I Can’t” Diagram
When I ask parents what is the most difficult part of having teens, their responses usually involve DEFIANCE.
Not surprising. The teen years represent that first time of active, conscious self-exploration, of “Who am I?”. Understanding this one factor has helped parents know where to start when addressing teen issues. Children may have different types of character, but teens consciously think about it.
Teens require a different kind of stability: the balancing act of respecting the budding individual (who can often times surface as defiant or rebellious) while continuing to provide guidance, and often seemingly unwanted support. Quite the challenge for any parent.
Because of this inner struggle with finding out “Who am I?” teens experiment with their Selves through idealistic expressions, independence, and explorations into how to “fit in” with different groups. Exploring how to fit in – and here’s the gold – shows up in the 3 parts of the Social ring of Self development: The Who, Where, and How interactions.
It is from this inner “Who am I” question that parents see the outer defiance. As a result, teens often experiment with things they might not feel comfortable with if they weren’t so concerned with fitting in. Drugs, sex, alcohol, fighting, theft, vandalism, and other acts of defiance most often come from teens testing themselves and one another, to see who’s the “coolest,” or most liked.
So what can parents do? The secret to helping your teen resides in the balancing act. Assist your teen in “Hanging out” or making friends in structured, monitored social groups, like school sponsored extracurricular activities: Band, Sports, All the Academic Clubs, R.O.T.C. Find a teacher they talk a lot about, and “Meet that teacher!” to see what inspires your teen. Strategically place them in fulfilling and emotionally strengthening peer groups where they find a sense of accomplishment and acceptance: most often these places involve helping others (never underestimate the power of community service) or spiritual investigations like church youth groups.
Second, even though they make it clear they need their space, check in and let them know what makes you so proud of them. Teens are naturally self-critical, so counterbalance that “inner critic” with providing more compliments than criticizms. Always, always, always more compliments than criticizms. (Ask me about the “I Can vs. I Can’t diagram for achievement vs. defiance.)
And finally, let your teens know you are still the boss in a supportive manner. Make unannounced checks of all phone, ipod, and computer technologies. And use a business tone in discipline as showing frustration or anger will only make things worse.