Apology For Teens Made Easy

3813539332_e0ba7d0397I’m sorry. These two little words are not easy to say. They feel complicated and the words don’t flow nearly as freely as they should. Some people even pride themselves on never saying it. Some think they say it but it is not quite right. “I’m sorry, but …” is one of my least favorite kinds of apologies. It doesn’t count as an “I’m sorry” if it’s followed by a “but”. Ever.  Today my kid broke it down perfectly for me.  I listened to an interaction between two of my teenagers. They were arguing, pushing each others buttons, driving each other and me crazy, as is typical at least twenty hours of every day! But then something happened that crossed a line. My son picked up one of the bazillion hair ties sitting around our house and loaded that sucker with the expertise of a marksman and shot the hair tie right into her face! I’d like to think he didn’t mean to shoot it, that even if he did, he didn’t mean to aim for her face, or maybe it was just a lucky shot; but that would not be honest. He meant it. He was annoyed. He is younger and outmatched on ability to hang in the annoyance battle and he seldom wins. That’s just the way it is going to be for this guy. The older sisters can out argue and out annoy and out irritate him hands down anytime. So he twisted that hair thingy around his finger and launched. But if I can brag a bit about my outstanding parenting, he did feel bad immediately. Okay, okay, maybe he felt really bad because he knew he would be in huge trouble if he actually blinded her in one eye. But hey, either way he felt really bad, and that should count for something! Anyway, as all this was happening, he said, “I’m really sorry. I regret picking up that hair tie and I take responsibility for shooting it right at your face. I meant to do it and I’m sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?” Can you imagine?? Who taught this kid how to apologize so smoothly? I was so impressed with the skills this kid has that I asked, “How did you come up with THAT apology?” He said simply, “Oh, we learned in Guidance how to do the three R’s of an apology. Express regret, take responsibility and offer a resolution.” Wow. How simple he made it seem! Thank you school guidance counselor! Nice work!

Now if we could all learn to do this so easily wouldn’t the world be a nicer place? Or at least maybe once in a while it could end a debate or finish an argument or mend some hurt feelings.

The three R’s of an apology…

Express Regret

Take Responsibility

Offer Resolution or make it Right

The beauty of this is its’ simplicity and clear outline. It is a cheat sheet for how to do something that seems really hard. The challenge though is to practice it. We as parents need to practice and we need to make our teenagers practice it. So why not use it on the small simple things that happen every day?

How about, “I regret being late picking you up today. I got distracted and just lost track of time. How can I make this right”? (now of course you are a busy mom and if you are a few minutes late I hope their answer is something like, don’t worry about it mom, no big deal, you do so much for me every day I totally understand).

But it is showing them how to use the formula. It owns your piece of responsibility so that they too learn how to apologize and take responsibility. If THEY are late when you are picking them up, it gives you the chance to say, you were late and are wasting my time, I’d like an apology.

Instead of “OMG, Mom, whatever, it was like 5 minutes, what’s the big deal!”, you might get,  “I regret wasting your and I take responsibility for stopping to talk to my friends when I knew you were waiting, how can I make this up to you?” Wouldn’t that be fun?? Or weird. But either way it is a great way to practice apologizing.

There are a million fears in parenting a teenager, but one of my biggest is that my kids will make a mistake that cannot be taken back. A mistake that can’t be fixed with a grounding or consequence or that can not be undone and will stay with them their whole lives. Teens cause horrible traffic accidents by texting and driving, teens kill one another in stupid pranks and making poor decisions, teens accidentally say words and contribute to bullying that can ultimately lead to suicide. If teens don’t deal with their own guilt and shame they will carry those emotions like bricks into their adult life. So let’s teach these teens how to apologize for the times in their life when they will really need it. Let’s teach them how to apologize to us, to the neighbor, to teachers, to themselves, so that when they need to use an apology for something that really matters they have the skills to do it. They will need to make it right for the person they hurt but also for themselves many times in their life. Hurting people we care about is a guarantee in life. But perhaps if they learn to use the three R’s of an apology they can work through just about any apology needed in life. The “how can I make it right” part isn’t always going to be clear or easy, but at least they know it is within their power to find the way to make it right. Show them how to make it right with the little things along the way and you will be giving them a chance to carry less guilt and sadness with them their whole lives when they face the really big things.


joy prof picJoy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. She now has the unique pleasure of raising three teenagers of her own!  Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

Visit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks



I Am Thankful For My Teenagers!



Some days it’s really hard to see the positives and beauty of having a teenager. So today on this day of Thanksgiving, I pause to share my gratitude for these very moody creatures that have moved into my home and are doing an amazing job of wreaking havoc on our once calm, predictable life.


I am thankful my teenagers sleep in! This morning I had to drag them out of bed and battle three sleepy, annoyed, angry, irritable beasts who wanted one more hour. There is a high probability that they will be useless in getting the house, food or mood ready for our company. But I remember the days we were up at 6:20 Every. Single. Morning.  No matter how late we were up these sweet babies would wake up at 6:20 with the energy of a freight train! So yes. Today I am thankful they sleep in!

I am thankful my teenagers tell me when I look hideous. They always have an opinion about fashion and I am glad they keep me somewhat in line.  Teens are at the height of their youth, vigor, beauty, and strength. I cherish knowing they are healthy today. And even though they tell me daily that they will buy whatever they want when they are a grown up, I know they will never have more financial support than they do now. Enjoy those UGG boots now kiddos because you won’t be able to afford them on your salary!

I am thankful my teens have big dreams and are so confident that all of their dreams are within reach! They encourage me to keep dreaming too! If he can open a laser tag/go carting business I can surely follow my dream of learning to bake a pumpkin cheesecake!

I am thankful that my teens are intense. They ride the roller coaster of emotions daily. When they are happy everyone is happy. When they are sad everyone is sad. They can love me one minute and be horribly irritated by me the next. But without the downs I wouldn’t have the ups. And I love the ups!

I am thankful my teenagers keep going. Even after what seems like tragedy after tragedy, world crisis after world crisis these teenagers keep wanting more from life. They want to make a difference. They want to travel. They want to stay up all night so they don’t miss any exciting thing. They keep going. They have energy and are ready to tackle the world.

I am thankful my teenagers are so stinking smart with technology! My teenagers can literally answer any question I have about technology. And they can operate the TV remote control!!! What am I going to do when I want to watch TV and they are all gone in college??

I am thankful that teenagers challenge me to think differently. Up until now it has been me being the boss and me being in charge of all decisions. I welcome them challenging me. OK,  that’s a lie. But I try to remember that when they challenge me it helps me to grow and change and that will help me be ready to let my kids go. The launching of teens is not easy for teens or those who love them. The challenges and the new ideas and fresh perspective help me to grow too. So hopefully I can be ready when they are ready. Hopefully.

I am thankful teenagers have taught me patience and force me to believe the old adage that tomorrow is a new day. That helps me to know beyond any doubt that someday these teenagers will  grow up to be kind, decent, human beings who will be amazing people!

What are you thankful for?


joy prof picJoy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. She now has the unique pleasure of raising three teenagers of her own!  Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

Visit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks



Talking With Teens About World Events

world-economic-crisisTeens are more informed and more aware than ever about world events. Teens are passionate and care about the world and are forming opinions and ideas at a rapid rate during this time of their development. But as parents how can you make sure they have the information they need, that they are getting unbiased information, that they are getting information and are forming opinions that you believe fit within your values as a family? Teens are notorious for adding shock value to conversations, for forming opinions that challenge the status quo.

The recent bombings in Paris and the Syrian Refugee crisis are news stories that are complex
and very overwhelming in terms of world crisis and how both are going to change the world as these teens know it. Today’s eighth graders are the first generation of kids to be born after the events on 9/11. That means in four years high schools will be filled with teens who were not alive during that traumatic time in our history. Just an interesting note that this next generation of teens will only have first hand memories of future world events. Perhaps the bombing s in Paris or the Syrian Refugee crisis? When we as adults remember world events we recall where we were when we first heard about the space shuttle Challenger disaster as our parents recalled where they were when JFK was shot. What events of our teens’ lives will be their defining moment? The moment that rocks their world?

It is important to keep your teens talking about world events. Help them express fears or worries of events or uncertainties of events. Help them process what it does mean, what it could mean and most importantly, ways they can cope with the feelings of uncertainty or worry. Here is a great news site http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/ that provides not only daily news stories, but vocabulary help and discussion questions for families to use to keep communication open and guide families in having great discussions that will help your teen understand the news and process how to begin coping with the very grown up, life changing topics that our teens face today. Teens are watching and reading about world events. Find ways to talk with them about these events. They care passionately but often feel helpless and overwhelmed. Teach them to take those feelings and talk through them to find the lessons you want them to see in life. Whatever your social, political, religious or world views are, this is your opportunity to share those with your teens. They are ready to listen! Be sure to listen back. Your teens have a fresh perspective and a lot they can teach us too!



joy prof picJoy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. She now has the unique pleasure of raising three teenagers of her own!  Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

Visit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks

10 Reasons Teens Are Pretty Cool To Have Around


  1. Teens are full of enthusiasm. Maybe not for chores or homework or anything parents could possibly think is important, but they are passionate about something! Video games, fashion, hair, music. Find your teens passion and wind him up. He will reward you with non stop talking about whats really important to him!
  2. Teens can do pretty cool stuff. Can not necessarily will mind you. They can lift and carry really heavy stuff. Let them! Save your back. Rest up from all those years of carrying them! Let them haul the 500 pounds of water softener salt into the basement! They can cook! And bake! Give them a recipe and set them free in the kitchen!
  3. Teens are pretty hilarious! Sometimes they miss the joke or take it too far, but they have an amazing sense of humor at this age! Enjoy a laugh together!
  4. Teens can be crazy focused; when they want to of course. They can set their mind to a task or project and execute it with amazing focus. They can use that focus to do things like organize a closet or organize a set of drawers. If you trust it, they will amaze you! I will warn you, it will get waaaaaaay messier before you will start to see the results. And there is of course the risk that your teen is not “feeling it” and the project will stop.
  5. Teens are absolutely smarter than parents when is comes to most things, but especially technology. Put them to use on designing a program for something you need. Tap into what these teens know and understand almost instinctively. Ask them if something is possible when it comes to technology and they probably know how to make it happen!
  6. Teens are full of ideas and opinions. Keep in mind the opinions are still being developed. But they can get their heads around big issues and are interested in forming an opinion. Now is a great time to be willing to dive into the big issues with them. Hear what they have to say, answer their questions and then watch them form and solidify opinions and ideas about the world! Pretty Cool.
  7. Teens are living in a world of high fashion! Trust them when they tell you your dad jeans have got to go! You don’t have to spend what they spend on clothes, but they know what looks great and what doesn’t! Trust them!
  8. Teens have great products! Somehow they have the best perfume, boots, hats, purses, sports equipment. Start borrowing their stuff! Seriously, go check out your kid’s bathroom and closet. There are some great products in there!
  9. Teens have really cool friends. Get to know their friends. Chances are they are pretty hilarious too. And the best way to see your teenager smile and cut loose is to have a few of her friends around. Give them both the task of cooking or baking or creating or organizing! You might get something done, but if not, at least they will have a blast and you are there to enjoy it!
  10. Your teenager still needs you! Just when you least expect it they drop the “I love you” or give you an unexpected hug! They still need you to be a part of their life and to be there for the ups and downs. Your sweet little kid is still in there and he or she jumps out all the time. You just have to be ready to grab ‘em and enjoy them and be OK sending them back to the land of angst and moodiness just as quickly! It’s fun! Like a roller coaster ride : )



joy prof picJoy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

Visit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks





Get Your Teen Talking With This Simple Game!

family trivia
Family Trivia!

Wish your teen would talk to you more? Want to get more details about what they are thinking and feeling? Try engaging them in a little friendly competition.  Ask each other these 20 questions and if they get the answer right, give them the score next to the question. Add up your total scores. Have fun. It’s meant to be light hearted. It is also a great way to use a little competition to get your teens talking, learn things about them they wouldn’t tell you in everyday conversation and show them that they need to be connected with you too! Maybe put a wager on the game? Loser does the dishes? Winner gets to write the next 20 questions? Be sure to open up to your teen. This is a chance to reminisce or tell them a story about you. It is a great way to get connected. Have some fun!

What is my favorite meal? (1)

Who is my best friend? (1)

Which friend do I feel the guiltiest about how I treated? And Why?(3)

What is my favorite color? (1)

What was my favorite vacation? (2)

What is my happiest childhood memory? (3)

Who is my favorite relative outside of this house? (2)

What is my favorite song? (2)

Who are my two favorite celebrities? (3)

Who is my biggest enemy? (1)

If I got a whole day free what is my ideal way to spend it? (3)

Where is my favorite place in the world? (2)

What do I worry about most? (2)

What is my favorite part of Christmas? (2)

What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me? (2)

What one food do I hate the most? (2)

What medical thing do I worry most about? (3)

What is my dream job? (2)

Name one of my hobbies (1)

Who was my best friend in grade school? (2)


(Based on John Gottman’s Love Map)

Download the App Your Child’s Love Map for more Questions!


Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

joy prof picVisit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks

10 Realities Of Parenting A Teenage Boy!


  1. Teen boys sleep a lot! And not when it would make any sense to sleep. Go to bed at 9 PM and wake rested and ready for the day? Nope. Nothing like that at all. They will sleep all day. All afternoon. All weekend. Through school. They will sleep a lot. They aren’t necessarily lazy, just growing and developing like crazy and need a ton of sleep. Read here for your daily dose of guilt about home much sleep they need : )                                                    http://joyhartman.com/put-cell-phone-better-sleep/
  2. Your refrigerator will be empty all of the time! No matter how often you shop, how much you buy, there will literally be “nothing to eat”, all of the time!
  3. You will become the most embarrassing person on the planet. It happens over night. So if it hasn’t happened yet, don’t get smug. It will. He will not say what it is you have done, or how you could possibility be embarrassing in that very moment. But know that you are.
  4. Teenage boy bedrooms are the equivalent to a toxic landfill! It has stuff and smells coming out of it that go beyond human comprehension. That’s normal. Somehow the sense of smell must be turned off during adolescence for boys because they seem to not notice it at all! No need to worry, he just simply can’t smell what we smell.
  5. This next one is an expensive reality that sneaks up on us parents. Your teenage boy will outgrow his shoes every few months! And these aren’t the cute little shoes that we used to buy one get one half price kind of shoes. These are equivalent to a car payment kind of shoes! They are growing like crazy and somehow their feet don’t stop growing until they are ready to buy their own shoes. Weird how that happens!
  6. Teenage boys do really dumb stuff. No offense to your otherwise level headed, smart teenager, but these guys, especially when two or more are gathered, do some colossally dumb stuff. Their neurons are firing like crazy, they have testosterone coursing through their veins and they feel invincible. Set boundaries and limits like their life depends on it through the teen years! They need it!                                                        http://joyhartman.com/moody-impulsive-maddening-teenage-brain/
  7. Teen boys are not good at communicating. They might acknowledge that you are speaking to them through a simple grunt or snort, but rarely will they respond with their own thoughts or feelings. Do yourself and his future family a favor and teach him to communicate. Teach him to identify and communicate his feelings and do the same for other people in his life. It is ok that your teenager knows you have feelings and when he has hurt them or ignored them. And remember that he too has feelings that can be hurt, help him talk about it! Help him learn how to deal with all of those feelings in mature ways. http://joyhartman.com/what-is-most-important-skill-needed-for-teens-to-succeed/
  8. Teens go through a lot of interests. They love one thing today and another thing tomorrow. Try to keep up and try to express an interest in whatever the thing is for today. That’s your best shot at communicating with a teenage boy. If today its football and tomorrow its robotics, be ready to hang on for the ride!
  9. Teenage boys take selfies too. They will pose without their shirt on in the bathroom mirror. Talk to boys about selfies too. Talk to them about what they post and how it will impact their future!
  10. They will act like they don’t need you. They will act cool and aloof. They will say sarcastic things, they will very successfully say mean, hurtful things to you when you are just trying to be helpful. “Back off Mom, I got this, Helicopter much, you are so lame, take it down a notch mom”. Parents could fill a book of sarcastic, degrading stuff teenage boys have said, but the truth if they still do need you! They still need a hug once in a while, they still need a sympathetic ear, they still need encouragement, they still need a little push, and they still need a steadying hand.

Be there. Feed them. Listen to them. Hug them. Feed them. Repeat.



Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

joy prof picVisit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks

10 Realities of Being The Mom Of A Teenage Girl!


  1. Your clothes, shoes, make up, hairdryer, scarves, etc will mysteriously wind up anywhere but where you last put them! Just accept the fact that nothing is yours anymore and you will feel less annoyance! And please don’t delude yourself into thinking the stuff will be in her room! It may be in there on the floor or buried in a pile but it’s just as likely to be at her friend’s house, in the basement, her locker or “somewhere”!
  2. Gymboree and Land’s End are a distant memories. Deal with it. Heck even Justice is a long ago dream. Now it seems hoochie and sexy are the absolute goal every day! Fight the good fight mamas! But the reality is teenage girls no longer want to wear baggie clothes and hide under a big ol’ sweatshirt! Our moms had it so easy. The 80’s were all about big!! Now it’s all about short and tight! Good Luck!
  3. You will become the most embarrassing person on the planet. It happens over night. So if it hasn’t happened yet, don’t get smug. It will. You will be checking out at the grocery store and say something horrifying like, “Thank You”, as you accept your receipt and she will die a thousand deaths! “How could you talk to him mom? He goes to my school”!!!! Just apologize for your obvious lack of any coolness factor and try to salvage the day!
  4. You are NOT funny! Under no circumstance ever assume that you are funny. Nothing you say is funny! Got it? If you try to be funny or think you are funny you will be guaranteed a sigh, an eye roll and a “OMG , Mom, you are so lame.” And that actually hurts more than you thought it would.
  5. Drama is now a daily part of your life. What someone said, didn’t say, did, didn’t do, a look that was given or a tone that was implied are now the most riveting details of the day! Go with it. Listen carefully, stop asking lame questions and try to keep up. You need to know all of these details so that in the rare event she wants advice or needs a course correction, you have the details that matter!
  6. She is a mini, emotional, moody, insecure version of you! And your mom probably wished this kid on you at some point during your adolescence! So today’s tears and tomorrow’s anger and the next day’s sweetness is all you! Love her as much as you can and wait patiently for the sweet version to reappear. And of course be very careful what you wish upon her! Maybe twin teenage daughters ; )
  7. Bras, zit cream, and girly products will become daily dinner topics! These teens have no filter. They talk about everything! And their everything right now is not exactly what our grandma’s would call “appropriate dinner conversation”! But at least they are communicating with you. Try to figure out if there is a real question buried in there before you shut it down as shock value, obnoxiousness or just a really fun way to traumatize their dad!!
  8. Her friends are her world right now! You might love them. You might hate them. And not too be too dramatic, but your opinion of her friends can change on a dime. The kid who you thought was an amazing influence is going through her own growth too and may be ready to cut loose and push the limits at any moment. But so too might be the kid you never really liked. Or even more scary for mom’s is the fact that a kid you don’t even know might just be the best friend your kid could have right now! Find the positive in every friend your daughter has. Find the potential and trust that your daughter will figure all that out too!
  9. Body image. Oh boy do they struggle with body image! One moment your daughter is strong and powerful and can take on the boys at recess or the pacer test at school and then you blink and that confident, amazingly full of life school-aged girl becomes a weepy, soppy mess about her skills and ability and the shape and size of parts she never gave a thought to before! Help her see that even though her body is going through some disgusting changes, it will all be OK. Be confident in your own body! Encourage her to love the body she has. Teach her how to take care of that body so that it stays strong and powerful to do amazing things in the future!
  10. She will never ever admit this one. So please don’t show her this list! You will ruin this for moms across the country if this goes viral across Instagram. But you are actually her person. You are the person she needs most in the world right now. Yes, you are embarrassing, not at all funny, your clothes are hideous, except the ones she has “borrowed’ forever, and let’s not forget that you are super lame; but she needs you. She is the mini version of you and she will become the adult version of you no matter how hard she tries to pretend otherwise. She is watching how you treat yourself, how you treat others and how you treat her! So carry on embarrassing moms!! Keep saying thank you to clerks. Keep trying to buy her clothes that cover her body and flatter her in ways she can’t comprehend yet. Keep listening. Keep finding the good in her friends. Keep loving this gangly, pimply, awkward little girl! She is growing up to be a good, kind, decent human being, just like her mom!


A special thanks to fellow mom and middle school teacher, Casey Krueger, for her support and humor in “researching” this topic!


Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

joy prof picVisit her website at : joyhartman.com


Like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Survivingteens?ref=bookmarks



Check back for the 10 Realities of Being the Parent to a Teenage Boy!




Help! My Teen Won’t Talk To Me!

Daughter looking a phone and ignoring her mother

We all know that we need to talk with our teens. We are reminded daily to have this conversation or that conversation. We hear things throughout our daily lives that trigger another conversation that we seemed to have failed to deliver and it gets put on a mental list to cover the next time they are in the right mood. Ha! Good luck with waiting for the right mood! Many teens seem to believe that a conversation with parents should be a series of guttural sounds and a few grunts; and that may be the good mood you have been anxiously awaiting!

Just this morning there was a news story about human trafficking in a small town in Wisconsin. Parents are overwhelmed with the perils of the world and are saying, “I didn’t cover that with my teenager! Now I need to explain what that means, why people do it and how to avoid being a victim”! How can a parent have every conversation with a teenager who barely listens? A teenager who rarely takes out his ear buds or looks up from his device?

Here are 3 steps to having a real conversation, with real words, with your teenager.

  1. Talk to them when they don’t realize its happening. A sit down at the table with everyone looking at everyone is a recipe for disaster. It’s too intense. It’s too lecture-y. It’s too direct. Find a time when he least expects it. Driving in the car is one of the best times. No one has to make eye contact. The parent driver is busy driving and can make it seem that their concentration is divided by carefully changing lanes, adjusting volume on the radio, etc. This gives your passenger teen the opportunity to set the tone of the talk. They are more likely to respond or initiate conversation if they feel you are relaxed and open to whatever that conversation may be. Be open to conversations when it feels like a lot is going on. Teens may be apt to be ready if the pressure is off and the expectation is not there.
  2. Learn to Listen! This is so hard because the purpose of this elusive conversation is to be sure they know something or to warn or teach or ask or request something from your teen. Your time and attention is limited so parents feel a need to rush and take advantage of the moment. But they miss their moment so much more often. So what if you found out everything they already know about the subject first? What if you were open to not only making sure they know, but what they think and feel about the subject? It doesn’t mean you don’t ever get a chance to speak! But start with what they know and believe to be true and important. And then build on that knowledge and belief system. Acknowledge their beliefs even if they are different from yours. “That’s an interesting perspective. Huh, I never thought of it that way, You are so creative, I love your passion on the subject, You are so well-spoken or mature or driven for your age”, Etc. When they have shared their beliefs, feelings, knowledge, you have acknowledged and complimented how they have come to understand the subject, then and only then you get to throw in your two cents worth. And please keep it to 2 cents!
  3. Keep Calm and Chatter ON! Regardless of your teen’s energy level, voice volume, passion for the issue, or refusal to engage, keep your tone and energy calm. If your teen sees that he does not have to argue or defend his opinions, he is more likely to share them. No matter how outrageous his views, you must hear it, and acknowledge some positive part of his thinking if you want to keep having a conversation. Keep your tone and body language neutral or even aloof. He may be reading you for your openness to the conversation before he gets to the real part of the conversation. He may add some shock value just to see what kind of mood you are in that day. He may poke around a bit by pushing a few hot buttons just to see if you can be reasonable for whatever he needs to say. Stay calm. Be ready to hear what he really has to say.

It is not easy to engage a teenager, but if you follow these three simple steps you just may be rewarded with back and forth words and ideas and even a few feelings and beliefs!

A conversation!!!

You have wisdom, warnings and life lessons to share.

Teens have youthful energy, passion, and a future of endless possibilities to share!

Share your wisdom but also enjoy their passion and hope for the future!

Hopefully the world will feel a little less scary to you once you really hear what your teens think and feel. They are amazing people who will learn to navigate this world in different ways than we could ever imagine!



Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!

joy prof picVisit her website at : joyhartman.com


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Happiness Makes You The Most Beautiful!


I wish every teenage girl knew the secret to being beautiful. It is not perfectly straightened hair, the must have mascara color, the shirt tied in the back so that the hair tie doesn’t show, the shortest shorts, or the right name brand of clothes. I wish every girl, even 30 year old girls, could know the secret to beauty. A confident, happy girl is a beautiful girl! Happiness is the best kind of beautiful; a beauty that can last through your lifetime. Happiness is within our control and is not dependent on how much money we have, how our bodies fit the current styles, which boy thinks we are cute, or what clothes we are wearing. Beauty is within us all. Save your daughter a lifetime of chasing beauty and show her exactly where to find it.

While it seems to be an uphill battle to make our young girls believe they are beautiful, there is a simple solution! It turns out that happiness is absolutely contagious! Researchers have come up with proof after proof that happiness can be learned. It can be shared and it can be passed on and on. So share your happiness with your daughter. Show her daily how you find happiness.

Smile everyday! Seems simple. But are you smiling every day? Do you share happy thoughts and reflections from your day? Do you see beauty in yourself and your life? Don’t ask her if your outfit looks OK. Don’t ask her if something is in style or if you look skinny in a certain pair of pants. Announce to her that you feel great today. Tell her you love these pants. Choose an outfit because you love it and be sure she knows how fantastic you feel today. Make statements about how you handled a situation really well. Tell her about how you rocked that phone call or impressed that customer. Smile at a simple gesture. Belly laugh and snort over a joke or a funny story. Let yourself experience happiness. The day is busy and chaotic and there a million things to be done before the day ends, but have you smiled today? Have you stopped, maybe at dinner, to smile and laugh with your daughter? Click here to read about time importance of sharing a family meal once in a while. http://joyhartman.com/family-dinner-worth-the-hassle/

Put on some fun, happy music! Music has been proven to affect mood. Happy music leads to more happiness. Make a playlist for yourself and plug it in to your car when your daughter is along for the ride. Your captive audience will have no choice but to listen. Play one of her tunes, one of yours. See if happy music affects your mood. If you have a few minutes with your daughter, look up the latest pop song or music video and show her your dance moves. Learn a new dance together. Laugh and listen to music! Have your daughter film a lip-sync to one of her favorite songs while you are driving her to practice for the 100th time this week. But make it a happy song.

Teach your daughter to walk with her head held high. Show her that making eye contact with people around her allows her to connect with the world around. Building confidence starts with making it a habit. Believing in herself takes time. Fake it til you make it here! Walk with confidence. Smile with confidence. Teach your daughter to greet a person with eye contact and a smile. It sets an immediate tone of confidence. Be sure you are walking with your head held high and greeting people with eye contact and a tone of confidence. She is watching you and will learn to hold herself like you hold yourself.

Girls will struggle with understanding beauty. Our culture sets an impossible standard and expectations. Beauty is not how we look.

 Beauty is strength. Beauty is humor. Beauty is music. Beauty is passion. Beauty is dreams. Beauty is kindness. Beauty is attitude. Beauty is wisdom.

Beauty is happiness.

Find your happiness and share it with the world! There is a girl out there watching!



 Joy Hartman is a family therapist in Wisconsin who has worked with teenagers and their families for over twenty years. Joy helps teens and parents find their own unique strengths and talents to make the complicated journey to adulthood one filled with support, love and little bit of humor!





Introverted Teens Are Amazing Too!

buzzfeed_introvert-vs-extrovert-problemsToday’s teens have grown up in a culture that values outgoing personalities, assertiveness and  social connections. Teens have grown up in school systems that value working in groups, giving presentations, participating in plays and concerts and are given more and more social opportunities. They are a generation who is growing up with an overwhelming amount of after school activities, clubs, sports and even team building and leadership classes and field trips. They have been programmed to be outgoing, involved socially and to “put themselves out there”.

Introversion has become a less desirable personality trait. Many parents talk about wanting to boost their teens confidence so they can be more outgoing, bold, confident, etc. Sadly, it is a trait teens most often want to change about themselves. It is a trait that is often mistaken for social anxiety, depression, shyness, and even laziness. Everyone seems to want to be the gregarious, socially confident, life of the party kind of teen.

Consider these facts:

One out of every three people are Introverted.

Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.

Famous introverts range from Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln to Emma Watson and J.K. Rowling.

Many parents feel their children would fit in better if they could become more extroverted, and work very hard to make sure their teen is exposed to more and more social situations.

Introversion (or extroversion) is among the most stable and heritable of the personality traits.

Brain research shows that the differences between introverted and extroverted temperaments are rooted deeply in the brain, and are strongly influenced by genetics.

The brain processes information, memory, and decision-making by two major brain chemicals – acetylcholine and dopamine. Introverts rely much more on the  acetylcholine pathways (this is a longer pathway through the frontal lobe, so that memory recall or planning and decision making can actually be slower). Extroverts rely more on the dopamine driven pathways (these paths are shorter and cut through the mid section of the brain which impacts emotional responses and keeps a person seeking pleasure and social connections.

What does all this mean?

If your teen is an introvert, they are an introvert. They cannot be changed into something or someone they are not. It means they are who they are and it is your job to show them how to be an introvert in our heavily favored extroverted world.

What should I do?

The most important thing you can do is accept them as they are and not try to force them to become extroverted!  Here’s how:

Educate Your Teen About Introvert vs. Extrovert. Help them to understand not only the definition, but how it impacts them or the people they love. Help them distinguish between shy, depressed, or anxious and introversion. Educating them on the personality trait of introversion will validate who they are and give them a foundation to accept who they are.

Watch Your Language! Whenever possible, be precise with your comments and help your teen use accurate language. Substitute more positive words and more introverted characteristics instead of negative words that imply failure to be extroverted. Quiet can be “silent but well informed”. Timid or passive can be better described as patient or “chooses to speak up when it matters most”. Quiet can be replaced with “amazing listening skills”. Say things like, “the world needs more people to listen before speaking, I bet you have something to say and I know you will say it when they are ready to listen, it’s wise to assess a situation before diving in”.

Wait For It!  Whether you are introverted or extroverted, you are probably far removed from your teens struggle with introversion. Your world is one in which you have control of your social situations. There are no dances or Friday night football games looming around every corner of your adult world. There are probably a few close people in your life and very few large group gatherings you must attend daily (think walking through a very crowded, loud hallway every 42 minutes of your day). You can come and go as you please throughout your day. Teens are bound by bells and expectations. During their day they could be called upon to answer a question out loud, give a presentation or work in a group at any moment and probably multiple times a day! Understand that your teen is trying to fit in, trying to fight his natural instincts and may not have any choice in many of his daily decisions. So offer him support. What would help your teen unwind, decompress, recharge his or her batteries? Ask him what he thinks? And hardest of all; wait for the answer. Don’t try to answer it for him. Remember his brain is going to rely on the longer route to decision making and his natural tendency is to think before he speaks. You have educated him and given him a way to highlight what an amazing personality he has, now let him figure out what that means for him!