Securely Connecting with Your Kids, even when they're teenagers

Dad and teen
Dad and teen

How do you want to parent your children when they become teens? Want to be close or distant? Strict or lenient? Controlling or freeing? Trusting or suspicious? I think the best thing is not be "or" anything. As much as possible, be an "and" parent. Strict and lenient. Loving and powerful. Gentle and firm. Fun and serious.

This of course means you've got to know when to be what. How will you know? I'd like to get your thoughts! Please share below.

Envisioning a Healthier Core for 2016

Where and how are you leading the next generation (ie. your kids, your students, your up and coming leaders)?

I love Stanford Graduate School of Education's vision:


"We know that every child has his or her own story and path to success. We believe that kids come with a wide variety of interests, skills, capacities, and talents. They need love, support, limits, and a safe environment to develop their full potential. This process of growing up is slow, deliberate, and often unpredictable, and therefore requires that kids have the time and energy needed to mature into resilient, caring, and purposeful adults. Challenge Success recognizes that our current fast-paced, high-pressure culture works against much of what we know about healthy child development and effective education. The overemphasis on grades, test scores, and rote answers has stressed out some kids and marginalized many more. We all want our kids to do well in school and to master certain skills and concepts, but our largely singular focus on academic achievement has resulted in a lack of attention to other components of a successful life—the ability to be independent, adaptable, ethical, and engaged critical thinkers. Our work helps to foster learners who are healthy, motivated, and prepared for the wide variety of tasks they will face as adults." (bolded words are mine)

Three-Minds-Maoomba-600x900 (1)
Three-Minds-Maoomba-600x900 (1)

I've highlighted numerous phrases because they point to the priority that should be given to the heart and the gut. Giving greater attention and focus to core identity issues and development is a must if we're going to lead the next generation to truer love and success. By truer I mean love and success based on what matters most - living with authentic, meaningful courage and compassion beginning with oneself that flows into one's family, and then everyone else.

In response to "to an increase in academic and emotional problems among kids in the United States", Stanford University initiated Challenge Success "to develop alternative success modelsto align with research on healthy child development." Isn't it interesting how success can create academic and emotional problems? Is it because what is deemed success revolves around productivity and busyness? When the majority of our energy, time, and resources go towards financial and vocational success, the power of personal presence - actually being with our loved ones physically and emotionally - will suffer and be sacrificed. And considering the extent of these problems, we should also challenge success and pursue alternative success models. Connecting the dots, it looks like much of the success driven by our culture and society is not based on what really helps kids grow into strong, healthy adults who can communicate, collaborate, and take risks to create things not yet seen or thought of.

path and journey pic
path and journey pic

We need to give much more focus and attention on the reality that every child / person has their own story and path. It's slow, deliberate and unpredictable - not exactly what's conventionally standardized and tested for. And often times, there are many obstacles that challenge our progress. Failures and mistakes line the way which all have the potential of teaching invaluable lessons. Yet that's the process to becoming resilient, caring, and purposeful. Do we want our kids to grow up to powerfully create order and beauty? Don't we want them to foster greater freedom and justice for more and more people? Or just continue to do what's been done to achieve success that doesn't last, doesn't dynamically impact other's for greatness and actually results in more kids not fortified to be independent, adaptable, ethical, and engaged critical thinkers who will lead and cultivate healthier homes and communities?

am I a secure connector
am I a secure connector

To positively impact and influence a person's story and path, we need to be present with them - actually with them, same place, same time, doing things together, talking and sharing hearts. But of course, there's more. Not only do we need to invest plenty of time bonding with our loved ones, but we need to have high levels of emotional health. Milan and Kay Yerkovich ( call this being a secure connector and the 5 signs are the following:

  • I have a wide range of emotions and express them appropriately.
  • It is easy for me to ask for help and receive from others when I have needs.
  • I can say “no” to others even when I know it will upset them.
  • I’m adventuresome and I know how to play and have fun.
  • I know I’m not perfect, and I give my loved ones room to disagree.

When we have these character qualities, our time spent with each other will cultivate stories and paths that are rich, real, and even redemptive. Rich because of the love, joy, and peace experienced. Real because of the pain and burdens shared. Redemptive because of the change that comes through working out the tough stuff with grace and forgiveness.

Ultimately, it's the consistent way we do conflict and the repairs we make after the ruptures we cause. To healthily hash things out rather than live with unaddressed tensions, resentments, and grudges will create homes and communities that grow and develop people who will live, love, and lead with secure connection, vulnerability based trust and empathy.

The culture created with this level of health brings balance between being present and being productive. When we are living with a healthy core, not only will we have better work-life balance, but I believe there will be improvement, innovation, and even inspiration through the differences in how we show up, work with each other, and find solutions to problems.

What is your vision for your core for 2016? Your family's core values and relationships? Your organization's core mission and leadership? How will you challenge success and develop alternative models for success? I hope you will give core development top priority. I hope you will prioritize with a plan. I hope you will structure time and space to make the plan reality. And I hope this time next year, you're core will be stronger than ever! (Keep in mind, observable change takes at least 6-9 months of consistent work outs. So make sure your plan is sustainable and that you're committed)


If we want the very best for our families, we need foundational fundamentals that will keep all members moving forward towards greater emotional and relational maturity that will cultivate deeper connections as time goes on. What might that fundamental be?

Brain - fixed vs. growth mindset
Brain - fixed vs. growth mindset

FAMILY FOUNDATION FUNDAMENTAL: Self awareness that empowers and equips us to move our family forward in what matters most.

To make this happen, a growth mindset in the area of emotional and relational health is absolutely essential. It's terrible when mom, dad, or kids feel like they can't change the negative ways they relate and respond. So they get busy and distract themselves rather than learn how to grow.

Looking at the graphic, it's easy to see why the growth mindset should be preferred:

With a growth mindset...

  • We're passionate for learning rather than being hungry for approval.
  • We can see failure as growth rather than something to avoid.
  • We can experience meaningful improvement rather than just acquire head-knowledge.
  • We recognize the joy and power of everyone succeeding together.

But where do fixed or growth mindsets come from?

Well, the root of both is a desire to be loved and valued and this is where it gets critical. If it's achieved by performance and success and this becomes a default, there's a higher likelihood to grow a fixed mindset. That's because focusing on how we look or what we do is motivated by approval - others and / or ourselves. When approval becomes the priority, learning and growth take a back seat because often times, it's not pretty or impressive to learn and go through phases of change. Actually quite the opposite - as in awkward, stupid, embarrassing, etc.

In contrast, when the desire to be loved and valued is met apart from what we do, ie. we are greatly loved and valued unconditionally, we are much less likely to be afraid of the effort, uncertainty and difficulty of new and higher challenges. This gives rise to the growth mindset which gets us on the road to wisdom.

How does this happen? Well, the road to greater character development is always paved with lessons from mistakes. This means mistakes are necessary and thus we should value them properly rather than trying so hard to prevent them. Of course not all mistakes are created equal. Most are affordable; some are not. But there is no significant, substantial growth without mistakes and learning from them. Definitely the most important thing is the learning. And so to maximize it, we want our minds to be in learning mode as much as possible - the growth mindset.

Yet there is something even more foundational than learning from mistakes and that's being able to learn from mistakes. There is this capacity / way of being that opens up the learning channels; it's empathy. This ability to experience another person's feelings, thoughts or attitudes, to identify fully with another so as to be able to say, "Me too!" is absolutely necessary for turning lemons into lemonade. When we're with someone who authentically knows and understands us, where we feel loved, accepted and even embraced, this gives us the freedom to receive new learning, especially difficult learning like from mistakes and other painful experiences. Empathy gives us the courage, security, and freedom to not be afraid to try and fail, to do things wrong and be able to sit with the error, process it, analyzing and evaluating it, to see how it might help and serve us to be and do better.

To foster the development of the growth mindset, mistakes and learning are essentials but even more important is the regular presence of healthy empathetic people, ie. relationships that feed our deepest needs for unconditional love and acceptance. This food is what shapes our sense of self. In other words, we become the culmination of our most precious relationships. It's said, we're the average of our 5 closest relationships. When our personal connections are robust with trust, forgiveness, safety, love, and vulnerability, we become free from anxiety, insecurity, and fear. Free to learn, experiment, fail, learn more, try again, persevere, muster up greater courage, and ultimately be who we really want to be, showing up as we really are.

Developing this foundation fundamental of self awareness is what grows empathy in us. It all starts with an environment of courage, transparency and humility. Check out my e-courseon this.

Creating a growth culture starts in our own minds. Where are we finding our value, love, and sense of belonging? What foundation are you building on? I hope it's categorically a self awareness that leads to empathy.

My desire is to consistently grow towards this way of being, free to learn from mistakes, growing in empathy, positively influencing those I love and cultivating a growth culture in my home and wherever I go.