Friday, January 14, 2011

How to Change Teen Habits: 7 Simple but Effective Steps

By: Ivana Pejakovic

Everyone has habits. This includes teens! In fact, we start forming our habits as children and solidify them in our teen years. Unfortunately, many of those harmful habits we formed early in life, while we were still trying to figure out what living was all about, have stuck around. And unless we make a conscious choice to change them, they will continue to be a part of our life.

Knowing that habits can break us or make us, parents frequently ask how they can teach their teens (and young children) to develop efficient and productive habits.

What are Habits Anyways?

To answer the question in the above paragraph, we need to know what habits are. Habits are the behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and attitude we engage in over and over again without thinking. Everyone has routine patterns of behaviour in reaction to specific situations. Yes, teens have formed habits too.

Typical negative teen habits include: thinking poorly of themselves with respect to their ability to perform well at school, thinking they do not deserve good things in life, staying friends with disrespectful peers, not keeping promises, acting impulsively and making rash decisions, lacking goals, losing focus on what is important by allowing themselves to be distracted, avoiding commitments and responsibilities, accepting things as they are instead of being proactive, and so on.

Habits are NOT Permanent: How to Change Habits

About 95% to 99% of our behaviour, thoughts, and feelings in any given day are habitual. Most of what we do, feel and think today we will do, feel, and think tomorrow. Fortunately, once the negative habits are recognized, they can be changed.

The question of course is: how can any parent help their teen modify destructive habits?

Below is a method, that if committed to, can help your teen (and you) form better habits.

1.Schedule a time with your teen to sit down and complete the following exercise. The timing should be convenient for you both. Perhaps you can both pick a habit to fix or make it a family effort. Your teen will feel supported and better about him/herself.

2.What habits do I want to change? Work towards changing only 1 habit at a time. Changing 2 or 3 at a time can be very hard because it takes a lot of energy, discipline, and control. Once your teen masters one habit and demonstrates that success is possible, s/he can go onto the next one.
Ask your teen to write a list of all the habits s/he would like to change. (E.g., greater respect for myself; better opinion of myself; stand up for myself to my friends).

3.What habit do I want to change right now? Once your teen has completed the list above, ask him/her to pick the habit s/he is most interested in changing. This habit can be small or big, most important or least important. Start with the habit of your teen’s choice...your child will get to the others soon enough if dedicated.

4.What will I do instead? (E.g., I will think of myself as deserving; I will use positive words to describe myself; I will choose friends that I can be honest and open with and that have good opinion of me). If your teen doesn’t know or doesn’t plan out what s/he will do instead, s/he will fall back into old habits and familiar behaviour. The new behaviour that will replace old behaviour must be planned out!

Ask your teen to make a list of what s/he will do in place of the counter-productive behaviours. S/he needs to write down the positive words s/he plans to use to describe him/herself, write down what s/he is deserving of, and write down the qualities and values of the new friends s/he is looking for. The more detail the less confusion there will be and less chance s/he will fall back into the old habits.

5.Do I really want to change? (E.g., Yes or no). If your teen’s answer is “No” or “Maybe,” it will be harder to change because his/her heart is not in it and s/he will feel unmotivated. Encourage your teen to be honest because dishonesty will likely lead to failure. Perhaps another habit would be more appealing to change?

6.How will I benefit by changing this habit? (E.g. I will feel better about myself; I will be more successful; when I respect myself and think I am deserving, others will respect me more and also think I am deserving; I will be happier when I stand up for myself; I will gain confidence; I will gain friends that accept me for myself; I will gain friends that have similar values as me). Knowing the benefits will motivate your teen to stay on track when the going gets tough. This will solidify the reason the old behaviour needs to be changed.

7.Be consistent! Practice makes perfect! It’s hard to change a habit if your teen’s behaviour is not reliable. Reversely, your teen will strengthen his/her old habit each time s/he engages in it.

For more information to help your teen change habits, contact Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Building Teen Independence: Decreasing Rebellion and Increasing Self-esteem, Self-confidence, and Self-reliance

By: Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A big part of building independence is allowing your young teen to do things for him/herself, make his/her own decisions, and make his/her own mistakes. These are natural processes in life and people are wired to desire autonomy early in life. This need for early independence is designed to prepare individuals for adulthood.

Allowing your child to become independent earlier in life can minimize rebellion during the later stages of the teen years. All teens have a need to express their individuality. Teens that are suppressed and are not allowed to express their individuality are more likely to revolt.

In addition, practicing self-reliance via independence will help eliminate public shyness and teach your teen to stand up for him/herself when needed, including peer pressure. Early choice selection will also add confidence and prepare teens for decision making in adulthood.

When fostering independence, teens can try new things and develop feelings of comfort with the self and in one’s abilities. Being independent means your teen will think for him/herself, have confidence, do things for him/herself, use his/her judgement, and avoid becoming spoiled and developing a feeling of entitlement. More importantly, it can empower and increase happiness and life satisfaction levels in your teen.

Many parents may feel confused as to knowing the right time to start fostering independence or how to encourage independence to their teens. If you often find yourself feeling at a loss, do not feel bad. Remember, you are also learning throughout your journey as a parent. Read on for some tips.

How to Foster Independence
At times it just seems like a better idea to do things for your child. After all, you can do it faster, more efficiently, with better precision, and you are more experienced to make better choices. Remember, it also took you some time to come to the stage you are at now.

In order for your child to become faster, accurate, efficient and experienced, you will have to let him/her go through the beginner’s stage. Allow your child to start doing for him/herself as soon as s/he is physically and intellectually capable. Here are some tips for nurturing independence in your teen on a daily basis:

1. When going out to eat, ask your young teen to order his/her food

2. Ask your teen to call and schedule his/her appointments or to order the pizza

3. Let your child clean up after meals and allow him/her to occasionally prepare his/her meal

4. Let your teen prepare his/her own lunch and pack his/her school bag

5. Let your child control his/her homework schedule but monitor the school progress and grades and step in when and if necessary

6. Let your child make his/her decisions regarding social issues but be the first to provide support and advice

7. Allow your teen to feel stuck when making a decision but be there to offer support and advice

8. Allow your child to chose his/her own dress and hair style

9. Let your child earn some of the money you give instead of just handing it to him/her

10. Encourage your teen to get a job that will not interfere with school performance

11. Allow your teen to negotiate his/her punishment and consequence plan; this puts the ball back into his/her court so s/he can choose how to behave knowing what the consequences will be
12. Allow your teen to make mistakes but let him/her know it’s a normal part of learning. There is nothing to feel bad about

Providing Choices and Compromising
Things like clothes, curfews, and other privileges can often cause friction between parents and teens. Parents want one thing and teens another. How to handle this?

To avoid a situation in which either one of you dictates to the other, provide your teen with a few choices and let him/her decide what s/he wants. This way you continue to give your teen independence by teaching him/her to make choices and to pay attention to the consequences of certain decisions.

Likewise, you can compromise. Ask your teen what s/he wants and relate what you want for him/her. Talk to your child about compromising. If your child gives a little and you give a little, you can meet somewhere on the same path (if the situation calls for it). Explain your point of view and let your child explain his/hers too. The earlier you start to provide choices and compromise, the earlier you start to teach your teen how to negotiate with others.

Interested in more information about teen independence? Visit and learn how Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, can help your teen become autonomous.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years’ Resolutions: How to Talk to Your Teen about Goal Setting?

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

The beginning of the New Year is the perfect time to start new goals. There is something about the start of the New Year that makes most people feel refreshed, re-energized, and ready to become their best.

Teenagers are no different. They understand they are starting a new year and they know they have an entire year set out before them. What they may not know, is what they want to do with this year.

Teens have a desire to make good choices and for positive outcomes. This is a good time (not that it’s ever a bad time) for parents to teach children the importance of self-improvement. It is also a good time to teach teens how their choices can lead them in various directions.

Here are steps to help you approach goal setting with your teen and family

If possible, sit down with your entire family and ask each individual where they want to be at the end of 2011. This involves professional and personal goals. Make sure everyone has a pen and paper so they can write down a goal or two maximum (for teens) in each category:

1. Ask everyone involved to write what they would like to achieve in the following 6 categories (give 20 minutes for this activity):

Social: What do you want to accomplish socially? More nights out with friends? Meet new people? Join social groups?

Spiritual: Where do you need to expand with respect to your spiritual journey? Strengthen your relationship with God? Become more self-aware?

Physical: How do you wish to treat your body this year? More exercise and sleep? Healthier food and less toxic substances?

Intellectual: Do you get enough intellectual stimulation? Perhaps more Sudoku puzzles or crosswords? Maybe something more intense like joining a community debate group?

Emotional: Where are you on an emotional level? What can you do to bring yourself into balance?

Career/Financial/ Academic: What would you like to accomplish professionally this year? More money? A new job/career? Better attitude and effort at work? Networking?

I encourage you and your family to set goals within each of the 6 categories. They are all important for a well-balanced life and will meet your psychological needs. I also suggest you encourage everyone to think of their own goals and not to write down goals that others want for them.

2. Ask every member to share what their goals are. Keeping one’s goals a secret means “I don’t want to tell you in case I don’t achieve it.” Verbalizing goals will strengthen everyone’s commitment.

3. Provide positive and supportive feedback. No comments like “Are you sure you can do that?,” or “Pick something realistic” should be spoken. Teach your teen that this is an important activity, to believe in themselves, and show them you believe in them too.

4. Next, ask everyone to brainstorm a plan on how to go about achieving each of the listed goals (allow up to 30 minutes for this exercise). Ask everyone to jot down ideas, words, notes, facts that will be turned into a plan of success. Detailed plans can be created on personal time.

5. After the time is up, take up your answers. By discussing each other’s plan together, you can help your teen learn from you and help brainstorm a secure plan if necessary. This is a good section to discuss with your teen how his/her choices can bring out different outcomes. It is also a good time to discuss responsibility. Everyone is responsible for their own choices. Whoever desires to be successful at their goals has to accept responsibility for the positive and negative choices and to learn how various choices can affect the final outcome.

6. Be sure you and all involved have fun with goal setting. Demonstrate a positive attitude to your kids and to yourself. Self-improvement should not be a dread, but an exciting time. You are about to be a step closer to your full potential.

Interested in more information? Contact Teen Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic and speak to her about your teen.