Your Teen is a Perfectionist: These 4 Tips will Help
Watch my in-depth interview with Dr. Maggie Wray about how to address perfectionism and procrastination as part of the Creating Unstoppable Teens online event. Get access to the entire interview series here: http://unstoppableteens.com/?ap_id=ktye
Being called a perfectionist is relatively common. It’s less common for us to consider the impact perfectionism may have on a teenager.
Does your teen get excellent grades, but at the cost of a high stress level? Or, do theyget poor grades because she waits until the last minute to complete her work?
Perfectionism is often a form of anxiety that’s overlooked because it is socially acceptable, and even frequently praised by peers and adults. Perfectionism can also contribute to procrastination, as the task seems too overwhelming to start, much less finish, because either the task seems to large (making it difficult to begin) or because of the risk of not doing the work perfectly.
Does any of this sound at all like your teenager? Would you like to help reduce or prevent this destructive habit?
Here are four things that you can do as a parent to help your perfectionist teen build confidence, manage stress, and tackle obstacles in a positive way.
1. Focus on who they are, not on their achievements or mistakes
It is difficult for teens to see their own worth separately from what they can do well and/or what others think of them.
Your love and approval of her must be in no way contingent upon successes or failures. You can be a safe haven from the comparisons and judgment that they are surrounded by in the world.
For example, rather than “Good job!” try “You have so much patience and persistence!” as this puts emphasis a personal quality that they possesses rather than on the quality of what they produced.
2. Model managing stress in healthy ways
If you are constantly overwhelmed, it has an impact on your teen. If your emotions are unpredictable and you tend to be reactive, your teen will create a habit of trying to predict the future and avoiding conflict.
Model observing and accepting your own feelings and behavior, rather than judging or feeling fearful when noticing feelings and behavior.
Perfectionism often is fueled by impatience, both their own impatience and yours, so keep that in check – not only toward them, but toward yourself – be more patient.
Rather than being hard on yourself for being reactive, focus on what you can do to set yourself up for success in the future.
3. Encourage your teen to engage in something that takes practice
Help your teen find a fun or engaging way to practice breaking down a task or an experience into steps (such as a creative outlet like a sport, musical instrument, or art class).
These type of tasks require practice, and they won’t turn out perfectly every time!
Having these skill-building experiences will help them when they need to tackle problems in other areas (such as school or relationships). Work will no longer appear as one large task but as many small steps that complete one project.
4. Help them sort through thoughts and track progress consistently
Perfectionism causes your teen to gauge progress sporadically. They will on what isn’t good enough, only noticing the risks and not the benefits. Your teen will feel unable to take steps forward toward a goal and fear making a mistake. A perfectionist teen views a mistake as a huge failure.
A therapeutic space offers a way to explore and understand how to build confidence and positivity from the inside out. A therapist will help your teen focus and value their work without procrastination and perfectionism.
Help your teen find healthier ways of accomplishing goals and engaging in the world.
Contact me with any questions you have about your teenager and your desire to help her be healthy and succeed.
Learn what you can do now to address perfectionism and procrastination in my exclusive interview with Dr. Maggie Wray as part of the Creating Unstoppable Teens online event. Get access to the interview series here: http://unstoppableteens.com/?ap_id=ktye
As a parent, how do you respond to an overly controlling or argumentative teen? It’s frustrating and draining to feel that your teen is resistant to your authority or trying to push your limits. Do you wonder why this started happening? Do you feel at a loss for what to do about it?
What To Do If Your Teen Is Overly Controlling or Resistant to Rules
If your teen is trying to control their surroundings, they are really trying to feel more in control of themselves.
Many teens are rebelling against being controlled by others. They are trying to exert their independence.
The most important thing for you to recognize as their parent is that if your teen is trying to control your behavior (or anyone else’s) they are not feeling as though they have enough control over themselves. This can be incredibly anxiety provoking, and anxiety also feeds the perceived need to control what is happening around us.
This is a form of anxiety that can create a trap for your teen because they look outward to seek comfort through controlling situations around them rather than looking inward to reflect on what they can control.
Teenagers are bombarded with new thoughts, drives and emotional patterns at this age. A teen who is overly controlling, angry or exhibiting bullying behavior is often struggling with high levels of stress, which may indicate anxiety or depression. Trying to control their surroundings is likely a symptom of this stress.
A teen who struggles with anxiety may even appear to have less empathy for those around them.
Teens are naturally more self-centered because their personal values and boundaries are forming, requiring them to think of themselves or their own needs before others. New emotional reactions can feel strange to your teen, and they can lash out when trying to learn to manage these emotions. This often looks like disruptive or manipulative behavior.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. A typical day for a teen involves being told what to do by teachers, parents, other adults and peers. True, these may be people who have excellent guidance for them. It’s still difficult to always have to be listening, rather than listened to. It is healthy for a teen to want to assert control over themselves in order to have a voice and learn responsibility.
The frustration of being in this situation where they are always expected to listen will cause a teenager to bully or control the adult who will never leave them (yep, you). This is not meant to excuse the behavior; in fact, it is vital for your relationship with your teen that the behavior is not tolerated. This simply offers you an opportunity for insight into your teen’s struggle.
Teens often worry about what others think.
Your teen’s mind is wired to be learning about themselves and the world via social situations. They may be expending a lot of energy wondering what the people around them are thinking, even if they don’t want to be or wouldn’t admit that they are. Teenagers are learning about themselves by being hyper-aware of others. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
Your teen can’t control what others think, but many teens find themselves desperately wishing to do so – even if it’s out of character for them. This can be frustrating and confusing for a teenager to deal with.
Believe it or not, your teen is concerned with what you think of them, too.
Be cautious of the messages that you are sending your teen about their power to make smart choices for themselves. It is important for a teenager to feel capable and valuable, even if they don’t yet have all of the responsibility of an adult.
Your own frustration or fear may cause you to criticize or micromanage your teen. This will only leave you grappling with more rejection and resistance from your teen.
So what can you do as a parent?
Your teen needs clear boundaries and limits, and part of seeking those out is pushing against ones that exist. Your role is to stay within a balanced range between rigid and chaotic, where your rules and limits are clear yet flexible. In other words, you are open to the idea that your rules are imperfect or that they will need updating as your teen grows. However, you are also willing to stand by any rule that you do set until a change is necessary.
You have another challenging task, which is keeping your cool and remaining the “mature” one. If you engage with rude behavior like name-calling, you show your teen that you will allow it. If your teen is purposefully rude to you, walk away from the conversation. Then, attend to it later. Rude teenagers often need the most attention and care. Many teens feel they are not being heard, and because of this, they are less careful (or more purposefully disturbing) with their words.
More Helpful Ways to Approach Your Teen
Pursue activities and experiences for your teen to develop their knowledge, interpersonal skills and problem solving abilities. Let your teen’s interest guide their behavior and give them freedom to choose activities that interest them. In order to help them focus on the things they can control, don’t tell them what they should be doing or thinking. Instead, ask them questions that help them focus on what they do that makes them feel good about themselves.
Finally, rather than engage in a power struggle with your teen by trying to assert control over them, have a collaborative conversation about rules and roles at home. Clarify what you expect from your teen as far as contributions at home and in relationship with other family members. Truly be open to your teen’s opinion and input about these topics, and consider their feedback when setting your rules. Many rules can be agreed upon together (such as fair chores to do at home). It is your job to enforce consequences and maintain clear expectations when adjusting to new practices at home.
It is absolutely vital for a teen who seems overly controlling to find ways to understand and address emotions of frustration, fear or stress. Find a therapist who specializes in helping teens understand and manage their emotions, communicate clearly and grow in healthy ways.
Do not let your teen develop negative habits that need to be unlearned. Now is the time help your teen stop the controlling behavior and feel more in control of themselves.
Download this article and get updates on the next live round of my online course for parents of teenagers, The Parent-Teen Guide.
How to Talk with Your Teen: Sex Education and Other Tough Topics
Join me today for my free interview: How to Talk to Teens About Sex Exclusive Interview
Sexual education is a touchy topic for most families. Bringing up sex with your teen can bring up irritability, embarrassment or anxiety for them – and for you, as a parent! Is it difficult to get a positive conversation started with your teen? Do your attempts to talk often turn into mini-lectures?
Don’t blame yourself! One-sided “talks” are tricky to avoid, especially with topics like sexual education, which can easily trigger feelings of judgement or fear.
If you tend to argue with your teen, struggle to get a straight answer from them, or rarely get more than “I don’t know,” it’s time to try some new approaches to communication.
You’re probably concerned about them starting to make reckless choices now that they may have more freedom (and rightly so). However, this concern can make it even more difficult to approach the conversation in a way that promotes healthy decision making for your teen.
Try this approach.
How to talk with your teen about sex education and other tough topics:
1 Identify obstacles
What gets in the way when you try to talk to your teen? Do your best to name it.
One of the most common obstacles that parents face is their own fear or discomfort about topics like sex education, drug use, or any rule or boundary.
A parent’s own lack of clarity between rules, suggestions, consequences, and support can be confusing for teens. For example, a parent might punish their child for something as if it is bad behavior to be ashamed of, rather than understanding a teen’s feelings about it first. Their teen may already feel ashamed because of regret or because they felt pressured in some way within the situation either by the other person, friends or just overall assumptions about sexuality.
Also, some parents may not consider how it impacts their teen’s self-esteem and stress level. Just like there are fears that you may have, your teen likely has fears that you could potentially put to rest by acknowledging them, educating your teen, and offering emotional support.
Assumptions are often to blame if communication is difficult unproductive. For example, you may assume your child is being dishonest or secretive, but your teen may simply not feel that they have the words to convey what they want to, or they themselves feel anxious about what and how to share with you.
Control and Power Struggles
Another impediment is a parent trying to control your teen’s opinions. It actually makes it far less likely that you will have a positive influence on your teen’s own opinion if you expect them to adopt your own. This comes off as unsupportive and your teen may feel unsafe communicating a different perspective.
Learn about the other common obstacles (and how to avoid them) by joining me for my free interview: How to Talk to Teens About Sex Exclusive Interview
2 Start the sex education conversation in a direct and positive way
There will never be the perfect time to talk about sex with your teen. Take time to be aware of what your fears and assumptions are about sex education. If you are uncomfortable imagining your growing teen as a sexual person, you need to work on letting that go. It is normal to feel this way, but if you’re afraid of your teen’s sexuality, they will feel shame. They may not choose to be sexually active, but it they need to be able to think about it, talk about it, and feel proud of whatever it is that they chose to do or not do.
Learn more about ways to start the conversation by joining me for my free interview: How to Talk to Teens About Sex Exclusive Interview
3 Help develop your teen’s decision-making skills
Teach your teen to decide for themselves, not just do as you say because you say so. Always ask them what they think about a situation, any situation, even if it doesn’t involve sex education. It is best to not be searching for a specific answer. Help them learn from their mistakes not by lecturing or rescuing them, but talking them through helping themselves.
Your teen will definitely be in many situations where they are pressured to do something sexual, directly or indirectly. While you may want them to be thinking “My mom or dad would get mad at me,” what you need them to be thinking is “Does this feel right to me? Do I feel safe? Do I feel uncomfortable?”
Does your teenager seem to be the most adventurous in their group? Be cautious of what you say. Pointing out how they don’t want to look like a “player” or a “slut” is not helpful. This will only make them feel misunderstood and criticized by you. They may feels as if you are looking for the worst in them or taking the worst interpretation of how they look or behave.
Learn more about how to support your teen’s development and decision-making abilities during this interview: How to Talk to Teens About Sex Exclusive Interview
4 Build your teen’s self-esteem
Foster healthy self-esteem by encouraging the things that you already see and want to see more of. Show your pride in their abilities, intelligence, independence, sensitivity, genuineness – whatever quality you can honestly identify in your teen. If those things are nurtured, they won’t turn to unhealthy attention-seeking behavior.
If they do seem to be drawn to seek out reckless behavior, do not try to diminish that. Instead, still try to help them channel that into positive areas. A tendency toward reckless behavior can be a completely normal part of growing up and finding yourself. However, it can also be a symptom of emotional distress. Your teen may be trying to express anger, depression, or a sense of powerlessness in life.
Don’t punish reckless behavior, it will only push your teen away. Reckless behavior has natural consequences (less trust from you and friends or consequences at school). Rather than wasting energy trying to make them feel worse, help them find healthy ways to express themselves through therapy, creative activities, and quality time with people that care about them – be it family, friends, or mentors.
Don’t hesitate to get your teen help if you feel that their behavior is harming themselves or others. Learn more about how to help your teen have a healthy, safe sex education from the information in this free event for parents! Click here: How to Talk to Teens About Sex Exclusive Interview
Stress Less and Do More: A Therapist’s Productivity Tools
Your list is getting longer. To-dos keep getting pushed back. You’re not feeling great. Is there a way to stress less and increase productivity?
Because I work to help those with anxiety, I understand how much of a role stress and overwhelm play when it comes to productivity. It helps to have a process to rely on to help increase your productivity.
Try this four step process to recharge your productivity and get some stress relief (not just when the list is done – even before you get started)!
1. Clarify and De-Clutter: Let go of things that don’t matter
How often do you waste energy worrying over doing something that doesn’t really matter to you? In other words, who and what has permission to cause you stress? Take a look at the past few days and notice what has occupied your mind.
There is a powerful value to writing things down. Write out your entire to-do list, for any and all areas of your life.
Take a look at how much you’re expecting yourself to do and when you’re actually expecting yourself to do it. Is this realistic? Is it even what you truly want?
You won’t accomplish as much if you’re dreading what you do. Sure, some things will be difficult, but the point is to enjoy life, then make sure that enjoyment is a priority in your life – even if it means trying to enjoy more of the work you do.
Here are a few more guidelines for what to write that will help you keep things clear and simple.
- Make a list of things that you’re doing for others or because you feel that you “have to.” Is it out of guilt, unclear expectations, or other reasons that are not bringing you joy?
- Create a new list of the things that you are doing that have meaning to you. They may be small or large.
- Next, create a list of things that you’d like to be doing.
2. Get Ready for Action: Connect to the value of the outcome(s)
Now that you’ve written down everything on your to-do list, the next step is to connect each task to that meaning, intent or outcome. In other words, what is the point of doing this particular task? For example, the point of organizing the garage is so that you can find what you need, be clutter-free, and feel proud of what you drop into the donation bin.
Write down the “point” of each task. What is the value of this to you? When you imagine this being completed, does this give you a sense of satisfaction or joy?
Now, make a new to-do list that serves the purpose of removing unnecessary things, prioritizing meaningful things, and adding better things.
Seeing the value of the outcome of even small tasks will help you keep your priorities straight, and appreciate small victories that will now be easier to measure.
This will become natural as you learn to value what you want rather than thinking about what “should” be done. “Should” often isn’t connected to something that means anything to you personally; it is an external pressure that people often either avoid or allow to rule over their life.
3. One Step at a Time: Take a measurable action
Of course, things need to actually get done in order to give you the outcome that you want. However, many of these things easily become tedious and/or overwhelming. Don’t get scattered, because you’ll feel as though you’ve accomplished nothing, even if you’ve accomplished something.
It is often true that your next step will only become clear once you’ve taken the current step at hand. Many of your to-do items are really many items combined. Pick a handful of your to-do items, and write down a small, bite-sized action step that you can take toward checking that item off of your list.
Moving forward, try this challenge: Put only three things on your must-do list for today. Any other to-dos take a back seat and will be considered a “bonus.” Once you’ve tried this for 3-4 days, how do you feel? What have you accomplished?
4. Let go of the value of the outcome
Once you have your outcome in mind, let it go! The time to think about the end goal is before you start and when you take pause to regroup. While you’re taking action, the outcome must be far from your mind. Instead, focus on what you’re actually doing in that moment. How does it feel?
By practicing this, you’ll accomplish much more and feel more fulfilled by the things that you spend your time doing. If your mind is always on what’s next, you won’t get any good work done in the moment.
Try a variety of ways to enjoy each step of productivity, such as practicing gratitude for new ideas, appreciating a small amount of work, or checking in with how your body feels while you’re working and taking time to get comfortable, energized or inspired (whichever your goal might be).
Bonus tip: Talking it out.
Talking out ideas and action steps works when you have an intention for your conversation.
Sometimes talking about it just causes dwelling on it and even increases overwhelm.
To make talking it out a part of the productivity process, talk about your tasks or situation with a willing and worthy person (someone who cares, knows you and/or knows the way you do things) with the intention of finding clarity for yourself and eventually being more clear on what action step to take.
Don’t push yourself to figure it out all at once; you can let loose and vent, and then bring it back around to a direct action step.
These steps can change your stress level in a matter of moments. The most profound change happens when we start to use useful tools on a consistent basis.
However, stress, doubt and worry can make it much more difficult to use these tools to their fullest potential. Take a huge step toward less stress and more productivity by setting up an appointment with me. Contact me here.
How to De-Stress and Motivate Your Teen
Join us for the January 2017 Parents Teens Survival Guide Giveaway and receive free parenting resources, including my in-depth e-book How to Motivate a Teen (a $19 value)! Click here to sign up.
It’s the beginning of a new year. How will you motivate your teen and reduce their stress level?
Teens have many responsibilities at home and at school. You know that keeping their work ethic and motivation high will help your teen have less stress in the long run. However, trying to get your teen to get things done puts you in a power struggle with them, which causes stressful interactions.
Parents who want their teens to be motivated often inadvertently raise their teen’s stress level. Excess stress is connected to feeling pressured, powerless, hopeless, or helpless. Cycles of negative stress contribute to anxiety and depression in teenagers, which many believe is at an all-time high!
So, how do you make a teen get things done while also helping them stress less? Here are the dos and don’ts to reduce stress and help your teen stay motivated.
Stress and the “Shoulds” Don’t Motivate Your Teen
Adults try to use stress as a motivator for a teen. Teenagers also try to motivate themselves by increasing stress. It’s logical to an extent, because stress can spark action. However, it only works well a percentage of the time.
Reminding your teen of what will go wrong if they don’t do their homework, for example, is not an effective motivator in the long-term because it sets up a cycle of avoidance and frantic work. There are other dangerous costs associated with trying to increase stress in order to increase motivation, including self-doubt, burnout, anxiety, and depression.
One of the big mistakes that schools and adults often make with the best of intentions is trying to motivate a teen by explaining or instructing them on what they “should” do. “Should” is a dangerous and ultimately ineffective motivator, as it actually disconnects us from our internal motivation as we try to link to some abstract external expectation.
By replacing “should” with “want,” we create a more direct path toward a goal. Seeking more of what brings joy and fulfillment is a more effective motivator than fear of what we don’t want to happen or the idea of what “should” happen – every time.
This can apply in situations both large and small. For example, say each of these sentences aloud and notice the difference in how they feel: “I should call my friend” vs. “I want to call my friend.” Which do you feel inspires you more to take action?
Join us for the January 2017 Parents Teens Survival Guide Giveaway and receive free parenting resources, including my in-depth e-book How to Motivate a Teen (a $19 value)! Click here to sign up.
The #1 Tool to Increase Motivation: Finding the Joy
Doing and experiencing things that bring joy to your teen invigorates them to create and succeed. A teen’s brain is growing and adapting more rapidly than an adults, which is an opportunity for change and growth. Valuing joy in life often enough will be a shield against feeling stress and motivate your teen to keep finding more joy.
Seeking joy does not mean being happy all the time or ignoring problems. It is a trackable and functional way of training your teen’s brain to be better at problem solving, connecting to what matters to them, and keeping negativity out of relationships.
Joy is a combination of pride, appreciation and excitement. Your teen will not these things all the time or all at once, but feeling these more often will create a positive and productive life. Plus, finding the joy can also help you protect your relationship with your teen through all the ups and downs of this growing up and launching process.
You can’t afford to have your teen become a young adult stuck doing a job that’s not really for them. You must help your teen connect to a track that is truly meaningful to them in order to motivate them. This type of teen is more appealing to colleges and on job applications, too!
Finding Your Teen’s Joy
First, Notice That They Are Already Showing You
What comes to mind when you think about what brings joy to your teen and makes them unique?
Make sure that you allow and encourage them to prioritize these things in how they spend their time. Notice the skills your teen already possesses so that in time they can be harnessed.
When your teen does something they like or excel at, they are able to access strengths and skills such as problem solving, integrity, focus, patience, and humor.
Second, Use The Internal and External Experiences
One of the many ways that you can harness this developmental time for your teen is to encourage them to tap into both external experiences and internal beliefs that bring joy.
Having external experiences and connecting to internal beliefs on a regular basis will keep your teen from slipping into stress because it is an opportunity to release pressure, feel powerful and meaningful, give hope, and offer help to self or others in a way that means something to your teen.
An example of an external experience starts with identifying what your teen likes doing, as discussed above. Teens need positive recognition from peers, mentors, and other adults. This keeps them out of negative thinking, unhealthy stress and trouble in general, because they won’t have to seek out unhealthy experiences to feel acknowledged or noticed.
Connecting your teen to joy internally is connecting them to the values that are important to them now. Does your teen feel joy when they feel that their help is needed? It may be important to them to serve others. Getting involved in a social issue also connects them with their developing values, bringing more joy and fulfillment.
Maybe you’re not sure what your teen’s values are, and that’s ok. Write down a few guesses and start observing your teen in this way. Check to identify what hints at what their values are, rather than only looking at their behavior on the surface.
If stress is a factor in your teen’s life, try these 3 Anxiety Reduction Tools.
Third, Use Your Connection With Your Teen
The most lasting and powerful want to enlist joy for motivation and stress reduction is using it to keep you and your teen connected. Joy will connect your teen to the people in their life that will be the most influential in their life, and you are one of those people.
Your relationship with your teen is a powerful tool. Find moments to enjoy with your teen now. Don’t want until later and lose a chance to enjoy your teen exactly as who they are in this moment. These moments will keep the stress low during the school year. You can help keep your teen maintain habits that keep them happy and motivated.
Your teen will be motivated when they pursue interests and have rewarding experiences and healthy connections with others. They will have the strength to face head-on the stressful moments that come up along the way.