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The Three Fights Every Parent Has With Their Kid and How to Stop Them

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

 By Vanessa Van Petten, creator of RadicalParenting.com and author of the parenting book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” (http://www.radicalparenting.com/books-and-products/book-youre-grounded/)

 When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier. In fact we had three of the most common parent-kid fights:

 1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

 Examples:

            -Older brother gets to stay out late with his friends. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

-Parent gets to have soda, child does not. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

-Teenager cannot buy new outfit for dance because it is too expensive. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

 2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

 Examples:

-Teen wants to be able to stay out late with friends. Parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

-Teen wants to go away for Spring Break, parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

Examples:

            -Parent wants their teen to join band, teen doesn’t want to.

            -Parent expects higher grades and when teen doesn’t do well, a huge fight ensues.

            -Teen does not keep room tidy, parent gets upset when guests come over.

We would have these kinds of fights over and over again until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called RadicalParenting.com.  I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice. Here is what they had to say about solving each of the common parent fights:

 1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

 Emotional Intent: When you hear a teen talk about how unfair something is, what they are often feeling is, “I am not important or special enough.” If you feel like your teenager is constantly arguing about justice or fairness, they are most likely feeling like they are not being heard or cared about enough to get what they want. Of course, this is usually not the case. In the examples above parents would be worried about safety, health and money, while teens feel like they are not as important as their sibling, that their parents do not understand how important the dance is, and so on.

 Solutions: The best way to stop the “it’s Not Fair” fight is to address the emotional intent. The best way to do this is for parents to push into the “it’s not fair” feeling from their children instead of pushing against it. For instance in the new outfit example a parent might say to their teen, “I hear you think this is unfair, will you tell me why?” A teen will most likely respond, “You buy stuff for yourself all the time,” or “But I deserve this dress.” These answers are important because it will show the parent the emotional intent behind the upset and feelings of injustice. If a parent addresses these by saying something like, “I could see how you feel like us not buying this for you is about you not feeling worthy. But the truth is we are trying to save for the big vacation we are taking this summer—which is for all of us. I know how important this dance is for you. Maybe we can get you a new pair of shoes or…” then the fight is stopped.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

 Emotional Intent: Most fights during the teen years are actually based in this ‘treat me like a grown-up’ motivation. The earlier you can catch and address it the better it will be. It derives from the fundamental pulling away that comes with a teen trying to assert their independence.

 Solutions: It is very important for parents to discuss reasons for decisions that are making a teenager angry. This way teens are sure to understand the real reasons for a parent’s choice. Another great way to help teenagers get less upset in fights surrounding their maturity is for parents to help teens feel mature in other ways. For example, perhaps parents do not want their teen to go away for the whole Spring Break because they want to have family time. A great way to address this with teens is to say clearly, “We really want to have family time with you, but we know you are getting older, so how about you do a weekend camping trip with your friends for one of the weekends.” This teaches teens you trust them, but it is all about balancing needs.

 3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

 Emotional Intent: Often times teenagers tell me that they will purposefully keep their room dirty or choose unapproved hobbies just so they can be different from their parents. Parents frequently misinterpret room cleaning or bad grades for laziness, when something deeper might be going on. Teenagers often will ‘misbehave’ or fight with parents simply to show them that they are their own person—even if it gets them into trouble.

Solutions: First, it’s important to make sure that you do want your child to be their own person. Be careful not to push expectations or your own goals onto your kids. Second, make sure teenagers know that some of the requirements you have for them (good grades a tidy room for guests) are not to make them feel less like an individual, but for them to have more choices in their future and to present a nice home to guests. I recommend parents being very direct with teenagers about their need to be ‘their own person’ you might be surprised what common fights are actually based in this emotional intent.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

 Vanessa Van Petten is one of the nation’s youngest experts, or ‘youthologists’ on parenting and adolescents. She now runs her popular parenting website, RadicalParenting.com, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her next book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” is being released in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA.

(http://www.radicalparenting.com/books-and-products/book-youre-grounded/)

Teen Dating Violence

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Have you experienced dating violence?
Say you’re talking to a guy at a party. Your boyfriend doesn’t like it, and later confronts you about it. He pins you against a wall. You yell at him to get his hands off you. As you’re trying to explain that the guy was just asking about one of your girlfriends, your boyfriend smashes his fist into the wall.

Often in teen relationships, violence takes the form of physical aggression, which can be minor — pushing, grabbing or smashing an object, or major, slapping, slamming or punching. You’ve just experienced dating violence. But you love the guy. What to do? read more

How The Internet Has Changed Teen Dating?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

By Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 60 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, CBS Miami and much more!
 http://www.radicalteenagers.com/

When I was in High School I would be at a school dance.  I would dance with a guy and he would be sweaty and gross. Then I would check with my friends to see if he was cute or not (he was usually dancing behind me).  When they approved, I rubbed a little harder and invariably he asked for my number.

3 to 5 days later, depending how much he liked me, he called, we chatted.  Eventually we went on a date and the relationship began.  Now it is a totally different story.

This part is the same:

“I would be at a school dance.  I would dance with a guy and he would be sweaty and gross. Then I would check with my friends to see if he was cute or not (he was usually dancing behind me).  When they approved, I rubbed a little harder and invariably he asked for my…”

But now…

He asks for my Facebook. 3 to 5 hours later, depending on how much he liked me he would friend me.  We would proceed to ‘stalk’ each other, looking at pictures, checking out each other’s friends, applications and wall postings. Then we would poke each other.  Then we would write on each other’s wall. Then we would message or send virtual gifts or rank each other on top friends application.  Then we would Facebook chat, then IM, then text, then talk.  Eventually we might see each other in person.  But by then we might already be boyfriend and girlfriend, broken up and got back together again.

The good:

1)      It takes longer

2)      You get to know each other better through a variety of different channels (IM, Facebook, Email, Text…)

3)      It is a bit more fun, poking, seeing pictures and having chats.

The bad:

1)      There is a false sense of security. You feel so much closer because you have seen all of their pictures and friends, but this is not always real.

2)      It is easy to fake it.  You know how long someone can spend getting the lighting just right for an iChat date? People also can put whatever they want up on their profiles, without you being able to verify if it is true or not. 

3)      You miss facial expression and voice tone.  Even if you are talking, so much of teen dating is now done online…you miss the real life.

I love writing articles for teens and about teens.  I run a website called Radical Parenting.com.  It is a website written by teenagers for adults and parents who just do not get us.  Our teen interns and writers get published, experience and resume value because we LOVE them.  We would be so excited for you to check out our program and our website:

Our Teen intern program: http://www.radicalteenagers.com/ Maybe you want to write a guest post for us?

Vanessa Van Petten, youthologist and teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” manages RadicalParenting.com, a parenting blog written by 60 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, CBS Miami and much more!
 http://www.radicalteenagers.com/

Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Hookups vs. Healthy Relationships

When people read Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture, author Shannon Boodram hopes they will learn rather than judge.

One thing I learned was that the difference between a positive and negative hookup experience lies in the same things that make for a healthy relationship. It may be hard to believe that a positive hookup and a healthy relationship would have much in common, but they do.

Two stories from the book illustrate the point. In “The Lido Deck,” by Laurence Anthony, a guy meets a hot girl on a cruise ship. He describes his sexual experience: “Our lips met over and over again… We looked at each other and once I pushed inside, we didn’t stop until every position was explored … It was the cuddling, the spooning, and the honesty that came with it. It all felt natural and oddly comfortable.”

In Shannon Boodram’s own story, “Lane 2,” a girl meets a hot guy away competing at a track meet in Hungary. She describes her sexual experience: “I could feel his body stiffening inside mine, and I held tighter, not prepared to let him go just yet. …All of a sudden he yanked free of my grasp and rushed out of my body…‘I think I got out in time’. ‘No! I don’t think you did!’ ‘Sorry’. Now what? Alex glanced at his Timex. ‘It’s almost one. The bus will be leaving soon, and the coaches are going to get angry. . .’”

A hookup is a way to get your physical needs met—to desire and to be noticed with no strings, no commitment. You can hook up once or many times with the same person. And you can get any sex you desire, from kissing to intercourse. Of course, a hookup means different things to different people depending on what they’re shopping for. Laurence was shopping for “we’re not going to be together forever” sex, caring, pleasure, and spooning. Shannon wasn’t sure—maybe love, maybe a long distance relationship, maybe sex?

Needs are beautiful things, a deep part of ourselves. We all have the same needs but different wants. A want is the way we feel a need getting met. What wants do you notice first in a guy—hair, eyes, smile, height, body? What turns your head? Shannon noticed Alex was “mocha skinned, probably half black and half white, with a clean face and slanted eyes.” Laurence noticed Felicia was elegant—a combination of beauty and simplicity.

The need to notice influenced both of their choice to have sex. Chemistry! When chemistry happens we grow happy and, like magic, feel as if our needs are being met. But other than attraction, what criteria—met needs—do you shop for when deciding to have sex?

Not knowing what needs we’re responsible to meet for ourselves and others, and what to expect in return, makes it hard to make good choices. Shannon didn’t know what to expect from her hookup, or how to meet her own physical needs while respecting herself. Her story shows that it’s a good idea to know what your sexual wants are before you meet your desire need with a guy. What sexual acts do you desire—kissing, touching, hugging, oral sex, intercourse? And what are you ready for? Part of the answer lies in what makes you feel good. And part of the answer lies in “knowing what’s good for you,” how you’ll feel after the sex. Shannon wasn’t sure. During her hookup, Shannon says, “Things were moving too fast, and I was not sure how to stop it, or if I wanted to stop it.” After hooking up with Alex, she felt a physical letdown and emotional confusion.

How can we make good choices when we don’t know what our needs are, or recognize what it feels like to get them met? During sex, Shannon says: “I liked being so close to him in this way. It made me feel important, like I was the only one who could make his body roll this way.” To really get your need to feel important met, a guy has to include your feelings and needs in his choices. Alex didn’t. After “pulling out late” he left her to deal with any consequences, eager to avoid his own: his coach finding out.

Laurence, in contrast, says, “We chatted for hours about school, life, and whose country was better…It was perhaps the most honest and candid I had been with anyone—stranger or not.” He was getting some of his needs met—to notice Felicia, desire her, become familiar with her, listen to her, understand her, be interested in her, and value her (being able to tell her what he thinks and feels). And she got those same needs met in return.

Was Laurence really familiar with Felicia? To really be familiar with someone, you must know what their best and worst personality traits are. If we asked Laurence to describe Felicia, he’d say “elegant, drop-dead gorgeous, sincere, good listener, sharp sense of humor, comfortable in her own skin, and confident.” (If we asked Shannon to describe Alex, she’d list what she noticed: his physical qualities.) Sure, Laurence doesn’t know Felicia’s negative traits. But during her hookup with Alex, Shannon would—“selfish.”

What Laurence and Shannon experienced is directly related to what needs they got met before the hookup; their experience is also related to the need for mutual respect. You can tell if a person respects you by how they get their needs met from you. Do they ask for what they want and then leave it up to you? Do they use character—saying what they mean, doing what they say, knowing right from wrong—to get what they want?

Laurence got his needs met from Felicia while respecting her. Earlier in the week, when they were making out, Felicia said, “Stop…We don’t know each other.” She knows and respects herself. How did Laurence handle his disappointment? “I could think of no greater setting or stage for us to have had sex with one another, but instead of telling her that, I said okay.” They started talking. And Laurence found her interesting without the sex.

Shannon gets her physical needs met from Alex, but without respecting herself or him. Ditto for him. One way to respect ourselves is to meet our own needs—such as to keep ourselves safe from harm. Shannon lacked character because she compromised her sense of right and wrong, exposing herself to the negative consequences of sex—infection, pregnancy, possibly even death (AIDS). (I’m just saying, not judging.)

We all need a bar—standards—for which needs we deserve to get met in any type of hookup or relationship, and for what types of behavior we’ll accept from a guy or girl.

What do we deserve in a hookup? If you’re shopping for sex with no strings, you’re shopping for fulfillment of a sexual want. You deserve to feel good and to have safe sex. And so does your partner. Each of you has to be able to happily accept the way the other treats you.

Needs are beautiful things. Each need has to be met in three ways to feel “just right” and “good.” If your need to desire is truly met you’ll know what your sexual wants are —what makes you feel good; you desire him (want to make him feel good) and he desires you (wants to make you feel good) in turn. And you each deserve to be treated with respect. If your desire need isn’t met in these three ways, your hookup won’t be a positive sexual experience.

Heart-saving shortcut: Unmet needs are good reasons to exit. How to tell? Feelings bubble up. Say you’re in the middle of a hookup and where it’s going, or what he wants, doesn’t feel good. What to do? Stop and exit. Yes, even if you’re so far along that you’re naked. Such self-respect choices build self-worth.

Some girls set their bar too low. A girl might hook up with a guy because she uses sex to get popularity or she wants to get closer to the boyfriend stage, or she believes she loves him. If you’re shopping for more than release (to be pleasured and give pleasure)—like caring or spooning—reset your bar. Needs help us make deliberate choices. If you’re interested in a person, find out more about them—like their traits and how they get their needs met from you—making sure you really know and like them before getting seriously involved. 

Heart-saving shortcut: When a guy is shopping for release, he only needs to notice one little thing about you to feel desire. For Alex, it was Shannon’s beautiful eyes.

Here’s the thing: When we get a need met, we feel happy, no longer wanting. Each choice we make creates a consequence—a met need (good feeling) or unmet need (mixed, confused or hurt feeling). Let’s say you’re hooking up with a guy. Sure, to notice and be noticed, to desire and be desired feel wonderful before (and during) the hookup. But what kind of feelings bubble up after? If you know and like yourself, you’re growing happy—building yourself a beautiful life—not expecting a phone call, not secretly hoping for more, chances are you’re a player. But if you’re waiting for the guy to make your relationship official, sleeping with him is probably leaving you feeling hurt, empty and confused—or worse, feeling nothing at all.

Needs are beautiful things. I know guys can think we’re “needy.” But self-respect is knowing what our needs and wants are, learning to recognize what it feels like to get them met, and using that self-knowledge to make deliberate choices.

Knowing what to expect from a hookup would have helped Shannon get a more positive experience. Knowing what she was shopping for, and how to shop for it, would have helped her. Inform your choices using what needs you deserve to have met, and how you deserve to be treated. Every woman has her own beliefs about when to have sex. The choice is very personal, and partly dependent on your beliefs. A big part of self-respect is making deliberate choices—choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs. And that help you decide not only when to have sex, but—as important—who to have it with.

We all have different rules for how we want to be treated and what needs we deserve to get met. The common factor: in a healthy relationship, our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

These stories show that by using healthy relationship criteria, you can close the gap between negative sexual experiences and the positive encounters you’re shopping for and deserve to experience. Healthy relationship criteria help you make better choices—whether it’s choosing a guy to hook up with, choosing a boyfriend, or choosing whether to stay in a relationship or exit.

Best,

Kaycee Jane

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon). Jane blogs at frogorprince.ca. When life seems overwhelming, try TeenCentral.net and get anonymous help from a professional.

Heart-saving shortcut by Dr. Julius Licata of TeenCentral: Thought of abstinence as a choice? When you choose the right time to have sex, you’ll experience being in control; having control builds self-esteem. There’s a right time to have sex. Not knowing the person makes sex meaningless and empty. What does the guy like? Who is he? Why are you and he connecting? Abstinence keeps you safe—no fear of pregnancy or STD’s. And abstinence gives you time to build real love and understanding, so when sex does happen, it’s not just mutual masturbation but the sincere act of caring and affection.

 > read more

Is your guy a great guy?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I read “Telling it like it is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships” and you’re right—many teen relationships (and more than a few adult relationships) are not healthy. Many of us lack the information and skills needed to build a healthy relationship.

You’ve identified things that make for a healthy relationship—respect, trust, honesty, good communication, for example—and behaviors that don’t make for a healthy relationship—things like cheating, lying, name-calling, hitting, bossing. But what needs do you expect to get met?

When discussing what makes for a healthy relationship some of you talked about needs like to be important (a guy pays special attention to you or makes time for you), or to be pleased (he’s thoughtful), or to feel interesting (he doesn’t walk away in the middle of a conversation when he spots one of his friends), or to accept each other as you are. In a healthy relationship you deserve to have all these needs met, and more. We all have lots of needs—to be familiar with, to accept, to forgive, to support, to please, to listen, to understand, to be important, to be interesting, to value yourself and him and to expect the same in return.

I found the way you expressed the stages of a teen relationship, from less serious to most serious, insightful. I believe you can use healthy relationship criteria to make better choices—choosing who your boyfriend is, when to have sex, and whether to stay in a relationship or to exit, for example—and to help you figure out other important stuff, like whether or not your boyfriend loves you. Here are some examples of how to use healthy relationship criteria within three stages—“getting to know the person,” “friends with benefits,” and “boyfriend.”

Getting to know the person

Beliefs influence actions. We all believe different things about what makes for a healthy relationship. Accepting a guy as he is, warts and all? No way! Often the criteria we use to assess a guy don’t include what makes for a healthy relationship. To truly know if your guy’s great, you must really know him, like his traits, and be able to accept how he gets his needs met from you.

Your needs are beautiful things, a deep part of who you are. One healthy relationship criterion—met needs—can help you determine if you’re with a great guy. Are you really familiar with him? Can you describe him—would you list the same traits his ex-girlfriend would (stubborn, funny, dependable, jealous, for example)? To meet your need to be familiar with him, you must know what his best and worst personality traits are. If you really like him, you may have to come to terms with some traits you don’t like. But you can’t accept a guy’s annoying traits if they undermine your self-respect. 

What we all need is a bar—a standard for how you expect to be treated in a relationship. Think of it like a high jump; a guy has to clear your bar for you to let him into your life in a serious way. If you respect yourself, then only a great guy will treat you with enough respect to clear your bar. If your bar is too low, just about any guy can jump over it—and into your life. Your bar is too low if you accept the way a guy treats you because you love him, or want a boyfriend at any price, or don’t understand how a guy should show you respect.

You say communication is important—true. Can you have a heart-to-heart conversation with your guy? You can’t if stubborn is one of his traits. If he ignores what you think and how you feel, he won’t change his mind about anything. A Prince really listens, meeting your needs to be heard and understood. He’ll adjust his behavior—stop flirting, for example—if you ask him to and explain how you feel. A Prince meets your needs. A Frog doesn’t—he doesn’t listen, doesn’t add to his own self-knowledge or his understanding of you.

Another way to tell if your guy respects you is by how he gets his needs met from you. After spending time with him, have you discovered a gap between who you thought he was and who he really is? You say, “Good personality, maybe, but you’re gonna get liars.” Does your guy use character—say what he means, do what he says, know right from wrong—to get what he wants?

You believe that your having trust in a relationship is more important than his being honest—not true. Is honesty one of your guy’s traits? If he lies to you about where he was or what he did, he doesn’t respect you (or himself) enough to tell the truth. If he’s not reliable, if he doesn’t do what he says, he doesn’t respect you enough to follow through on his promises. If he talks to his friends about what you do sexually, to gain popularity, he doesn’t respect you.

Here’s a heart-saving shortcut: Your guy won’t have your back, and you cannot trust him, if he doesn’t have character. Until you know if your guy has character, don’t value him—tell him what you think and feel—about yourself, and him, and your relationship.

Is aggressive one of your guy’s traits? You say, “…one boy can be…honest, respectful, and you have a connection. But then, he’ll be violent or something.” You need to know how to deal with conflict—here’s why. How does your guy act when it’s difficult for you to meet his needs (for example, when he wants something you don’t want to give him)? Heart-saving shortcut: You deserve to be treated with respect. These unhealthy behaviors shouldn’t clear any woman’s bar. A guy doesn’t respect you if, when he can’t get his way, he punishes you, or calls you names like ‘bitch’ or ‘slut,’ or gets even by spreading rumors, or threatens to post embarrassing pictures of you on Facebook. If a guy is physically rough, tell someone, and find a way to respect yourself—and EXIT!

“Friends with Benefits”

You say, “friends w/benefits” is sex no-strings. But it seems like it’s a stage that you go through to get to boyfriend.  (I’m just saying, not judging.) Here’s what you should know: “If you were in college you’d have less than a 25% chance of your hook-up getting to boyfriend stage,” but you’re in high-school, so you do the math (Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture, 2009). Count your hook-ups (or your friends’) and divide by the number of times you got to boyfriend.

Some girls set their bar too low. A girl might hook up with a guy because she uses sex to get popularity, or to get her closer to the boyfriend stage, or she believes she loves him. That girl needs information to reset her bar.

When we get a need met, we feel happy, no longer wanting. Each choice we make creates a consequence—a met need (good feeling) or unmet need (mixed, confused or hurt feeling). Let’s say you used “friends w/benefits” to meet your physical needs. How do you feel the next day? If you’re happy, not expecting a phone call, not secretly hoping for more, chances are you’re a player. But if you’re waiting for the guy to make your relationship official, sleeping with him is probably leaving you feeling hurt, empty and confused—or worse, feeling nothing at all.

A big part of self-respect is making choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs. If you know and love yourself, you’ll choose what’s good for you—not just good for him. You say, one way a guy shows respect is to see you for more than your body or physical appearance—true!  You shouldn’t have to get his attention by being willing to do sexually for him. Do you believe a guy would find you interesting without the sex? A guy should be getting to know you and to like your traits, and to accept how you get your needs met from him. Can you give up what you deserve, and grow happy? When a guy’s shopping for sex, it’s all about him—how he earns respect from his friends—it has nothing to do with you. And it should have something to do with you—as in, he thinks you’re a great girl.

Heart-saving shortcut: Does your guy use a condom? One of the needs we’re responsible to meet for ourselves is safety—to keep ourselves safe from harm. A guy who doesn’t use a condom does not respect himself or you. He’s exposing himself—and you—to the risk of diseases, pregnancy, even death (AIDS). Insisting on safe sex is one way to respect yourself.

You say you earn respect from your peers, based on how a guy treats you in front of them—he doesn’t put you down, doesn’t ignore you, acts like he cares about you. Here’s a way to get there. Reset your bar to Great Guy, or the right guy for you in a healthy relationship. You deserve to grow happy—to be with someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with him.

If your guy’s not a Prince—a great guy for you, in a healthy relationship—then he’s a Frog. What makes for a healthy relationship means different things to different people, but the common factor is that our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

Heart-saving shortcut by Dr. Julius Licata at TeenCentral: Thought of abstinence as a choice? When you choose the right time to have sex, you’ll experience being in control; having control builds self-esteem. There’s a right time to have sex. Not knowing the person makes sex meaningless and empty. What does the guy like? Who is he? Why are you and he connecting? Abstinence keeps you safe—no fear of pregnancy or STD’s. And abstinence gives you time to build real love and understanding, so when sex does happen, it is not just mutual masturbation but the sincere act of caring and affection.

Boyfriend

You say the boyfriend/girlfriend stage involves going out and doing activities regularly, and the hubby/wife stage is where you expect a guy not to cheat. You believe that all guys cheat. Simply not true! If your hubby cheats, he doesn’t have character. Or know what makes for a healthy relationship. During the boyfriend/girlfriend stage, look to see if these needs are met: the need to be familiar with, to accept, to forgive and value yourself and him, to expect the same in return. If they are, you have a chance to build a healthy relationship.

Is your guy really familiar with you?  Does he really know you? Say you asked him to describe you—would he list the same traits your best friends would (funny, thoughtful, demanding, for example)? What about your need to feel accepted? Is he critical of you? If he’s always trying to change the way you do things, you won’t get your need for acceptance met. Does he bring stuff up you said you were sorry for? If so, you’ve identified another unmet need. When you ask him questions, does he say, “I dunno” or “I don’t want to talk right now”? If so, he isn’t valuing you. Your need to be valued will be met only when a guy trusts you enough to tell you how he really feels and thinks—about himself, and you, and your relationship.

Of course, it’s hard to know how to deal with things that come up in relationships, like the ones you’ve mentioned—your guy ignoring you, putting you down, acting like he doesn’t care about you (flirting with other girls, for example) when he’s with his friends. To build a healthy relationship, you must be able to tell your guy when he’s not treating you with respect. To do that, you must understand what’s going on between you. Can you identify your feelings in a relationship, articulate them to your boyfriend, and be willing to exit if things don’t change? Yes, you can! Needs are beautiful things.

Hurt feelings grow out of unmet needs. When your boyfriend doesn’t consider your feelings and needs in his choices—ignores you at parties, say, or flirts with other girls—hurt feelings bubble up. Those feelings are a signal. This guy might be a Frog. What to do? Armed with “good points”—“You never make time for me” or “You ignore me at parties”—you can talk to him about why you don’t feel special—and choose to break up with him if he doesn’t change. By using unmet needs as good reasons to exit, you can make tough self-respect choices.

If you start liking yourself less when you’re with a guy, you’re with a Frog. Let’s set your bar: ask yourself, “Are lots of my needs still met by me, my friends and family? Or would I feel empty and lost without my boyfriend?” If the latter, you’re not respecting yourself, not meeting your own needs. Ask yourself: “Can I tell my best friend the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences I’ve shared with my boyfriend without her asking, ‘Why do you put up with that?’” If your answer is no, the message is clear: you don’t respect yourself. Your bar is too low; it’s set to Frog.  

If you don’t expect to end up with a Prince in a healthy loving relationship, your bar is too low. You can only set your bar according to what you know. Maybe you’ve never known a great guy. Maybe you’ve only gone out with guys who didn’t respect your feelings or didn’t want to get to know you as a person. Maybe you weren’t fortunate enough to watch your parents in a loving, healthy relationship. That’s the past. Any girl can raise her bar using healthy relationship criteria to build a great relationship with a guy.

You say you don’t believe in that crazy little thing called love. You should, but you have to be able to recognize it. When a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words—unless you can see that he’s actively, deliberately trying to meet your needs, not just his own. Real love is what you experience in a healthy relationship, when your boyfriend is happily meeting your needs (and maybe some you didn’t even know you had!) and you’re happily meeting his. And all the while each of you is maintaining your self-respect and meeting your own needs, too. That’s not crazy, and it’s not little. It’s love.

Best, Kaycee Jane

Kaycee Jane is the author of Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends (Amazon-only). Jane blogs at www.frogorprince.ca. When life seems overwhelming, try http://www.teencentral.net/and get anonymous help from a professional.

Healthy Relationship?—how to tell

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I read “Kiss and Tell: What Teens Say about Love, Trust, and Other Relationship Stuff” at www.stayteen.org and I found it quite insightful. The survey results said, for example, that “a healthy relationship is one that includes love, trust, mutual respect and honesty”—true!  I also agree that “a healthy relationship means different things to different people,” and that’s why I’d like to share my perspective of what a healthy relationship is. I believe you can use healthy relationship criteria to make better choices—choosing who your boyfriend is, and deciding whether to stay in a relationship or exit it.

I started to write Frog or Prince? The Smart Girl’s Guide to Boyfriends for my daughter after I saw her holding the hand of a Frog. I wanted her to have more knowledge about healthy relationships. When we know better, we do better—it’s that simple. The Prince and the Frog in the title of the book are metaphors for a healthy relationship—or its opposite.

We all have different rules for how boyfriends should treat us and what needs we deserve to get met. The common factor: in a healthy relationship, our most important needs are met, there are heart-to-heart conversations, and the respect—self-respect, respect for others, and the expectation to be treated respectfully—is mutual.

How can you recognize when you’re in a healthy relationship? To repeat, your needs are met. Like the need to become familiar with him (knowing if he has character, for example). The need to happily accept how he treats you. The need to value him (being able to tell him what you think and feel) and be important to him (knowing that he includes your feelings and needs in his choices).

Our needs in a relationship are actually pretty simple: the need to be familiar with, to accept, to forgive and value yourself and him, to expect the same in return. When these needs are met, you have a chance to build a healthy relationship. A Prince meets these needs. A Frog doesn’t.  If you and your boyfriend keep having re-run arguments about the same need—say, your need to feel special—you’ve discovered an unmet need.

Is your guy really familiar with you?  Does he really know you? Say you asked him to describe you—would he list the same traits your best friends would (funny, thoughtful, dependable, for example)? What about your need to feel accepted—is he critical of you? If he’s always trying to change the way you do things, you won’t get your need for acceptance met. Forgiven—does he bring stuff up you said you were sorry for? If so, you’ve identified another unmet need. Valued—when you ask him questions, does he say, “I dunno” or “I don’t want to talk right now”? If so, he isn’t valuing you. Your need to be valued will be met when a guy trusts you enough to tell you how he really feels and thinks—about himself, and you, and your relationship.

Another way to tell if you’re in a healthy relationship?—Can you have a heart-to-heart with your guy? Conversations are where you learn about yourself and your needs, and where you negotiate to get those needs met. You can have those conversations with a Prince—you can’t with a Frog.  A Prince really listens, meeting your need to be heard and understood. He may challenge your view, but he’ll adjust his perspective if you raise good points. A Frog doesn’t listen, doesn’t add to his own self-knowledge or his understanding of you. Which means he can’t learn and grow in the relationship. And you won’t be able to work through your feelings with a Frog—i.e., get your needs met.

Other ways to know if you’re in a healthy relationship? A Prince uses respect to get his needs met. A Frog doesn’t. A Prince will ask for (not demand) what he wants, then wait for your “Yes” or “No” answer. He respects that you’re the one who gets to decide if his want is reasonable or not. He may negotiate, but if he can’t get his way, he’ll respect your “No” answer. A Frog, by contrast, uses controlling behaviour, making up rules—“Pick up the phone when I call, no matter what” for example—or pressuring you to get his wants met.

Who your guy really is, deep down, will determine how well he can meet your needs. A big part of self-respect is realizing we can’t stay in a relationship if we have unmet needs, or if we can’t happily accept how our guy treats us. When you realize that, you must act on it. A Prince uses character to get his needs met—he says what he means, does what he says, knows right from wrong. A Frog doesn’t.

Finally, let’s look at how love, trust, self-respect and honesty play out when you want to have sex with a guy. Every woman has her own beliefs about when to have sex. The choice is a very personal one, partly dependent upon your beliefs. A big part of self-respect is making informed choices—choices that include your own feelings, needs and beliefs, not just his. If you know and love yourself, you’ll choose what’s good for you—not just him. You’ll know when you’re ready for sex. Healthy relationship criteria will help you decide if your guy is right for you—help you make good choices about who to have sex with (and, ultimately, who to marry).

A dishonest guy might tell you he loves you when he doesn’t. A confused guy might tell you he loves you (and think he does), then afterwards decide he doesn’t really love you after all. A controlling guy might try to make his problem your problem: if you don’t want sex, he might say, you’re frigid. Or pressure you—if you don’t give in, I’ll leave.

The dishonest guy is obviously a Frog. He doesn’t respect himself, or you, enough to tell the truth. And the confused guy is also a Frog, though he might not seem to be. The confused Frog doesn’t respect himself enough to understand his own needs and feelings before professing love and asking for sex. That’s why it’s good to find out what your guy is shopping for in a relationship—good to ask questions like “How long do you expect our relationship will last?” As for the controlling guy, he’s basically saying, “You can’t be with me unless you behave the way I want you to.” He doesn’t respect himself, or you. He thinks the only way he can get sex is to manipulate you. If he doesn’t believe he’s worth your time, why should you?

Remember, when a guy tells you he loves you, those are just words—unless you can see and feel that he’s actively, deliberately, trying to meet your needs, not just his own. How do you know if your guy’s honest? An important part of getting to know him is finding out whether you can trust what he says. It’s common to trust him right off the bat, but then you must start asking if his words are matching his actions. Pay attention to the gap between words (“I love you”) and actions (investing time and energy to meet your needs). If a guy has character, he knows himself. You can trust him. You can forgive him for honest mistakes. If he lacks character, though, you can’t trust him. He’s a Frog. Time to exit.

When we make decisions that ignore our beliefs, or we fail to take fully into account our own feelings and needs, we pay a price in self-respect. Chemistry is not love. Chemistry is a reminder: “Pay attention to the consequences!” Chemistry leads to actions, and actions lead to consequences. If the consequences leave you feeling respected and healthy—if you can look in the mirror and see yourself growing happy—then the chemistry might turn into real love. If the consequences leave you feeling guilty, hurt, frightened or confused—perhaps unable to look in the mirror at all—that’s a danger sign.

Healthy relationships are built on trust and respect. That doesn’t just mean trusting and respecting your guy — it means trusting and respecting yourself. Be careful about diving into a new relationship until you can see and feel genuine trust and respect. Before you dive in, wet your toes, splash around, check how deep the water is—make sure you’re in a healthy relationship. So that when you do take the plunge, you’ll be able to surface again—still you, but even happier and even more certain of who you are and what you need.

Best,

Kaycee Jane

Does your boyfriend love you?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Pick a daisy. Pull off the first petal: “He loves me.” And the next: “He loves me not.” Repeat until you get to the last petal to find out whether your boyfriend loves you or not. Sound crazy? No crazier than other stuff women do, like looking for “signs” that he loves you—he looks you in the eye, or tells you he loves you multiple times every day, or says he’s willing to die for you.

Meghan’s trying to figure out if Luke loves her or not. She meets Natalie, her best friend, at Caffè Artigiano to talk about it.
Natalie: Hey, what’s up?
Meghan: Luke. I know, it’s early …but still. It feels like we’re meant to be together.
Natalie: You said that about Michael, and we all know what happened with that relationship. Is Luke meeting your emotional needs?
Meghan: I forget what those are again—remind me.
Natalie: Four of them: familiar, accepted, valued, forgiven. Come on, Meg! Emotional needs are really important.
Meghan: Familiar. . .
Natalie: Does Luke know you? Say I asked him to describe you—what would he say?
Meghan: I dunno. (Laughs) But I know what I’d say… he’s dark-haired and intense and knows how to make me laugh and treats me great and …
Natalie: Great? Is he critical of you? Is he always trying to change the way you do things?
Meghan: No, not at all. So he’s meeting my need to be accepted, right?
Natalie: Right. Now, does he bring stuff up about things you did that you said you were sorry for?
Meghan: No. So he’s meeting my need to be forgiven, right? What about valued?
Natalie: When you ask Luke questions, does he say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to talk about it right now”? If he does that a lot, he isn’t valuing you.
Meghan: He does that a lot—he doesn’t like to talk much. But he’s amazing. You don’t know him like I do.
Natalie: Meg, if a guy doesn’t meet all your emotional needs, you have to stop thinking about whether he loves you or not—he doesn’t.
Meghan: But there are four categories of needs, right? Let’s see—emotional, physical, intellectual and lifestyle. What about my intellectual needs? Luke finds me incredibly interesting—I mean, he’s curious about every little thing I do.
Natalie: Yeah, but what about your lifestyle need to feel important? He doesn’t even pick up your calls or text you back when he’s with his friends. What’s up with that?
Meghan: He calls me everyday, Nat. Guys can be a little thoughtless sometimes. Your point?
Natalie: Here’s the thing. Basically those three little words—“I love you”—are pretty useless if you can’t answer yes to “Is he familiar with me, and am I accepted, forgiven, and valued?”
Meghan: Well, it’s still early days with Luke.
Natalie: That’s my point. So stop making choices like you’re going to be together forever.