Get Smart Boot Camp for Parents #2: 3 Hacks for Success

Get Smart Boot Camp for Parents #2:

3 Hacks for Success

The beginning of the school year seems to appear out of nowhere.  Stores display signs for Back to School sales.  Schools send a mountain of welcome emails and calendars.  The dull thud of reality can hit pretty hard, especially if school has been a place that has challenged every parenting idea and hope you’ve had for your teen.  The beginning of a new school year can send you back to the world of tardies, school attendance issues, homework struggles, arguments.  Even harder are the realities that your teen might be facing with school or social anxiety, relationship issues, depression or trauma that gets triggered when the First Day of School begins.


For this Boot Camp, I’m offering three small “hacks”…ways to rethink how the school days go at home and throughout the day with your middle school or high school student.  Although there is extensive research as to why these work, I will tell you that they come straight from client’s minds.  Teens have told me that despite the rolling eyes or reluctant response they may give, they really, really want parents to show up and support them in the following ways.  Interesting, isn’t it?


SUCCESS HACK #1:  Dinner Table

Really?  Yes.  Making dinner a sit down time for the whole family, even (or especially) when work and school schedules are out of control makes for a very different support system in the lives of teens.  Here are a few tips:

  • It doesn’t have to be every night. But how about 4 or 5 nights during the week and weekend?  Put dinner time (please make it about 30-45 minutes!) on the family calendar.  Start with the set dinner times, and decisions about activities, work and other distractions become a little bit easier (notice I didn’t say EASY?).


  • Let kids help make dinner, set the table and clean up. Here are two big benefits:  (1) Part of parenting teens means getting them ready for adulthood. They can learn a few recipes that are inexpensive and easy so they can eat more than ramen when they go on their own. (2) It’s tempting to delegate the tasks, but the pay off of relaxed time talking is BIG!  While chopping tomatoes (and yes, they may need help knowing how to do this at first!), you can ask a few questions about friends or talk about your day.  You often will get more information in this type of conversation than a face to face drilling of homework amounts and what chores haven’t been done!


  • Let everyone at the table be responsible for the conversation. Not sure what to talk about?  There are great conversation card sets or free online questions ( to ask everyone at the table.  Let dinner be relaxed and focused on good conversation. Chores and homework and bill paying can come after dinner!


  • Your teen has friends you want to get to know (aka check out to make sure they’re good kids)?Invite them to family dinner!  Let friends participate in the conversation questions and learn about them.


Here’s a little math for you from Drs. John and Julie Gottman (

Their research discovered that to thrive in any relationship (couples and kids), people need to HEAR and receive FIVE admirations, appreciations or adorations DAILY!.  Admirations are about noticing character qualities. To speak into your teen’s life with admirations of their integrity, kindness, perseverance is GOLD when it comes to changing their personal narrative and increasing their confidence at home and school.  They don’t have to be huge feats of character…by noticing small moments, you are showing your teen that you know them, see them, that they are safe and secure in your relationship.

Appreciations are gratitude statements directly to your teen WITHOUT A “BUT” AT THE END!  Let appreciations be without any sort of “hook”!  You can talk about the undone chores or unbrushed teeth another time. Focus on appreciation.

Adoration is simply “I love you”…which is best said eye to eye and connected with a small touch.  (I’ll be writing about attachment theory and the power of mirror neurons later this year!)

“What about the 1?”  Thanks for reminding me!  That’s the ONE TIME each day you use to give input/feedback about what they need to improve upon or fix.  “ONLY ONE?” yep.

Reality Check:  You might have a long list of improvements to give to your teen.  I guarantee they can handle ONE.  So prioritize.

What’s going to be the quickest victory and gain for them?  What’s the most important behavior or attitude you see that is holding them back from healthy relationships or work habits.  And it’s not just a One Bomb…give them feedback by saying, “I’ve been noticing that you tend to…’s the thing, that’s not going to work in our family/in getting school work done.  I want you to understand that this is going to help you in the end, and I’m here to give you feedback about improvement or encourage you in the change.  But this really needs to change.”

  • This is a DAILY event. To create a thriving, secure relationship with your teen, every day is a fresh start!  Feeling depleted and uncomfortable that you aren’t getting that?  That’s a great conversation with your partner…and I guarantee that as you become more consistent with your teen, they will begin to give back a little.  The hard part of parenting is that we can’t expect our kids to feed us emotionally. That’s grown up work.  So please be sure that you are doing radical self care, and that your needs are getting met from your partner and adult friends.


  • You don’t get to save up the ONE critique! Everyday is a fresh start.  Fresh five and fresh one.


  • Take notes! It’s too easy to forget how many things you’ve said and how you’ve said them.  Use your phone or journal to plot out what you want to say/what you said.  And then note and appreciate/admire the growth and response you see in your teen as they take your feedback and make changes.


SUCCESS HACK #3:  Texting habits


I know.  Life moves at the speed of sound, and sometimes it feels like texting a list of chores or confronting your teen about their lousy attitude last night is the only way to get through to them.

But I can promise you this:  Negative, critical, argumentative, name calling text NEVER works. It destroys your teen’s confidence, it shames them, it pushes them away, it teaches them passive aggressive communication.  IT NEVER WORKS.

Take a breath.  I know  I’m pretty tough on negative, critical, argumentative texts.  And I can’t apologize for that.  I’ve seen completely destroyed kids on the edge of anxiety, depression, self harm and even suicide read a parent’s text and feel the crushing weight of the words written.  They can never be erased.  Commit this year to face to face conversations.  Commit to ONLY using the text space to share updates on appointments, etc OR to encourage throughout the day.  Commit to modeling healthy and mature communication skills by holding back, disciplining yourself and keeping your teen’s emotional safety at the forefront of EVERY text.

If they have done something really wrong, it would be better to text “I love you.  We will take time tonight to talk about this. Focus on school.  Know you are loved.  Breathe.” than to rampage at them for their rudeness and selfishness ( you might note the irony here!)

These are small…and gigantic hacks to use this year.  These also work for college kids…and husbands and wives!  None of these will heal anxiety or fix depression; those are areas that your teen and young adult need professional help dealing with.  But these are three intentional actions a parent can do to make your relationship whole and safe with your teen.  They need you now more than ever (I know…it doesn’t seem like they even remember your name unless they need money for school supplies…but they really do!).  Parenting teens and young adults is NOT like parenting children under 13.  Your role begins to shift into coach and listener. Discipline takes on an opportunity to grow the towards adulthood, not punishing them to remind them who’s in charge.


Need support and safe place for your teen to talk and heal anxiety, depression, stress, relationship issues, trauma and other big emotional health needs?  Call enCOURAGE Counseling TODAY at 720-230-3076.  I offer a FREE 15-minute consultation on the phone or in the office.  You and/or your teen will find that therapy is a great place to feel safe, create goals, learn strategies, and begin to thrive at school, home and work.


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