The quickest way to start an argument (and the easiest way to bypass one)


As teens grow and gain their independence, it’s inevitable that they’re going to have opinions that we disagree with and make choices that we don’t understand.

When we’re trying to guide teenagers toward making good choices, nothing shuts down communication quicker than lecturing.

It seems counter-intuitive: we have all of this knowledge and experience, so why shouldn’t we share it? If our kids come up to us with ideas that we can clearly see are wrong, why not set them straight?

What doesn’t work

When we want to tell our teens what to do, it’s to teach them right from wrong. This is a great goal, but lecturing can backfire, making it harder for them to understand and respect our values.

I don’t know why people get all upset and freak out about drugs. If I hear you talk like that again, you’ll see the true meaning of freaking out.

I think I want to be a tattoo artist. I don’t need to finish high school for that. What are you, crazy? I can’t believe you said that. You have to finish high school.

My English teacher is such a jerk. I wouldn’t mind if she died. How dare you say that? She has to put up with a class of rowdy kids and make sure you know everything you need to go on to college.

Generally, our reaction to these scenarios is a roaring “NO WAY.” We don’t want our kids doing drugs, dropping out of school, or wishing death on authorities. But how effective is this approach at keeping our kids safe?

While reactions might get short-term compliance, they’re unlikely to change any hearts and minds.

Instead of learning right and wrong, many teens instead learn to not mention these topics.

How teenagers learn

Teenagers learn, not through lectures, but through their own experience, thoughts, and feelings.

Before teens are ready to listen, they need to know we care about their views. This isn’t done by saying something stilted, like “I care about your views,” but through acknowledging what they seem like they’re thinking or feeling.

Let’s look at some of the feelings underneath the examples:

I don’t know why people get all upset and freak out about drugs. They’re probably feeling dismissed, coddled, or discounted.

I think I want to be a tattoo artist. I don’t need to finish high school for that. They’re thinking about the future and maybe unsure of the path we set them on.

My English teacher is such a jerk. I wouldn’t mind if she died. They probably feel angry.

When you both feel heard


Shifting our conversations to include the feelings and thoughts of teens can actually make them more receptive to the information we’d like to share. It can feel awkward at first if we’re used to just giving orders. Like any skill, the more we practice it, the easier it becomes.

This kind of dialogue sets us up to be ongoing supports as they come to their own conclusions. We don’t sidestep our opinions, but we let them feel seen and understood first. This helps turn a confrontation into a conversation and makes it go smoother for everyone.

Let’s look at one of the examples where we react by listening and asking about their feelings. If we were to briefly summarize that conversation, it might look something like this:

I don’t know why people get all upset and freak out about drugs.

Like they’re treating you like a baby and telling you what do do?

Yeah. Like, what’s the big deal? Why do they care?

Why do you think?

To keep me from having fun.

Maybe that’s a trade off they want to take - safety for fun. Did you know that police have found drugs that are laced with formaldehyde and other nasty stuff?

That’s gotta be overblown. I’m not going to believe anything some police officer says.

Why don’t you look it up and let me know what you find? I know you don’t like the speakers your school brings in, but you know what they say: “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”


By acknowledging their feelings and giving them a chance to figure it out for themselves, we’re letting the teens take the lead in adopting healthy behaviors.

Acknowledging teen’s feelings can have a snowball effect - when teens know they’re likely to be heard, they are more honest about their feelings. When we continue acknowledging their feelings, they feel even more empowered to share with us.

Tired of yelling? How to get chores done without a fight.

When we get frustrated with our teenagers, our first instincts might be to yell, threaten punishment, or even call them names. But these responses only go so far in getting what we want.

The Problem

When our teens don’t follow directions, we often get exasperated, frustrated, or angry - and it shows.

How many times do I need to tell you to take out the trash?

Why didn’t you do your laundry?

You’re so selfish - you can’t do this one thing I asked.

This might move our teens to action in the short term - but the cycle quickly begins anew. It can feel like there’s no hope in getting getting chores done without a fight.

Getting stuck in the cycle


Ideally, everyone would love to do chores! Sweeping, doing laundry, washing dishes - these tasks are not necessarily fun, but they help take care of our homes. They make our spaces more pleasant and enjoyable to live in.

When we ask our kids to do chores, we want them to participate in this upkeep. Even if they don’t personally feel like they’re making the home nicer, we’d like them to at least feel like they’re helping us feel more at ease.

Chores teach teens how to take care of their space and how to respect other’s. Unfortunately, when we resort to yelling, these messages get lost.


When we yell, blame, or call names, we end up shifting the focus from the task at hand to ourselves.

These reactions aren’t as much deterrents as they are distractions.

Why are you blowing up at me? I just forgot to put the dishes away.

Mom is so unreasonable. She took away my phone for the smallest thing.

So, what can we do? Instead of putting our teens on the defensive, we can concentrate on the behavior we want to see. This keeps the short-term focus on the chores (and, long-term, on the life skills and lessons we’re trying to impart.)

Expectations and Choices


When our teens have failed to complete a task set out for them, our best bet is to help them refocus on achieving it.

There are two steps in this process.

First, we want to reaffirm the expectation. We can let our teens know what they need to do, how often they need to do it, and if there are any parts that need special care.

Next, we can give them options on how to get it done. When we let teens make the final choice, it provides them a chance to build autonomy and feel more ownership over the task.

I expect the trash to be taken out every day. You can do it before dinner, before you brush your teeth at night, or in the morning before school. What time should I expect it done each day?

…and follow up

If the consistency starts to slide, you can address it early on. Again, the most effective approach is helping your teen own the problem and supporting them through problem-solving.

The trash hasn’t been emptied every day. What’s been getting in the way? (I forgot) How can you fix it? (I can put an alarm on my phone, you can keep my phone charger until I get it done, I can put a reminder on my door…)


When we give them a chance, teens are often able to find their own solutions.

If we rush in to give them the answers, teens can feel dis-empowered. If we let them know that this problem is theirs to solve, teens often feel more responsibility and pride in the task.

They aren’t just doing something their mom told them to do. They’re following through on their own plan! And how cool is that?

How to keep anxiety from calling the shots

Anxiety is one of those universal emotions - everyone gets anxious from time to time. Work, school, friendships, sports, there’s no shortage of things we can feel anxious about.


Some anxiety is normal. Most of us find taking a test, going to a job interview, or meeting your date’s parents to be anxiety-inducing. When we’re feeling high levels of anxiety most of the time or for issues that are minor, this can be a problem and may even be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

If you notice your mind running away, here are some strategies that can help.

Notice what is going on

If you’re having trouble breathing and your heart is racing, these can be signs that your anxiety is getting into high-gear. Instead of thinking that these symptoms are signs of danger, we can think of them as signs that something has triggered our anxiety and we need to take a break.


Wow, my heart is beating so fast. How long have I been clenching my shoulders? You know, I think I’m having an anxiety attack.

When you notice your body reacting, you can pause. Instead of getting carried away on a wave of anxiety, you can ground yourself by taking some deep breaths. You can try to move to a place you feel safer - like a quiet room - and use some of the other techniques.

How bad could it be?

Sometimes, the best way to defuse an anxiety attack is to think through the next steps. With worried thoughts popping it, it can actually feel like you’re having a conversation with anxiety. When your mind’s racing, you can keep refocusing. What would happen? And could I deal with it?

Oh no! I’m going to get a terrible score on the SAT!

Okay, what would I do if that happened?


No, seriously, what would happen?

I’d take it again. But what if I just have all bad scores?

I mean, I’d still get into college.

But the fancy college?

I wouldn’t die if I had to go to another school. Yeah, it’d suck, but I could deal. And I’d still get my degree and get a job, so I wouldn’t end up homeless. I’d be sad, but the world wouldn’t end.

How realistic is this?

Anxiety’s role is to keep us safe. Anxiety doesn’t care about how likely something is to happen. It’s just a signal that some danger is on the horizon. Putting it in check can help diffuse these overwhelming feelings.


What if my girlfriend’s parents hate me and think I’m dumb?

Has this happened before?

Not really, I guess. Most people like me. But those people at school made fun of me in 9th grade.

Is this the same kind of situation? Do you think her parents will make fun of you?

No, that’d be kind of weird.

Yeah, it’s not likely that they’d be aggressive weirdos. It’ll probably be fine.

But what if something good happens?

Flip anxiety on its head. Yes, something bad could happen. But what if something good happens?


What if the party sucks? What if I make a new friend and have a great time?

What if I tank the job interview? What If I do really well and they hire me?

What if I can’t remember the song? What if my performance is awesome?

Rinse and repeat

These techniques take time. The more you practice these skills, the more automatic they’ll become. We all have to start somewhere. Each time you calm yourself down, you get better at this!

<3 Vered

Where to get cuddle therapy

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One of the most important things when dealing with anxiety, depression, or general stress is to have something that you look forward to. Spending time with animals can be a great way to feel better while also making a difference.

Asheville Humane Society

Asheville Humane Society offers opportunities to socialize cats and dogs.


If you’re a cat lover, you can get involved in their cat behavior program. They have a special room for kitties to play in. You can pet them, play with them, read to them, or just cuddle.

Asheville Humane Society also has the Urban Tails program, which allows you to take dogs out for outings, such as walks, hikes, or playing in the park.

If you’re between 10-18 years old, you need a parent to supervise. Those 18 years and older can volunteer independently. For more information on how to get started, you can visit

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue

Brother Wolf Animal Rescues offers ways to work with animals all over Asheville!

There are many different ways to work with kitties. You can socialize cats at an adoption center, or join their PetSmart and Petco Cat Care Teams to help the kitties waiting to be adopted at stores. You can also join their Community Cats program to help feral cats.


Brother Wolf also has many opportunities to work with dogs. At the adoption center, you can help care for and actually train dogs awaiting adoption. If you want to get some fresh air, the Outward Hounds Hiking Club takes dogs for hikes around town.

Brother Wolf requires all volunteers under 18 to have a parent with them. You can find out more at

If you live outside of the Asheville area, you can check with your local shelters and see what dog and cat socialization programs they offer.

These cuddly friends can lift your spirits and provide nonjudgmental comfort and pure love. If you don’t already have a pet, one of these programs may be right for you!

Is this normal teenage behavior or a sign of depression?

It’s a cliche that teenagers act moody, sullen, or argumentative. Some parents want to know where the line is between “normal” teen behavior and what are signs that something more serious is going on?


Before we begin, I want to say that your gut instinct is always going to give you more specific advice to your situation. If you feel like there is reason to worry, that may be enough “evidence” to reach out to an expert. You can talk to your child’s pediatrician, school counselor, or reach out to a therapist. If you would like to schedule a free, 15-minute time to talk with me about your situation, you can set it up at

Why are so many teenagers “moody?”

One important factor is puberty. In addition to physical development, puberty introduces hormonal changes, as well as continued brain development. Some of these changes in mood are a window into your teenager’s brain.

While we would like to think that all parts of the brain develop at the same pace (like coordination improves at the same rate as verbal skills), this isn’t the case. Early in adolescence, the limbic system, which involve emotional reactivity, is strongly connected to the rest of the brain. The frontal lobe, which helps with planning and decision-making, doesn’t fully develop until late adolescence/early adulthood (around age 25). Its connections to the rest of the brain are less robust at first.

The imbalances between these two systems often play out in behavior. The limbic system sends highly emotional messages, such as “Panic!” “I love this!” or “This sucks!” The frontal lobe, on the other hand often has an inhibitory effect on other areas of the brain. Essentially, the frontal lobe tells the other areas of the brain to chill out. In adolescence, the limbic system can yell “OH NO!” while the frontal lobe is only able to whisper “Shhh, limbic system. Chill out…” As a result, it’s a lot harder for teens to regulate their emotions and behaviors.

This discrepancy often earns teenagers the “moody, impulsive, overdramatic” label, even if they’re just doing the best with what their brain has given them.

When is moodiness a problem?

Some parents ask me when it’s time to see a therapist. As circular as it sounds, moodiness is a problem when it becomes a problem.

By that, I mean it’s an issue when it interferes with daily life, relationships, and goals. If your teenager is unusually argumentative, withdrawn, or has difficulty enjoying things, it’s possible that they could benefit from some extra help.

Things don’t have to be at a certain level of “dire” or “clinically significant” in order to get help.

In fact, early intervention can help teenagers develop emotional resilience and coping skills to get through more difficult times later on.

Is my teen depressed?

If you’re worried that your child is really struggling there are a few signs to look out for.

  • Crying

  • Low self-esteem, feeling “worthless

  • Sensitivity to criticism - responding by crying or a fear of being criticized

  • Aggression, irritability and agitation

  • Withdrawing from friends, interests, and/or family

  • Numbing behavior - these can include drug use, overeating, or “zoning out” on the internet

  • Problems at school - grades dropping, difficulty concentrating, and decreased engagement in class

  • Fatigue - while many teens sleep a lot, any huge increases in sleeping may signal a problem. This may also show up as moving more slowly while walking, eating, or doing other tasks

  • Grooming issues - problems with basic hygiene (like showering, brushing teeth) and grooming (such as brushing hair, wearing clean clothes)

  • Unexplained headaches, stomach aches, or other pains

If your teen has had some of these symptoms for a few weeks at a time, it's possible that they have depression.

What now?


You can start talking to your teenager by letting them know what changes you’ve been seeing and why you’re worried about them. Many people, not just teenagers, have a hard time talking about depression. Once you’ve brought up the topic, the best thing you can do is listen.

It may be very tempting to interject, ask questions, or dispute some of the things they’re saying (You’re not worthless! You’re doing great!).

Letting them express how they feel and remaining open and nonjudgmental goes a long way.

Your child may not want to talk about it at first. You can let them know you care about them and want to listen, even though it may be hard for them to talk. By leaving the door open, you help them feel safe and make it easier to share in the future.

If you feel like your child needs help but doesn’t want to face their feelings, you can reach out to an adult that they already have a connection with, such as a teacher or school counselor. You can also reach out to therapists to see if they can help you come up with a game plan.

It’s not easy watching your child struggle. The important thing to know is that you aren’t alone. If you want to schedule a time to talk, you can always make an appointment at

<3 Vered