Parenting is a journey. It is not a sprint to the finish, rather, a daily walk with those in our care, until they are launched as independent young adults. And then, parenting continues. Some parents look forward to the day their children leave the nest, knowing they created an environment that helped them learn the skills and abilities necessary to navigate our great big world.

If you are parenting teens, then you know this stage of life can be pretty unpredictable, depending on a number of factors including: a teen’s temperament; a teen’s age; family structure; available resources; education; peer support; and so much more.

The teen years are a time of growing independence. Homework, sports, afterschool activities, a part time job, time with friends all seem to take these teens away from the family home many hours of the day. And when the teen is home, are they hiding out in their room, or are they gathering with other family members for meals, tv, and other family routines? Navigating this sensitive time in development is important. 

While a teen is experiencing many physical and emotional changes to their growing body, their brain is not quite fully developed, so the decision-making ability of a growing teen may not match the ability of someone older.

The Science of Parenting hosts discuss some specific strategies for the teen age years including:

  • Being available to your teen by responsive listening and communication.
  • Serving as a role model of responsible behavior.
  • Continuing to provide boundaries and enforcement of safety rules while supporting your teens growing independence.
  • Communicating family values.
  • Encouragement of healthy decision-making.

For more helpful information for the teen years, check out The Science of Parenting resources.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Help we are all inside-TOGETHER! Stop. Breathe. Talk.

oP Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Those of us here at the Science of Parenting are snuggled deep in our blankets and sweaters. Realizing that most of you probably were too, we decided that it might be a good time to revisit the idea of Stop. Breathe. Talk. With the long cold spell and the possibility of cancelled events and schools there may be a multitude of people inhabiting enclosed spaces and perhaps even getting on each other’s nerves. Full disclosure my children are all at home and currently not speaking to each other for this very reason. I decided that not only could I implement Stop. Breathe. Talk. myself (model it for my children), but I could also actually TEACH them the technique. I realize that yes, my children are teens and are better able to understand and logically (sort of) think through the process, but honestly even when they were younger I utilized the technique as well. It just didn’t have the NAME then. It is always OK to help a child at any age learn to stop and take a deep breathe to help calm them down.


Stop. Actively recognizing that the situation or current moment has to change. This is a conscious decision to change the direction of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. We just plain recognize that something right this second has to change. And it starts with us.

Breathe. Literally showing them the biggest deepest breathe you can (because they need to SEE you do it) can slow their heart rate (and yours) in a way that can begin to cool down the intense moments.

Talk. Finding and using the calm, cool, collected voice also helps to reduce the tension in the shoulders and jaw allowing the opportunity for our face to show a sense of peace.

Guidance and discipline, when intentionally planned in thought and action, can be effective for your family. Remember to look through our resources on the science of website parenting to see how you can be purposeful with your child. Also check out our resources for parenting teens. And in the meantime, STAY SAFE AND WARM!



Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Was I too late?

personWhen my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”

It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.

This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’.  Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.

Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style.  Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.

What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Competing in 4-H

I don’t have a strong background in 4-H, but I do know the competitions can get rough and tough. Just like sports, people spend a lot of time and money preparing for these events. So, if you’re a parent of a child competing in 4-H, how can you keep it all together at these competitions?

  1. Focus on the child. Every event, win or lose, is a learning experience, and an opportunity for your child to have fun. Let’s face it…if you can’t have fun as a child, when can you have fun?  So loosen up a little! Let your child enjoy it!!
  2. Resist gossip. Even if it’s juicy information about another competitor, parent, or fan…resist the urge to tell the world. Juicy gossip never builds self esteem, and often times, the people dishing it out are the topic of conversation for others.
  3. Focus on your role as a parent. You are not a judge, officiant, or worker at the competitions. These people are there for a reason. No matter who the authority figure is, you are crossing the line if you try to take over his/her position. Focus on your job as a parent, and work hard to be supportive of your child, and a good role model for him/her.

I realize that these pieces of advice fall into the category of “easier said than done,” especially when it comes to your child. So, I encourage you to start the day of by getting in the right frame of mind. Start by reminding yourself of the bigger picture or purpose behind the day. For example, we enrolled Timmy in 4H because (1) he likes animals, or (2) we wanted him to learn about the family business, or (3) it was an opportunity for him to learn about things I cannot teach him…the list could go on and on, but start by focusing on the larger purpose behind your child’s involvement with 4H.

Then, in moments of heated competitions and rising blood pressures, remind yourself of this “big picture”, and act in accordance with it. If the purpose of getting involved in 4-H was for Timmy to learn about the family business, don’t ruin all his progress by teaching him poor manners. Instead, keep in mind the values you wish to impart. Should you need further guidance, please don’t hesitate to Contact us.

What strategies do you have for “staying cool, calm, and collected” during intense competition?

— Molly

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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