Ep 28: Connect then Redirect

Todd Cartmell, author of 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, explains how to get a strong bond with a teenager and then use this as a home base to redirect them to a better way. He says you need to start by fixing your relationship with the teen, then their behavior will follow.

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Full show notes

Connect Then Redirect

Parents of teens are all too familiar with this scenario: You want to find ways to build a strong bond with your teen but you’re often met with indifference. You try to think of simple, non-invasive questions that might get them to engage with you. “How’s school?” “Who’s that girl you’ve been hanging out with?” “What did you and Jason see at the movies?” And you’re met with one word responses: “good,” “no one,” “I don’t know.” Maybe all you get is silence because they don’t even bother to take out their headphones.

It’s understandable; your kids do not want to talk to you about who they have a crush on or why they’re fighting with their best friend. We can all remember feeling embarrassed by our parents. Thinking every little thing they say is annoying, believing that everything they do is an attempt to completely control our lives. But now that you’re a parent, you probably feel differently.

This constant battle to find ways to build a strong bond with your teenage kids can feel frustrating and even hurtful at times. You try so hard to not just be their protector but their confidant, to show them how much you care and want to be there for them. You want your teens to come to you with their problems, but your eagerness to help might make them run the other way.

Obviously, it’s important to help steer your teen in the right direction when they are facing the many challenges, peer pressures, and awkward situations that come with adolescence. You want them to make responsible choices and be respectful towards others but how can you find ways to build a strong bond with your teen if they won’t open up to you?

Todd Cartmell has some solutions for this. In addition to being a clinical child psychologist, Cartmell is the author of 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids. This book discusses various ways to build a strong bond with your teen by partaking in simple, leisurely activities that help develop a mutual respect between parent and child.

Manifesting Time Together

Having raised two boys, Cartmell uses his parenting experiences to pinpoint ways to build a strong bond with your teen. He explains that before delving into conversations about “the hard stuff,” you first have to focus on creating an enjoyable environment for them. This translates into doing activities that they enjoy, not just stuff that you like to do.

Instead of forcing them to go shopping or watch football, which they might find excruciatingly boring, seek out an activity that your teen is interested in. For example, Cartmell saw that though he himself found little joy in playing Mario Kart, it was a game that his boys loved to play. He realized that it didn’t matter whether he liked playing the game or not. You have to find ways to build a strong bond with your teen in a setting that they are comfortable in—even if that means spending an entire afternoon being brutally beaten at video games.

Parent’s must realize that as their kids grow older and find new interests, opportunities to spend quality time with them become more scarce. Cartmell reiterates that participating in seemingly one-sided activities can actually be a tool for developing camaraderie with your kids. He states that these activities often serve as catalysts for more important conversations to come up. Manifesting opportunities to have fun with your kids will help them see you in a more positive light and will in turn make them more willing to listen when it comes to having more difficult conversations.

Operant Conditioning and the Pour On Technique

Cartmell discusses the benefits of using operant conditioning techniques with teenagers, which are associations between particular behaviors and the positive or negative consequences that follow. These techniques are especially helpful when it comes to distilling values and finding ways to build a strong bond with your teen. He encourages parents to sit down with their teens and mutually agree on specific values to work on, such as integrity or respect. You must then show your teen how learning these values can benefit them in multiple facets of their life. For example, when discussing the values of respect you must establish that it’s not only a crucial element of teen-parent relationships, it’s also important in any friendship or romantic relationship. Showing them the social worth in these values may increase the effectiveness that these conversations have on them.

Cartmell also discusses a method he calls the Pour on Technique. After you’ve discussed why values such as respect are important, the Pour on Technique then requires you to focus on High Frequency. This means being extremely attentive in identifying when your teen is acting in a respectful manner and consistently praising them for doing so. Responding at a High Frequency means you need to notice every time they are being respectful, not just 25% of the time. This teaches them to always associate respectful behavior with a reward, whether that be increased privileges or positive feedback on your behalf.

Cartmell also emphasizes the importance of complimenting teens in a concrete way that specifically identifies what they’ve done right and why you appreciate it so much. Rather than simply saying “Good job!” say “I really appreciate that you cleaned the dishes after I only asked you one time.” Specifically identifying positive behaviors and complimenting them for it are great ways to build a strong bond with your teen and encourage them to continue practicing good habits.

Creating No-Judgement Zones

In addition to spending time doing activities your teens enjoy, Cartmell urges you to find ways to build a strong bond with your teen that are intellectually stimulating without being intimidating. He states that it’s important for families to create no-judgement zones where teens can practice conversational skills and develop opinions on various topics.

Cartmell suggests a game where all participants sit in a circle and one person holds an object, such as a red ball. Whoever’s holding the ball has the floor to share their views on a given topic. Once they're done, the next one with the ball is only allowed to share their opinion once they’ve summarized everything the last person said. This teaches your teen that in order to be heard, they in turn have to give the same respect and attentiveness to others.

Bonding Exercises and Correcting Bad Habits

In this interview, Cartmell further discusses exercises for encouraging positive habits and ways to build a strong bond with your teen. Other topics we cover include:
  • Developing the foundation for a strong and trusting parent-teen relationship
  • Determining when and how to approach hard subjects with your kids
  • Identifying the root of your teen’s bad habits and changing them
  • How creating connections with your kids at a young age can steer them away from negative influences later in life
I really enjoyed hearing how realizations from his personal and professional life simplified Cartmell’s approach to parenting teenagers. I hope this very laid-back, yet thought-provoking conversation with Todd Cartmell about ways to build a strong bond with your teen makes tackling the roadblocks of parenthood a whole lot easier.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Dr. Todd Cartmell
Dr. Todd Cartmell
Child Psychologist • Author • Speaker • Husband • Father https://t.co/ONDdIX3haA https://t.co/bgrakMSqAM
Ep 28: Connect then Redirect
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