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Navigating Parenting and Positive Discipline: Insights from Casey O’Roarty of Joyful Courage

Parenting is a journey filled with twists, turns, and unexpected challenges. From the moment we hold our newborns to the day they venture out into the world, the landscape of parenting evolves. To gain deeper insights into this ever-changing journey, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Casey O’Roarty, founder of Joyful Courage, a seasoned educator turned Positive Discipline expert, to discuss her experiences and wisdom, particularly in navigating the terrain of parenting teenagers and preparing them for being independent young adults.

Casey’s interest in Positive Discipline began during her tenure as a school teacher in rural Washington state. As a parent of young children herself, she recognized the need for a holistic approach to parenting that aligned with her belief in human potential and personal growth. Positive Discipline provided her with the tools to navigate the complexities of parenting while fostering strong connections with her children.

Reflecting on her early experiences, Casey shared a pivotal moment when Positive Discipline transformed her approach to parenting. Amidst the challenges of raising a one-year-old and a four-year-old, she found herself suddenly feeling like the “mama bear” to her youngest. “It created this cycle where my oldest was feeling disconnected to me. I was doing a variety of things that pushed her away. And so in her hurt, she wasn’t so nice to her brother, which triggered me and started this cycle. When I went to the Positive Discipline program, I realized we were in a revenge cycle, and I just kept feeding into it. What I learned was, I can interrupt this by how I respond to her. I can show up in love, and I can interrupt the dance that we were in, and that was exactly what I did. That was huge.”

Transitioning into the teenage years brought forth a new set of challenges for Casey. With her children entering adolescence, she encountered the full spectrum of teenage behaviors sooner than expected. Casey highlighted her experience with her daughter during her teenage years when she felt disconnected due to family dynamics. By implementing Positive Discipline, Casey learned to recognize her daughter’s behavior as a reflection of her need for connection rather than mere rebellion, thus fostering a more open and understanding relationship. Rather than viewing Positive Discipline as a panacea for parenting, Casey embraced its messiness and complexity, acknowledging that adolescence is inherently challenging. “The idea that there’s a certain way to be that lets you circumnavigate the messy is not helpful, because it doesn’t exist,” she says. Through collaboration with other Positive Discipline practitioners and hosting online summits, Casey delved deeper into supporting parents through the tumultuous teenage years.

When discussing the application of Positive Discipline during the teenage phase, Casey emphasized the importance of reframing expectations and creating a safe space for open communication. Instead of imposing rigid standards, parents are encouraged to understand their teenagers’ perspectives and validate their experiences. By nurturing an environment of acceptance and encouragement, parents can foster resilience and life skills in their teenagers.

Tips for Parents Navigating Parenting with Teens:

  1. Build Trust through Open Communication: Foster an environment where your teenagers feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment. Encourage open dialogue and active listening to understand their perspectives. “Get to know the kid that you have, and create a home environment and a relationship that truly feels safe for them to feel like they can walk in and say ‘I’m struggling.’ So many kids worry about talking to their parents because they don’t get it, or they’re gonna judge me or they’re going to shoot me down,” Casey says. “That’s not what they need. They need to feel validated. They need to be accepted for who they are. They need to be celebrated and encouraged.”
  2. Set Clear Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries while allowing room for negotiation and flexibility. Involve your teens in setting boundaries, empowering them to take ownership of their actions. This works both ways. “We get to be in a really authentic relationship with our kids, regardless of their age, especially when they get into college. And we get to say like, Okay, I’m noticing how much I miss you. And I literally want to text you all day long. Is that annoying to you? Yes, that’s annoying to me, don’t do that. Or it’s fine. Right? Or can you just heart my message when you see it? Have some dialogue around this.”
  3. Prioritize Connection Over Control: Focus on building a strong emotional connection with your children rather than exerting control. Validate their feelings and experiences while offering guidance and support.
  4. Model Empathy and Respect: Lead by example by demonstrating empathy and respect in your interactions with your children. Show understanding towards their challenges and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.
  5. Encourage Independence: Foster independence by gradually entrusting your teens with responsibilities and decision-making opportunities. Allow them to learn from their experiences and take ownership of their actions. ”I think that it’s really important to give them space, to practice making their doctor’s appointment, to practice getting ahead on registering for classes, so they get the classes they want,” Casey says. “They need to feel the tension of life, and they have to have enough space.”
  6. Seek Support When Needed: Don’t hesitate to seek support from other parents, educators, or mental health professionals if you encounter challenges. Collaborative problem-solving can offer valuable insights and strategies. “Sometimes it’s somebody with a bigger skill set than I have around dismantling trauma and conditioning and beliefs that are getting in the way,” Casey says. “We have a joke in our business. We say, you know, instead of handing over a U-haul of issues to our kids, so that they can work out as adults, how about it’s just a fanny pack?”
  7. Practice Self-Care: Remember to prioritize your own well-being amidst the demands of parenting. Take time for self-care and seek support from friends, family, or support groups to recharge and maintain balance.

Parenting teens presents both challenges and opportunities as adolescents navigate the complexities of identity formation, peer relationships, academic stress, and the transition to adulthood. Peer influence can also shape behavior, so fostering critical thinking skills and discussing peer pressure openly are essential. Casey recounted how she facilitated discussions with her teenagers about peer dynamics, encouraging them to think critically about their choices and assert their own values, even amidst social pressures.

Ultimately, navigating the teen years requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing needs of your children. By embracing Positive Discipline and fostering a supportive environment, parents can empower their teens to navigate adolescence with confidence and resilience.

Casey O’Roarty offers parenting courses and private coaching. You can learn more about her offerings by visiting her website, finding valuable tips and tricks on her blog, and tuning into her podcast, Joyful Courage.