Blog Series: Building a Child’s Emotional Savings Account (Part 6)

This week, we look at one of the most exciting yet at times most frustrating and frightening  times in a child’s life: puberty and early adolescence. This time can be difficult for parents too. First let’s look at some key developmental stages that take place during this period for us to better understand what is going on with our teens

Children reach puberty at very different ages which can be difficult for them, as well as for their parents and teachers. . The teenage years are as hard for boys as for girls because boys re equally sensitive to problems, yet find it hard to cry and show their vulnerability.  Boys are also less likely to talk to others about emotional issues or put their feelings into words with adults. A. Because of what your teen is going through emotionally, from doubts and insecurities about their own sexuality, to beliefs and the choices parents have made in life, a parent can find their child’s adolescence very threatening.. Remember that this is a stage when teens are expected to provoke, demand, argue, and  push parents to such  limits  that there is no way to avoid angry confrontations. Remember that living with a teen is challenging but it is also very stimulating and exciting.

Since we all know that this is an demanding period in a family’s life, here is a list of tips that will help you be a  better parent to your teen.

Don’t be a “convenient” parent. This means putting short-term desires ahead of long-term benefits. Intentional parenting means clearly and specifically telling kids what to expect, monitoring the outcomes, and providing recognition or consequences. Don’t be falsely positive. Try to follow “Grandma’s Law” (eat dinner first, then dessert). We are emphasizing that kids (and adults) must work first, then play. Build strong family ties by getting kids involved with chores starting from an early age.  By doing this, kids feel good about themselves and more connected to you. Try to avoid negative statements like, “Can’t you do anything right?” or “What’s your problem?” These comments discourage open communication and suggest that when a child does not behave perfectly, he or she is “bad.” Also avoid These common mistakes

  • Moralizing- “That was wrong of you!”
  •  Humiliating- “I can’t believe you did that.”
  • Lecturing- “You should have known better.”
  • Denying- “You’ll be okay.”
  •  Pitying-, “Poor you. It’s all their fault.”
  • Rescuing- “I’ll take care of it.”

Instead, listen patiently and nod your head appropriately as  questions can often lead the child away from the real problem or cause the child to stop talking. It is important to always problem solve with the child by encouraging him or her to think of options and decide what constructive action to take. Keep lines of communication open. You might say something like: “Emily, I am glad you told me about your friend’s illness. It must be hard to have her in the hospital. Please know that I care about you and that I am here if you want to talk again.” And always remember that:

-You are NOT your child’s best friend!

-Ask questions but LISTEN mostly!

-Turn the TV, Radio, DVD, PC’s OFF!

-Have dinner together as often as possible!

-Take short and long drives with your kids and LISTEN to what they are talking about!

-Say “NO” when appropriate!

-If you threaten, then follow through!

-Be involved!

-Listen to their songs… ask questions!

-Watch their TV shows!

-Read their magazines!

-Level yourself to them…not the opposite!

-Be playful!

-Celebrate ALL passing grades!


I would like to conclude this blog series by stressing the idea that making regular, life-long deposits in your children’s emotional bank accounts will yield dividends beyond any those of the highest-performing stock on the market!

Dr. Philippe Rey is Executive Director of Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS).  Prior to becoming Executive Director in 2004, Philippe first joined the ACS staff in 1998 as Caravan House Program Director.  Born and raised in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Philippe came to the United States to attend college in 1984. His credentials include a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from UC San Diego and a master’s in counseling psychology from National University. In 1997 his doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentration in child and family therapy was conferred by Alliant International University in San Diego. Before pursuing graduate studies and a career in psychology, Philippe graduated from business school in Switzerland. Philippe can be reached at or 650.424.0852 ext. 101.



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