Parenting the Passage of Adolescence


Parenting a teenager is no easy task.  Parenting your adolescent son or daughter during the turbulence of this transitional period is an art.  Ask anyone who’s involved in doing this job.  They’ll tell you that you don’t fix your kids during this time-frame; you just stay on the edge of the storm. Parenting takes a great deal of courage, patience, and learning through trial and error.

  • Get in Touch with your own Child-Within.

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?  What kinds of experiences did you have?  Can you unblock any painful memories?  Can you relive positive memories and experience them in the present moment?  What’s that feel like?  It is important to recapture your own childhood so that you can stay connected to your teen and do not live vicariously through her experience.  Understanding your own childhood will allow you to continue emotional contact and share lighthearted common experiences with your child.  Shared playful activities, such as going to a ball game, biking together, or taking a fishing trip together can build bridges.  Maintaining positive physical contact with your teen is critically important.  Although your child may not request physical affection, initiating it is important to maintaining a strong emotional bond.

  • Teach the Lessons of Life through Shared Experiences. 

Resist the urge to moralize, lecture, and give unwarranted advice.  Your child will tune you out.  It is more effective to use positive and negative consequences as a way of setting limits.  One method I used to reach my kids about current issues was through the use of the media.  Often, I would come across articles which had a direct impact on teen problems.  For example, I would talk with my kids about their “heroes” who went astray through self-medicating.  I would ask them to read the article and ask them how they felt about it.  Sometimes when my teens had made mistakes, I would share my own blunders in a connecting way and then we would explore better ways of behaving.

  • Major in the Majors Issues, not the Minors.  Know your Bottom-Line Expectations and Beliefs.

Be firm, courageous and unified on the big boundary issues.  Don’t get locked into focusing on minor issues which distract from your most important values.  What tint your teen decides to use as hair color may not be as critical as how he treats other people.  Set consequence that are reasonable and be consistent in enforcing them!

  • Don’t Over-Function on Behalf of your Child.

Never do for your child what he can do for himself.  Failing to follow this policy is an invitation for your teen to avoid responsibility for his behavior.  I can’t tell you the number to times that I used to facilitate parent/ student/teacher conferences where the parents anxiously took notes during the conference while their child “snored” his way through the experience.  Remember, who owns the problem?

  • Keep a Sense of Perspective.

Talk about your own feelings with your teen.  By sharing yourself, you keep the doors of communications open.  Learn to keep mistakes in perspective.  Just how horrible is this problem?  Very few mistakes are catastrophic.  For example, my daughter came home extremely late from a party in high school.  My first reaction was to confront her and chastise for her inconsiderate behavior.  I had tried that disciplinary action before and it accomplished nothing productive.  Consequently, this time when she got home, I attempted to promote understanding by telling her how afraid I was about her late arrival.  My response surprised her and opened the door for us to talk about the issue from my perspective.

  • Discuss Goal-Setting with your Teen. 

Kids, during the teenage years, have trouble making a connection between the present moment and the future.  Teenagers need the opportunity to explore their dreams.  They need help in finding their niche.  Talk with you child about her shot-term and long-term plans.  Goal-setting helps kids stay grounded and active in the present.  When my son showed an interest in music, I did everything possible to encourage his activity in that area.  I paid for private lessons, and attended his concerts regularly. As difficult as things may get for you and your teenager, change is always possible.  Remember, there are no sacred ways of parenting.  If one plan doesn’t work, try an alternative strategy.  Try a paradoxical (opposite) manner of handling a problem.  You might be surprised at the results.  Never forget that ultimately your teen should be held responsible for the choices he makes.

James P. Krehbiel is a retired psychotherapist and author from Scottsdale, AZ.


A Nation Divided By Beliefs Versus Faith


We live in a nation divided.  The line in the sand is a distinction between those who live out of their beliefs/ideology as opposed to being guided by a faith philosophy of knowing through evidence and experience.  Alan Watts, a great philosopher, defined believing as a preconceived notion about how the world works.  This process involves wearing a well protected system of armor that originates from a pattern of prior beliefs. Although the very foundations of our society have been shaken and altered, believers cling to values present during these supposed simpler times. The believer starts out with a value that is reinforced by prior feelings, which reinforces the belief – or one might say, a belief in a belief.  Often, religious thinking plays a role in solidifying unwavering convictions.

Watts contends that faith (an evidence-based philosophy of thinking) is diametrically opposed to belief.  Faith is an unreserved opening to the truth wherever it may be found.  This state of mind requires a need to question or let go of archaic, untenable beliefs in search of authenticity.  Faith opens the door to rigorous philosophical debate, conflict, ambiguity and rational thought and experience.  It calls for the courage to change one’s mind.

Those who are led by their beliefs tend to suspend rational thought.   Beliefs are convictions that are often activated by emotional triggers of fear and anger that protect the insulated system of the believer.  Any attempt to puncture the armor of the believer is met with reactivity and resistance.  There’s no room for promoting understanding.  Thinking and experience are suppressed in the hope of keeping one’s dogma and self safe from harm.

Those who use faith and reason as a measuring stick are able to let their experience be the true test of credibility.  The scientific method is honored, like it has for decades, and is not viewed as a threat perpetrated by the intelligentsia.

Those who believe in beliefs, don’t trust their instincts, and therefore discount experience.  For example, if I walk outside my house at this moment, I will observe a pollutant haze covering the mountains.  This toxic fog is mixed with dust and it burns my eyes.  No denying this reality will change my experience.  It seems rather easy for me to draw conclusions from what I have observed.  I believe we have increased CO2 emissions that are poisonous to the earth and are affecting me.  Who created this mess?  It doesn’t take me long to conclude that this is a man-made phenomenon, based on years of accumulated carbon emissions spewed forth by people.  If this pattern is going on world-wide with ever-increasing climate-related extremes, including massive tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts and fires, there’s something seriously amiss.  I’m observing this while global scientist are telling me my instincts are correct – we have a problem of epic proportions with ice caps melting and sea levels gradually rising.  What I observed to be true is validated by those who know a lot more about climate issues than I do.

However, in spite of a plethora of scientific evidence and human experience, we have the believers who refuse to acknowledge the truth.  Why is this?  Some are led by their archaic notion that if we see things the way we want them to be, we will maintain a sense of security.  It is more comfortable for many believers to maintain the status quo, suppressing or denying the reality of what we observe in the present.  Beliefs are a powerful thing when they have the strength to keep others from accepting what is logically happening in the here-and-now.  Beliefs are emotionally laden convictions that often out-weight the truth of our experience.

Do things only happen if we believe they are true?  What if something happens and it’s inconsistent with our beliefs?  Like many men of his time, my father was a racist against African-Americans.  I remember him being a big George Wallace supporter during the civil rights movement.  I recall my father taking me and my brother to major league baseball games.  Invariably, we would be sitting next to a black father and his kids.  I was always perplexed because my dad would suspend his beliefs and live out of his ethic to be kind to other people, regardless of race or ethnicity.  The tension between belief and experience (cognitive dissonance) never shifted with my father. He always struggled with it.

Does it make sense, on the basis of evidence-based faith and experience, to ban immigrants who fought in this country’s wars because of our beliefs about “illegals?”  What about fighting to keep people from marrying the partners they love?  How about turning the Bible into a geological textbook and fostering the beliefs of creationism?  In order to reinforce beliefs over faith, a system of biased information must be fostered through propaganda.  The media will disseminate information that shapes public opinion and behavior.  This belief about beliefs will include:

  • Using misleading information
  • Simplifying complex issues and ideas
  • Activating emotion
  • Creating a cause
  • Attacking opponents
  • Targeting desired believers

Those who rely on beliefs to uphold convictions are usually low information voters.  Their information comes from one source and is usually simplistic in form.  They rarely deviate from a road well-traveled.  Conclusions are easily reinforced by a continuous bombardment of slogans and sound-bites that resonate and are internalized.  Those in power often exploit the believers, so it may not be in the believer’s best interest to comply with more arbitrary values.

Faith embracers are high information voters.  They seek varying sources of information to make decisions.  They’re not afraid to go down a path that is uncomfortable with their prior experience.  For example, my experience tells me that gays should be afforded the same rights as heterosexuals receive, including marriage.  Yet, when draft pick Michael Sam was being shown on national TV with his lover, I was uncomfortable with their affection.  I was uneasy, because the experience was new to me.  It’s part of my learning curve to reconcile beliefs and experience to find the truth.

We live in a country where people’s way of processing reality is based on polar perspectives.  The faith-based thinkers employ an open-minded, evidence-oriented process of seeking the truth, which aligns with their understanding of experience.  Faith is not a religious experience, but rather a philosophical/spiritual one that takes us out of our comfort zone into the unchartered waters of truth-seeking.  We are not afraid to get dirty in our pursuit of what is.  Belief-based thinking is crystallized in response to our prior experience and is not open to change.  The risk of seeking alternative explanations of reality is too dangerous.  Thus, believers cling to their beliefs in an effort to justify and defend them.Although our world is rapidly changing on many fronts, the tension between believers and faith explorers will continue.  The question is, how high will the sea levels need to rise before believers become frightened by the truth they need to deny?