How To Bring Out The Best In Your Kids

How To Bring Out The Best In Your Kids

A father I know had been getting emails from his son’s teacher saying that the boy talked way too much in class and would ignore the teacher’s discipline.  

When he confronted his son, the boy said that he felt like the teacher also talked too much in class about things that weren’t relevant to the subject, so he felt that he shouldn’t have to listen to the teacher.  

If that was your child, what would you do?  How would you handle it?

For most of us, we would probably try the same things that the father did – verbally reprimanding the son, and if that didn’t work, punishing him by limiting his phone usage for a time, or something along those lines.

You’ve probably found that sometimes these tactics work for your kids, and other times they backfire.  Well, I want to show you an alternative.

After trying everything he could think of, the father called me and asked if I had any suggestions on changing his son’s behavior.

I knew that the perfect solution would:

  • Get the son to take the action we wanted.
  • Get him to do it on his own accord, promoting self accountability.
  • Wouldn’t create resentment in either the son or the father.

I thought it over and advised him to tell his son something like this:

“Son, I admire your courage to take a stand for what you believe, and if you really think that talking in class is the right decision for you, and that it’s worth the risk of detention and having that on your record, then ok, I’ll respect your choice.  But in my experience, the humility to follow authority is also a very valuable skill, and this situation with your teacher seems to be an opportunity for you to practice it.  Not everyone can do both – question and obey authority.  You’re already doing the first one, but if you can learn to do the second one, then you will give yourself a major advantage in life.  I think it would be good for you to learn it while you’re in school, but I’ll leave that choice to you.”  

The result?  A week after the dad relayed the message, he got an email from the teacher stating that she was very impressed by the son’s turnaround in behavior, and the respect he had been displaying recently.

Obviously, this was the message that brought out the best in his son in this situation, without having to “bribe” him, or take anything away, in order to change his behavior. 

To bring out the best in your kids doesn’t mean to change what you’re telling them to do, but rather, how you might be framing it.  The ability to do this effectively is a skill called influential communication.  

What is influential communication, and how is it different from communication?

While communication is the transmission of a message, it doesn’t really specify how well the message was received.  

Influential communication, however, is the successful transmission of a message, to the degree that the message is not only received, but also adopted by the receiver.

A person that practices influential communication can persuade someone to internalize a message and willfully take action in alignment with the same goal as the communicator.

This means that when you communicate influentially with your kids, the result is usually that they end up wanting to do what you wanted them to do, of their own volition.  Pretty cool, right?

Oftentimes, we think we are communicating influentially, because we communicate the rationale that would work on us, but the truth is, it is far more complex to figure out what will work on the other person.  

The ability to influence is not something that comes naturally for most of us.  It is an acquired skill, but one that is worth learning for every parent.

As an expert in influencing kids, I’ve spent years bringing out the best in children and helping them inch towards their potential, and now I would like to share some of what I know with you.  But, it’s too much to put into a single blog post, so I’ve split it up into a 3 part email series, where I go over:

  • What influential communication enables you to do with your kids.
  • Why you can increase your influence with your kids, regardless of what your relationship is like now.
  • How to develop this skill so you can bring out the best in your kids.

If you would like to read the rest of the series, enter your email below and I’ll send it over.

7 Tips For Getting Your Teenager To Talk To You

7 Tips For Getting Your Teenager To Talk To You

I recently had a coaching session with a heartbroken mother who had just discovered some shocking activity on her teenage daughter’s phone.  

In an attempt to salvage some degree of trust, she decided to ask her daughter questions, giving her the chance to come clean, before revealing what she had discovered.  The result was that, at every junction, her daughter vehemently denied each inquiry until confronted with the evidence that her mom already knew.  The ease of her deception and the contrast between the type of girl her mother had believed her to be was so disorienting, that mom found herself questioning everything she knew about her daughter.

I’m sharing this story with you to serve as a reminder that we don’t always know as much about our kids as we tend to assume.  Kids learn, through our interactions, what we expect of them, and can easily be clever enough to show us the version of themselves that they believe we want to see, in order to keep the peace.

Obviously, this can be problematic.  Not only does their guard get in the way of us being able to truly connect with them, but it also can make it difficult for us to identify what they may need help with or guidance in.  

In this article, I’m going to share with you seven tips for opening up the channels of communication with your kids – which is, ultimately, the ideal way to avoid finding yourself in such situations.

1. Break free from your assumptions.

Whether you are aware of them or not, chances are, you may be harboring some assumptions or expectations about your kids or how they should be with you.  For example, you may be assuming that your kids have absolute trust in you, given that you are their parent and basically front the bill for their existence.  Or, perhaps you have assumptions about their confidence or other personality traits, like laziness.  Similarly, they may be harboring assumptions about you, hence their guard.  

Throughout my years of working with children, both as a mindset coach and as an educator, I’ve learned, time and time again, that my initial perceptions can be far from the truth.  For instance, I’ve worked with rebellious kids that turned out to have low confidence in their capabilities, confident kids that turned out to be harboring low self esteem, smart kids that turned out to be lost and too insecure to ask for help.  

If we want them to let go of their assumptions about what they can or cannot share with us, the best way is to demonstrate that we’re willing to do the same for them. 

2. Dish out compliments.

I’ve often found that, when asked about their kids, most parents have the most wonderful things to say.  They delight in their child’s talents, personality, and accomplishments, but in my conversations with their kids, the impression that the kids have is that their parents are in fact not proud of them.  

It can be easy to take for granted that they must know, but sometimes they need to hear it in the grand, exaggerated sense as well for it to really stick.

3. Listen more, talk less.

A mother and father I was coaching a while ago, told me about their son and what he was like during our first session.  Proudly, they raved about his computer skills and informed me that their son was a bonafide genius when it came to tech, and it was a topic that he was extremely passionate about.

Then, when I met with their son, to help break the ice, I mentioned how his parents had told me he was really into computers and technology, and he responded with, “Not really.  They just think I am, even though I’ve told them I’m not.”  

As it turns out, the parents were likely seeing and hearing what they wanted to, or perhaps were fixated on a former version of their son without realizing that his interests had evolved since then.  

My main point is that, it’s possible that your kids may already be trying to communicate with you, and as someone that has been guilty of this myself as well, sometimes it’s us that aren’t fully tuning in.  So, this suggestion is to try shifting the dynamic of some of your conversations so that they do 80-90% of the talking, while you do 10-20%.  This may mean allowing silence for a while until they start opening up themselves. 

4. Prioritize deepening your relationship with them for a time.

If your relationship has been strained for a while, or is getting there, take some time to prioritize rebuilding a solid foundation with them.  Do your best to let go of any expectations you may be fostering of them for school, or for an apology that they justifiably owe you, and see what happens if you shift your focus for a time.  

I’ve encouraged parents to do this and seen results within days.  If you want to follow a more structured approach for this, sign up to take our free 3-day challenge to deepen your connection with your kids.

5. Be patient.

This one is particularly relevant when it comes to working with kids academically.  Educators and parents alike can sometimes rush to give the answers when kids take too long on questions.  This is another thing I’ve been guilty of, but over time have learned how to drop subtle hints without giving much away.  

In the same way that you shouldn’t assist a hatching baby bird as it requires the struggle to build strength, kids need to struggle through academic challenges to really grasp a concept.  The best way to “assist” them is to guide, encourage, and genuinely question their incorrect conclusions for understanding, rather than correcting.

6. Be interested in their interests.

This one can be difficult to do as adults, naturally, but I’ve found it to be incredibly effective in rapport building.  Allow your kids to bring out the “kid” in you from time to time, and you will surely see drastic changes in your relationship with them, with more joy for both you and them.  

My effectiveness as a teacher significantly improved when I shifted my style so that I became more willing to come down to the level of my students.  I literally started enjoying working with kids that I had previously considered a nuisance.

7. Watch your reactions.

This is a very important point: when your kids do something wrong, watch how you react!  

To give you an example, I read a post on facebook recently, by a mother about something her teen daughter had asked her that morning.  Apparently, the girl inquired if she could spend the night with her boyfriend, which to the mother was an outrageous request.  And this is the type of moment when watching your reactions becomes imperative.  

While it may be tempting to let them know how ridiculous you feel their question was, those types of instinctual reactions may be costing you the ability to have open dialogue with your kids.  A reprimanding reaction may be the impression that comes to mind for them when they’re deciding whether or not you truly are someone they can be vulnerable with, regardless of how often you reassure them that they can come to you with anything.

Talking to Kids About Suicide Without Normalizing It

Talking to Kids About Suicide Without Normalizing It

Are you afraid to talk to your kids about suicide because you don’t want to plant a seed in their minds?

It’s understandable because it is a tricky thing to talk about with kids.

On one hand, if you don’t bring it up, you risk finding yourself in a position where you regret not addressing it.  On the other hand, if you bring it up and it wasn’t even on their radar, then you run the risk of normalizing it.

Either way, it is a very important conversation to have.  So, how do you go about it?  

Well, any parent that has ever found out after the fact, about a child’s suicidal ideation will tell you how difficult it is to get through to them.  No matter how much you tell them you love them or how important they are to you, and how much they have going for themselves, it can feel like your words are falling on deaf ears.

But here’s the thing…. There is a perfect thing to say that is both effective and won’t plant a seed in their minds, and I’m going to share with you exactly what to say.

The problem is that, when they are in that state of mind, they are seeing a molehill as a mountain, while we are perfectly able to see that it is a molehill, and that they have their whole lives ahead of them.  This means that what needs to be conveyed is something that will get them to see that their mountain is actually a molehill.  

Here’s what I would say to them to significantly increase the chance of suicide prevention in your family:

I’d start off by telling them that suicidal thoughts are thoughts that pop up from time to time for people, and it’s natural, but that you’re not too concerned about them because they are actually really mentally strong.  Then, I would point out some examples from their past that show their mental strength (feel free to embellish if needed) to reinforce your statement.

By approaching the conversation this way, even if they do happen to have those thoughts at some point, they will be more likely to identify with the strong version of them that you planted in their minds, rather than ruminating on those thoughts.

I’m offering a free training for parents on how to handle other difficult conversations with kids as well, called ‘Tactics for Influencing Kids.’

Influencing is the ability to get someone to want what you want, rather than just do what you want, and it’s an absolutely necessary skill for parenting.  Your kids depend on your guidance, even when they’re rejecting it.  In fact, that’s when they probably need it the most.

Sign up below to access the training:

From 4.0 GPA to Academic Probation in One Month

From 4.0 GPA to Academic Probation in One Month

I once tutored a girl who had gone from having a 4.0 GPA to being on academic probation in the span of about a month.  Her parents had reached out to me in desperation after her grades had suddenly started spiraling, and they made it very clear that she needed sensitivity and understanding, and that I shouldn’t be harsh with her.  This was fine with me, since that’s more of my style anyway, but once we started working together, I realized that even my normal level of compassion was not going to be enough.  

In our sessions, I couldn’t show her any sympathy, encouragement or praise, nor could I challenge her in the slightest, because all of these things would make her feel so insecure and vulnerable that she would tear up instantly.  I had to tread so lightly that I eventually stopped asking her to do any problems altogether, and would spend most of the time explaining and showing her how to do the problems myself.  

According to her father, the thing that had pushed her over the edge was a bad quiz grade in Math, something she had never received before.  Then came a “bad grade” in Chemistry, and shortly after that, all of her grades were plummeting and fast.  By the time we started working together, she had taken leave from school to try and catch up on her own because she couldn’t face her classes, but from the sound of it, her folks weren’t very optimistic about her being able to recoup.

The reason I’m sharing this story with you is to address a topic that I’ve come to believe deserves the attention of every parent of an adolescent, and that is: the fragility of teenager confidence and its consequences.  

Confidence is often conflated with high self esteem, but the thing is, in my 10+ years as an educator, I’ve worked one-on-one with many kids that seemed outwardly confident, only to realize it was a just mask for low esteem.  This would be most obvious in instances when they’d pretend to understand something rather than ask for clarity, or they’d get uncomfortable when discussing their mistakes.  What good is it to be confident if one cannot be muster the confidence to believe in themselves when it matters most, such as when having to withstand peer pressure, or to make a comeback from failure, or even to make wise decisions?  

For parents, the risk of not recognizing the signs of a false confidence that masks low self esteem can leave them just as shell shocked in the event of a sudden collapse.  Still, there are many that do recognize the presence of low self esteem in their kids, but it’s a very difficult thing to influence a change in.  You can’t exactly convince someone to believe in themselves just by telling them they should, they have to buy into it themselves.

After repeatedly witnessing firsthand, the prevalence and significance of low self esteem in my students, I spent several months researching and learning about it, trying to understand what can be done, if anything.  There’s a lot to share, so I’ve compiled it into a 3-part email series, in which I go over:

  • What is self esteem and why does it matter?
  • How to tell if your son or daughter suffers from low self esteem (and how to recognize high self esteem).
  • What the impact of low self esteem is on kids.
  • What the Psychology academics have to say about self esteem.
  • What you can do to help your kids.
  • What the antidote for low self esteem is.

If you would like access to the remainder of the series, please submit your info below and we’ll email it to you over the next few days. 

Subscribe for the “Teens and Low Self Esteem” Series:


What You Know and Don’t Know About Your Kids

What You Know and Don’t Know About Your Kids

One in five high school freshmen are sexually active, and by senior year, that triples to nearly three in five, the same ratio as seniors that have, at minimum, experimented with alcohol or drugs, according to the CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. While most parents are aware of these growing trends, they also tend to assume that “it must be the other kids at their school.” But, there are the things you know about your kids – such as how they’re doing in school, the things they talk to you about, what you know about their friends and social circle, and so on – and then, there are the things you don’t know, like what they really talk about with their friends, how much they have already experimented with drugs and sexual behavior, what they watch and text to each other on their phones, their ways of getting around your security measures, how they’re being treated by their peers or how they’re treating their peers, if they’ve ever had thoughts of self harm or harming others, etc. From their point of view, this system works well for both – the kids don’t want the parents to know and the parents are happier when they don’t know. This is especially true for families that come from conservative cultures and backgrounds.

Nowadays, our social culture is much more toxic and even more in their face, not to mention easier to hide. At least when we were that age, there seemed to be somewhat more of a baseline standard of “we have to be in a relationship first,” but we are now living in the age of the “hook-up culture” where it’s perfectly normal to engage in sexual activities over the phone and without ever even kissing, because apparently that is only reserved for people you actually like. These skewed perceptions are translating into a shockingly low self esteem, especially for girls. Kids are valuing their feelings so incredibly low that they are hardly even seeing each other as humans anymore – just objects that are meant to be used for validation and acceptance, and ultimately, this devaluing of emotions is culminating into the major contributing factors associated with the rising rates of teenage depression and anxiety and other serious mental illnesses, as well as the highest ever teenage suicide rates.

This is not meant to scare you, but rather, to make you aware that it’s highly likely that the problems that you might be having with your kids are not your biggest problems with your kids, and that your biggest problems are the problems you probably don’t even know about.  By the time issues like low academic performance or motivation, or their defiant attitude and lack of respect for authority come to your attention, the hidden problems that you know nothing about are liable to be the far greater danger.   Of course, it is possible that your perception is actually accurate and that your kids truly aren’t participating in any high risk activities, but that doesn’t mean that they are not constantly surrounded by them, and won’t eventually become influenced by them.  Consider things like humanity’s history with slavery, or the holocaust, as proof that any behavior can become normalized if everyone else is doing it.

For many parents, especially those that become forcibly aware of the “other problems,” the common approaches that they instinctively reach for to handle these situations are usually met with even more conflict and retaliation.  That’s because, in the same way that the things we think are the problems are not the real problems, the solutions we tend to jump to are also not the real solutions.  Limitations, restrictions and punishments only go so far before they start to not only add more stress to the problems we don’t know about, but also inadvertently communicate to them that we are not reliable resources for them to come to with their deeper problems. 

By now, you might be wondering if I’m suggesting that you should leave your kids alone completely and impose no rules and restrictions.  That is certainly not my point at all.  They are children and obviously lack the life experience for which they absolutely need guidance.  What I am really trying to address here are the approaches we resort to in order to guide them – our influencing tactics.  In this day and age, different methods of influencing are required as kids transition into their teenage years and beyond, since we are obviously living in a different time and the strategies that may have worked on us when we were their age can very well backfire on us now.    

The most important thing to keep in mind when interacting with your kids, however, is the possibility of there being bigger fish to fry than just the ones you know about, and if you’re lucky enough that there aren’t, there may very well be conversations happening all around them that are negatively influencing their thinking.  That is why you’ll need to be an even greater influence in their life, and so, it’s wise to keep the possibility of these “bigger problems” at the forefront of your mind whenever you’re in conflict with them, and let that influence your reactions as well.