Creative Solution #4: Have a Mission Statement or Mantra

In my last article, I introduced the concept of the “Power Word“, and how effective it can be in developing new associations in your teen’s thinking. A Mission Statement is very similar to a Power Word, in that it is a way to challenge negative self talk, and create what is called “Positive Anticipation“.

If your teen is prone to negative thinking, or has challenges with low self esteem, developing a Mission Statement or Mantra can be particulaly helpful to them. Oftentimes, teens with low esteem develop negative, repetitive thoughts, also called “Negative Anticipation“. It is not uncommon for a teen with low esteem to worry alot.  Commonly, teens worry about such things as: kids not liking them, saying or doing something embarrassing, not being attractive enough, or being left out of the group.

Using a Mission Statement or Mantra can empower your teen, much like the Power Word does.

Here is an example of a basic Mission Statement format:

“No  matter what…  ( fill in the blank with your mission statement )    …no matter what….”

Here are some examples of effective Mission Statements:

** “No matter what…I will never ever doubt my worth…no matter what.”

** “No matter what…I will handle my worries and become stronger and stronger…no matter what

** “No matter what…I will never ever allow another person to have power over me….no matter what

** “No matter what…I will keep my self respect and set good boundaries for myself…no matter what”

These Mission Statements or Mantras are extremely effective.

Personally,  I like to have teens write it out on a piece of paper, and take a picture of it with their phone. Then they can put it on their wallpaper of their phone, and see it repeatedly throughout the day. If your teen likes to draw, or use stickers, they can decorate it. That way, they personalize it, and visually it spices it up!

Good luck! Remember…it works for adults too!

Next article: Teens Who Overcome Adversity Share Their Stories on Video

Creative Solution #3: Create A Power Word

** Creative Solution #3Create a “Power Word”

This is a pretty simple concept, and when practiced, is enormously effective. In fact, I use it myself and have at times been shocked at the positive results I get by using a power word. So…let me explain the concept and the process so you can begin using it with your teen, and yourself!!

First, let me explain how our thoughts influence our feelings, using your teen as an example.

If your teen has a thought: “I don’t want to go to school”, or “I hate her/him” or “What happens if I don’t pass that test?”, their feelings will match the negative thought they are having (angry thought=angry feeling).

So, “I hate her/him!” = angry feelings = negative attitude or angry behavior towards that person. Oftentimes, the behavior is even displaced onto other people who weren’t even involved (sound familiar?).

The concept behind the power word is that everything in life has an association connected with it, positive, negative or neutral. For example, many teens have a negative association with their homework. In fact, they have challenges in many areas not just homework. When your teen focuses on that negative thought, the negative feelings will be amplified.

So, the trick is….to replace the negative association with a positive one.

That is where the Power Word comes in!

This is how it works. When you have a negative thought about a person or situation, choose your power word, imagine that person or situation that is distressing to you, and repeat your power word while imagining that person or situation.

Repeat this over and over, while tapping your knee (there is research to support that this allows your brain to be more receptive to the new thought).

So, to give you a concrete example, if your teen has a test coming up…have him/her choose a power word such as “Calm” or “Successful”. Have them imagine themselves taking the test, repeating to themselves their word, i.e. “Calm…Calm….Calm” while tapping their knee.

This can be done a few days before the test, right before, or during the test. I think it’s more helpful to start ahead of time, and not wait until the last minute.

By doing this, you are in effect, rewiring your brain and the negative associations that can get locked in your thinking patterns.

Here are a few Power Words that I use, or your teen can even come up with their own!

* Calm

* Serenity

* Peace

* Confidence

* Successful

* Powerful

* Flexible

* Acceptance

* Loving

* Motivated

I hope this has been helpful to you and your teen.
Good luck! It really works!

Stay tuned for my next blog on Creative Solution #4: Have a “Mission Statement” or “Mantra”

Lynn Hoyland, LMFT

“Op-Teenism” Building Optimism in Your Teen

7 Creative Ways To Help Your Teen Through Tough Times Part 2

Creative Solution #2Make the Problem a Positive Experience!

Parenting teens is such a difficult challenge these days. In my first article I wrote about the benefits of Postive Journaling. In this article I thought it might be helpful to talk about how to make the “problem” a positive experience.

Quite honestly, its very easy to focus on the problem especially when the problem feels overwhelming or difficult to solve. Sometimes, all it takes is a shift in thinking and asking the question “How is this problem improving my life”?  Oftentimes, just being human, we tend to “awful-ize” and “catastrophize” the current problem or dilemma. For example, its easy to think, “why is this happening to me?”.

Unfortunately, if you take that track, you will likely go to the negative part of your brain, and the answer will generally sound something like this, “because I cant ever get a fair shake” or “people are just difficult”.

In doing this, (asking yourself negative questions), you draw from the negative part of your thinking, and the answer will undoubtedly be negative. If you ask yourself positive questions, you will be more inclined to pull from a postive source, and chances are, the answer will be more positive.

Its easy to fall into negative thinking and look at the problem negatively. But! the good news is, there’s always something good that can come out of a problem. Here are a few examples:

** I am learning to handle my challenges better.

** I am learning more about myself in this process.

** I am learning how to spot red flags and warning signs.

** I am learning what I am made of.

** I am learning necessary living skills as I tackle this challenge that I find so difficult.

So, as a parent, your abililty to learn this skill can then be transferred to your teen. As a parent, when your teen comes to you with a problem….and they undoubtedly will…you can ask them the simple question. “How is this problem making your life better?” They then will begin focusing on the positive, not the negative.

“Focus on the solution and the solution gets bigger. Focus on the problem and the problem gets bigger.”  Said another way…”Focus on the problem and the solution gets smaller. Focus on the solution and the problem gets smaller”.

Stay tuned!

Lynn Hoyland

“Building OpTeen-ism in Your Teen”


7 Creative Ways To Help Your Teen Through Tough Times-Part 1

911: Is Your Teen In Trouble?

As you know, your teenager is facing one the most difficult periods of his or her life. It seems like everywhere a teen turns there is a difficult challenge to face, especially these days. Sometimes parents of teens feel like they don’t have much control or influence anymore.

Do you ever wonder if your teen even listens to what you say?  Believe it or not, you might have more influence than you realize…

Are you ready for some great ideas to help your teen through tough times?

I’ve come up with 7 creative ways you can help your teen through the rough spots, and will be sharing each solution in detail over the next 7 articles…stay tuned!!

**Creative Solution #1:  Start a Positive Journal (see article below)

**Creative Solution #2:  Make the Problem a Positive Experience

**Creative Solution #3:  Create a Daily “Power Word”

**Creative Solution #4: Have a “Mission Statement” or “Mantra”

**Creative Solution #5: Teens Who Have Overcome Adversity Share Their Stories on Video     

**Creative Solution #6: Read Your Teen a Story!

**Creative Solution #7: Avoid “Unsolicited Advice”

In this post, I will be exploring the advantages and disadvantages of journaling.

What?? Disadvantages to journaling you ask?

Most people believe that journaling is always good for you. Well, in my opinion, not necessarily….

Starting a Positive Journal

Journaling has long been known to be a great way to “get your feelings out”.  People have kept diaries for many centuries, and there are advantages to journaling your feelings and keeping diaries. 

However!  The thought has crossed my mind that maybe journaling negative feelings doesn’t always produce positive results.  When you think about it, focusing on the problem seems like it would make the problem bigger and focusing on the solution would make the solution bigger.  

Focusing on the negative makes your brain think in negative ways.  This can’t be all that good for your teen.  Focusing on what went wrong that day, versus what went right, will likely lead to negative feelings, and potentially negative behaviors. 

“What you focus on, you amplify”

Simply put, journaling negative feelings or experiences can inadvertently reinforce the perception that things are bad.

Of course, we do have to think about the negatives, in order to problem solve, make decisions, etc.  But that’s not what I’m really talking about. 

I’ll bet the spiritual guru’s out there don’t focus on the negative stuff.  It’s much more likely they focus on the positive events in their lives, vs. what’s going wrong that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there is a benefit to “getting it all out” sometimes.  It just feels good to release all that negative energy.  However, if all you do is journal the negative experiences you have, it seems to me that you’re only focused on the negative…and not the positive. 

So, when you think about your teen, and the many challenges teens face, you can see how easy it would be for them to focus on negative stuff.  I mean the list of stressors can be long: Drama with friends, stress around school, low self esteem, relationship breakups, following rules at home, peer pressure, divorce…the list goes on.

What happens in the brain when you focus on the negative?

Neuroscience research has discovered very strong associations between painful experiences, thoughts and feelings.  Negative or painful events get imprinted in the emotional part of our brains.  Our brains are like computers.  They download all the information that comes our way.

So, if you focus on the painful and negative experiences you have, you are likely to hardwire that into the neuropathways of your brain. Those negative thoughts can act like a virus…popping up when you least expect it. Similar to having a computer virus, the negative thinking will contaminate your ability to feel happy and optimistic, and for your brain to work smoothly and efficiently.

 Can you give me examples of positive journaling?

Keeping a positive journal is easy.  Here are some examples:

  • What are three things I did today that made me feel successful?
  • Name three things I am grateful for.
  • Name three reasons I am a good friend.
  • What was the best part of my day, and why?
  • Name three people who love and care about me.
  • What are my three best strengths?
  • Write a story about a past success, and what I learned about myself that made me stronger as a person.
  • Identify three solutions to the problem I am having.
  • How do I aspire to be when the going gets tough?

This list should help your teen get off to a good start!    

p.s.  Consider checking out Martin Seligman’s website at: and have your teen take the VIA Strengths Inventory test.  It’s a wonderful test that identifies your teen’s top 20 strengths.  Just in case your teen has trouble identifying their own strengths.

More to come…

“To Snoop Or Not To Snoop”

911:  Should I Snoop?

I bet if you are the parent of a teen, the thought has occurred to you, at one time or another, to “snoop”. 

Now, snooping is a challenging subject overall, because there are so many things to consider before you do it.  One question many parents ask themselves is, “Will I lose my teen’s trust if they know that I’ve looked through their stuff?”  It’s a great question to ask, and one that deserves some careful thought before you make the decision to snoop.

Snooping Is About Boundaries

Quite honestly, I don’t think the issue of snooping can be discussed without having a conversation about boundaries, since snooping is really a boundary issue. Boundaries with teenagers are different than they are with younger children.  As the parent of a teen, you begin to let the rope out a little.  You begin to trust them more to make their own decisions about things.  They are growing up and you want them to have more privacy as they begin to mature and become young adults.

However!  They are still kids, and because they are still under your care it is your duty as a parent to know what they are doing.  It is perfectly appropriate, even advisable, for a parent to call another parent if your teen is going to their home or staying overnight.  In the same sense, it is perfectly appropriate to check their Facebook account to see what they are posting and who they are interacting with.  It’s also very appropriate to look at the history in your computer to see what websites they are visiting or put a program on your computer that can track their activities.  There is no apology needed.  These are appropriate parental limits.

These days, kids are getting drawn into all kinds of worrisome and problematic behavior on the computer, and/or social media sites. Some parents have no idea that their teen has gotten involved in these things.  You have the “right”, and the “responsibility”, as the parent to set limits on these issues.

How Should I Set Limits With My Teen on These Issues?

Personally, I think you should make your teen aware that there will be controls on the computer and that you will be looking through these things. Even though your teen might be upset about this, there are advantages to establishing your boundaries upfront and being honest about it.  By doing this, you clarify your expectations of them and what the “privacy” rules are.  You will have more credibility in the area of honesty if you are honest with them about this issue.  If you are being deceptive, and you get upset with THEM for being deceptive, you lose credibility.  Role model what you want from them.

I’ve always found that teens respect parents that are strong enough to set limits, be honest about their intentions and concerns and are willing to risk their teen’s anger in order to “do the right thing”. 

TIP:  Remember; even if your teen “fusses” over this, on a deeper level they most likely feel safe.  Children feel safe when they have external limits.  Simply put, teens sometimes feel relieved when the limit is set for them. 

What Rights To Privacy Does My Teen Have?

Teens really should have more rights to privacy than younger children do.  Developmentally, they are trying to become autonomous, and achieve healthy separation from their parents.  If you are snooping through your teen’s diary, for example, you have to ask yourself why.  If it’s just to satisfy your curiosity, but you have not had any problems with your teen, you might want to rethink your decision and manage the urge to snoop. 

The bottom line on snooping in your teen’s room?  It’s a “gray area”…

But…If your teen is behaving in problematic or worrisome ways, you need to snoop your head off! All bets are off now.  Your teen has waived their right to privacy.  It is your duty and responsibility to find out what’s wrong and what is contributing to the problem. 

If your teen is “on track”, responsible, polite, motivated, etc., you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt and respect their need for privacy.  If you are curious about what’s going on with your teen, just ask.  Tell them you had an urge to snoop but you realized that would be a boundary violation and a violation of trust.  They may tell you or they may not. By asking, you’ve established something really critical.  You role modeled what a boundary looks like, and you’ve respected their boundary and need for privacy.  If they are going to tell you anything, they will be more likely to do so under these circumstances than if you violated their trust.

What About Spying?

Some parents report “spying” on their kids, secretly keeping track of their texts, posts on social media and in their diaries.  There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.  If you “track” the problematic behavior, and don’t intervene,  you run the risk of something happening during the time you are tracking this.  It’s best to “nip it in the bud”.  The longer the behavior is present, the more difficult it is to stop it.  Parents sometimes use the information to support their position which is okay, but the risk is something could happen in the meantime.  I think it’s always best to intervene early.  If your teen has exhibited problem behaviors, you may want to consider counseling to help him/her get back on track.