About this Episode
No one who has done it will ever tell you that parenting through the teen years is easy. Navigating through the realities of school, driving, friendships, dating, curfews, and a still-developing brain can leave parents—and teens—feeling frustrated and unheard. If you’re frustrated with your teen’s choices and what you’ve tried isn’t working, you’re not alone. Jeanine Mouchawar joined Dr. Amy and Sandy to share her expertise on creating positive results through communication. Find out how to set boundaries, create trust, and build your partnership with your teen to support a long-lasting relationship into their adult years on this episode of The Brainy Moms podcast.
About Jeanine Mouchawar
Jeanine Mouchawar is a life coach for parents of teenagers. She helps make parenting easier by teaching new communication strategies that reduce conflict and create calm. Parents learn how to teach their teens cooperation, responsibility, and critical life skills to empower them for success. In the process they create the positive, meaningful relationship they’ve always imagined. Jeanine earned her BA from Stanford University and is a certified professional life coach. She’s married and has three adult children.
Connect with Jeanine
FREE CLASSES (including the 5-step process to create a calm at home): https://www.jeaninemouchawar.com/free-classes
Listen or Subscribe to our Podcast
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Read the transcript for this episode:
DR. AMY MOORE: Hi, smart moms and dads. We’re so happy you’re here with us for another episode of The Brainy Moms podcast, brought to you today by LearningRx brain training centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore, coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I am joined by my co-host Sandy Zamalis, coming to us from Virginia. And Sandy and I are super excited to welcome our guest today, Jeanine Mouchawar. Jeanine is a life coach for parents of teenagers. She helps make parenting easier by teaching new communication strategies that reduce conflict and create calm. Parents learn how to teach their teens cooperation, responsibility, and critical life skills to empower them for success. In the process they create the positive, meaningful relationship they’ve always imagined. Jeanine earned her BA from Stanford University and is a certified professional life coach. She’s married and has three adult children. Welcome, Jeanine.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Thank you, Amy and Sandy, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on.
SANDY ZAMALIS: Yeah, we’re excited that you’re with us, Jeanine. We’re so glad to talk to you today. Because parents, parenting teens is really a difficult topic in general and we are ready to jump in. In fact, we started a little bit, so I wanna keep that continuation of the conversation going. So tell us about yourself so everybody can join us about how you got interested in coaching parents and specifically about raising teens.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah, yeah. Well, like you said, I have three adult children, so I’ve been through as a, I’ve been through being a parent of the teenage years. Just to share my experience, I felt like as the kids were little and growing up, I parented intuitively and, you know, there’s lots of resources out there in addition. And so things went pretty smooth. And then we got to the teenage years and I just felt like conflict and tension and chaos set in, I felt like I was really faced with a lot of different parenting challenges that I wasn’t equipped to handle effectively. So like my daughter, who’s my oldest, you know, she was an overachieving student who loved to do well and participate in everything. And consequently it was challenging to try to help her navigate the overwhelm, the stress that she put on herself, the anxiety that would be created because she was so focused on doing well on a test. She also started, you know, she was a middle schooler when phones first came out. And in high school as social media apps started to come out and that, you know, as many of us know, we didn’t grow up with and we don’t have a lot of tools in our toolbox or skills on how to navigate that and help our kids like feeling good and confident about ourselves. So those were sort of the challenges I was dealing with her. My middle one, he was diagnosed with ADD and a learning disability at a very young age. And I found when we got to the teenage years, his thinking became like more exaggerated in terms of black-and-white thinking, struggling to take responsibility, more blaming others, and then I think as time went on, there was riskier behavior going on. And all those things were, again, very challenging to parent and to navigate where I could keep the calm and the house and the connection going. And then my youngest, who’s 21 now, he’s actually in Texas, like yours, Sandy, or one of yours. He was a very different child as well. He was very like emotionally sensitive, emotionally in touch, which was, you know, super fun to parent that, but also can be challenging to help him navigate those big emotions. And you know, he sort of came up in the ramping up of the time of video games and so I remember looking at him playing video games all the time and noticing I was having thoughts of, “You’re lazy,” “Do your homework,” you know, “Get off those games.” All those common parenting thoughts I think that come up when we see our kids on video games or apps or their phone all the time. And also he just never really found his people in high school. So helping him navigate that as well. And also just being the younger sibling of. You know, a brother who has ADD and the challenges that come with that, that was hard for him to navigate as well and hard for me to help and support him. And so what I was noticing is that what had been a calm and peaceful home was now we were butting heads and there were battles going on and we were arguing and I just didn’t like how I was showing up. You know, I found myself tracking them on the phone ‘cause I was, you know, scared or worried because I thought they had lied and punishing and that felt bad. And just all the whole dynamic that was going on, I just felt like there’s just gotta be a better way. And so I ended up going to a parenting program that was taught a lot of dialectical behavioral therapy skills. And as I transformed my way of communicating to my kids with some of these skills, I started seeing this amazing change in our dynamic and we just, the connection came back, the calm came back. We were able to talk about these topics that were really felt so difficult to talk about before we had like a. These tools and strategies gave us a structure to be able to have these conversations where my kids felt good, I felt good. And you know, we were able to bring some of that joy back in the house that we used to have. And so I guess at that point I just thought, this is crazy. Every parent should know these skills. It’s more important than calculus or geometry for that matter. And you know, this should really be taught to everybody. And I just thought, you know, I wanna try to get this information into as many hands of parents as possible. And so I take my 26 years of parenting experience combined with some of these new strategies I learned and coaching techniques and strategies. And that’s kind of how that led me to being a life coach for parents of teens.
DR. AMY MOORE: I love that. And I love that so many parents get through the teen years. And they’re like, “Hallelujah, we are done!” Right? Done. And you never wanna look back. Right? Those were the hardest 5, 6, 7 years of your life so far. And so instead of having that mentality, you said, oh my gosh, let me lean in and help other parents. And then you have to sit in that space right again and again and again now with more parents. But knowing what you know, and are excited to share it. I love that you said that your coaching program was based on DBT and like I talk all the time about the importance of that, you know, increasing our tolerance for stress. And so, we can’t do that if we’re in Hulk brain, right? And so when we’re upset and our amygdala hijacks our prefrontal cortex and we’re in this Hulk brain, we can’t think clearly. We can’t communicate clearly. And so we have to figure out ways to keep ourselves in Bruce Banner brain, help our kids co-regulate and stay in Bruce Banner brain so that we can all communicate effectively, right? When instead what’s really happening out there is everybody’s screaming at everybody else because it’s just a bunch of Hulks running around our house, us included.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah, totally. Oh, I love your analogy. I love the Hulk. Bruce Banner versus the Hulk. God, I’m, that one’s gonna stick with me, Amy. I love it. That’s so true though.
DR. AMY MOORE: I learned that, you know, in my trauma therapist certification training, but still, it stuck with me too, which is why I continue to share that.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. And I’m sure that resonates. That resonates with so much of your, so many of your audience who are parents of teens, because you know, just that visual of being the Hulk and the anger that comes out and the frustration. Right. Like, I think we all feel that quite often with our teenagers, you know, they know how to push our buttons.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So can we give our listeners kind of a generic definition of what DBT is in case they’re hearing us for the first time? And Amy, I don’t know if you wanna jump in and Jeanine can share your side too.
DR. AMY MOORE: Go for it. This is your hour.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Oh gosh, Amy, I don’t know about that. My definition of DBT skills is very layman. I am not an expert in DPT. So you feel free to expand on whatever I say. My knowledge is basically sort of this, well, there’s a few things that go on. There’s some principles like truth and two things can be true at the same time. That is a powerful principle to use when I’m coaching parents, ‘cause we tend to think it’s an all or nothing kind of way of thinking, which can really keep us stuck. There are four pillars. There’s mindfulness. Emotion regulation, interpersonal communication, and what’s the fourth? Walking the middle path. The fourth one, if you remember, or those, that’s how it was taught to me and the program I went through. But I think the takeaways for me with the DBT skills, a couple of things. One, the huge thing, which is also a piece of cognitive behavioral therapy, right, is that our thoughts impact our feelings and emotions. And it’s really that’s what happens before we take action. And that concept alone, most people aren’t familiar with or even aware of, that at least I come in contact with. And so talking about that concept that your thoughts create your feelings and that creates your actions and understanding that one for ourselves, And two, when we look at our children and think about what’s motivating them to make certain choices, if we can back it up and realize, gosh, let’s get to the root cause of the problem, which is what are they thinking or feeling that’s causing that action, you’re in a way more effective and powerful position to help them and for your relationship. So again, I know components of DBT. Please enlighten everyone more than that.
DR. AMY MOORE: No, absolutely. And so I think emotion regulation and distress tolerance are very, are. Are very similar, right? And so we lo because mindfulness actually, which is one of the pillars, actually helps us with distress tolerance. It actually increases our capacity for distress. But it also helps with emotion regulation too, because those mindfulness practices that we can learn and teach as part of a DBT program actually help break that fight flight or free cycle and kind of re reduce the amount of cortisol coursing through our veins, so that we can regulate our emotions. And that isn’t something that we can do again if we’re in Hulk brain. And so DBT sort of builds on the cognitive behavioral therapy movement by saying, “Wait a minute. It’s not just about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It’s also about the interpersonal neurobiology that’s going on in the brain.” And so we have to be able to harness some of that as well. So I love hearing when, I love hearing that a coaching program is adopting that as well, because it should be, these should be practices that are accessible to everyone, not just available through a clinician’s office.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: I love that. I love that. And honestly, when I went through coach certification, I was just amazed at how much crossover there was between the things I was learning to become a coach and DBT skills there. It was very synergistic and it was why I think I’m able to integrate all of that into my practice today. I love how there’s a lot of crossover there.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah. Well, that’s fantastic. All right, so let’s talk about, just let, let’s go to the basics. Why is it so difficult to parent teens? What is happening that changes on their 13th birthday where all of a sudden everything we’ve been doing for the last 12 years and three, four days no longer works?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. Right. How does that happen? I believe there’s a few things contributing to that. I think one is that we all know our teens are in a massive transition, right when they hit 13. Like, we’re all aware of that. We see it in front of our very eyes. Where I noticed the gap was for me and what in my helping my clients is that we don’t recognize that that means we need to transition as well, right? Because our teens now, they need something different from us than they needed when they were little, right? Sometimes I think about it as like, I think about how curious your younger child was asking you all these questions, right? Wanting to know your thoughts about things and your advice and like relishing your life lessons as you taught them about the world, right? They were so curious and you got to provide your wisdom and in return we are in essence rewarded, right, with smiles and appreciation and snuggles and love and I think the real challenge here is when they become a teenager is we really need to flip that around. And it’s time for us to get curious about what’s going on from them. And they wanna come up with their own wisdom. And so the question is, how can we come to them from a place of curiosity and support them in coming up with their own solutions to things? Because that’s really what they want. And so the breakdown that I think that happens for a lot of us is that we don’t realize that their needs, what they need from us has transitioned. And so we kind of stay stuck in our old ways and our old patterns because that’s what felt good. So it got wired into our nervous system, right? And so of course we wanna keep doing it. And so when we show up, right, explaining, “Hey, you should really do this,” or “You need to do this,” or “Here’s the right way to do things,” right, or trying to fix something that you think might be broken. When we do these, we’re doing it with such beautiful intention. And also ‘cause it always worked in the past. But what happens now when we do that is, right, the battles ensue, the fighting, the conflict, the budding heads.
DR. AMY MOORE: So then do we change our values or do we change our communication style?How do we need to make, what adaptations do we have to make?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah, I believe that what we need to do is change our communication style. I mean, I think that for most of us, probably, you know, our values, our big-picture values, are safety, right? For most of us, again, generalizing, trust, honesty, responsibility, family, right? And I’m not sure if those, I mean, for me at least those didn’t change. But what needed to change is how I communicated with my teens, right? It was time to communicate in a new way, in a different way where they could actually hear what I was saying and be receptive to the guidance that I wanted to give.
DR. AMY MOORE: So what does that look like?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. Well that’s for what I do when I’m working with clients is I start with teaching a five-step process. And the first step is getting calm ourselves, right? So we see this behavior that’s really scary or really worrisome, or aggravating or disappointing, right? Maybe they’re disrespectful or we think they’re lazy ‘cause of their video games, or we find you know, they’re being promiscuous or drinking or smoking or lying. I mean, name any of the behaviors that all of us as parents of teens, right? Like red flag, red flag. And so what happens is when we see these behaviors and we start feeling worried and scared or angry, we just can’t resist the urge to have a conversation with them right then, right there. And the thing to be aware of is like when we enter a conversation with those real heated emotions, our teen is gonna feel that energy from us and it’s going to repel them. It’s very uncomfortable for them to feel that. And so that tends to be right away they either shut down, you know, they push you away, they yell, “Go away, get outta my room!” Other kids might pay lip service to you. But you know, they’re not really listening. And so the first thing that I work on with clients is learning how, what works for you to calm your emotions down, right? What are you thinking that’s sparking all the worry and the fear or the anger? And really to take the time so that you are responding with intention calmly from your wise mind, instead of like reacting emotionally, you know, from the hip. And that’s really the first step before, you know, slow things down because you want to engage them in a conversation and it’s impossible to engage them in a conversation if they’re feeling your anger, your worry, your stress, your frustration.
DR. AMY MOORE: There’s nothing magical about the type of ways that you are teaching parents to calm down, right? Like any breathing exercises, grounding exercises, mindfulness, is that what you’re referring to?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. I mean, I’ve got a whole host of, you know, options to share with people. You know, just real briefly with your audience, uh, real quick thing you can do is think about your five senses, right? So, touch what calms you down with touch. Does petting your dog or your cat calm you down? Is that soothing? Right? What calms you down listening? Is there certain music, you know, that feels calming to you? So you can think about your five sense, if something doesn’t come to your mind right away of how to calm yourself down, right, you can think about those five senses. You know, when I’m working with clients, you know, sometimes people will say they wanna take a walk outside or go for a quick run, or even like on my window right now, like, just look at nature, look at the trees. That can be calming. Obviously, like what you said, breathing exercises can be calming. And then as, as we work together for a longer period of time, we go deeper in terms of what exactly are you thinking that’s causing these feelings to come up? And, you know, what do you wanna do? You know, with those thoughts, you know, so we work on maybe some mantras you can say to yourself, like, a few that I love are, this is just for today, not forever, right? Or, yeah, maybe it’s something that say they, you know, are addicted to their, you think they’re addicted to an app, right? You can look at this as well. It’s hard to resist and control yourself when something’s very compelling. And so this is just a life skill that we need to learn and my child hasn’t learned this skill yet, right? So there’s a few things we can say to ourselves as well that can be calming. So there’s just a few examples, but ultimately, Amy, it’s really, I like to talk to clients and ask them like, “Well, what works for you?” Right? We’re all different, different human beings and somebody who meditates, might not work for somebody else who needs to go take a run.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So it sounds like what you’re saying is that, you know, really at the root, a large percentage of the time, it’s a parent’s fear that’s, you know, manifesting and then it’s being received by the child or the teenager is a lack of trust. So you’re in this constant state of, you know, especially in the teenage years, ‘cause you’ve spent, you know, up until 13, your whole, your parent life protecting them from all things. And then all of a sudden that shift has to happen. And, you know, it’s like giving a, a child who’s never had a driving lesson the keys to the car, right? You’re just letting ’em go out in the world and make mistakes. And the stakes are so much higher, if there’s any mistakes along the way. So I would think helping them identify, helping a parent identify that fear and how that kind of can manifest in, you know, control or anger or other things down the road. It’s just super beneficial, at least on that, you know, just acknowledging that one little piece. What are you afraid of?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yes. Yeah. No, that’s so true. And I love how you said when we approach them with these high emotions, you know, you said that they feel like we don’t trust them. I think that was what you said. And yeah, it’s like we are, we’re sending a message like, we don’t think you’re capable. Right? We don’t think you’re smart enough when we fall into the pattern of telling them what they should do or they need to do or trying to fix the problem, that’s the message that they’re getting. That you know, you, you don’t believe in me. You don’t trust me. You don’t think I’m capable enough. And so, of course, none of us want to intentionally send that message. And so it’s just recognizing that, “Oh, wait, when I talked to them the way I used to, that’s not what they were taking in. That wasn’t the message they were receiving. But now that is the message that they’re receiving. And so how can I talk to them in a way where they feel empowered to make their own choices and they feel like we believe in them and we trust them that they are capable?” And, and also, like you were saying with the driver’s example, right? It’s like they’re still in the safety of your home. It’s just your role in terms of how much you’re involved in keeping them safe needs to evolve as they’re evolving.
DR. AMY MOORE: All right, so first step, get calm ourselves. All right. Step number two.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. So step two is based in the DBT skills I learned, which is basically just stating your observation, right? So let’s say you find out they got a D on the test, you, you know, you say something like, “Hey, I noticed you got a D on the test” versus “What, you know, what are you doing? You got a D on the test! That’s cause you were, you know, on your phone late at night and …” Right? That’s how—that was old me. That’s how I would say. Right? It’s such a great, powerful skill that’s not easy, but I try to make these steps simple and doable. And the, and the, the reasoning behind just trying to state your observation is that the idea is to put yourself in a position that eliminates tone and judgment from your words and from your voice. Right? So for—
SANDY ZAMALIS: Well, that’s hard.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: So hard. So hard.
DR. AMY MOORE: Well, so you can’t just steer observation without paying attention to your tone then, right? Like you can’t go, “So I see you got a D on a test,” right? Which is very different than, “So I noticed that you got a D on your test.”
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: One hundred percent. So it is a combination, right? So I gave you, gave you a script that you can use, which is, “I noticed BLANK.” Fill in the blank. But it also comes with step one, right? Which is calming your own emotions. So you’re not launching into a conversation with making assumptions, right, about why they got a D on the test. That’s when we get stuck judging them and they feel that judgment from us, right? So we wanna try to really tone down the tone and the judgment and what we’re saying because the whole idea here is we’re trying to engage them in a conversation and invite them into a conversation. They’re not gonna wanna engage and feel invited if they think you’re judging them. So, you know, I help clients with scripts and I just love the phrase starting with, “I noticed” because it helps keep some of the tone out. Well, maybe not the tone, but the judgment of your words.
DR. AMY MOORE: So we know—we raised our teenagers, that many times their response will be one word. One word. That’s all we get. So let’s say that I approach my teenager in a very calm myself manner, and I say, “Hey, I noticed that you got a D on your test.” And they go, “Yep.”
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Okay. Yeah, that’s normal.
DR. AMY MOORE: So where’s the rest of the conversation? So what, what do I say next?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: You just introduced step three, Amy. So step three is to come to the conversation with curiosity, right? You wanna ask a curious question and that might sound something, again, you wanna keep it simple, super simple, so you don’t start layering in your opinion on the whole thing. It can be as simple as, “I noticed you got a D on the test. What happened?” Sometimes you might get an I don’t know shrug, right? But when you ask a what question really from truly being curious, like, “I wonder what happened,” they’re more apt to be a little more forthcoming about what is going on, right? What’s going on inside of them that they, they got a D, I mean, maybe it was because they were feeling overwhelmed because they had a ton of difficult classes and they had tests that they took, and then they went to soccer practice and then they had to go jump over to the theater and go do their role in that. And community service. I mean, these kids have so much on their plates that maybe they got a D on a test because they were feeling overwhelmed or feeling pressure. And so we wanna try to get at what’s going on underneath the behavior that’s concerning us, right? What’s going on in their head and how are they feeling that’s causing the D, right? Or causing them to drink or smoke or whatever—just be disrespectful, be mean to their brother. There’s something going on underneath that, and that’s what we’re trying to get to. And we do that through coming from a place of compassion, because we’ve quieted our own fears and worries, and a place of curiosity. So what I will say is you will get trapped if you ask a why question, most likely. Right? So we wanna steer clear of a why question, right? “Why’d you get a D on the test?” Right? Those why questions tend to be laced with judgment. If you think about, you know, whatever, your kid coming in, “Why didn’t you make dinner?” Or “Why didn’t you do my laundry?” It tends to come with, judgment and tone. A why question. So you wanna try to stick with what questions to, again, we’re trying to invite them into a conversation and really connect with them and find out like, “What’s going on with you that’s causing this behavior?” So we’re trying to figure out why, without asking why.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So do you get to ask how questions?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: How works too! I love that, Sandy. How definitely.
SANDY ZAMALIS: How are we gonna remedy this situation? What’s your plan?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. Right? Okay. So that’s step five. You’re jumping ahead, but—
SANDY ZAMALIS: Oh, sorry.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: That, that’s okay. I love it. Yeah. Right. And just notice, like we as parents, we do always wanna—we always tend to jump to “How are you gonna remedy the situation?” And just to know, okay, well you gotta slow that urge down, right? Because we wanna first engage them and connect with them. Like if we don’t start there and really understand what they’re feeling, what the root causes of the behavior, they’re not gonna be able to tell you how they’re gonna do something differently, right?
SANDY ZAMALIS: And you wanna engage that executive functioning building for them too. This is now their problem. And you wanna be there to kind of help guide the process, but not maybe necessarily, you know, run the process. Help have them think those things through.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Exactly. That’s, that’s what we’re going for, right? So they, like you said, they build that executive functioning, or I call it life skills. They build those life skills, those problem-solving skills, you know, that’s my layman’s term because I am not a therapist.
DR. AMY MOORE: So what about the child? What about the teen who runs on high emotion all the time and immediately responds with, “Why are you yelling at me?” Right? You’re not yelling. But any type of interrogation—even if it’s just perceived, particularly with, you know, teens with ADHD, we know that 98% of adolescents with ADHD have rejection sensitive dysphoria, right? So they’re, they cannot regulate their emotions well. They automatically think that they’re being judged, rejected, or they’ve let you down. So how, how do you respond and lower the temperature on that?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. You just described my relationship with one of my children, so that really hits home with me. And I’ll say outta the gates, it’s challenging, you know, it is really tough. But when you can stay calm and reflect back what you’re seeing, which is basically a version of step two, you know, in a calm manner and say something like, you know, “You seem angry,” right? That’s it. Like, you seem angry. What’s going on? Because I have been in your exact shoes where I was not yelling, right? And they say, stop yelling at me. And it, it, you’re, you know, a natural reaction as a parent is to say, “I’m not yelling at you.” And all of a sudden you’re yelling. You’re yelling, “I’m not yelling at you!” Right? We get defensive because it feels so unjust. Like, wait, I wasn’t yelling, I was calm. Right? And so it’s just to, again, take a minute, take a beat, take a breath. ‘Cause it doesn’t feel good when somebody accuses you of yelling and you know you’re not. But just to realize, like you said, they’re experiencing some emotions that they’re having trouble coping with and dealing with, and their coping mechanism is to throw it back on you. Right? To deflect. And so to realize, “Okay, wait.” Really the opportunity here is to try to help get at what are they feeling and help them feel like, “Listen, nothing is wrong with you for feeling that way.” Like, “It’s okay, I understand. I get it.” You know, “Nothing’s wrong with you.” So yeah, we come back kind of with that step two of just, another way of, you know, I think I said, “stating an observation.” This is another form of observing where you’re just reflecting back calmly what you see. So that gives them a beat to realize, “Oh wait. Mom didn’t get pissed off that I said that.” And it allows, like you were saying, their brain to calm down so they can use their frontal cortex and access some of what’s going on for them and inside of them.
DR. AMY MOORE: Beautiful.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So what’s the next step after the what questions? So we asked our what questions. So the what into that fourth step?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. The fourth step is I teach clients how to validate a child’s feelings. I mean, we are, most of us didn’t have parents who did that. I think they didn’t even know what it was. And, you know, therefore I didn’t know what that was. And I think sometimes we think we’re validating, but we tend to validate situations and not someone’s feelings. So I teach them how to validate what your child is feeling and experiencing, with the point of—the concept here is, right, your kid wants to feel like you understand them, right? That you hear them, that you get what they’re saying. That you’re on their side, you’re on their team. Like we said before, like nothing is wrong with them. And when you can normalize the big feelings they’re having, you know, in the case of the child with ADD, if they’re feeling, you know, angry or overwhelmed or stressed, when you can normalize that and they feel like you get it and nothing’s wrong with me, they connect to you, which is what we want. And it allows their brain to, and their body to settle their emotions. So step five, which we’re getting to Sandy, right, is like, how, “What do you wanna do differently here?” Right? “How do you want, what might, what might a be, what might a better choice look like?” Right? But we have to start with engaging them in a conversation and connecting with them before we leave to trying to help them change their behavior. What I noticed with myself and what’s very common is we like to just jump to the behavior and change that. But with a teenager, that doesn’t work, right? That’s when the battles ensue. So we have to first, that’s what steps one through four are doing is like first trying to engage them in a conversation and connecting with them so they really feel like you understand them and you get them and they can let those feelings go through them and realize “Nothing’s wrong with me, for feeling overwhelmed, for feeling pressure, for being angry in the moment.”
DR. AMY MOORE: So you said something super interesting that a lot of times we’ll validate the situation, but we aren’t validating feelings. Can you give us examples to differentiate what that sounds like?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Sure. Yeah. So let’s, let’s stick with the, you got a D on the test example where we started with before. So you know, when you say, “Hey, I noticed you got a D on the test, what happened?” And let’s say they said, “Well, I was just, you know, was so busy I didn’t have any time. I went from school to soccer to this, to that,” right? It’s like if you take a minute and you think about it, you’re like, “Okay, I get that. I would probably feel overwhelmed or pressure if I was in that situation.” Right? So a validation where you’re validating their feelings might sound something like, “Hey, you know, it makes sense that you’d feel a lot of pressure or overwhelmed when your day was packed and you felt like because of that you were just felt too overwhelmed to even take the time to study for your test. Anybody in your shoes would feel that way.” Or let, let’s say they’re, you know, constantly on an app, on social media. They’re, you know, following somebody and they’re really focused on their appearance, right? And so when you go to question about that, oftentimes, you know, you might hear something like, “I just need to be on the app. I need to know how to do my makeup that way,” you know, “Leave me alone.” I got right. They, and so if you think about it, like, what’s going on for them, like, you know, to me it’s like they wanna feel like they fit in, right? They’re feel, they don’t wanna be embarrassed or humiliated that they don’t know the latest trend. And so validating that would be like, “Hey, you know, of course you wanna avoid feeling embarrassed or humiliated. If you feel like if you don’t have this knowledge, that’s what’s gonna happen. Anybody in your shoes would feel that way.” So we’re not condoning the behavior. We’re not saying like, “Oh, no big deal. You got a D.” Right? Or, “I don’t care that you’re on this social media app all the time.” But what we are doing is just connecting with them in a way that like, where they feel like what they’re feeling you understand, and that there’s nothing wrong with them for feeling that way.
DR. AMY MOORE: And can you contrast that with what it would sound like to just be validating the situation?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Validating the situation might sound something more like, “Hey, you know, it’s okay, you got a D. You know, we all struggle sometimes.” Or something to that effect where you, the emphasis is on the situation and not how they feel. Does that make sense?
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah. I was just super intrigued by that kind of juxtaposition there. So I wanted to kind of let our listeners hear the difference.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: For sure. Yeah.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So in all of this discussion, there’s always gonna be a time where, as a parent, you need to set a boundary, an expectation for, you know, a rule for your family that, you know, in our family, we behave this way. Can you kind of help me kinda see how you would help a parent figure that process out? Because it’s really easy as a parent to react with rules, right? Come down with the hammer when we’ve gotten D’s, or you’re on your apps too much, or, you know, you were out with friends and didn’t call, or, you know, litany of things. So what’s the best way to then engage with your teen and kind of instill some healthy boundaries that your teens would be more inclined to maybe bounce up against, but not step over as easily without thinking that through.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. I, I love this. This is a very nuanced conversation, right? It’s hard to just like wrap it up in a bow, but I will share that, you know, my philosophy is not real big on punishing or rewarding for that matter. I, you know, I think that that tends to be a way to control our kids. And when we do offer a reward or a punishment, it’s usually if for, if they’re avoiding a punishment or they want the reward, it’s usually an external motivation and we’re missing all of the goodness of like the, the why behind everything, right? Like, “Why is your behavior a problem?” Not, “Yeah, I’m gonna take the phone away. You don’t get your phone or you’re grounded,” and then they’re just gonna do whatever it takes to get it back. So, I like to talk about it like you said, Sandy, in terms of boundaries. And for your listeners who aren’t familiar with the nuances, you know, of boundaries is what you are going to do in a situation where a limit has been broken. And so I think, regarding boundaries, a couple of traps I think happen for parents. One is we’re not clear on what the boundary is ourselves. And so I would just suggest the first best place to start is figuring out what is your boundary, right? Is it the curfew is midnight? You know, what’s your boundary around tech? Do they have to leave it in a common room or whatever it is? There’s no right or wrong here. It’s more, you as the parent identifying what you’re comfortable with or you and your partner and, and what that boundary is, and then communicating that to your child. When you do go to communicate it, you know, I would fall back onto some of the five steps we talked about, right? We wanna engage them in a conversation about it. We wanna say, “Hey, this is what I’m comfortable with. What do you think about that? I’m thinking like, you know, midnight seems like a reasonable curfew. What do you think?” Or you can even ask them, even better. You can have in your mind that midnight is the curfew that you wanna target, right? And you can say to them, “Hey, you’re, you’re a junior now. You’re going to parties, you’re driving, you know, curfews one thing. What do you think is a reasonable curfew?” You know? And sometimes we’re lucky and hit the jackpot. And what they offer is, is exactly what you wanted. Or even better, right? You had to say, you know, you didn’t have to say anything and you got this amazing result, right? And then sometimes if they come back with something like one in the morning, you know, I would suggest well try to come up with a compromise, right? Where you’re giving a little, they’re giving a little and you’re coming up with like a middle path. And then I would just add to that, it’s really helpful to teens when you like cap that with a time, almost like a timestamp. Like, “Hey, let’s try this for one week and then let’s regroup and talk about it and we can reevaluate it and see how I feel about it, how you feel about it, you know, and if we should move whatever the boundary or limit is.” And I find that it’s, you avoid a lot of confrontation and arguments from them when they feel like, “Okay, I can deal with this for a week.” You know, and you plant, give them a little hope that maybe there’s some negotiation room down the road. So that, that’s how I would offer that you approach. It as a boundary and a limit instead of a rule. And then just be willing to be flexible if what they’re sharing with you is reasonable. You know, like I had an incident with my child who, you know, came home a half hour after curfew and, you know, did not discuss it in the moment ‘cause I was pissed off. But once I got calm and, and I knew these skills at this point, right? New me, you know, I dove into a conversation like, “Hey, I noticed you, you know, were late for curfew. What happened?” Right from that place of calm energy using steps one, two, and three. And, you know, she ended up sharing, “Well, you know, everybody was still at the party and I just felt embarrassed to like leave when nobody had left yet.” And, you know, so I could do my validation. Right? “Well, it makes sense. You might feel humiliated if you’re the first person to leave.” Right? You can understand that you put yourself in their shoes, right? And then start talking about, you know, what you’re comfortable with, you know, what are they comfortable with? And, and maybe you want to revisit the boundary. Maybe what your team says is reasonable and you’re willing to revisit it, right? So it’s all about having these calm conversations where you’re engaging and you’re connecting and you’re working together where it’s you and your teen against the problem versus your teen is the problem. It’s very different.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah. I love that. I always say in counseling that the person is not the problem. The problem is the problem. And so when you can kind of externalize that and say, “Hey, this is a challenge that we need to work together to solve,” as opposed to “You need to be fixed.” Right? It’s a very different mindset.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: It really is and so powerful, Amy.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah.
SANDY ZAMALIS: So you were talking earlier about mantras, right?To try to get to that calm place. And I always had two mantras that I had when my kids were teens and one, you probably heard before, I think it’s an older one, but I have no idea who said it, but it was that “rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” And I literally wrote it on a Post-it note and stuck it on my mirror and I would look at it while I brushed my teeth. “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion, rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Cause I was like—
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: I love that!
SANDY ZAMALIS: I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna make sure I’m coming from that place of connection. And then the other one that was just a visual. It was like a church sermon, one time, and it was talking about God’s love and they passed out these like chocolate kisses and people were holding them in their hand.And the basically the theme of the story was that, you know, the perfect love is love in an open hand. So like, I had that visual for myself too. And then that’s really what you’re describing. It’s that love and an open hand. I’m not trying to, you know, hold you so tight that I end up crushing the thing that I’m trying to love and protect, but just that open hand.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Yeah. I love that.
DR. AMY MOORE: I do too.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Beautiful. I’m gonna, I’m gonna take that one.
DR. AMY MOORE: You’re just full of nuggets today, Sandy.
SANDY ZAMALIS: It was a good one. Those were my two favorite ones. But yeah, I think, yeah, all the stuff you were describing, you know, I’m same picturing that kind of that thinking and it really does make a difference because, you’re building an adult relationship with your child, so you don’t wanna crush their spirit when they’re a teen. You really wanna try to get out of that loop, that cycle of battle. Because you wanna be their mom forever, not just, you know, they’re ready to get out and, and, you know, maybe not come home. We want to be the safe place to come back to. You wanna be the place that they can refuel and come back and fly again.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Oh, a hundred percent. And you know, that’s something that I think is, can be really helpful to parents, is to keep that big-picture goal in mind before you start talking to them in any situation. You know, I mean, my big-picture goal is I wanna have a great connection and relationship with my kids for decades to come. Right? And so if, you know, I want them to call me from college with their fears and their worries and their wins and their excitement. And I want them to want me to meet their future spouse and be a grandparent and be in their lives. And so if you can keep kind of your big-picture goals in mind, it helps you communicate from a place that’s, you know, more calm and maybe get motivated, you know, these strategies that we’re talking about, they’re doable, but it’s not easy, you know? But if you can keep that in the forefront of your mind, like, “What do I really want here?” You know, I think so many of us feel like, gosh, we put in all these years when they’re younger and like dedicated our lives to them and did so much for them. And it’s like, what the heck? If we can’t then, you know, reap the rewards for years to come, well, what am I doing here? So I do think your point, like keeping that big-picture goal in mind of what you want in the long term can help motivate you when you’re trying strategies like this, because it’s not always easy.
DR. AMY MOORE: So we are, we are running short on time, so we need to let Sandy read a word from our sponsor. When we come back I wanna wrap up with the, the fifth step, which you’ve alluded to, but I wanna just make sure that we’ve made that clear and given a clear example using the same story that we’ve been building on. When we come back.
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DR. AMY MOORE: And we are wrapping up our really interesting conversation with Jeanine Mouchawar. And so Jeanine, let’s talk about that fifth step in the process.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Great. Yeah. So now that we’ve engaged them in a calm conversation and we’ve created that connection where they feel like we’re on the same team and you’re on their side, right? The first step is helping and teaching them how to make better choices, right? Because like we talked about earlier, they’ve got this innate desire to solve their own challenges and we want them to build that muscle, that life skill in the safety of our home while they’re still with us. And so, you know, that might sound like just asking a simple question like, “Hey, you know, what might you wanna do differently the next time you’re studying for a test?” Right? Or I remember my teenager was a new driver and he got in an accident, and you know, he came home and we went to talk about it and I used the five steps, you know, and after I validated him, I’m like, “God, that must have been really scary and terrifying for you.” And, you know, then we, I went into the fist of a, you know, “What, what’s next? Like what do you think the next thing is to do now?” I mean, it was obvious to me what to do next. We know, right? We’re, we have many years of experience, but the opportunity here is for him to start to think about, “Wait, what do I do next?” And to make some suggestions and to get him thinking about it and get him trying to solve it while, you know, they still are in the safety of our home. And that’s really the whole magic of step five. And the thing is, when we ask them for their solutions, you know, “How might they solve for this?” Or “What might you wanna do differently?” The message they’re getting is, “Oh, hey, you know, mom thinks I’m capable enough to solve this, right? Mom thinks I’m smart enough. Mom believes in me. Mom trusts me.” Or Dad. Right? And so as they start to go through the thought process themselves of how they wanna think about and choose to do things differently, that’s in essence what builds confidence for them. And I, that’s like the number one thing I get from parents. Like, “I want my kid to be confident.” Well, this is a really great pathway to build that confidence. And the cool thing is, what happens that I think people, or at least kind of blew my mind, was as you—as they’re offering their solutions to you and you’re like, “Huh, that could work. Let’s try that idea.” All of a sudden you feel more calm. And you feel more confident that they do know how to solve problems. They do know how to make better choices, and you start trusting that they’re gonna be okay. Right? The thing is, is really powerful.
DR. AMY MOORE: So these are critical thinking skills, right? And sometimes that has to be trained. If you’re not used to using this type of approach, and you’re used to just telling your teens, “Here’s what I expect,” or “Here’s what you have to do,” or “Here’s what you need to do,” then they’re not used up with potential solutions for themselves, right? So this might, there might be a learning curve here.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Hundred percent. I didn’t, wasn’t sure how much time we have, but yes. So to add on to that, I mean, right, you want to look at this as a teaching moment where you’re supporting them, maybe even you’re walking side by side with them. So you know, you can offer to the shift, Amy, is that you can offer to brainstorm with them, but we want their buy-in. We want them to say like, “Hey, can you help me solve this? Like, I’m not sure, can you help me, Mom?” Because when they’re asking us, then they’re open to hearing our suggestions versus when we tell them they’re not open to it. So absolutely this is a process. It’s a journey. And initially they’re gonna need more help. And as time goes by, they’ll build those skills and be able to do it on their own. It makes me think of, I was coaching a mom the other day and her daughter was is a junior turning senior in high school. She wants to take some classes at the community college, and yet she wasn’t taking action or moving towards making that happen. And you know, the mom uncovered that. She just, she was like overwhelmed. She didn’t know where to start. Which makes sense, right? It is overwhelming process. And so, you know, she basically had the conversation with her like, “Look, what do you think you should do? Like, what, what might your first step be? Like, what might you say to the admissions officer when they pick up the, you know, the phone?” And then sat with her side by side to give her that confidence to like, take the steps and do it. So you’re doing it alongside them instead of for them and eventually so they can do it themselves.
DR. AMY MOORE: Love it. Love it. Okay. This has been phenomenal. I wish we could talk for another hour. And so, Jeanine, tell our listeners where they can find more information and resources, how they can work with you. Give us, give us that information.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Oh, great. Yeah. You can go to my website, JeanineMouchawar.com or I’m on Instagram. I try every day to be on there giving some sort of like tip or advice or, you know, some sort of insight or strategy, either on our video or in a post. And just know it’s obviously, it’s hard to get any in-depth help that way, but there will be little nuggets that you can try right away and see like what sort of results you get. So I’m on Instagram as Jeanine Mouchawar Coaching. Same with Facebook, if you prefer that platform. And my website. Yeah. You, I work with parents one on one for a period of six months at a time. Because, as you can imagine from our conversation today, it takes time, like you’ve mentioned, to learn these skills, to try them, to build them, and to have our teen responding with us. So I love having a six-month period of time where we can partner together and work together so that you can have the relationship that you want with your teen.
DR. AMY MOORE: And you work with parents all over the country, over Zoom?
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: All over the world. You gotta love Zoom. It’s Zoom and phone. So yeah, I got a client in Italy and one in New York, and yeah, and you gotta love the beauty of technology.
DR. AMY MOORE: Absolutely. All right. So, listeners, I’m gonna spell this for you, but we’re also gonna put the links in our show notes. So, Jeanine’s last name is spelled M-O-U-C-H-A-W-A-R. So her website is JeanineMouchawar.com. Facebook and Instagram are both at JeanineMouchawarCoaching. LinkedIn is at Jeanine Mouchawar. And again, I will put those links in the show notes.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: One thing I’ll, one thing I’ll add, Amy, the five steps that we talked about today, I actually offer like a free webinar on that. If, you know you wanna go to my website or Instagram and you want like, more information about what the three of us talked about today, that might be helpful for you as well. I give a lot of scripts and a little more in depth than even we went.
DR. AMY MOORE: Oh, fantastic.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: That’s helpful to everybody.
DR. AMY MOORE: Absolutely.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: I’m happy to provide that link on your show notes as well, if you’d like.
DR. AMY MOORE: Yeah, absolutely. That would be wonderful. Thank you. Jeanine, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and insights and experience and expertise. I just know that if you are parenting teens or even pre-teens and thinking about parenting teens, that you’ll have immediate takeaways for sure.
JEANINE MOUCHAWAR: Well, thank you for having me. It’s really been my, my honor, so thank you.
DR. AMY MOORE: Absolutely. So listeners, thanks for being with us today. If you liked us, follow us on Instagram and Facebook at The Brainy Moms. Do it now before you forget. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. You can find Sandy on TikTok at the Brain Trainer Lady. And if you’d rather watch us, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel. So that’s all the smart stuff that we have for you today. We hope you feel a little brainier than you did an hour ago. Join us next time on the Brainy Moms Podcast.
SANDY ZAMALIS: Have a great week.