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Hearing the "Yes" Behind Your Teen’s "No"


Hearing the "Yes" Behind Your Teen’s "No"

Originally published on Better Family Habits July 6th, 2015 by Maria Mara, MA 

What happens when you ask your teen to wash the dishes, tidy up after themselves, do their homework or any other task which contributes to your vision of raising a well-adjusted adolescent – and they say NO?

Do you feel frustrated, helpless, overwhelmed?

And most importantly what can you do in these situations that enhances your connection with your teen rather than creating distance, a gap in communication and of course keeps you sane!

The first part to consider is when you make a request from your teen you need to ask yourself two questions. Firstly what would I like my teen to do? Okay this one’s easy – wash the dishes for example. The second question you need to ask yourself is what would I like my teen’s reason for doing this to be?  For example would you like them to WANT to wash the dishes as opposed to doing them out of obligation and/or fear of punishment?

If your intention is to encourage in them a desire to complete the task keep reading!

Understanding Needs – Theirs & Yours

The key component we shall consider in these intricacies of communication are NEEDS. You can find a full list of collective human needs HERE.

Needs are universal. In any given moment we are trying to fulfill one or more of our needs. Behind each of our requests to a loved one lie a variety of needs. As a parent you may want your teen to wash the dishes because you have a need for cleanliness in the kitchen or for contribution in the household or for sharing of the chores so they don’t all fall on you.

On the other hand in that moment your teen will have needs of their own. This could be their need for choice i.e. to decide for themselves if they want to do the dishes without fear of punishment, autonomy or freedom as to how they spend their time, or they would just rather be doing something else at that moment (for example they may have a need forfun or relaxation after dinner).

Once you have an understanding of both your needs and their possible needs (we can only guess their needs based on the information they are offering us). You can proceed with communicating these to them. The intention here is firstly understanding yourself, understanding them, then communicating with them in a way that brings you closer and lastly finding strategies together that can fulfill both of your needs.

But How?

First look within and ask yourself what you are needing right now. With practice this becomes an automatic process as you increase self-awareness, self- understanding and self-empathy in relation to needs. Remember all needs are valid and acknowledge this to yourself.

Second concentrate on recognizing their needs and communicating these to them. If they say they have already told their best friend they will call them after dinner – ask them if they are eager to connect with their friend. If they say not now mum I’m tired, ask if they need rest after the meal. Connect with them. Really listen to what they are saying.

Express your own needs to them. By sharing your own needs this gives your teen an understanding of why this task is important to you. Choose to say I need support in the household tasks as opposed to I need you to…

Discuss possible strategies that can meet everyone’s needs. In every situation there are literally dozens of strategies you can come up – explore together to find the one that works for you both in that moment. This could be anything from them doing the dishes in 10 minutes (or speaking to their friend in 10 minutes!), to them offering up another way to contribute in the house.

Make The Time – For Them & For You

People say to me I don’t have time for this whole process I just want them to do the dishes!

Although this may seem like a lot of extra work in the beginning it does become a faster and more automatic process with time. It definitely is much easier if you ensure you are well rested, well fed and are feeling calm and happy as opposed to being stressed, tired, had a long day etc. So the key message here is to look after yourself. Check in with yourself throughout the day and be sure you are giving yourself what you are needing frequently.

Once you are coming from a place of ease, rest and excitement to connect with your teen each situation moves away from a dreaded battle of wills and becomes an opportunity to enhance and build your relationship with them.


Are the Compliments We Are Giving Actually Making a Positive Impact?


Are the Compliments We Are Giving Actually Making a Positive Impact?

Originally published on The Huffington Post June 18th, 2015 by Maria Mara, MA

Complimenting others comes naturally to many of us. It resonates so much for us because praise can increase connection between people, encourage positive behavior and can be a powerful tool for the giver to express an optimistic observation.

Receiving compliments is also impactful because it fulfills two of our very basic needs -- the need to feel loved and the need to feel important.

It's the way we choose to give a compliment which makes all the difference.

Consider the following compliments:

"You're awesome," or "That's a pretty dress," or "Good job"

The thing about it is that if you say to someone that they did a good job it implies they could have done a bad job -- it is basically a judgment whether a negative or more positively inclined one. It is a very subjective comment (one person's job well done can be another person's disaster) but instead masquerades as an objective observation.

These types of comments can come across as superficial, insincere or in the best case scenario - vague.

So how can we move away from this into a more authentic way of sharing something worthy with the other person?

Here are five ways that can help get you started:

1. Always be genuine
Giving a genuine compliment illustrates a sense of awareness and consciousness about the other person. It shows that you connected to yourself and noticed something someone did that was impactful to you in some way -- and then chose to verbalize it. So check in with yourself to note the why behind your compliment. 

2. Go deeper
It's easy to compliment others on objects that they buy, use, and wear. In this case you are really complimenting the manufacturer of the material element or at best the person's taste. Take it to the next level by looking at the person's behaviors, traits and actions -- these are the areas we really want to be acknowledged for. What have they done that has made an impression on you?

3. Keep it personal
Own the compliment. Start it with "I" instead of "you." This reinforces that the compliment is your opinion (which it is) instead of a fact of life. 

4. Be specific
Give a concrete observation of what the other person did. Make sure it is objective -- pretend a video camera has captured the person's behavior. Include this in your compliment.

5. Tell people how you feel and why
We are sometimes so disconnected from our feelings that this might be a challenge for some of us and yet this is the part which will really have the most impact on the other person. Tell them how their action made an impression on you by expressing the feelings that arose in response to their behavior. For example, "I was delighted when (insert observation)," and then tell them why: "I felt so grateful when you finished your report a day before the deadline as it allowed me to get started on it earlier"

It might sound like a lot of work to just give a compliment, and yet if we are coming from a place where we want more meaningful connections with people we might have to challenge some or our "givens" -- this might include complimenting in a completely novel way.


The Five Foundations of Authentic Confidence


The Five Foundations of Authentic Confidence

Originally published on Maria Mara's blog on May 14th, 2015. Read original article HERE

This week we are getting right down to business. I am so excited to share with you the five foundations of authentic confidence. Once you have recognised and established these, everything goes uphill from there – I promise.

Firstly establish your true sense of self

Discovering a true sense of self basically means getting to know you! – and then honouring that person. Sometimes we live our lives on autopilot and just get on with things even when we have a nagging feeling inside us that this might not be our ideal situation. We are unhappy, unfulfilled or just bored but stay put because we believe this is the way it should be or even because of the familiarity and security it provides.

In these circumstances our lives are dictated by what we think we should do, how we think we should behave, what job we must be doing and who we should be in our relationships. Most of these beliefs aren’t even our own we have soaked them up as children from our parents, teachers and social surroundings and they have just incessantly stuck around.

We need to actively spend time with ourselves and start sussing out what really drives us. Go exploring. Face some of our fears. Start questioning how we invest our time and energy. You can start by asking yourself what activities are you doing begrudgingly and which ones just flow? Which people are really supporting your wellbeing? What do you absolutely love? Once we get into the habit of asking these kinds of questions and answering truthfully everything else is just chatter.

Feeling secure in who you are

Once we start getting to know ourselves more we begin developing a sense of knowing. Decisions seem easier because we have an increased awareness of what is right for us. We choose differently and our actions change as they align with what we really want.

We can acknowledge our strengths and even our weaknesses and use these to move forward.

Becoming Resilient

So what happens when we are moving forward but something doesn’t go according to plan? Resilience is about picking yourself up and moving forward. It is about saying ok things are a bit shitty right now or things didn’t work out as I expected but I will not give up. Resilience is about not getting stuck.

Unfortunately for many of us it sometimes doesn’t come naturally. In these moments remind yourself of two things: 1) that failure or making mistakes will not kill you and 2) what separates real leaders (and yes having authentic confidence means being a premium leader of your life) from the rest of the world is their ability to keep going even when things are not going to plan or someone doesn’t like their decisions.

Preserving a Positive Perspective

Maintaining a positive perspective is paramount in authentic confidence. In each situation we can choose whether to focus on the positive versus the negative, on the problem versus the solution. We can choose to see the good in others and in ourselves.

Having a positive perspective also can influence your attachment to the past. It can support you in reflecting, taking responsibility for your side of things and forgiving with the intention of moving forward.

Remaining unaffected by what others think as long as you are being true to yourself

When people offer their opinions or advice remember this is their perspective. With authentic confidence you can respect other people’s views and input and at the same time know when it just doesn’t apply to you.

This is a tough one because we are social beings, we grow up dependant on others and sometimes we forget that our lives are just that OUR lives. Our loved ones usually have our best intentions at heart they want to protect us from being hurt and making mistakes. Sometimes they may worry that if we change it will impact them. Either way when you get to the point where you trust yourself and know that your choices are right for you, you can then choose to reassure them and use your ever -evolving self to support both you and them in any changes that ensue.

The journey to authentic confidence is on-going because wherever you are there is always the potential to love yourself and others more, to believe in yourself at a higher level and to make decisions and act in ways where your contribution to the world is ever evolving. This can be frustrating at times and you might catch yourself wondering am I there yet? The answer is you are there once you are on this voyage. You are always there as long as you are clear that your intention is to live your best life, become your best self and contribute your talents, skills and abilities with the world.

I would love to hear from you! Which one of these points resonates the most for you and which one do you find the most challenging?

Let me know in the comments below.


Five Subtle Changes That Can Powerfully Improve Your Relationship with Your Teen


Five Subtle Changes That Can Powerfully Improve Your Relationship with Your Teen


I was shocked to hear my dad tell me, over a decade after I had made it out of adolescence, that both he and my mum had been afraid of me at times when I was a teenager. He said they felt helpless and powerless, often wondering what the best way to deal with me was. Now you might be wondering what kind of nightmare child I was, but the truth of it was that I was just a regular teen. I felt angry and didn’t know how to express it. I felt that nobody understood me and nobody ever would, and I often reacted in a way that did not encourage connection with those around me.

Do you feel like you and your teen are speaking different languages? Do you worry that you are growing further apart every day? Maybe you feel your teen is distant. Perhaps they are preoccupied and you would like to support them. Or you would like to play a bigger role in your teen’s life, or even just want to be able to have a conversation with them without it turning into an argument.  If any of this resonates, these five tips will help get you started:

In every interaction, make connection the intention.
Sometimes we get locked in to “who is right and who is wrong” and want to make sure that we “win” a discussion or argument. We want to assert our authority as a parent and make sure it is clear who is in charge.

By changing our focus away from what our teen should or shouldn’t be doing and instead concentrating on understanding and connecting with them in the moment, we can straight away change the dynamic of any conversation.

Listen with the intent to understand, not reply.
Sometimes we just need to be present—clear our mind and be there 100% for our teen. Often when our kids are talking to us, in our head we are already formulating a reply and not really listening to what they are saying. This takes away from our connection to them in that moment as we are not really hearing them. Practice just listening—it’s as simple and as hard as that!

Find the right balance between autonomy and dependence.
While young adults are finding their voice and having opinions (about everything!), they are also living under your care and are supported by you in various ways. Although having clear boundaries is helpful, it is also beneficial to encourage their identity and creativity to shine. For example, being clear about the tidiness you would like in the house but allowing them total freedom to have their own room as they wish.

Don’t take it personally.
In heated moments—with doors slamming and your teen screaming “you never understand!” or even “I hate you!”–the one thing you need to remember is that this is primarily about them: their confusion, their difficulty controlling themselves, their undeveloped ability to recognize and express their emotions. Taking it personally hurts you, which is normal! A common reaction when we are hurt is either shutting down or lashing out, and this just worsens an already tough situation.

Instead try taking a deep breath, reminding yourself that your teen does, in fact, love you but can’t get in touch with that at the moment. Try hard to remember what it feels like to be a kid who is upset and over-reacting.  With this in mind, think through how to respond calmly and constructively.

Look after yourself.
As parents (or teachers, mentors, coaches), we choose to give a lot of ourselves to others. It is paramount that in order to be able to really give to others, including our teenagers, we need to look after ourselves. It is impossible to really give from the heart if we are feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out.

Think about all the things that you feel happy doing, that relax you and help you to give to yourself. Make a list of at least ten things you really enjoy doing. Which one will you do today?



Changing Your Life With Two Easy Steps


Changing Your Life With Two Easy Steps

There are times when everything in your world seems off kilter and things in general aren't exactly great. We've all been there. Sometimes, this feeling of unhappiness or discontent is exacerbated by certain events. Sure, you can't change the external forces that cause you unhappiness, but what you CAN change is your outlook, attitude and perception. 

Easier said than done? 

Well here are two simple things you can do every morning and night to start and round out your day.


Upon waking up, before you even get out of bed, ask yourself these three things

  • What am I grateful for today? 
  • What is my goal for today (something I want to achieve by the end of the day)?
  • What can I do for someone today?


Before bed, when you are tucked in and ready for your sleep, take a moment to reflect on your day and ask yourself these three things

  • What was my favorite part of the day?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How did it feel to achieve my goal today / help someone today?


  • Goalsetting: When setting your goal for the day, make it something that is achievable for the day. It can be something out of your comfort zone, it can be anything, just make sure that it is actually doable in one day. And don't put that goal off either, make sure that you do everything you can to do achieve that goal that day.
  • In figuring out what to do for someone, try to make it something different every day, try to help someone different every day. People don't always accept help, so as long as you try, that is OK. 
  • You can be grateful for anything! Grateful that you have great friends, or that you have curly hair, it doesn't have to be a person or a thing, it can be big or small. Gratefulness is important and learning to appreciate everything in your life is a key to happiness. 
  • Lastly, have fun with it, this is an easy daily exercise that will change your life over time. Don't put so much pressure on yourself, make it FUN! Life is fun if you make it so!

If you have given this a try, we would love to hear how this has affected your life! Feel free to comment below.