How Could I Behave Lovingly to My Teen?

Updated on April 30, 2009
S.R. asks from La Mesa, CA
30 answers

I'm somewhat of a tough, practical Mom. Lately, I've been struggling to show kindness and love to my teen after disciplining. He is making all the wrong choices and I'm pulling the rug, and while I'm okay with that, there is a deep, dead space in me that wonders how I can take more action towards making him feel love despite the fact that he's in the doghouse. It's not so easy to "praise good things he's doing". I would like your suggestions as what else I may be able to do.

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So What Happened?

Wow! Thank you for sharing. I will try everything. I know it will all work because my son is a wonderful being, just waiting to absorb the positive love I have to give.

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T.J.

answers from Honolulu on

sometimes teenagers can be very challenging to relate to. i also have one--age 16. the most important thing you can do is to keep telling and showing him how much yuu love him. sometimes people feel that it is more important to be a friend, rather than a parent to their children. i don't agree with that. i have done simple things with my teen such as putting a special treat in her lunch box with a note expressing my love, or simply a smiley face and a note. just know that parents have to disciple children. it's called tough LOVE ! hope this helps.

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S.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

You just have to keep loving him and her,,,,, all of them.

I have 16 year old anorexic that is alienating all of her friends at school, refusing to go because of cyber bullying.

The good news is that she does eat at home and is happy today, each day holds a new challenge, but when we have a win it is worth a thousand heartbreaks.

Love him through it. Don't be tempted to send him away, it is the easy solution and does not necessarily mean the best, especially for the family in the long run. Is there a way he can start to teach, help younger children in some sport, skill, cooking? It is good for teens to feel that they are useful girls particularly - tutoring - mentoring , anything...

Queenie

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S.Z.

answers from Reno on

There's nothing wrong with being very practical and no nonsense; but you're right, your son needs to know that he's loved. Always make sure you separate your feelings about HIS CHOICES from your feelings ABOUT HIM. Let him know that the entire reason you find certain actions unacceptable is BECAUSE you love him, and want him to live a happy life. He'll probably roll his eyes or argue, but he'll hear you. Make sure he knows that love is not earned, but privileges are, and they're not the same thing. Remind him that he's too smart to make stupid choices. Let little stuff - a wierd hairstyle, for instance - slide, and concentrate on important behavior - drinking, lying, anything totally unacceptable. You won't always agree on everything, and that's OK! Make time to do something together - movies, video games, whatever. He'll probably act annoyed, but when he's an adult, he'll remember that you took the time. And remember - this too will pass!

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J.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi S.:
You've received some excellent responses. As a single parent raising two boys,I did a lot more worrying than I had to.I felt I was responsible for playing the role of father and mother both. I was told by family and friends,that I had to be tough, and the negative consequences of babying or showing that (softer side of me) They repeatedly warned me,that unless I was tough,I would raise a couple of (Mamas boys) I can laugh about it now. I obviously was to young and naive at the time to consider(Who) it was giving me this advice.Not one of these individuals had children of their own. What I caught myself doing,was trying to Hard to take the place of the parent missing,and (Neglecting) to share with my sons The parent that WAS there.(The person I was)I was so focused on what I thought they may have been missing,that I almost forgot,their need to know ME. Boys need A mothers tenderness.They need to feel your Love and compassion. When they become young men,like your son,They yearn to get to know YOU as a individual.They resent being treated like a child,and I found,that the more I backed off,and allowed them the space to grow,the more mature they acted.Yes,there were times,that I had to put my foot down,but I didn't discipline them for every little mistake they made.I'd often have a sit down,and tell them what I expected,and that was the end of it. They don't want you to be their friend. Your more special than any friend. Your son is to mature for physical punishment.If you feel restriction is warranted,to teach him a lesson,that's up to you.I rarely had to do that with my sons,because we benefited more by discussing it. I wish you and your growing son the best.J. M

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G.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi S.,

As a parent coach, I always ask parents to ask themselves what it is that they love about their kids. What is it that makes your son special and unique? Is he creative? Is he generous? If you are focusing on being tough and disciplining him, you are focusing on the things that he is doing that you do not like. See if you can focus on the things about him that you love.

Praise for the sake of praise is meaningless and he knows it. He needs to know that you like him, respect him and admire him as an individual. Take some time to spend with him one-on-one. Do something fun together.

Don't get too caught up in discipline. We learn to make good decisions in life by making decisions. He doesn't need to you punish him when he makes a bad decision. It's part of the learning process. He needs to know that you are there for him, with unconditional love.

Good luck,
G. B. www.GilaBrown.com

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A.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi S.,

I was like your teenager and my Mom wasn't very lovable. It took a while for me to get over the resentment I felt every time I got in trouble, but to me the only time my Mom paid attention to me was when I was being rotten. Finally I sat down and talked to her about what I was feeling and what I wanted to see/get emotionally from my Mom. It was the hardest talk that either of us had ever had but things changed for us that day. We were much closer. I would suggest taking your son to a nice dinner or somewhere where you can talk without being interrupted by other family members and explain to him how his behavior makes you feel, that you love him no matter what happens, and that you want to be closer to him and help him. You might be surprised.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

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A.M.

answers from Reno on

Hi S.,
I don't have a teen, but I was one, and I have a 5 year old who thinks he is one. I have only one idea but it's what worked for my mom and me and I see it working with my son so far. Remind him verbally, (which will also help remind you), you love him no matter what. You love him and you always will. It's not the only feeling to have though. He needs to understand that due to HIS actions you may feel disappointed, sad, offended, angry, tired, and unsure, but you still love him and that is the reason for YOUR actions. When you're the one feeling all of this, it's helpful to remind yourself of that unconditional love too. It's natural for moms to have that and it's good parenting to feel all the other feelings when he's not performing to his potential, even socially. The good thing is we don't stay teenagers forever. My mom and I had very few happy moments from the time I was 13 until I was about 17. Now, I really appreciate her and I understand her actions more than I understand mine from the past. We live, we learn. Also remember he loves you no matter what too. You're doing the right thing as long as you stay consistent, (and reasonable), with your expectations and consistent with your love. I hope you can find happy times soon. Good job!

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S.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

I am a substitute teacher and have worked extensively with teenagers. I am one of the weird ones that LOVE teenagers, they are my favorite people.
Your kids aren't used to lovey dovey mom so they will withdraw at first so don't make your actions over the top. If you haven't hugged or kissed your kids in a while then start with a hand on a shoulder as you say excuse me and walk past, touch is an amazing bonding agent. Start slow and add each day.
Find something, ANYTHING, to praise in your son. Make sure it's really something you feel is good or else it will come across as hollow. But it can be anything from "you know, I really appreciate that you always chew with your mouth closed" to "I saw you say something nice to your sibling when you could have been mad". FIND STUFF-make a goal of 1 then 5 then 10 small compliments a day.
If a child feels like everything he does is wrong-even if he is specifically choosing to do the wrong-he will still feel overwhelmed, like he can't do anything right, SO WHY BOTHER TRYING?. Self esteem is built when a child accomplishes things. Even small accomplishments builds a desire to do better. A child is not susceptible to "bad" choices-drugs, truancy, etc.-if he has REAL self esteem. Just telling kids they're good isn't enough, they have to see real things they do well.
No matter what, don't give up. Even if he is an adult before he sees it, he will be better for your love and efforts.
Good Luck.

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hello S.,

It is awesome that you are aware enough to see beyond the surface with this. I know it's hard, and a lots of feelings can come up and cloud the real issues with our kids.

Your teen is reaching out, and despite what his actions portray, he still wants your approval and love. Don;t give up on him.

Just becasue you are imposing consequences upon your son doesn't mean you have to execute them with the same shame-ful or fearful voice your parents used. The punishment or consequences you impose CAN be handed out with love and understanding.

Are you a reader? I can recommend a book "How to Talk to Teens will Listen, and How to Listen so Teens will Talk"
It will help you bridge an understanding again, and get both of you to a better place.

Lots of Love,
Linda
www.RivieraPlaySchool.com

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K.K.

answers from San Diego on

Hello, I can understand your problem. My husband and I have 4 grown children. We found that it was good to take each one somewhere alone. It can be hard to arrange for the care of younger siblings, but it is most important to spend time with each child alone whenever possible. Have him choose where he would like to go. If money is a problem, maybe just going for a walk will do. Whenever I had to disipline my kids I always tried to remember to tell them that I loved them. Good luck in these trying years. Just remember that soon he will be all grown up.
K. K.

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M.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

I want to commend you for realizing that your son probably needs this kind of loving interaction with you. I tend to be a "straight up" mom too with my 15 year old son. He has made many bad choices in recent months. For a while, I felt like those choices were directly related to or somehow were a part of me. Once I educated myself on how the teenage mind works, I was able to let that go. Our relationship has become more loving and close than it has been in a long time. I can honestly say that we are close and that I trust him far more now. I believe that being straight up and having rules and limits is very important. I also think that if they don't follow those rules, they need consequences that are fair and reasonable. Remember, teens have what is called "private logic" that is their own reality and it is not based in true reality like our thinking is. If you can acknowledge that what he is thinking and feeling is really real to him and not discount it, you might find your relationship growing closer. Good luck! Teens are tricky!!!

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M.Z.

answers from Los Angeles on

S.,

I think if you just tell him you love him and remind him of that daily, he will get the hint. I have a 16 yr old son who is making pretty bad choices, too lately, and even though he is in trouble, we still tell him daily we love him and then remind him if he goes over to a friends house, to make the right choices and to stay out of trouble. We have also reminded him that since he blew our trust he will have to gain it back and that won't happen over night.

Good luck!
M.

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J.L.

answers from San Diego on

I think at any age, attention, spending time, and validation of feelings shows unconditional love. Easier said than done when they're driving you nuts: ) Validating his feelings, not his choices, allows you to remove judgment of him.

Best to you in this challenging time and I love that you asked the question!

Jen

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H.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

You may want to consider 'help' in the form of getting your son involved with more people. He's still not too old for boy scouts as that goes until the kid turns 19. There is also Civil Air Patrol and he'd get to fly in planes and do all kinds of neat things. The police also have a regular teen group to learn about police work.

Some community colleges offer classes for kids. There is community theater or volunteer jobs with your local parks or ymca, etc. Come up with your own list and please insist that he pick one.

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L.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

S.... with a 14 year old at home I can appreciate your situation. It really is a period that you have shown, taught and now expect more from their behavior. Consequences seem to be the theme of the day but I also realize they are very sensitive and need that reasurance. For me, my son had been grounded and maybe we are in the living room watching TV or just driving and I'll tell him some funny stories of things he did when he was small, how it made everyone laugh, how it made me so happy. Just sharing stories of how much he has brought joy to all of our lives and letting him know how I see that creative part he had as a little one, the funny, silly, etc. It doesn't diminish the lesson or restriction you are staying true to but gives lots of affirmations. A story of maybe a bad day you had and how when you came home he did something silly that made you laugh. How much you really needed that. It will make him feel good, loved and appreciated even while on restriction, lol

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S.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

I think people so far have had some wonderful things to say. I would say as a mother of a 16 and a 12 year old, just keep telling them that you love them everyday. Do special things for them once in a while like make their favorite dinner or go out as a family or one on one to do something that they are interested in. I'm sure you've set the groundwork already, and they know you love them, this is just a particularly tough time. Maybe when it is less tense, have a talk, at home or driving in the car if that's easier, and just reinforce the idea that you love your child, and what kind of mom would you be if you let him get away with everything. You're trying to show him how to be a good person, the kind of person he will be proud to be when he grows up. I know teens are tough, but keep your lines of communication open, be open and honest with them, apologize when things are said in anger, and just keep letting them know that the love is there.

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H.O.

answers from Las Vegas on

I only have a 1 year old but I can remember parenting mistakes my mother and my husbands mother (we first got together as kids) made. My little sister got caught with drugs at the age of 15 I mean red handed she was so angry and humiliated that she ran away from home. She left a note saying where she was now going to be living. My mother begged her to come home and promised never to bring it up again. Like that would settle everything. My sister came home and got spoiled and treated like that was nothing going on, but there was a lot going on. My mother should have dragged her kickin gand screaming back home and if that didn't work she should have called the cops. My sister is not right it is hard to explain unless you have been around someone that does drugs, but she isn't right. My mother was so worried that she wouldn't love her anymore that she bailed on one of the most important parts of parenting; keeping your child safe.
My husband also got into drugs at an early age and his mom knew that whole time. She just wanted to have an open relationship with her child so that he would tell her everthing. The truth she is his mother and he will never and has never told her everthing. She just thought that he was smoking pot but he was doing pretty much anything he could get his hands on. when he went to rehab she acted like it was all his fault but the truth is (and not to enable him) she did NOTHING to prevent this from happening. It was good that he took it upon himself to dig his way out and now is doing very very well.
The point of all of this your job is to keep your son safe and it is getting harder and harder to do. If your son hates you all though his teens, at least he made it though his teens! Alway tell him when he has done something right and if there is something wrong talk to him about it. Force the discussion and make sure you staight up tell him that you will always always love him and there is nothing that he could do to stop that. Things like that need to be said because my mother always implied it but never said it out loud. If I had gotten pregnant or something she would have loved me but I didn't believe that for a second. I would have gotten an abortion just so I didn't have to tell her. And I don't believe in them. If your child is going in a bad direction tell them why. I hope that this helped. I am only 26 so my perspective is more from the kids point of view:)

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J.L.

answers from San Diego on

Hi S., it's understandable you needing to be tough, a single mom of 3 can not be easy, I have 3 two of them are sons, and I have one that hasn't always made the best choices for himself, still doesn't sometimes, but no matter what our kids do, we have to find the good and let them know we see the good, I have told all 2 of my kids, I may get angry and I may be disatified with something you do or say, but i will always be in your corner, and they have known that since they were little. We want to set our kids.teens up for sucess but we have to realized, in order to have life victories, there has to be life mistakes, one of my sons is 22 years old works with his dad in his dads business, and he helps me with my daycare, but he has never had a regular job, doesn't want to go to church with us, he drinks, but I try not to focus on the negatives, but the positives, kids have to have encourangement and hope. If you can get the book The 5 love launguages of Teens, my husband bd i both read that book, and it was awesome. Hope this helps. J. L.

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R.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi S.
Teen years yuck yuck yuck - that is NOT something I ever want to go through again. First I will tell you what my 23 yr old daughter told me the other day that made it all worthwhile. "Mom I want to make sure that I tell you how much I appreciated everything you have done for me. I lied to you and tried to hide things from you when I was a teenager and I feel very ashamed and embarrassed about what I did. I can't believe that I did those things especially to you." Now THAT was an eye opener. When my teen was going through those times I would try to gain her co-operation with as much respect and dignity toward her that I could muster up. But much like you I was a single working mom and also a practical tough mom (that my teen did not appreciate at the time but is very grateful for now)anyway what I would do is try very hard to put the emotion aside (harder some days than others) and go through the explanation as to why THE behaviour is unacceptable and although I do understand that she may disagree with me and not like how I handle things, I am the mom and have the not only the right to instill this punishment, but also the obligation as a parent, and although I DO NOT appreciate your behaviour I do love you as my child and in time you will understand not only why this is necessary but you will actually be appreciative for it." .... anyway that is something like I would tell her. I would block out the emotion yes all that anger, frustration, love, disappointment, etc., everything that you are feeling and say the words because you know deep down in your heart once this blows over you will be very glad that you did because you will see the fruits of your labour. All the best to you and please let me know how it turned out next time.

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P.S.

answers from Las Vegas on

Tell him you love him. But you do not approve of the choices he is making & this is why you are doing what you are doing. But that this does not mean you love him less. It just means that you are discipling him to help him make better choices. Make sure you are praising him for his good acts. And just make sure you tell him you love him often. Show him you love him by giving him a hug.

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F.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Spend more one-on-one time with him. Take a road trip to visit friends or relatives- just you and him. Reassure the other kids that they'll get their turn. See a play together, go to a cool museum, or take him to one of his favorite places like a skatepark or arcade. I don't recommend going to the movies because you won't be paying enough attention to eachother. Good luck!

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J.C.

answers from San Diego on

Just spend some one on one time with him. Take him out to a restaurant that he enjoys so you can talk. Tell him that you love him and that you BELIEVE in his ability to make good decisions for himself and his life. Let him know that you will always be there to listen whenever he wants to talk about a problem or concern. Find something, however small it may be, to praise in his behavior daily. Encourage him to succeed in school and let him know that it will be important in his future. Keep communication open with him. Tell him daily by actions or words that you care about him as a person and that you love him.

Best of luck,
J.

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B.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

I am a retired teacher and Family wellness Coach. Your question is not uncommon.

Here is what I know…
I know that parenting involves rules.
I know that parenting is not always “nice” but it is always win-win.
I know that parenting is about setting guidelines for health and safety.
I know that parenting is about being in the lead, not a follower, not a friend and for sure not a servant/door mat etc.
I know that parents who set boundaries for their children, and stick to them, parent more, love more and enjoy their children more.
I know that kids respect consistency, love and boundaries, even if they tell you otherwise.

Parenting is not always easy. But truly when you know your morals, your principals and your values, parenting is EASY. Stand firm in your beliefs.

If you BELIEVE that a child should be praised, then praise him, it is not difficult when it comes from your heart.

If you believe that a child should _______________ (fill in the blank with your belief) then stick to it. No amount of complaining or arguing should change what you know to be true.

So know what you expect as a parent, so that your child is clear with what to expect as your child and there will be no need for “discipline” only love and parenting.

And as for the “deep, dead space in me that wonders how I can take more action towards making him feel love despite the fact that he's in the doghouse. It's not so easy to "praise good things he's doing" He is your CHILD, he deserves your love and understanding even when everything looks hopeless. It is not about what is easy or hard, it is about your role as a parent and his role as a child.

JUST DO IT. You choose what clothing you will wear each day, you choose what you will eat for breakfast, you choose which way to drive to work...so CHOOSE to loveyour child above all else.

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R.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi S.,

You've gotten great responses so far. I just want to add one more thing. I found that making the time and effort to learn about and enter my son's world was essential in having a good rapport with him. I let him teach me about the music he liked, the topics that interested him, and the games he like to play. I let him know that I was impressed with his as the "content expert" in these areas and would often ask for his opinion/advice in those areas. For example, my son has an abiding passion for computer hardware and video games. I would play the games he did and ask him questions on how to play better, strategy, etc. I ask him for help with my computer problems and I value his insight.

At the same time, being in your son's world gives you an opportunity to talk with him while you're engaging in a shared activity in a nonconfrontational way. It's kind of sneaky in a way, but boys will often open up more and be more responsive to conversation when they're engaged in something else than when they're talking about and issue just to discuss it. Have you ever watched a couple of guys watch a sporting event on TV? They rarely make eye contact, yet will talk about all sorts of things not related to the game. I found this approach to be very successful with my son between the ages of 15 and 18.

Good luck -- teens are definitely another level of childrearing challenge!

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V.V.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hey S.,
You have a marvelous opportunity with your teenager, and such a short amount of time to make a difference. I find that smiling at kids, especially teenagers, tears down walls. They need to know that you are not disapproving of THEM, but their actions. We also find whatever we look for, negative or positive. Look for the positive as well and you're sure to find it. Catch them BEING GOOD, or clever, etc, and praise them for it. Listen to him, and talk back and forth. You are his model of what a parent is and how to act, your other children are watching too. Go and have some fun with him, give him hugs, and SMILE AT HIM. Pray for him, and yourself. This is the hardest time of his life, but you can help. Thanks for caring about your son so much, he will thank you some day too. Take care,
V.

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D.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

i would suggest just talking to him...hugging him and telling him exactly what's on your mind..that you love him, and it's your job as a mom to be the disciplinarian ..and the guide..
maybe u can do something just the 2 of you together and bond..just take a deep breath..i sometimes feel so tired and worn out from my 3 year old when he is throwing a fit...and i just sit down hug him and talk to him..it really works.

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S.F.

answers from Reno on

Hi S.,

How about little love notes? Just a small piece of note paper that says you love him in his lunch bag, in his wallet, taped to his bedroom door. He might rip it down in a rage, but he'll likely be hiding a smile behind it all.

If he will still let you hug him, I'm a big fan of that, too.

Stick to your guns. Too few children understand that behavior has consequences.

Good luck.

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L.D.

answers from Las Vegas on

Hi S.,

Yoga and daily meditation have really helped soothe my soul and I swear that, since I've taken up this daily practice, my children have been behaving better without me having to make a concerted effort to behave differently with them. 3 minutes of meditation is just as effective as 30 minutes of meditation or 3 hours so find a quiet corner of your home, set a timer for 3 minutes, close your eyes and concentrate on taking long, deep breaths (to the count of 10 if possible) in and out. There are some really great DVD and CDs out there that can help you learn about yoga and meditation if you are not familiar with it already.

Hope this helps.

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M.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Next time he is sent to his room, or has some type of time-out, feed him some cookies - I mean show up at his door with a special sandwich or snack and say "you're in confienment because of your rotten attitude and behavior toward your sister, but I don't want you to starve - here's a snack" sounds simplistic, but the way to a young man's heart is through his stomach

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N.B.

answers from San Diego on

Hi S.

A great resourse is Susie Walton at Indigo Village in Encinitas. She does a one nite teen parenting class. Its absolutely a must!!!!I think she also does one on one counseling and could give you great tips.

Also, once the rules are clear, they make the choice so the consequences is what they chose because they didn't follow the rules. Its not you punishing, its them choosing the consequences, their choice and you need emphasize that.

Indigovillage.com I think is the website. Information will also have the number. I can't recommend her enough.

N.

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